A Successful Safety Journey

September 3, 2020

Facility Manager Keith Gettinger has been through numerous safety transformations in his 19 years of manufacturing at Caterpillar. The latest of these transformations began in 2014 when he started work at the Griffin, Georgia, engine assembly facility. At that time, the facility had already achieved a recordable injury frequency (RIF) rate of 1, which was considered best-in-class performance in the industry at the time. But it wasn’t good enough for the Griffin facility, whose leaders wanted to achieve zero injuries. 

The Griffin facility rose to the challenge. To eliminate safety incidents, they applied a relentless focus on finding and fixing hazards, addressing risk, and building a strong culture of safety, including a three-part formula that included the following: 

  • Engage leaders. To change safety outcomes, start with leadership. “If you aren’t getting the safety results you want, you have behaviors that need to change in your organization. If you have behaviors that need to change, you have to start by developing your leaders,” Gettinger explains. That’s why the Griffin facility has put a strong emphasis on leadership development and coaching. The facility’s senior leaders meet twice monthly to discuss goals in their individual safety journeys, creating accountability to their teams, their own leaders, and their peers across the facility. 
  • Lower risk tolerance. No one comes to work planning to get hurt. Injuries happen when hazards are not controlled or when team members aren’t trained on seeing the risks they may face. Therefore, one way to improve safety is by teaching people to see risks and modify their behaviors accordingly. 
  • Make safety personal. Safe behaviors become second nature when people understand how they relate to their personal lives. Griffin regularly launches fun safety challenges through which team members could earn points for identifying risks, with extra points possible for actions taken outside of work. When employees began noticing safety risks that could affect their families, the importance began to click. Encouraging people to address safety risks at home not only reinforces the behaviors we want to teach – it shows employees that we care. 

Five years later, Griffin’s performance has remained strong—the facility has gone more than one year with no recordable injuries. According to Bryan Boyd, EHS manager for Caterpillar’s Large Power Systems Division (LPSD), Griffin is an exceptional example within LPSD. “One thing I notice in Griffin is that after years of focus on safety from the top down, we’re now seeing it happen from the bottom up,” Boyd says. “I see front-line employees helping one another see and reduce risk, just as they’ve been taught. To me, that’s a sign that their approach is working.”

For more information on sustainability in action and our progress, check out Caterpillar’s 2019 Sustainability Report