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2012 CEOs Who 'Get It'

February 1, 2012

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Frank M. Jaehnert

President & CEO
Brady Corp.

Why is safety a core value at your company?

Frank M. Jaehnert: Brady’s success for almost 100 years is directly linked to the strength of our company values. They are: Focus on the Customer, Invest in Our People, Embrace Teamwork, Excel at Everything We Do, Be Bold and Decisive, Protect Our Future, and Win the Right Way. These values set behavioral standards for everyone, regardless of position, department or geographic location, and safety is a critical factor to our success in living all of these values. In addition, many of our products, such as lockout/tagout devices and others, help our customers meet regulatory standards for providing safe and secure workplaces. We know that leading by example in this area benefits everyone.

What is your company’s biggest obstacle to safety?

Brady has operations in 29 countries with more than 6,500 employees, and the differing laws and standards across all of the areas we operate in are perhaps the biggest obstacles we face. Brady has embraced a Lean culture and work style, and we leverage this to help standardize our safety practices across the globe, raising all to the highest standards, regardless of sometimes lesser requirements in some locations. While we recognize the benefits that such standardized work processes bring us operationally, in the final analysis, establishing global safety standards and processes for our workers is simply a matter of integrity. For example, worker injuries in developing areas of the world may be perceived differently from worker injuries in the industrialized world, but they are still something we must strive to prevent – we do not leave our standards or our integrity at the border. We ensure working conditions are safe and as comfortable as possible (for example, installing air conditioning, guarding our machines or exceeding pollution standards, in all locations, even when this is well above the norm in certain countries).

How do you measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe you are, and where do you see room for improvement?

We use many of the stoic, lagging metrics, such as the total incidence rate, severity and DART rates. We use several leading indicators, such as our internal Critical Program Elements site scoring system. This system identifies the critical elements that are basic to safe, clean and efficiently run operations, and include lockout/tagout programs, proper labeling and handling of chemicals, and electrical safety programs. The system also provides us with a risk scoring method that evaluates how well we are managing the risks identified for each facility. We also review machine guarding and upgrade completion, as well as year-to-year improvement progress.

Each year, based on the published Bureau of Labor Statistics data, our E&S staff calculates a Brady blended benchmark rate based on the hours worked applied to the NAICS codes for our operations and the global averages of our leading indicators. This scorecard is tracked quarterly and rolled up annually. Over the years, as our program has matured, our areas for improvement have changed. This past year, our top improvement areas were related to the more sophisticated machinery we use in many of our precision die-cutting operations, and in the area of ergonomics and material handling. At Brady, we move many materials on a daily basis, so it is an area we are continually looking at for improvement. Our investment in Lean manufacturing, teamwork and the full participation of our employees has helped us, and will help us, continually raise the bar, making Brady an even safer place to work and a continued employer of choice.

How important is off-the-job safety to your company’s overall safety program? What type of off-the-job safety program does your company offer to employees?

We recognize the importance of off-the-job safety, as injuries affect us whether an employee is hurt on or off the job. Given the diversity of our sites across the globe, there are many different approaches to off-the-job safety based on site and regional needs.

These range from the inclusion of off-the-job safety in safety fairs during annual safety week celebrations, raffles for fire extinguishers or smoke alarms, and board postings of seasonal information, to games such as Safety Bingo, health promotions and wellness incentives. Our more recent efforts have focused on the health of our employees given the aging of our population and the many developments in healthy lifestyle management that can improve the lives of our employees and their families. We encourage health screenings and provide annual physical incentives, onsite immunizations and healthy lifestyle fairs. Perhaps our greatest contribution to off-the-job safety is the behaviors we value and reward while our employees are at work. The more that we can reinforce the value and importance of safety during the workweek, the better chance our employees and their families will have to enjoy safe, accident-free weekends.

Describe your journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.”

Throughout my career, I have seen the influence of safety on operational excellence and performance. It was clear to me that seldom will you find an operation that can sustain any level of financial success when it does so at the cost of its employees’ safety and well-being. It also was clear to me that safety is a challenge for any organization, as it depends on many people and departments embracing a common goal – establishing and then supporting your team at every level is key to the success of any safety program.

As CEO, I realize there is no “one solution” and, much like a coach in a football game, there need to be adjustments from time to time. I believe we have built a winning formula, a committed team and the flexibility to sometimes stir the pot a bit for the best results.


Brady Corp. is an international manufacturer and marketer of complete solutions that identify and protect premises, products and people. Its products include high-performance labels and signs, safety devices, printing systems and software, and precision die-cut materials. Brady employs approximately 6,500 people.

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