Magazine article Workforce Management

A Left Turn for Safety

Magazine article Workforce Management

A Left Turn for Safety

Article excerpt

Facing high injury rates, UPS departed from 90 years of management tradition and called on workers to help solve the problem.

Confronted with unacceptably high injury rates, United Parcel Service Inc. took a chance and flipped its traditional top-down management approach to a ground-up safety program fashioned by drivers and parcel handlers. It worked.

Today, injury rates among the company's 327,600 U.S. employees are tumbling, turnover is down and UPS reports that companywide attitudes toward safety have improved significantly. The company began implementing the new safety program in 1996. Committees of drivers and parcel handlers were given broad new powers to design and implement safety strategies under a company-wide initiative called the Comprehensive Health and Safety Process.

Keith Jones, director of health and safety for UPS, says the goal of the CHSP program was to make safety a personal value of every UPS employee. "We challenged our employees," Jones says. "They rose to the occasion."

When the program began, UPS workers were reporting injuries-mostly sprains and strains-at a rate of 27.2 injuries per 200,000 hours worked. By the end of 2004, UPS got the injury rate down to 10.2 for every 200,000 hours worked. By 2007, the company wants the injury rate down to 3.2.

The company's 2,400 CHSP committees are driving the improved numbers. Each group has at least five members, composed of both management and nonmanagement employees. The committees investigate accidents, conduct facility and equipment audits, counsel employees on how they can perform their jobs more safely and make a full report on every accident.

Activities like loading and unloading packages and getting into and out of trucks seem like fairly straightforward jobs. But UPS' safety program breaks down the mechanics of such things as bending the knees properly when picking up a parcel or backing up a delivery truck. …

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