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United Airlines Corporate Safety Wins Green Cross Safety Innovation Award

  • United Airlines and United Express operate nearly 5,000 commercial flights a day to 342 airports worldwide.

    The safety objective: In 2010, United and Continental airlines merged, requiring the Safety Division to integrate volumes of data from many operating groups and databases. In addition, new FAA regulations required airlines to implement a safety management system. We needed to turn mountains of data into accessible, actionable, easy-to-use, multilingual information that made sense to everyone from front-line workers to top executives.

    The result: The Data Visualization project is flexible, easy to use and drives attention to safety. Marketing, sales, cargo, tech operations, network operations, airport operations and food services groups all have adopted it. Over two years, United reduced damages by 23% and injuries by 11%; our Airport Operations division reduced injuries by 20%. The Data Visualization model has been adopted by five key operating divisions. We continue to expand the program by adding real-time data sources, which increases transparency and improves the quality of our discussions about how we can improve as an organization.

    Advice to others: Integrating data from multiple sources and visualizing that data is a valuable exercise for any organization. Involving users, first-level management and safety action teams in the design builds employee and team commitment to the overall safety program.

    FINALIST: Michael Gittelman, Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

    Dr. Michael A. Gittelman is with the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which promotes the health, safety and well-being of children through advocacy, education, research, service and improving pediatric care.

    The safety objective: Injuries are a significant cause of death for children. One of the roles of primary care doctors is to prevent injuries by counseling families about age-appropriate risks at well-child visits. But doctors struggle to have these discussions due to lack of time and a lack of training about injury prevention. The goal was to provide a screening tool with standardized talking points so healthcare providers can address high-risk injury topics with families during office visits.

    The result: Since 2012, nearly 80 practitioners in Ohio, Kentucky, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Utah have used our tools. Injury risks were discussed at more than 90% of visits, and providers were able to address these risks with families. The tools saved doctors time, and more than 65% of families are practicing safer behaviors. We are now making this program available online for primary care providers.

    Advice to others: The first few months of working with office staff to implement the tools will pay off as providers will be more efficient, families will change their behaviors to become safer and fewer children will be injured.

    FINALIST: Pioneer Construction

    Pioneer Construction is a commercial contractor in Grand Rapids, MI.

    The safety objective: To eliminate all injuries by developing new tools and practices.

    The result: After reviewing injury data over the past 10 years, clear patterns emerged that illustrated every injury was preventable. Current market safety tools and practices were not sufficient. The company empowered the people who do the jobs and are exposed to injury to solve the problem. The biggest obstacle faced was our own employees' belief that injuries could not be eliminated. We changed that belief, debunked myths, overcame challenges and defined a method of developing custom tools and processes to eliminate injuries. We measured our progress by tracking injuries, OSHA inspection results, third-party inspection results, complaints, feedback from employees, self-audits and data from daily safety meetings and inspections. It was a grueling process, but it challenged us to solve real issues, remove barriers, strengthen our commitment to success and ultimately reduce injuries and risk.

    Advice to others: The critical link is the front line leader that turns the plan into action every day. Stop making excuses for your injuries. Stop perpetuating the myth that injuries cannot be prevented. Stop thinking that safety people have all the answers and start empowering the people that work for you to find practical solutions.

    All finalists answered questions about the safety problems they addressed, the results of their objective and advice they would give to others. Their responses have been edited for space.

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Meet the Winners

Three finalists were named in each category. Winners were announced at the Green Cross dinner May 12.

Safety Excellence

Safety Innovation

Safety Advocate


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