Safety tips that work ... without lost time incidents

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Bremen Castings (www.bremencastings.com), a family-owned foundry and machine shop in Bremen, Indiana. It was on the cusp of hitting 500 days without lost-time injury. That milestone was met, so I thought some safety advice and insights from JB Brown, the company president, might be highly valuable. Here's what I found out, in Q&A format. Listen up, and take notes. He did not disappoint.

Q: What steps have you taken to ensure that all employees understand why safety is so important at Bremen?

A: We start talking about safety before a new hire employee works on the floor. The employee goes through an interactive safety orientation which emphasizes our goal of a “zero incident culture.” We do a weekly 15-minute safety talk on the first work day of the week to ensure that everyone thinks of safety prior to starting the job. And we do monthly safety training with a lengthy safety topic, for example, arc flash, lockout/tagout, or forklift safety.
We do a return-to-work-after-the-holiday safety talk so employees again hear safety first. We ask the employees for safety suggestions or opportunities for the safety committee to work on to make the environment safer. If an employee has a work-related incident, near-miss incident, or property damage, we do a full investigation to determine the root cause.

Q: What are the most hazardous aspects of your operation, where incidents are most likely to occur, and what have you changed to protect workers or how have you trained workers to work more safely to avoid those hazards?

A: Foundries in general are inherently dangerous because we melt iron at temperatures exceeding 2,600 °F.  The introduction of wet or damp metal into a melt can cause a water/metal explosion.  Our employees that melt or pour iron have to be trained on all the hazards of the melt process, including but not limited to inspecting charge material for liquids or explosive material.  Our employees are trained to understand that wet charge materials are a serious safety hazard in the foundry.  If molten metal comes in contact with any water, moisture, or liquid materials it can cause an explosion putting our employees at risk for a serious injury.  This unpredictable nature also makes it necessary to train our employees to wear very specific personal protective equipment.

Q: Better safety translates into a more satisfied workforce and higher productivity. What sort of impact have you seen on either of those over the past 500 days?

A: One of the biggest culture changes we have seen is the employee input into safety and employees watching out for each other.  When an employee brings a safety concern to supervision or to a safety auditor and then sees an action or feedback, that employee will bring more opportunities to the department leaders or the safety committee.

Q: What is the plan for sustaining this safety success and making it part of the company culture?

A: We have reached our goal of 365+ days without a lost work time injury.  Our next goals are 1 million man-hours, two years without a lost time and one year without a recordable. To attain our “zero incident culture” we are developing and implementing a BCI-created and customized safety program that takes us to that next level.
We hit the 500-day milestone on Wednesday, Oct. 10, and here’s a list of the tools and techniques it took to get us there:
• specialized training and equipment for foreign-body eye injuries
• additional and/or modified PPE, including anti-vibration gloves to prevent repetitive strain injuries; goggles to prevent foreign-body eye injuries; spats, arm guards, and fire-retardant clothing to prevent burns; and arc flash gear to prevent arc flash injuries
• heat-index SOP implementation
• BCI injury case manager to speed closure of claims and return to work
• specialized training in inductotherm safety, grinding safety, arc flash safety, and iron pouring (in process)
• “minding the store” with active safety committee, departmental audits, housekeeping audits, and accountability
• increased focus on safety and accountability with staff projects, new or modified equipment, and dedicated safety staff personnel.