Magazine article Occupational Hazards

DuPont's CEO Takes the Leadership Role in Safety: At DuPont, Which Started as a Gunpowder Manufacturer in 1802 and Began Diversifying into Other Products in 1880, Safety Has Always Had Paramount Importance

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

DuPont's CEO Takes the Leadership Role in Safety: At DuPont, Which Started as a Gunpowder Manufacturer in 1802 and Began Diversifying into Other Products in 1880, Safety Has Always Had Paramount Importance

Article excerpt

There's no question as to the importance of safety to the way that $25 billion life sciences giant DuPont operates. All employees need to do is look at who the company's chief safety, health and environmental officer is: CEO and chairman Charles O. Holliday Jr.

"The message [his title] sends is that safety is more than a priority--that it is a value. He is the chief environment officer. He's not just writing a memo," says Michael S. Deak, corporate director, Safety and Health at the Wilmington, Del., company that has 79,000 employees in 367 locations worldwide. "Priorities change. To really have a good strong safety culture, you have to have safety, health and environmental as a value, not a priority. We try to weave it into everything--performance evaluations, pay progression and career promotions."

That continued commitment to safety was reflected in DuPont's 2002 safety performance, which was its best since 1997. Acute and chronic work-related injuries were down almost 30 percent. Over 80 percent of its location sites completed 2002 with zero lost time injuries and 50 percent had zero total recordable injuries.

What's more, after an overall increase in recordable injuries between 1997 and 2000 because of DuPont's efforts to educate employees about ergonomic-related injuries, the number of recordable injuries/illnesses per 200,000 hours worked has declined by 33 percent to a level that is one-half the chemical industry average and one-fourth the manufacturing average.

"We have an internal ergonomic standard that is similar to the federal ergonomics safety standard that was repealed at the end of the Clinton presidency," says Deak. "We videotape employees to look for what's causing stress on knees, shoulders and wrists and have established zones of caution (similar in those used in the state of Washington) for repetitive motion and overhead movements.

But DuPont's safety efforts aren't just confined to the workplace. Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions are down 68 percent and energy consumption is 6 percent lower, off setting all growth over the past 12 years. Toxic waste generated is down 24 percent since 1999 and there have been just five significant environmental incidents in the last six years.

DuPont also credits its safety success to a philosophy that makes line management--not the 750 environmental, health and safety professionals--personally accountable and responsible for safety, health and environmental. …

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