Developing A Safety Program

Six steps to an accident-free year.

On October 20, 2007, AlcoTec Wire Corporation celebrated the milestone of one year with zero OSHA recordable accidents. Additionally, for the first time in its history, AlcoTec completed 2007 with no accidents on the OSHA 300 log. For perspective, in 1997, AlcoTec had 20 recordable accidents, for an incident rate of 18.53 (accidents x 200,000/total hours worked). The steps that were implemented to deliver this change can be broken down into six categories: management commitment, OSHA partnership, positive rewards, case management, training & education, and engineering designs.

When an employee follows the rules and wears the correct PPE, that behavior is noticed and rewarded. Safety is part of the performance review process for merit increases.

Management Commitment — First and foremost, the entire management team is committed to and accountable for AlcoTec’s safety performance. Every manager is responsible for the safety record within their department. A designated safety professional is an excellent resource, but you can’t hold them accountable for the actions and procedures taking place within departments they do not directly supervise. Safety is the first topic on the agenda for staff meetings, profit sharing meetings and the company announcement page. Each employee is expected to be responsible for their actions. Every accident report includes an investigation with a resolution that is reviewed by the general manager. If safety is not promoted and valued by the top levels of the organization, it is not going to be on the radar for other layers within the organization.

OSHA Partnership — AlcoTec invited Michigan’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (MIOSHA) to audit the plant through the MSHARP (Michigan Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program). During the audits, AlcoTec was able to identify areas needing improvement to help ensure a safe work environment on both the health and safety side. Additionally, after achieving the MSHARP award, AlcoTec must continually improve in the safety and health programs in order to maintain certification.

Positive Rewards — Working safely can be difficult; it is usually hotter, more uncomfortable and slower to do your work with proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while adhering to a safe work procedure. Consequently, it is important that when an employee follows the rules and wears the correct PPE, that behavior is noticed and rewarded. Safety is part of the performance review process for merit increases. Other targeted programs are run throughout the year and employees can receive items such as prepaid gas cards, baseball tickets or time off with pay. All of this supports a culture of safety because it is safe practices that are being rewarded and celebrated.

If safety is not promoted and valued by the top levels of the organization, it is not going to be on the radar for other layers within the organization.

Case Management — If an employee is injured, it is critical that we work with the occupational medical doctor to make sure appropriate restrictions and time off are met. The doctor AlcoTec utilizes has toured the facility and knows the conditions and physical demands of most of our jobs. This knowledge enables him to make an educated decision on any necessary work restrictions or time off. Case management hinges on immediate and objective incident-investigation techniques. The ultimate goal of any investigation is to determine the root cause of the incident and prevent it from happening in the future. Conducting an investigation simply to assign blame or punish the employee involved is counterproductive and drives mishap reporting underground. That being said, if the investigation determines that the employee made a poor choice by failing to follow the safe work procedure, discipline is sometimes warranted. Good case management is driven by a team interested in providing the safest possible workplace with a passion for eradicating any newly identified safety risks.

Safety Training & Education — Yearly, a monthly training schedule is established. Resources from both the worker’s compensation carrier and MIOSHA are utilized for this training. Plant-wide training is conducted by each member of the lead team at least annually to demonstrate commitment and leadership to our core safety values. Additionally, all new hires are trained, and safe work habits are stressed.

Engineering Controls and Designs — AlcoTec works hard to guard the equipment and takes measures to ensure the work environment is as safe as possible. Engineering controls are an important tool in eliminating safety risks from the workplace, but you can’t eliminate all safety risks through engineering projects. In order to achieve excellence, everyone needs to be focused on safety, hour by hour, shift by shift and day by day for our performance to continue.

Rules, policies, regulations, training and engineering controls are all valuable tools in achieving a good safety record. Being passionate about protecting your employees from getting injured in your workplace and getting everyone to believe that it is possible to eliminate all injuries make the difference in achieving a great safety record.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Jennifer Ewing Meet the Author
Jennifer Ewing is director of human resources at AlcoTec Wire Corporation in Traverse City, Michigan, and on the Web at www.alcotec.com.