Q&A with Pete Taschner
Vice president, safety and health
What’s driving ADM’s continuous improvement in lost-workday and total-recordable incident rates?
There are a number of things we’ve done to be successful, but the single most important has been increasing awareness among all colleagues of the importance of being vigilant and keeping safety top-of-mind, even with all of the other jobs and considerations they’re focused on. We really have worked tirelessly to instill that high level of safety-consciousness and a sense of urgency in our teams. We’ve been aggressive about getting our people to realize the importance of safety, and to commit to keeping themselves and their colleagues safe. And it’s making a difference.
I’ll tell you from a personal standpoint that when I started with my first employer straight out of school, I wasn’t the safest person in the world. I was young and a little cavalier. But after being there awhile, I mostly learned to practice safe behaviors because doing so was important to my company. It wasn’t personal.
But then, a close friend of mine, who was the father of my children’s babysitter, lost his life on the job in what was almost certainly a preventable accident. It made the issue of safety a deeply personal one for me. And it prompted me to move from the manufacturing roles I’d traditionally been in to the safety area, because I knew I could bring a passion and real personal commitment to the job.
You’re a great believer in the behavior-based Values-Based Safety program ADM began implementing in 2009.
Absolutely. We’ve used VBS to communicate the importance of safety and get people to realize that their commitment is critical. When you have colleagues observing their peers with the intention of offering constructive feedback on what they’re doing right, and what they could be doing better, you set up a situation where people see it as their job to look out both for themselves, and for one another. Since we initiated the program, our colleagues have completed 275,000 observations. This is producing a great deal of positive feedback, which is proven to be the most effective way to orchestrate change in individuals’ behaviors.
During the past year, we also saw substantial progress in the area of Total Process Safety, a metric you instituted in 2010. What is TPS all about?
TPS practices help ensure that production equipment and controls are designed, installed, operated, inspected, tested and maintained to reduce the likelihood of process incidents occurring. In 2010, ADM issued new TPS guidelines to further improve our inspection and testing protocols, and during the past year, on-time testing of critical equipment rose from 85 percent to 94 percent.
What other factors are driving our accomplishments?
For one thing, we set the tone at the very top of the organization. Every quarter, (chairman and CEO) Pat Woertz leads off her all-colleague communication with a message about safety performance. Every ADM meeting and event opens with a “safety moment,” in which employees share tips, observations or words of caution about everything from plant operating procedures to driving conditions on nearby roadways.
And during the company’s annual Global Safety Week, the company’s top leaders visit many ADM offices and facilities around the world to underscore executive management’s concern for colleagues’ safety and well-being, and to communicate the expectation that all employees will continue making safety improvement a priority. Our goal is zero incidents, zero injuries, and we’re working hard to achieve it.
Pete Taschner joined ADM in 2008. In his current role, he is responsible for leading the development of safety processes, standards, and metrics worldwide, as well as the implementation of global programs that promote active colleague participation and management accountability.
Before joining ADM, Taschner was director of operations and chief safety officer at Dresser-Rand Corporation; earlier, he served as vice president of manufacturing for Telex Communications and held a variety of positions during a 20-year tenure at DuPont. He holds both a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in business administration from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.