DuPont, a science-based products and services company, has been a leader and innovator in safety, health and environmental (SHE) practices for years. The case study in this section provides a snapshot of how the company embedded safety excellence into its corporate culture.
DuPont: A Leader in Safety
A case study of the company's health and safety culture
For DuPont, the health and safety of its employees is a core value of the organization and an integral part of all of its business activities. Through its commitments to its people, the company, which has revenues of about $26.1 billion a year and more than 58,000 employees worldwide, has become a leader and innovator in safety, health and environmental (SHE) practices.
Since its founding in 1802 as an explosives company, DuPont has expanded to offering products and services for markets including agriculture, nutrition, electronics, communications, safety and protection, housing and construction, transportation and apparel. However, its core values have remained constant: commitment to safety and health; environmental stewardship; high ethical behavior; and respect for people.
How it works
At DuPont, the SHE programs have one simple goal - zero. The goal of zero encompasses zero safety incidents, zero occupational illnesses, and zero environmental releases. The goal of zero is rooted in the company’s early years and was formalized in 1993. Since then, the goal of zero has been expanded to include the other core values including zero incidents of disrespect for people and zero ethical incidents. This simple goal is rooted in the belief that all incidents are preventable.
To meet its objective, DuPont built its SHE programs into the company culture and committed to operating its businesses in a way that protects its people. The programs are continually supported and sustained through employee engagement, backing from leadership, actions and diligence.
DuPont uses five key elements to create a sustainable and strong culture around its SHE programs. These are:
- “Felt” leadership (meaning active participation) reinforcement, demonstrated management and commitment to SHE practices from the most senior level employees down;
- Personal accountability of all employees;
- Skills and training;
- Metrics to understand what is working well and where gaps exist; and
- Audits, including first-party and second-party audits.
As one example of its SHE programs, DuPont promotes safe practices through the company, focusing on topics that range from managing stress to safety in the workplace, and from driving safety to electrical safety at home. As another example, the company uses a Process Safety Management model (a framework for managing hazardous processes) in their plants which includes 14 elements to enable safe operation of their plants.
As a result of the strength of their programs, DuPont has also launched its DuPont Sustainable Solutions business, which helps other organizations follow DuPont’s example and adopt a similar culture focused on health and safety.
DuPont’s SHE programs drive operational discipline and foster employee engagement , which the company defines as deeply-rooted dedication and commitment by all employees to carry out each task the right way, every time.
A high level of operational discipline contributes to higher productivity, higher quality, reduces waste and lowers cost. In addition, its programs create a better-aligned workforce, as well as improved morale and human relations. All of these aspects help improve DuPont’s bottom line.
Although DuPont has not yet met its goal of zero, its rate of recordable injuries and illnesses has been considerably lower than industry averages. The company’s Total Recordable Injury Rate averaged 0.67 from 2008 and 2009. The industry average for the chemical industry was 2.7 in 2008, while the average for the manufacturing industry was 5.0 in the same year.
The rates mean that a typical DuPont employee is working in an environment that is four times safer than the chemical industry average.