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Formica group makes significant progress in its journey to improve its health and safety culture across 3000 employees

Global manufacturer Formica Group approached EEF to help embed a culture of Health and Safety at its UK manufacturing and distribution sites. The agreed approach was then rolled out globally and delivered in a variety of languages. This helped Formica Group in their journey for a universal language and behaviour for safety across the business, reaching every manufacturing and distribution site and their employees.

“We knew EEF would provide the right expertise and skills we needed and were confident that we would succeed in our aims to improve our health and safety culture at Formica Group.”

Denis Hall, Formica Group

Overview

Business improvements very often begin in a small way, and in global laminate manufacturer Formica Group’s case an improvement in health and safety in all sites globally began with an initiative in the UK. To improve the number of H&S incidents occurring across all sites, Formica Group UK contacted EEF to help develop a programme to address the safety cultural and behavioural issues.

“Organisations deal with health and safety at three levels,” explained EEF Business Development Manager Greg Ward.  “The first is achieving legal compliance. The second is putting effective management systems in place. But the H&S record tends to plateau after this and can only be reduced further by instilling behavioural safety across the business. Formica Group had already invested in safety equipment and processes, and was prepared to go much further to achieve a culture of safety.”

Initial discussions with Formica Group were intensive however this helped EEF decide on the best approach. EEF’s preferred programme was outlined as a three pronged approach: an initial assessment of each site to analyse the situation, this included a survey and gap analysis; the design and roll out of training to address the issues; and an assessment of the outcomes so Formica Group could gauge its success and decide where further improvements could be made.

By using this approach and implementing training that targeted key issues at each site, Formica Group believed their investment would lead to sustainable improvements.

Approach

In 2011, Formica Group commissioned EEF to begin the programme for its 400 UK staff. Preparation began with a gap analysis of the Formica Group H&S management systems across the UK. Alongside this every member of staff at the site was put through the HSCE Climate Survey, a series of questions that measured attitudes to health & safety. 

“The survey enabled us to build a detailed top-down and bottom-up assessment of the business,” Greg said.  Shop floor workers were often very experienced, many having over 25 years service. To be able to make the behavioural factors relevant we needed to make sure we fully understood their actual practices, attitudes and views. A standard training course would probably have had little impact on their behaviour.  We had to work out how to approach this and tailor the course to the actual situation.”

After initial assessment had taken place, EEF worked closely with Formica Group UK at national and site level to design and customise an individual training plan, incorporating Formica Group’s core business values, for two of its manufacturing sites and Formica Group’s head office.

A team of EEF consultants went to each site to deliver the courses which were built around the 5 day IOSH Managing Safely for those with managerial responsibilities, and the 1 day IOSH Working Safely for the main workforce. To reinforce this from the top down, a 1 day IOSH Safety for Senior Executives was delivered to the entire upper tier of management.

The courses were cleverly designed to achieve quality results. For example, Working Safely, was delivered purely to the workforce with no managers present.  “The benefit of that is it enabled the workforce to discuss their safety issues freely,” explained EEF HSCE consultant Peter Thorpe. “We noted these on a flipchart and fed the information back to Formica Group for action. So the course became a two way flow of information, and part of the improvement process.”

Feedback from the programme showed great improvement in health & safety behaviour as well as increased staff morale. With these results to hand, Formica wanted to consider whether this programme could be replicated across its global business units and approached EEF to discuss the feasibility.

The challenges were considerable. Not only did each site have its own view of safety, but there were language barriers, regional cultural differences and sheer global distances to take into account. So how did EEF and Formica Group solve this problem of replicating a successful standard?

In the UK, IOSH training consisted of;

- IOSH Safety For Senior Executives - course delivered to senior management;
- IOSH Managing Safely - course for everyone with managerial responsibilities; and,
- IOSH Working Safely - course for the workforce.

Globally, further training was based around the core principles used for training in the UK.

Supporting Formica Group across the globe

EEF staff visited every site to undertake a Gap Analysis of safety processes.  Meanwhile, Formica Group translated the Climate Survey into the appropriate language for each site, administered it to every one of its 3,000 staff and returned the data to EEF for analysis.

From this, courses were designed specifically for each site. Concurrently, EEF built a network of associates in each of the countries where Formica Group operated. These health and safety professionals then translated the individually tailored course material, adding elements covering local legislation, and then delivered it in the native tongue.

“It was not like a normal project, it frequently changed shape,” Greg said. “However, safety is about people, and the reason this project was so effective is that we built a true collaborative relationship with Formica Group.”

Results

  • Global safety culture further developed across  Formica Group
  • Consistent approach to health and safety effectively achieved
  • Improved workforce morale resulting from raised health and safety standards
  • Renewed appreciation and focus from staff for health and safety improvements
  • Engagement from top-down to respect and retain H&S practices as part of core business activities
  • Significant contributions to Formica Group’s performance at all manufacturing sites  

About the company

Formica Group has been a household name for over a century, and is synonymous with style and practicality for modern living. This enviable global brand awareness is inextricably linked to the invention of high pressure laminate, the product upon which the company was built.  That innovation has continued unabated, not only with the design and manufacture of surfacing products for commercial and residential applications, but also in the development of new business processes Formica Group now part of the Laminates and Panel division of Fletcher Building, has 11 manufacturing sites across Europe, North America and Asia.

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