Whose job is safety? Most would be quick to argue that the environmental health and safety (EHS) manager or even the plant manager wears the big safety hat in any facility. While the EHS manager’s job includes developing and implementing programs to increase the safety and well-being of workers, plant managers ultimately own the risks associated with all of the work done with the facility.
Different businesses beget different safety risks. For example, Baldor’s Advanced Development Laboratory in Greenville, South Carolina, reports 27 years without a safety incident. Even though the employees are working with high-voltage wiring much of the time, the testing that is done there is executed with precision and care. And safety supersedes volume. Other types of facilities aren’t quite as fortunate. They aren’t necessarily staffed by a well-trained crew of seasoned industry veterans with engineering degrees.
Agriculture and mining are two industries that come to mind immediately when considering dangerous work environments. But foundries and machine shops can be dangerous places, too. Giant machinery and molten metal bring their own sets of safety risks. Bremen Castings (www.bremencastings.com) in Bremen, Indiana, marched past the 560-day mark without a lost-time incident in mid-December. That’s more than 850,000 hours of zero-lost-time filings. And the primary reason for that has been its near-miss accident reports. “Instead of seeing a potential accident and ignoring it or stepping over an obstruction, we wanted our employees to take responsibility for everyone, including themselves,” says JB Brown, president of the 73-year-old company. A report is filed for every near-miss or potential accident, which could be anything from a puddle of water to a wire or cable that could cause someone to trip.
The report can be filed by any employee who encounters an obstacle or potential accident, and it’s emailed to management and the safety committee before it’s reviewed by the safety team to discuss how to remedy the situation. “The near miss reports have had a big impact on the shift from individual responsibility to shared responsibility of the foundry and machine shop,” says Brown.
Because foundries melt iron at temperatures exceeding 2,500 °F, Bremen employees are trained on all the hazards of the melt process, which includes inspecting charge material for liquids or explosive material.
“Our next goals are 1 million man-hours, two years without a lost time, and one year without a recordable,” explains Brown. “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.”
When safety is everyone’s business, business is safer for everyone.