In 2004 at a large U.S forest products company, something unusual happened. Before I tell you what that was, let me give you some background. Most large corporations manage their many operations at a distance. By that I mean the company sets out guidelines its operations are supposed to follow and then leaves their very capable managers to operate their divisions in line with the expected financial and operational outcomes set out in those guidelines. These guidelines normally require the divisions to adhere to all of the current municipal, state, and federal regulations governing their operations and to achieve or exceed operational budgets for sales and profits. The “head office” doesn’t tell these very capable managers how to do that. It is presumed, because of their position, that they know. So much for background. Now the story.
What was different at this company, in 2004, was that they had just completed an acquisition of a competitor whose corporate style was more centralized. As they integrated their people, several of the new personnel took significant jobs within the company. Used to making changes to things that weren’t right, these people started looking at the hearing conservation program and determined that they didn’t have enough information to make an accurate assessment. Why not? Well, the company was using 3 different hearing testing companies who results we not comparable. If you cannot determine the year over year change in hearing loss, you don’t have an important measure for the efficacy of your program. And so began the rebuilding of their hearing conservation program management process.
This corporation had been a customer of CPE for sometime and while we enjoyed the business we did with them, we were only a part of each plant we served. We couldn’t get those managing the HCP (hearing conservation program) to make any one type of protection the standard in the plant. Such was the decentralized management paradigm. As the corporation moved towards a new hearing conservation program model, some things began to change. A single hearing test provider was chosen for the whole corporation. dB Blockers we suggested an accepted as the hearing protection of choice. Those choosing not to wear them had to wear double protection. Slowly but steadily changes was taking place.
What was the upshot and what is the little known secret to hearing conservation program success? As these changes took place everyone in the plants, from the General Manager to the Shipper/Receiver knew that there was a new program and new hearing protection. Because of this full commitment of everyone in management, the work force espoused the change. Everyone was talking about it and everyone was engaged. As we circled back to the various plants, no matter who we spoke with, all of them knew what the program was and gave it a passing level of importance.
The key to success in a hearing conservation program? The little known secret? Leadership by example. This company with 9,000 employees is over 90 plants around the U.S. virtually eliminated NIHL from their plants in 4 years. They achieved it because everyone, from the Executive Vice President on down knew and supported the program. If you want to eliminate noise induce hearing loss for your work place, follow this example. If we can help you with details, please contact us.