Extra-ore-dinary Effort

The first Massey Energy site where the program was used improved from worst to first in terms of safety performance in year one.

THE coal industry has had significant safety challenges throughout its history. In the past, coal mining was a very dangerous way to make a living. Times, however, have changed: Even though the job is still hazardous, safety standards have improved dramatically, as has the role companies now take in promoting a safe workplace for their employees.

Like all companies in the mining industry, Massey Energy, with operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia, has had its own safety challenges. Mining coal continues to be challenging and difficult where hazards at the workplace exist. Workplace miscues can result not only in injuries, but also, unfortunately, in fatalities. Always striving to set an industry safety standard for its entire history, Massey Energy has worked diligently to improve the environment in and around which its members operate. Massey Energy also has implemented training procedures and processes that far exceed MSHA guidelines, which helps to ensure their members work in a safe and secure manner.

Striving to make continual improvements, the company worked with a promotional and incentive marketing company to help with the safety performance at one of its mine sites. The site had fallen below company standards and needed some ideas about how to turn things around. Initially, the mine site executives discussed using cash as an incentive, but after seeing numerous studies minimizing that approach, they decided to use another method--an incentive-based safety program. The outside firm suggested improving the mine site's method of communication by incorporating a sports-related theme to promote the new incentive program. It designed a program logo and even a cartoon caricature based on a former Massey company president, Raymond Bradbury. (Bradbury's status in the company's history is well known. In fact, the annual Raymond Bradbury award is given to the mine site that has the highest-rated safety performance.)

The theme was centered around Safety Madness, a play on the NCAA basketball tournament on which our nation annually focuses. Members were divided into collegiate mascot-named teams of 10 to 20 individuals. The program design incorporated a three-tiered point system based on individual, team, and mine site performance. Each mine site was assigned to a team and was awarded points that could be redeemed in a customized award catalog. Points could be accumulated monthly based on the member, team, and mine site having a no Lost Time Accident (LTA) month.

All categories of points are of equal value, which instills the concept of a true team performance and motivates all members to work safely. It was not simply a matter of each member working safely; he/she was now motivated to make sure fellow members worked safely, as well.

Setup of the Awards Program
The custom catalog had brands such as Coleman, Coach, Panasonic, outdoors accessories, and other items that focused on the family, such as Fisher-Price toys and Char-Broil grills. These were available at various point levels. Members received quarterly statements that provided their point balances based on what had been awarded and what they had redeemed in the previous months. Using a custom order form, members mailed or faxed their order to the incentive company, which subsequently ordered their item for delivery.

The approach worked. The program, along with the newly instituted communication tools such as banners and decals that promoted the program--and also, more importantly, safe work habits--helped the mine site's safety performance dramatically improve. The site improved from worst to first in terms of safety performance in the first year of the program.

Expansion and Challenges
The improvements were so significant that Massey Energy incorporated the Raymond Safety program concept at all of their operations for 2004. The obstacles were substantial. Instead of running a program for 400 members, the promotional company had to come up with a way to handle 5,000 participants. In order to ensure an efficient process for the members of Massey Energy, the promotional company decided to utilize the power of the Internet to help bring the catalog to those involved.

After months of design, it brought forward an online catalog that not only allowed Massey members to view catalog items, but also to track their points in real time via the online Raymond Safety Web site. The site also allows individual mine site safety directors to communicate about their particular site goals, problems, and, of course, accomplishments via the Internet. The catalog choices increased, and the online reaction was overwhelming. Almost 85 percent of all orders were placed on the Web. (Orders could also be placed via more traditional methods such as mail or fax.)

It was decided to base the theme for a company-wide program on football. Members were divided into teams at their mine site using well-known football teams' names. Members had to concern themselves with their own performance, their team's performance, and their mine site's performance. The competition was set; improved company-wide safety performance was the goal.

The staff of the promotional company needed to be sure it could handle the increased size of the program and its participants. In order to ensure superior customer service, the company added new employees to handle Massey Energy members' questions and the flow of redeemed points. In addition to having the ability to answer questions online, the outside firm instituted a toll-free number/message center for members to call. Members can check on their order status or ask questions about their point balance or product.

The Company-Wide Rollout
The company-wide program kicked off with each mine site receiving full-color banners indicating a change was on the way. "Raymond is Coming" banners and decals lined the entrances to each mine site to promote curiosity and interest.

In addition to decals, Massey Energy promoted the program with a custom Raymond Safety program T-shirt to kick things off. The decision was made to promote the program by handing out promotional marketing items several times a year. Custom fleece blankets, umbrellas, and T-shirts emblazoned with the Raymond Safety program logo were selected as additional methods to keep the goal of the program on the minds of the coal company's members as much as possible.

Quarterly banners and monthly decals were dispersed to the mine sites. These continued to focus on safe work habits and even specific workplace issues, such as stretching before work and back-related injuries, to name just a few.

Stellar Results
The average Lost Time Accident for the coal mining industry costs approximately $30,000 to $50,000. Against this, the results of the Massey Energy program were impressive. Its safety record improved dramatically. In fact, this was the safest year in the company's 90-year history. From 2003 to 2004, LTAs dropped by 47 percent! When considering the averages and estimates of industry standards, the savings for one year were significant.

In addition, Massey Energy improved its NFDL rating (an industry standard which means Non-Fatal Days Lost), which decreased by 37 percent from 2003 to 2004, to 2.36. The industry average for 2004 was 3.72, so this represented a significant difference.

Corporate Safety Coordinator Frank Foster of Massey Energy put it best by saying, "We got the message out there and the members did the rest. Communication is the key, but you have to have people that are willing to work for a common goal, and that is to work in a safe and productive manner."

Recently, the program received national accolades. Last September at The Motivation Show in Chicago, Massey Energy and the promotional company it used were awarded a Circle of Excellence Award for the Safety Incentive division. The Incentive Marketing Association uses this award to highlight outstanding examples of incentive programs that are used as business tools.

The Massey Energy program was well run, effective, and results-oriented, and the promotional company was proud to have played a part. Everyone was committed to the program--and when that happens, the results can always be beyond expectations.

Massey Energy and its incentive firm have created an enhanced communication process and an incentive program that encourages safe habits and performance. It has had a tremendous impact on Massey Energy's safety record, which benefits the members and the company as a whole.

This article appeared in the June 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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