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A passion for safety: UPS has made huge investments in technology and training to create a safer working environment job its employees. (Special Report: Workers' Compensation).

Let employees take ownership of the safety process and their passion for creating a healthy and safe work environment will come forward. That is what managers of United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) in Atlanta have found.

UPS has made a significant commitment to safety and safety training. In fact, the company spends about $38 million a year on safety training. How can UPS afford such an investment? "It's not a matter of what the company can afford to do. It's a matter of our belief in the safety of our people," says Dan Norman, corporate Comprehensive Health and Safety Process manager at UPS. "We are a company that is built on servicing our customers," he says. "When you think of it that way, our people become the most important element in that service."

The results show. Since 1997, vehicle safety performance has improved 16 percent. Lost workday injuries and illnesses decreased 49 percent between 1996 and June 2001. Company officials attribute this to a concentrated effort to get employees involved in the safety process.

"It is important to us as an organization to have all those loyal, dedicated, knowledgeable employees come to work everyday," Norman says. "It's a purely service type of industry where customer loyalty is important to us as an organization."

Founded in 1907 as a foot and bicycle messenger company, UPS has grown into a $30 billion corporation. In 2001, the company delivered 3.4 billion packages and documents, which amounts to 13.6 million packages a day. UPS has 1,748 operating facilities and 88,000 cars, vans, tractors, and 253 aircraft.

The company's drivers log more than two billion miles a year. It is the fourth largest employer in the United States, employing more than 370,000 people worldwide. The company vehicle safety performance has improved 26 percent over the last 15 years.

UPS has made tremendous investment in safety technology as well. In 2001, for example, 68,000 rear vision camera systems were installed in the company's domestic package delivery fleet. The camera/monitor systems allow a driver to see about 30 feet directly behind the vehicle. As a result, accidents that result from backing up have been reduced significantly this year, according to company officials.

Says Norman: "Some Post Office vehicles and Federal Express vehicles have mirrors that sit on the rear of the vehicle. That was what our people thought they wanted. Before we made that investment, we did a lot benchmarking and found that, although it was more expensive for us to put rear vision cameras on our vehicles, that was the best tool available for people. We started that process two years ago and completed it last year. Every vehicle domestically has the camera, and now we are even employing it internationally. This was a $24 million investment."

Still, the company's management was determined to increase safety even further. UPS managers believed that more could be done within the company's facilities to increase safety. The safety process in the facilities was based on the company's vehicle safety program, which emphasized training and retraining of key points related to space perception and visibility skills on the road. But Norman says this program did not meet the needs of employees in the facilities.

"What we found was that it really didn't work well in our workplace environment, probably because of the intensiveness of our workplace," he says. "We handle more than 13 million packages a day. The job is so strenuous on our inside operations. Our people work hard. The constant training and retraining just didn't work. We needed something else. We decided that we needed to step up and do a little more."

So in 1995, UPS set out to develop and implement a program to protect and improve the health and safety of these employees. The result was the Comprehensive Health and Safety Process (CHSP). This effort includes about 2,400 committees nationwide with a minimum of five members each. The committees consist of nonmanagement employees at a particular facility with a management cochair. Committee members conduct facility and equipment audits, review work practices and behaviors, recommend work process changes, conduct safety compliance training, and perform safety analysis to help develop action plans for the prevention of injuries and auto accidents.

The CHSP committees are voluntary, Norman says. "Those folks take ownership of their own health and safety environment and look to improve that environment to the best of all employees in the organization."

The number of committees is based on the type of facility and what kinds of exposures are involved in the facility. "The employees determine how many people they want to participate," Norman says. "They generally meet--and this is an average from across the country--anywhere from two times a month to one time a month."

Safety Training

Training is the cornerstone of safety at UPS. The company spends more than $38 million per year on safety training, and employees receive nearly 1.3 million hours of safety training annually. Safety professionals at UPS teach a comprehensive range of workshops, certifying frontline managers and supervisors who, in turn, train hourly employees.

The company has a long tradition of safety training. The first driver handbook appeared in 1917. In the 1930s, the company established "safety courts" made up of a personnel representative, station manager, and three drivers with safe driving records. Formal health and safety communications were created in 1967, which were designed to increase safety awareness and reinforce UPS safety methods.

Today, employees receive training in defensive driving, how to conduct safety activities, procedures for injured employees, how to make their jobs and their homes safer, visibility training for drivers, powered industrial truck operator training and certification, hearing conservation, respiratory protection, conveyor safety, workplace violence, hazardous materials, forklift operating, and other equipment. Managers also receive training in vehicle crash investigation, early intervention of troubled employees, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For the CHSP program, UPS puts all of the committee members through eight hours of training. Participating managers receive the same training, as well as additional training to help them manage the process in the local areas. The company also created a new job title, the District CHSP Manager, in each of its 60 districts across the country. "This is similar to the position I have on a corporate level. This is someone who can champion the process and work with committees, make sure training is completed, make sure that the committees are following guidelines, and to ensure that the local areas get the support they need to improve the safety environment," Norman says.

UPS also has a program called HABITS, for Health, Athleticism, Body Mechanics, Inspect, Tools and Equipment, Safety Compliance. "This a dual program. Not only does it address safety in the workplace, but it also takes a look at safety issues in the home and also includes a discussion of body mechanics. With the strenuous job that employees have here, it's important to prepare them in the home environment as well."

Drivers also receive extensive training. A new driver for local package delivery service receives 20 hours of defensive driving training during orientation. On-the-job training consists of three safety evaluations in a 22-day training period. Newly hired tractor-trailer or feeder drivers receive 40 hours of training in orientation and 40 hours of on-the-job training. Drivers also receive refresher defensive driving training. Follow-up and remedial training occurs after an avoidable accident. Managers are at the core of this training for drivers. About 75 management people become certified trainers each year.

Norman says the company just recently developed a computer-based program that can train both management and non-management employees on the space and visibility program for drivers. The program focuses on things that UPS considers to be important for traffic safety. "It's really about knowing space and visibility, knowing the space that is around you, and being aware of all the things that are around you," Norman says.

"And we've taken that same CBT program and we've deployed here in the state of Georgia assisting teen drivers in high schools. We have our local health and safety management folks or members of our health and safety committees put teens through the computer-based space and visibility program. It's been an overwhelming success."

The Results

So what has all this training meant for UPS? The company has reduced its lost workday injury and illness frequency by 49 percent between 1996 and June 2001. During the same period, UPS reduced OSHA recordable injuries by 45 percent. The process has also helped reduce automotive accident frequencies by 16 percent between 1997 and 2001.

Improvements are also reflected in the company's annual employee survey. The survey includes a safety factor index, which asks nine or ten questions to measure employees' perception of the safety environment at UPS. "We've had a significant improvement in the safety factor index, which in 1998 showed that 71 percent of our people were favorable to the health and safety environment. For the survey we completed last year, the favorable rating went up to 76 percent."

So, what makes the system work? The commitment of the employees, Norman says. "The people are passionate about safety. They are passionate about their workplace. They are passionate about improving their own health and safety environment. Along with that passion, management support is also key. People can be passionate about improving their environment, but if management doesn't support them and give them the time they need to conduct the facility audits and do the investigation and have the meetings, all that dedication that they have to improving their environment will not be effective."

Denise Myshko can be reached at
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Author:Myshko, Denise
Publication:Risk & Insurance
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2002
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