Case | HBS Case Collection | October 1991 (Revised January 2000)

Workplace Safety at Alcoa (A)

by Kim B. Clark and Joshua D. Margolis


Examines the challenge facing the managers of a large aluminum manufacturing plant in its drive to improve workplace safety. The CEO of the company has made safety a top priority. The plant has made good progress in reducing the injury rate, but now confronts the need to accelerate its improvement. Doing so requires the safety director to consider progress to date and analyze the opportunities for improvement, many of which involve fundamental changes in behavior at all levels of the organization. Progress has not been uniform throughout the plant and past approaches may not be adequate in meeting the challenge. As the case comes to a close, these issues come to a head because a superintendent wants to fire a supervisor who has failed to adhere to safety procedures. Designed to introduce students to the issues of safety in its operating context. Students have information available that allows them to analyze underlying causes and identify major opportunities for improvement. However, the interactions between safety and other dimensions of manufacturing performance are evident in developing and implementing a plan for improvement.

Keywords: Working Conditions; Safety; Problems and Challenges; Change Management; Operations; Resignation and Termination; Factories, Labs, and Plants; Manufacturing Industry; United States;


Clark, Kim B., and Joshua D. Margolis. "Workplace Safety at Alcoa (A)." Harvard Business School Case 692-042, October 1991. (Revised January 2000.)