Magazine article Occupational Hazards

The New Pepsi Challenge: World-Class Safety: An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure at One of the World's Largest Bottlers of Pepsi Products

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

The New Pepsi Challenge: World-Class Safety: An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure at One of the World's Largest Bottlers of Pepsi Products

Article excerpt

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In the 1940s, commercials for Pepsi-Cola featured a jingle that included the lines: "Pepsi-Cola hits the spot. Twelve full ounces, that's a lot."

When it comes to workplace safety, PepsiAmericas--the second-largest worldwide anchor bottler of Pepsi products--has found that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By systematically changing our corporate culture from the top down, we've made great strides over the last 5 years toward establishing ourselves as a world-class industry leader in employee safety.

"I have often said that safety can be a great measure of the success of a company," says Archie Meairs, director of risk management for PepsiAmericas. "Management that cares about safety recognizes how closely it is linked to performance. We often see a direct correlation between financial performance and a safe workplace. Simply said, top performing operations are safe operations."

According to Meairs, employees and managers feel the passion, commitment and awareness for safety throughout PepsiAmericas "because we care about our employees and it's the right thing to do. We have a seasoned safety team on board that provides strategic direction and manages safety initiatives effectively. This translates into safer, better and more productive ways to achieve excellence in the workplace."

The transition in the corporate culture to achieve world-class safety results hasn't been easy. First, you need to understand the scope of PepsiAmericas' operations, and the fact that the hazards our employees face come in many different forms.

We make, sell and deliver more than 100 different flavors and brands of Pepsi products in 19 states, as well as in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia. The company also has distribution rights in Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Barbados. In total, the company serves a population of more than 150 million people. That means we have employees exposed to risks that stretch from our manufacturing plants, to the roads our drivers travel on, to the stores where they deliver the equivalent of 1.3 million cases of product a day.

But our operations and our exposure don't end there. We also deliver, fill and maintain vending machines and fountain units, experiencing hazards and exposures that are unique from direct delivery to retail locations.

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Correcting the Culture

For all the hazards that PepsiAmericas employees encounter, the biggest obstacle my team members faced in getting our company on the path to world-class safety was a corporate culture that took something of an inconsistent approach to risk reduction.

As Tim McHale, one of our corporate safety managers, explains, "As recently as a few years ago, the attitude toward safety was that while accidents and injuries should be controlled, they were an unavoidable part of our business."

It was as if people believed there was a magical bucket of money at corporate headquarters that would pay for accidents.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, an otherwise positive financial picture for PepsiAmericas was marred by costs that resulted from injuries and lost time. Management wanted to know where these costs were coming from and my colleagues and I in safety and health had some answers for them.

Once we put pen to paper and realized exactly what costs were involved, we were able to attach a dollar amount to the issue of safety. We spent a lot of time building the groundwork for a culture change. By 2002, we agreed on what our structure should be. We had our team in place and began benchmarking and compiling hard statistics.

From that point on, we weren't on the bench anymore--we were in the game. The perception of S&H personnel was on its way to changing from a bunch of nerdy guys with clipboards to team members who could make a real difference in the company's general and administrative (SG&A) expenses. …

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