(Certified Best Practice by BMPCOE)
Polaroid Corporation - Waltham, MA
Polaroid has always ensured customer safety by conforming with consumer protection laws. However, the Product Safety Committee, set forth by company policies and procedures in the 1970s, typically used a reactive approach and was subject to frequent membership turnovers. In addition, this reactionary and inconsistent approach to product safety made accountability difficult to track. No employee or manager felt personally responsible for the safety issues. In 1993, Polaroid began to transform its Product Safety Committee from one that primarily reviewed information into a more proactive, comprehensive product safety program.
Polaroid established co-directors to lead the company in ensuring that all existing and new products meet Polaroid's product safety standards. To supplement the existing safety policy, the co-directors developed the Product Safety Management Guideline which is based on the elements of International Standards Organization (ISO) 9000 and 14000, although currently not audited. The Product Safety Management Guideline emphasizes that safety planning must address all stages of the product from concept, design, and development through customer use and disposal. The guideline targets safety strategies for employees who build the product, installers of the product, operators, maintenance personnel, and even bystanders. In addition, the guideline addresses product recall procedures; product testing for applicable national and international standards; establishment of responsibilities for managers, directors, and review committees; and annual reviews of management practices.
All managers are trained on Polaroid's philosophy. A risk assessment evaluation is required for each new or existing product, and a methodology for assessing risk is discussed. Critical definitions are explained to provide universal understanding of terms (e.g., substantial product hazard, safety, danger) which may have connotations other than those in the guideline. Employees have easy accessibility to the co-directors in case safety questions or issues arise after formal training. The frequent contacts indicate that Polaroid has a sound communication network in place.
In November 1996, Polaroid published its final version of the Safety Management Guideline which is auditable per ISO requirements. The practices set forth in the guideline save time and money because safety concerns are discovered and averted in the early stages of product design and development. Since implementing this guideline, Polaroid has not encountered any issues beyond the prototype development stage. In addition, company awareness has increased, and employees know a safety answer is only a telephone call away.