Mike Douglas of GM on Safety MaturityMike Douglas, Sr. Manager of Health and Safety Engineering, at General Motors, spoke at the Technology track of the EHS Today’s Safety Leadership Conference on steps to getting to a safety consciousness within a company. He had led the team that changed GM from the top down into a safety-conscious company.  The process included promoting safety as a brand within the company.

Using the model of the Safety Maturity Index, Douglas discussed culture, capital, and compliance.

Cultural involves what people say at the water cooler. You have to ask is safety a priority or a value. Priorities change but values don’t. That means working to assure safety is in the company DNA.

If you have achieved bringing safety into a key place in the company’s DNA, then it becomes time to put your money where your values are. In the Safety Maturity Index, this is called Capital. Douglas asks, “Have you committed to investing in design for safety? You must commit resources to perform the required due diligence to  meet safety requirements. Further, ask, “Has your company performed throughput improvement analysis around safety investments?”

Finally, you must work on Compliance, the last stage of the Safety Maturity Index. Douglas asks, “Does your company follow a management system? Do you have specific performance standards that support the management system? Have resources been allocated and responsibilities assigned (governance, requirements, accountability)?

I noticed Douglas’ talk fit into a few trends most speakers discussed. One of these is the observation that business benefits accrue when safety becomes an integral part of not only culture, but also design. Douglas mentioned throughput (less downtime, for example) as a benefit that even financial managers can recognize.

Douglas had a final observation for Safety Leaders, “You have to be able to defend the system.” Change agents and leaders must either have this ability or develop it in order to achieve success.

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