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Creation of Safety Leadership and VPP Recertification

A large specialty chemical facility contacted CoreAdvantage for help refocusing one of its facilities located in Illinois. The site is a specialty chemical facility producing a number of hazardous organic chemicals. The collective bargaining agent representing the employees is the United Food and Commercial Workers/ International Chemical Workers Union Council.


Building Leadership, Alignment & Accountability

The site was originally certified by OSHA as a Star VPP site in November 1999. Subsequently to that time, a significant unit (chlorobenzene) was shutdown in 2004 which left 50% of the site idle with significant layoffs. Employment was reduced from 380 to 168 employees. The company filed bankruptcy in December 2003. All of the changes and layoffs had a major impact on operations and moral of the workers. Predictably, safety performance also suffered. Facing poor safety performance and an OSHA VPP recertification visit the company held a safety summit in 2005 in an effort to create a recommitment to safety and health. Not happy with the results from the summit they contacted CoreAdvantage for assistance.


Culture Change Process & Leadership Development

The following obstacles needed to be overcome:

  • Uncertainty of the sites’ future
  • Lack of trust between management, union and employees
  • Low faith in the current safety processes
  • Weak safety leadership
  • Production pressures were prevailing over safety

To address these issues our intervention was structured into 3 phases.

Phase 1 consisted of an assessment and VPP benchmarking working with leadership from management, unions and EHS staff. The SafePath VPP Benchmarking tool was used for this effort.

It was determined that all needed safety and VPP processes existed the problem was one of refocusing the site and bringing balance to the safety vs. production pressures that were perceived to exist.

Phase 2 consisted of conducting the SafePath Culture Change Workshop for the entire management and union leadership group. The workshop consists of a process that created a new larger and more positive vision for safety and health. Organizational barriers to safety excellence were identified and buy-in for the change was created. Team building exercises were used to bring alignment to the divergent groups. At the conclusion of the workshop, participants understood the need for change, what it looked like to have the needed management leadership and employee ownership to create safety and health excellence and, were motivated to create it.

Phase 3 consisted of holding the management team accountable for new visible safety leadership as defined in the Culture Change Workshop. Creating greater and consistent involvement of management in safety resulted in refocusing employees and brought back credibility.

Summary of Tools Used:

SafePath VPP Benchmarking Tool – used for initial gap analysis & final benchmarking

SafePath Performance Dashboard – used to manage to and display key leadership KPI’s

SafePath Culture Change Workshop – to develop leadership and shift culture and perceptions


STAR VPP Re-certification in 6 months

In a short 6 month period the site developed alignment and a high level of commitment and visible leadership for safety. As a result, employee involvement and ownership for VPP and the related safety processes was restored. Injury rates saw a dramatic decline and the site was recertified by OSHA at the Star level in 2005.

Lessons Applied

Leadership of Self & Personal Accountability Transforms to Employee Engagement

Several key things occurred that contributed to this success. First the site involved the union and management leadership teams in creating a new vision for safety. By allowing themselves to be vulnerable and open they were able to jointly identify what was working, what was not and what needed to change. This created the buy-in and the momentum needed for the change.

Second, the facility manager was personally involved throughout the entire process, lead by her example and held the organization accountable.

Third, when the group was clear in what they needed to accomplish, they collaborated, supported one another, stayed focused and, held themselves accountable. As a result, successful outcomes were produced.