More Than Numbers: How Novolex Has Shifted Its Safety Mindset

Jason Bell’s face lights up when you ask him about safety. He’s the kind of guy who’s constantly tracking industry trends and takes immense pride when his organization sits at the cutting edge of safety protocols and procedures. Jason has been a driving force behind a new era of safety at Novolex that’s marked by a mental model shift to human and organizational performance.

In 2021, US employers reported 2.6 million injury and illness cases. In the UK, 1.8 million people suffered from a work-related illness and, in Canada, over 140,000 people faced work-related injuries in 2021. Novolex is set on not becoming a part of these statistics. For its part, the company is “talking the talk” by focusing resources on employee well-being and continuing to provide the tools to ensure safe work environments for its employees.

As Environment, Health and Safety Training Manager, Jason builds out trainings to reframe how to think about safety across the entire organization, from the C-suite to the production floor. Jason is among other safety champions across the company who have stepped up and become catalysts for effective change.

The centerpiece of how Novolex is upping its game is the human performance model that tackles safety concerns at the source. According to Jason, Novolex is approaching safety differently by developing a blame-free culture that looks at safety from a holistic approach. The company’s operating philosophy around safety allows room for growth and continuous improvement while also being realistic about human error. At the facility level, Novolex encourages all employees to walk through each day with a “SAFETY ALWAYS” approach. By keeping safety front of mind, employees can provide key learnings that enable Novolex to put defenses in place and evaluate what risks and hazards are present.

Courtney Kuykendall, the Director of Corporate Health & Safety at Novolex, strongly believes in the effectiveness of this new model. “We know that people aren’t perfect and might make mistakes,” reflects Courtney. “But we also know that behavior is influenced by company culture and leadership, and people achieve a high-level of performance based on encouragement. With positive leadership, clear protocols, and ongoing support, incidents can be prevented.”

To impart this mindset, the company is facilitating multiple safety trainings each month across Novolex facilities. “We’re continuing to invest in the expansion of leadership trainings, champion trainings, and learning team facilitator trainings,” says Courtney, smiling as she proudly cites the company’s substantial investments in safety training over the last year alone.

Novolex also rolled out a new safety management system to create a unified space for inspections, audits, investigations, quality, and sustainability. Through the company’s Learning Teams, they take incidents beyond an investigation and convene a group of employees from different departments to come together and brainstorm effective solutions. These new measures are part of the company’s ongoing efforts to pivot away from safety conversations like “what did they do wrong” to “what can we learn from this.”

“We want a message to spread externally, that Novolex is a good place to work and is an employee-friendly company,” says Jason. “We have a very good executive leadership team that cares about people. They care about who’s working underneath them, they care about each other, they care about their families.”

Take it from Alan McMillan, an adjuster supervisor at a Novolex plant in Monroe, Georgia. He shared that his plant’s safety culture has significantly improved over the last year, reaching all levels from plant manager to across the entire shop floor. “The culture here at our plant has improved so much over the last year,” says Alan. “It’s not in just one area either, we have completely open lines of communication from the plant manager all way through the entire shop floor.”

Novolex employees have a finger on the pulse and see first-hand that successful safety operations lead to successful work overall. And, as a self-described learning organization, Novolex continues to grow from any gaps that are identified. Whether it’s the trainings led by Jason, the corporate initiatives implemented by Courtney, or the safety supervision provided by Alan, Novolex is hanging their hat on a healthy work environment.