For years, there has been debate about whether or not companies can ever achieve a goal of having zero injuries and illnesses or fatalities. Most experts agree that organizations should not accept any level of injury; however, these same experts also state that perfection is near impossible – that we can’t do anything to avoid “acts of God” and human error. Should companies make it a goal to achieve zero injuries? Can it be achieved?

At DuPont, we believe that companies of any size can achieve zero injuries. With more than 60,000 employees globally and dozens of plants, DuPont has been striving for zero for more than 200 years. Our goal isn’t a mere slogan without merit, and it’s also much more than a grand idea. It is an uncompromising attitude and relentless pursuit to eliminate pain and suffering by continuously improving a safe culture and processes. Safety remains a core value.

DuPont also celebrates sites that accomplish their goal of zero. The company awards the E.I. DuPont Safety Excellence Award to recognize a DuPont worksite that has achieved ZERO status. The sites nominated for this award have not had a single employee miss work due to injury. Submissions often showcase DuPont sites where no injuries have occurred for substantial periods of time – 18 years, 32 years, even 65 years.

Why do we do this? Because DuPont knows that its collective strength comes from every person who works across all its facilities. The company leadership believes that safety comes first.

DuPont also believes there are savings in safety. Liberty Mutual Group estimates that employers spent $50.8 billion in 2003 on wage payments and medical care for workers hurt on the job. Additionally, Liberty Mutual found that for each $1 invested in injury prevention, companies can see returns of $2 or more. Companies see savings in direct costs – fewer medical claims and lower administration costs – and through indirect costs that can include lost productivity, damaged equipment, general liability costs and damaged reputation.

Many other companies put safety first, too. American Airlines, for example, has reduced injuries by 25 percent and workers’ compensation claims by 40 percent, saving the company almost $70 million during a 3-year period beginning in 2005.

Avery Dennison is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of self-adhesive materials, office products and specialty chemicals. With 21,400 employees achieving worldwide sales of $5.3 billion in 2004, the company successfully created a new safety culture and the number of work-related incidents was cut in half.

At DuPont, we believe companies can achieve the level of performance they are willing to accept. DuPont continues to demonstrate that not only is the goal of ZERO achievable, but it is the only acceptable goal to have.

Robert Krzywicki is the global practice leader for employee safety
at DuPont Sustainable Solutions.

Striving for Zero Injuries and Illnesses
EHS Today