The purpose of this paper was to discuss the role of culture, management leadership, and employee involvement in the process of improving safety in an industrial environment. In this regard, the discussion focused on the development and implementation of an improved environment, health, and safety (EHS) program at GE Aviation. The main goal of the EHS program was to develop measures for protecting the company’s employees from any harm as they work in various manufacturing plants.
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The program was also established to enable the company to reduce its ecological footprint. The elements of the company’s culture that facilitated the development of the program included visible leadership, accountability, responsibility, and collaboration between staff and management.
Management leadership facilitated access to the resources and motivation that was required to develop the program. Employee involvement, on the other hand, enabled the company to avert resistance and to utilize the expertise of its staff to develop the program.
The health and safety of workers determine the continued success of any business. Occupational health and safety can be improved through effective management leadership and employee involvement. Effective management involves “securing the health, safety, and welfare of all staff by reducing risks and ensuring protection from injuries/ harm arising out of work-related activities”.
An effective management leadership should provide the motivation and the resources that are needed to improve safety at the workplace. Employee involvement, on the other hand, involves creating an enabling environment in which workers nurture and demonstrate their commitment to health and safety.
This paper will focus on the role of management leadership and employee involvement in promoting a safe industrial environment in the aviation industry. Specifically, it will discuss the application of organizational culture, management leadership, and employee involvement to develop an environment, health, and safety (EHS) program at General Electric (GE) Aviation.
Employees who were Involved in the Program
General Electric Aviation is the “world’s leading producer of jet engines for commercial and military aircrafts” (GE Aviation, 2014). The company also provides repair and maintenance services for jet engines. In this regard, the production processes of the company are characterized with several health hazards that are likely to endanger the lives of its employees.
Thus, the company decided to enhance the safety of its employees by developing an improved environment, health, and safety program. Apart from reducing occupational safety risks, the program also enables the company to reduce its ecological footprint.
The EHS program was developed by a team of 1,000 health and safety professionals (GE Aviation, 2014). The professionals were drawn from various departments in over 500 manufacturing plants that are owned by the company. The role of the professional team was to assess the company’s safety standards and to develop improved measures for reducing exposure to health hazards at the workplace.
The company’s management supported the professional team by helping them to define the goals, values, and expectations of the EHS program (GE Aviation, 2014). The management also provided the resources that the professional team required to develop the EHS program.
The company’s employees also participated in the development of the EHS program by helping to identify health hazards and suggesting measures that could be taken to address safety risks. However, the contract workers did not actively participate in the development of the program since most of them worked for the company for less than six months.
What the EHS Program was Set Up to Accomplish
The EHS program was developed to achieve the following objectives. First, the program was expected to promote a “culture of operational safety ownership” (GE Aviation, 2014). In particular, the company intended to utilize the EHS program to integrate operational safety ownership in its organizational culture.
In this regard, the responsibility of ensuring safety at the workplace was to be accepted as a value that every employee indentified with. Second, the program was expected to develop a framework for reducing or eliminating employees’ exposure to the health/ safety risks associated with chemical operations (GE Aviation, 2014). Specifically, the program was expected to develop solutions that would enable the company to adopt safe operations through strategies such as re-engineering processes and using protective devices.
Third, the EHS was set up to enable the company to reduce the accidents and injuries that occur due to human error. The company believes that employees will always make mistakes that are likely to cause injury at the workplace (GE Aviation, 2014). Consequently, the EHS program focused on redesigning the manufacturing processes that often led to human error at the workplace. Fourth, the EHS was developed to improve employee involvement in improving safety at the workplace.
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Employees are likely to support a health and safety program that they helped to develop (OSHA, 2014). This explains the company’s decision to involve all its employees in the development of the program. Finally, the EHS program was expected to facilitate organizational learning. It was expected to enable the company to learn from any health or safety incident that would occur in future.
The main accomplishment of the EHS program is the health and safety intelligence system that has since been developed to improve compliance with safety requirements. The intelligence system was developed as a web-based software that uses a checklist of 680 questions to assess the company’s compliance with various safety standards (GE Aviation, 2014). It also provides suggestions for improving safety in various manufacturing operations.
Where the Program was Developed
The EHS program was developed in an institutional setting that promotes a collaborative approach to addressing occupational safety risks. The company believes that managers and employees must collaborate in order to develop effective solutions to the safety challenges that it faces.
Accordingly, the company promotes employee involvement by obtaining feedback from workers in every department concerning its commitment to safety (GE Aviation, 2014). The feedbacks are often obtained through perception surveys that enable the company to receive suggestions from its employees on how to improve safety. Employees are also involved in conducting site inspections and analyzing routine hazards in order to develop safe work practices.
Employee involvement facilitated the development of the EHS program in several ways. To begin with, staff involvement enabled the health and safety professionals to incorporate the expectations of the employees in the goals and objectives of the EHS program. In addition, the values of the program were based on the employees’ needs for safety at the workplace (GE Aviation, 2014).
As a result, the employees supported the development and implementation of the program. In this case, employee involvement enabled the company to avoid staff resistance during the development and implementation of the EHS program. In addition, employee involvement promoted the culture of operational safety ownership. This was achieved by improving employees’ commitment to enhancing their safety and that of their colleagues.
The success of GE Aviation’s EHS program can also be attributed to the fact that it was developed in an institutional setting that promoted the culture of responsibility and accountability. Accountability leads to a safe industrial environment by enabling companies to measure the performance of managers based on predetermined health/ safety goals and standards.
An effective accountability model must have established performance standards, evaluation system, and the resources that managers need to meet their targets. Moreover, it must be applicable at all levels and provide incentives that promote high performance. Accordingly, GE Aviation’s operations managers bear the greatest responsibility of improving the safety of its staff.
The company’s culture of responsibility and accountability enabled the health and safety professionals to develop appropriate goals that each operations manager had to achieve in order to improve the safety of employees (GE Aviation, 2014). The managers were evaluated and rewarded based on the extent to which they achieved their health and safety goals. As a result, the managers focused on inspiring employees to internalize the values of the EHS program.
However, delegating too much responsibility to operations managers negatively affected the company’s commitment to promote a culture of occupational safety ownership. In particular, the employees perceived occupational safety as the responsibility of the managers rather than every worker in the company. Undoubtedly, ownership of the process of improving safety can only be enhanced if responsibilities are distributed equally among employees.
Visible leadership is also an important element of GE Aviation’s organizational culture that facilitated the development of the EHS program. Visible leadership involves leading by example and participating actively in safety and health committees at the workplace (OSHA, 2014).
Accordingly, the company’s management focused on developing the EHS program without undercutting the authority of the operations managers to steer the program. The operations managers retained the authority to make key decisions concerning the implementation of the program. This devolved system of making decisions enabled the company’s leadership to involve as many employees as possible in decision-making processes through consultations between operations managers and their juniors.
When the Program was Developed
The program’s development life cycle lasted for a period of eighteen months. Origination was the first stage in the development of the EHS program. At this stage, the company’s CEO having recognized the business case for improving employee safety, proposed the idea of developing a comprehensive EHS program (GE Aviation, 2014).
The focus of the origination stage was to win employees’ support for the idea of developing an improved EHS program. In this regard, effective management leadership enabled the company’s CEO to create a sense of urgency for change within the company. The CEO focused on inspiring and motivating the employees at various levels to support the proposed EHS program.
Having won the support of key change agents within the company, the management officially initiated the process of developing the new EHS program. An EHS program manager was selected to lead the process of overhauling the company’s health and safety system (GE Aviation, 2014).
After the initiation, the management proceeded to the planning stage where detailed plans for developing the program were developed. At this stage, effective management leadership enabled the company’s managers to determine the program’s scope, goals, costs, risks, and opportunities (GE Aviation, 2014). Employees were actively involved at this stage in various activities such as cost benefit analysis, reviewing existing safety standards, and making suggestions on the processes that needed re-engineering to improve safety.
The rationale of this strategy is that employee involvement leads to high staff commitment and motivation, which in turn improves participation in health and safety promotion initiatives. The feedback from employees enabled the management to identify the solutions that had to be implemented to improve safety. In addition, the employees provided valuable insights that enabled the company to provide adequate resources for the program.
Having developed the plans, the management proceeded to the execution stage where key deliverables were managed. The key deliverables included budgets, implementation schedules, and plans that defined the strategies that were expected to improve safety. At this stage, the focus of the company’s management leadership was to provide the technical expertise that was required to develop and implement the program (GE Aviation, 2014).
Consequently, the team of health and safety professionals concentrated on implementing the solutions that had been identified to improve safety. Employees’ involvement at this stage included provision of supportive services such as reviewing budgets, as well as, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation process.
In the last stage, the new EHS program was adopted by the company’s management. Currently, the employees and the management are actively involved in implementing the requirements of the program and reviewing its effectiveness on a regular basis. This is important because reviewing health and safety programs through employee involvement enables managers to address emerging health and safety risks at the workplace in time (AHMP, 2014).
Why the EHS Program Came About
The EHS program came about due to the following reasons. First, the management of GE Aviation had a goal of reducing occupational hazards in order to improve the safety of its employees.
Health and safety conditions are important elements of the industrial environment since they determine the productivity of workers (NOISH, 2014). Employees who feel unsafe are likely to leave the company in order to avoid endangering their lives. Thus, GE Aviation’s management adopted the EHS program to reduce labor turnover and to increase the productivity of its workforce.
Second, the EHS program was adopted to help the company to comply with the regulations concerning safety in an industrial environment. The program was expected to enable the company to identify viable strategies for achieving or exceeding the workplace safety standards set by organizations such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Compliance with occupational safety and health regulations helps companies to avoid penalties and cancelation of their licenses due to poor or unsafe work conditions (OSHA, 2014). Thus, GE Aviation had to establish a new EHS program to help it comply with regulations.
Third, the company intended to reduce its impact on the environment through the EHS program. This goal was to be achieved by re-engineering various manufacturing processes in order to reduce the amount of toxic substances that the company discharged to the ambient environment.
As a result, the company would reduce the exposure of its employees to toxic substances that are harmful to health. Moreover, the company would be able to reduce its level of pollution (GE Aviation, 2014). Reducing the level of pollution and improving employees’ safety was expected to improve the company’s image in the countries that it operates in. Furthermore, reducing pollution would enable the company to attain its objective of achieving sustainable production of jet engines.
How the EHS Program Functioned Politically, Technically, and Financially
Politically, the EHS received adequate support in various departments within the company. The employees welcomed the idea of developing an improved EHS system because it would improve their wellbeing. However, there were divisions at departmental committees on how the EHS program was supposed to be implemented. For instance, the finance committee did not agree with the initial budgetary allocation.
According to the finance committee, the EHS program did not deserve a significant budgetary allocation since it did not directly lead to generation of revenues (GE Aviation, 2014). Despite the differences in opinions in various committees, the EHS manager and his team managed to solicit adequate support and resources to develop and implement the program in time. This demonstrates the effectiveness of the company’s management leadership in the process of developing the new EHS program.
The technical aspect of the EHS program did not encounter a lot of challenges. At the onset, the company’s management had a clear understanding of the expertise that was needed to develop and implement the program.
Consequently, the management employed a team of 1,000 professionals who were qualified in various disciplines to steer the development of the EHS program (GE Aviation, 2014). High employee involvement also enabled the company to utilize the expertise and experiences of its staff who were not directly involved in the development of the program.
The financial performance of the EHS program was average. The management intended to implement the program within the set budgetary allocations. However, there were cost overruns due to minor changes in the original plans (GE Aviation, 2014). For instance, the training of operations managers took longer than was expected, thereby increasing the costs. Nonetheless, the cost overruns were not significantly.
GE Aviation developed a new EHS program to improve the safety of its employees who work in over 500 manufacturing plants. The main factor that led to the adoption of the new program was the need to improve productivity and to reduce labor turnover by creating a safe working environment.
In this regard, the goals of the program included creating a culture of accountability among operations managers, reducing human error, and improving employee involvement in implementing safety measures. In addition, the program was expected to enable the company to learn from future incidents in order to improve its health and safety conditions. The success of the program is mainly attributed to effective management leadership and high employee involvement.
The company’s management participated in the development of the program by providing the required resources, setting goals, and soliciting employees’ support. Employee involvement enabled the management to avoid resistance from workers during the implementation of the program. Additionally, the employees collaborated with the management to complete various tasks such as identifying health hazards and suggesting solutions to address them.
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