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January 14, 2016

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How Scott Safety created a factory of the future

What lengths would you go to in order to ensure that your factory is a safe place to work?

Peter Osborne, Plant Manager at Scott Safety in Skelmersdale, explains why shutting down the factory for two days has helped drive progress towards a “factory of the future”, targeting Zero Accidents, Zero Waste, Zero Defects and Zero Late Deliveries.

In 2011 Scott Safety began an ambitious project to make our Skelmersdale plant a Factory of the Future, consisting of four areas of focus: Zero Harm, Zero Waste, Zero Defects and Zero Late.

One of the key areas for improvement within Zero Harm was Lost Time Accidents, with the site averaging at least one Lost Time Accident a year prior to the project.[1] Therefore in July 2011, Scott Safety shut down for two days and used this time to discuss with the workforce the challenges, issues and opportunities related to safety on site. Feedback was recorded on communication boards, which were prominent displays of simple traffic lights and smiley faces that gave everyone a quick view of what was happening.

The communication boards have remained as a simple and instant way of keeping everyone up to date with progress and are prominently displayed on the shop floor. The work station staff are encouraged to flag up issues on their own stations by simply updating their individual boards with a marker pen and switching on a light, similar to those at a supermarket checkout, so that issues can be resolved before output is affected.

The company then implemented employee-led ‘Grassroots’ projects, placing the safety of the business in the hands of its employees. These Grassroots teams take ownership of safety projects and are empowered to find solutions that make sense to themselves and their colleagues.

One of the first projects was to implement a new ‘U-Act (or ‘Unsafe Act’) form. The form’s name is a call to action for anyone who identifies a potential problem to report it, before an accident occurs, without fear of retaliation. U-Acts, once raised, are retained in full view of the shop floor, with progress reported on communication boards as the issue gets resolved. The U-Act is only closed when the employee originator signs it off and is satisfied with the outcome.

Some U-Acts also create spin-off projects, with ownership given to grassroots employee teams rather than management. The grassroots teams were introduced a year into the project to engage the workforce, both shop floor and office, to ensure messages from the route cause reach the management and that any issues are resolved promptly. This positive peer influence has helped improve relations with and perceptions of the management and contributed to a real change in the culture of the business.

‘Near miss’ reporting, using the U-Act process, has almost doubled over the last three years and in August 2014 the company officially recognised that it had achieved its target milestone: a million hours worked with Zero Lost Time Accidents. The most significant result is the culture change that created this result, and continues to improve safety consciousness at Skelmersdale. Its efforts, and their results, were rewarded with a British Safety Council Award (with Merit) in 2014 and 2015.

We now have a culture where health and safety is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone, no matter what their job or position, understands what it takes to create an environment where people go home safely every night. We have an enthusiastic workforce – and suggestions and comments come in every day.

Scott Safety ( is a premier manufacturer of innovative respiratory and other personal protective equipment and safety devices.

peter osbornePete Osborne has over 20 years’ experience in the manufacturing industry, specialising in process engineering, including a key focus on continuous improvement, change management and the development of lean manufacturing processes.

[1] 2010 – 1 LTA, 2011 – 1 LTA 2012 – 2 LTAs, 2013 – 1 LTA, 2014 – 0 LTA, 2015 YTD – 0 LTA


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