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SeaChange client featured in the most recent publication of the Health & Safety Review

SeaChange client featured in the most recent publication of the Health & Safety Review

Profile – HSR November 2015 – 30/10/2015

‘Visually visible’ safety management at Danone Wexford plant

The philosophy underpinning Danone’s OSH policies was spelled out back in 1972, when its then chairman Antoine Riboud said one of the two criteria for the role and responsibility of business leaders was meeting the target for employees’ human and social progress. 

The other criterion announced by M. Riboud, who was addressing the French Employers’ Association, was economic: meeting business targets, a necessity in enabling Danone fulfil its social commitment.

When HSR recently went to visit one of the company’s two manufacturing plants in Ireland, the Danone Nutricia plant in Wexford, to discuss the company’s approach to occupational health and safety, the site director, Liam Carmody explained how OSH policy and practice is shaped by the company’s social philosophy enunciated over 40 years ago.

He describes it as the dual project, with the social part as well as the economic part. Giving an example of the social aspect of the policy, Carmody says the company has switched fuels and now uses biomass.

He explains that Danone is a company with four divisions: fresh dairy products; waters; medical nutrition; and early life nutrition, the division in which the Wexford plant sits. It is, he says, “a health business”. Some years ago there were nine divisions. The company disposed of five divisions to concentrate on producing health products.

Globally the company employs over 100,000 people and operates 190 plants. In Ireland there are two Danone plants: the Wexford plant and a plant in Macroom. The company has offices in Dublin and in all employs over 600 people in Ireland, of whom over 250 work in the Wexford plant. The Wexford plant operates on a 24×7 basis, with two 12-hour shifts, except for a four day shutdown at Christmas and a six-day shutdown in the summer for maintenance work.


When visiting a workplace to discuss health and safety, first impressions are important. The Danone Wexford plant is located on the outskirts of the town in a pleasant location.

But what is more impressive than the location is the visitors’ parking. It takes the ‘reverse in-drive out’ guidance for drivers to a higher level. Even though the site is compact, the visitor drives along a passageway following arrows, then rounds a gentle turn and drives into the parking space, so that he/she can drive out with a clear view of traffic, pedestrians and any obstacles. That creates a favourable first impression.

Then the visitor walks over a pedestrian crossing and into reception. Before signing in, the visitor views a video about the site and then completes a questionnaire. Having successfully answered the questionnaire, the visitor signs in.

While waiting for his/her ‘host’, the visitor has a chance to look around the reception area, where there is a visual display of what the company calls its ‘Cardinal Rules’ (see Table A). That is the visitor’s introduction to the visual display of safety information that drives safety policy throughout the plant. The favourable first impression is reinforced.


The preliminaries cleared up, Liam Carmody comes down to greet the visitor. Then having made a coffee and sitting down to drink it, he remarks that coming up the stairs he observed that I held the handrail. The remark provides an insight into the importance of safety observation at the plant. Asked what would have happened if I had not held the handrail, he says he would have reminded me to do so.

Then he and his colleague, Deirdre Hannon, the health and safety manager, show me the ‘Safety Observation Record’ card. The card is for both unsafe acts and good behaviour observed. On the card the unsafe act or good behaviour observed is recorded. The person filling in the card can circle whether the unsafe act or good behaviour concerns PPE, access, permits, parking, driving or housekeeping. The action taken is recorded and the card is signed off by the person making the observation.

The parking system, the induction video and the ‘Safety Observation Record’ card are all actions at local plant level, but a glance at the card shows it is part of Danone’s WISE safety management system. WISE, Carmody explains, in response to a pre-meeting query, is why Danone does not go down the OHSAS 180001 route.

Stepping back from WISE, Carmody explains the Danone management systems and how they have been designed to fit in the philosophy M. Riboud enunciated in 1972. The Wexford plant was first opened in 1972 and became part of Danone in 2007.

Carmody traces the development of safety management at the Wexford plant. Danone, which has invested significantly in the plant, introduced its ‘DaMaWay’ (Danone Management Way) management system. The focus of the system is on safety, quality, cost, delivery, motivation and environment. At the same time Danone also introduced the WISE management system, which the company developed with Du Pont. The WISE system consists of 13 elements, 12 of them based on the Du Pont behavioural management system (see Table B).

The WISE system has worked well for Danone. By 2011 the Wexford plant was at Level 2 on the Du Pont Bradley curve. As Liam Carmody puts it, “there was a good engaged culture in the factory and a good engaged workforce”. The plant had gone for over 700 days without a lost time accident. The plant was scoring well during Du Pont audits.

Then in April 2011 there was a lost time accident at the plant. Carmody says: “We asked why the accident happened”. We stopped production to help us understand what was missing. What we found was that we were “missing the behaviour piece”.


At the time Danone was working with SeaChange, an organisational behavioural specialist consultancy. Working with SeaChange, they adapted the SeaChange programme, the ‘SeaChange Way’ to fit with Danone’s WISE system. Carmody describes the approach adopted as an integrated communications approach, linking behaviour and accountability to the thirteen WISE elements.

There are four elements to the SeaChange Way programme:

  • SAFE-Engagement, which involves engaging with employees about safety in their role;
  • SAFE-Tools took the lessons learnt from the engagement and led to the introduction of Job Safety Awareness (JSA™) cards, which are visual communication tools, as becomes apparent as the visitor walks around the plant;
  • SAFE-Routines were introduced to ensure the sustainability of the SAFE-Tools and resulted in the establishment of eight safe action teams, known as SAT™;
  • SAFE-Standards, which involved SeaChange providing individual frontline management coaching, with the objective of ensuring consistency and sustainability. The safety tools were introduced: some software tools, others visual such as the SAT™ boards, JSA™ cards and the WISE wall. The striking feature of this approach to health and safety management is its ‘visible visuality’ – which means that safety signs and other visual aids are designed so that they are almost impossible to ignore.

Implementing these systems involved an intensive focus on safety, with workshops being run across the factory. During the workshops, attitudes and behaviours which prevented workers from taking ownership for health and safety were identified. To provoke thought and get engagement during the workshops, workers were asked questions, such as “where is the next accident likely to happen in your area?”


As Carmody and Hannon take the visitor on a guided tour of the plant, three things are striking:

  1. The scale of Danone’s investment, which is apparent from the plant and equipment;
  2. The cleanliness;
  3. The visibility of the visual approach to health and safety.

The WISE wall is a long corridor lined with visual charts, all of which are used and are living documents. Take the SIM (short interval management) charts. If a safety issue arises, it is noted on the SIM chart. There are five stages to the SIM charts: hour by hour; shift; 24-hour; weekly, monthly. SIM operates on an escalation process basis, with issues being escalated up the five steps until they have been dealt with. There are SIM meetings every day. Twenty-five people attend the meetings.

The SeaChange job safety awareness cards (JSA™) are dotted at locations around the factory. The cards are related to the safety of the job at the particular place where they are posted. They are well-illustrated with good photographs and clear instructions on how the job is to be done safely. Liam Carmody says: “A worker can see, at a glance, the risk in the area”.

Equally visible as the visitor walks around the plant is Danone’s investment in the plant and the cleanliness and neatness of the plant. The production lines are gleamingly clean and modern. Talking to Carmody and Hannon about aspects of the production lines, the thought given to ergonomic aspects becomes apparent. The well-kept ‘lock out – tag out’ boards are another sign of both cleanliness and good ergonomics.


There are two aspects to safety management in Danone: the global and the local. Back in 2009 Danone Group signed an agreement on health, safety, working conditions and stress with the IUF (the International Union of Food and Agricultural Workers). The company’s global OSH director is based in Paris, with local plants linked into the international structure.

Globally the WISE programme has driven year on year falls in accident and injury rates. One document publicly released by the company puts the fall at 51% since 2009. In 2008 the Danone Group introduced an ethical bonus scheme for its senior executives, with one-third of the variable proportion of their remuneration linked to social goals, including safety.

That emphasis on health and safety is very much on display at the Wexford plant. The fact that Liam Carmody, the site director, spends a morning discussing health and safety at the plant with HSR is evidence of that. At the Wexford plant the safety management team is headed by Deirdre Hannon, the health and safety manager, and consists of a safety officer and representatives from every part of the factory. At Danone Wexford the emphasis on health and safety has seen the plant achieve high scores on the Du Pont WISE index, with the company winning a Du Pont WISE award in 2013. The SeaChange Behavioural / Visual programme, introduced at the Wexford plant, is now being adopted by other Danone plants in Europe.

Discussing day to day safety issues, Hannon gives examples of how training is developed. The emphasis is on site-specific training, developed on the site, sometimes with the aid of specialist consultants. She says the confined spaces training programme was developed by a consultant, but was site-specific, as is fire training. Manual handling training is task-specific. Responding to a question on safety representation, she says there are eight safety representatives at the plant.

Underlying the visually visible safety management at the Danone Wexford plant and the key driver of performance is Danone’s commitment to corporate OSH leadership, which is visible both at the global and plant level.

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