Achieving Zero Failures is Possible

Tim Goshert

In his book, “Making Common Sense Common Practice,” Ron Moore of the RM Group explains that plant safety and reliability are linked and interrelated. He acknowledges that you can get better safety performance by solely focusing on improving safety practices (e.g., wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), implementing better permitting, using proper lockout/tagout procedures, etc.). However, Moore is also of the firm belief that best-performing plants are very disciplined about all their practices, and from that get a synergistic effect in all of their performance measures.

Figures 1 and 2 show examples from a larger set of data that demonstrate the strong correlation between reliability (asset utilization capability) and safety (injury rate). This supports the statement that a more reliable plant is a safer plant.

                              Figure 1

                                 Figure 2

My experience supports Moore’s sentiments. I’ve experienced a significant change process with Cargill over the past 30 years regarding safety. We are in some businesses that traditionally have been considered not conducive to good safety results. It was thought to be impossible to keep people from getting hurt. We have found this to be untrue. More importantly, we have found that a change in attitude, leadership and actions were needed to achieve this. The culture progressed from one where injuries were part of the business to an attitude where “zero injuries are possible in any business anywhere in the world.”

Our company’s safety progress has been a 30-year journey of improved annual results. These results are measured in a safety index number — a proprietary calculation of reported injury frequency rate (RIFR), disabling frequency rate (DFR) and severity rate (SR). The lower the score, the better the performance.

Cargill’s safety index measurement has been used to drive better safety performance. We have seen the index decrease from 100 in the late 1970s to less than 2 today. Many companies now believe that a zero injury rate is a legitimate goal. It has become part of their culture.

I believe that zero failures in reliability can also be achieved. In my travels, when I ask people if they believe if this is possible, most emphatically say, “No way.” They believe it isn’t possible, much the same way they believed 10 to 20 years ago that zero injuries would be impossible. Yet there are plants that have nearly achieved the goal of zero failures along with zero injuries. These plants have experienced many days and weeks where nothing fails unexpectedly. These sites understand all of the failure modes of their assets and their assets’ current health. If and when a defect enters the asset, the defect is corrected early and failure is prevented. They are convinced that zero is possible.

Experiences and data show that zero failures are possible. As someone once said, “If you think you can’t, you’re probably right. If you think you can, you’re probably right.”

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