Live from NSC: Kimberly-Clark Shares Recipe for Safety Success

”During our time together today, more than 2,000 people will be injured, and odds say that one will lose his or her life.” So began the 90-minute press conference yesterday featuring leaders from Kimberly-Clark Professional, on hand to discuss the success their company has achieved in safety and to introduce several new products.

For the third successive year, the Dow Jones World Index has ranked Kimberly-Clark Corp. as number one in the category of personal products. The $16.7 billion global health and hygiene company has 55,000 employees in more than 150 countries and is perhaps best known for its Kleenex and Scott brand of products, in addition to its Kleenguard line of safety goods. “We believe we have a good recipe to share. Giving away success will return success to Kimberly-Clark” said Scott Gaddis, global safety capability leader, referring to the company’s recent initiative to take a partnering approach to safety and to hold a safety summit. Part of the company’s success includes its current Total Incident Rate that is 84 percent better than the U.S. average and its worker’s comp cost that is 78 percent better than the U.S. average, he said. “Safety success is owned at the manufacturing line, utilizing production-level employees on teams to develop and implement safety processes. Organizational leaders then coach and mentor success.”

Company Vice President Drew Barfoot said Kimberly-Clark spends $6 million annually on improving its physical environments, but improving worker behavior is the part of the safety recipe that is the toughest to accomplish. “People don’t want you messing with their minds,” he said, noting that right now there is a lower injure rate in the company’s manufacturing mills than in its office buildings. “I would make a case to you that you can’t manage safety from the top down; it has to come from the ground up,” he said. “It’s people on the shop floor—they’re the ones getting exposed and hurt; they’re the ones who have to take ownership of their processes and the equipment they’re operating.

”A lot of times I think we have a problem in safety because we try to make things too complex,” Barfoot said. “We log thousands of events, but then what do you really do with that? I’m a big believer in starting with values, beginning with yourself. . . . Every new product we develop we test on our own people in our own mills. And they’re really picky.”

Demonstrating the company’s new push for “visual symbiosis,” a concept designed around head-to-toe protection that looks good when worn together, Senior Category Manager Donna McPherson, explained that “a consistent, clean look is the goal.” A model then gave a live illustration of the concept, entering the press room wearing a stretch-fabric coverall, a respirator, eye protection, and hand protection, all of which appeared to be of a set.

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