Bosal Profits from a Proactive Safety Culture

Developing a ‘raise your hand culture’ has helped slash the lost time accident (LTA) rate at Bosal over the past four years, says Wout Theuws, group maintenance and health, safety and environment (HSE) manager at the automotive equipment manufacturer.

Bosal has instigated a range of projects since 2014 aimed at cutting back on LTAs: accidents that result in an employee taking time off work. The key goal is to move from being reactive to proactive, according to Theuws, aiming ‘to be in front of the problem, taking away the unsafe conditions in order to ensure that the incidents or accidents simply will not occur’, he explained.

With a ‘raise your hand culture’, employees are encouraged to report any incident or potential safety risk, no matter how small it may seem, Theuws explained. For example, if someone is treated for a minor incident – such as a small cut or scratch – or there is a near miss, they must feel able to report this, even if it does not seem important. ‘Those incidents could have been worse – they could be disastrous,’ Theuws said. If an employee does raise their hand, it is vital that managers listen to their concerns or points and takes them on board, to show that reporting incidents actually has concrete results, Theuws explained.

safety saves money

This is another major component of the cultural challenge: encouraging a proactive attitude among area managers. Since the proactive safety effort began, Bosal has reduced LTAs by 70%. The most important benefit is improving the safety of employees. However, it also has major cost consequences, for both Bosal and its customers, reducing possible delays in production as the company looks to replace employees who are unable to work.

The company began its proactive focus by first looking at its past experience, Theuws said. The accident rate was too high, while communication in the HSE domain was not good enough across the company’s many plants, something Bosal has worked to improve. ‘If you communicate your incidents and accidents then other plants can learn from you how to prevent that same accident happening in their plant as well.’ The next step was establishing HSE as the number one strategic priority in the company, across all levels. This was related to the third step: focusing specifically on the ‘tone at the top’, ie the HSE mindset of the top management level. ‘The tone at the top should be positive about HSE, so we can minimise the level of strategic risk.’

more health & safety officers and more HSE communication

The company then turned to its structure, ensuring that area managers were fully aware of their responsibility for the health and safety of workers in their facilities. Bosal installed a health and safety officer at every one of its plants, Theuws said. Finally, the company installed a system to govern reporting and assessments. This includes a health and safety calendar, through which all aspects of HSE are tackled throughout the year. Bosal monitors a range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Among other steps, it has instigated a monthly health and safety network meeting, which includes all health and safety officers. ‘We discuss all the incidents and accidents that have occurred, as well as improvements and lessons learned,’ Theuws explained. ‘We communicate a lot of information to each other in that meeting, to ensure that everybody is moving forward.’ It takes time to install a proactive safety approach in a large, diverse organisation, Theuws said. ‘But in the end it leads to a change in culture, where we will not accept unsafe conditions. They are tackled immediately.’

Wout Theuws will speak at Euromaintenance 4.0, where he will present on Bosal’s move from a reactive to a proactive safety culture. Euromaintenance 4.0 will take place in Antwerp, Belgium from September 24-27.

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