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David A. Marshall

Quality Insider

An Effective Safety Program

Involving people works

Published: Monday, April 21, 2008 - 21:00

Not long ago many manufacturing companies considered accidents and the resulting costs part of the expense of doing business. Today’s companies are creating better safety programs that benefit the financial health of the organization and significantly improve the protection provided to individuals on the job.

Robroy Industries, for instance, recognizes that its people must be partners in the effort of ensuring safety and health in the working environment. The company knows that making any change in the plant environment can be difficult. Part of that challenge lies in getting everyone from management to plant floor associates to fully participate. When it committed itself to creating an effective safety program for its plants, it knew that it had to involve every level of its team in the development and implementation. Because this effort was intended to protect people, it was named “The Shield Program.”

The Shield Program
To create the program’s master guidelines, the development phase of the Robroy Industries safety program established a companywide development group comprising a wide variety of associates from every area of the business. The group proposed standards and nonnegotiable safety criteria that were developed on the basic understanding that each individual knows his or her job better than anyone else. That knowledge includes a distinct awareness of everyday hazards and risks. The resulting guidelines form an effective foundation for a comprehensive, associate-generated safety program.

The five basic guidelines:

    Safety habits: Maintain safe work habits.

    Safety interaction: Each person is responsible for ensuring that all other team members are informed and prepared to effectively do their job.

    Safety education: Education and proper training pays off.

    Safety lifestyle: Taking care of mind and body determines how effective a person will be on the job.

    Safety diligence: Don’t take unnecessary risks.

Positive long-term changes in the plant
The Shield Program has been effective in creating an open dialogue that allows management to anticipate, solve, and prevent safety problems in Robroy’s plants.

“Since starting the Shield Program, our plant associates have become more conscious, more involved, and more responsive because they have more of a say in what is happening around the plant,” say two of the company’s employees—Chuck Hibner, production manager, and Jerry Davis, production supervisor. “Now, our associates are basically running the program with their suggestions and we as management have become their support. Our SMP (self-managed performance) program also ties into this because everyone is responsible for this company, the products we produce and the service we provide, and the safety of our associates.”

Some safety changes:

    Threader machine at Robroy: This machine can produce sparks when the pipe is being threaded at each end. Two people work on the machine at the same time, one at each end. Sparks would fly out of both ends of the machine, posing a safety hazard for each operator. Those operators brought this problem to the attention of the Shield Program council with the recommendation that a clear safety shield be placed in the middle to block the sparks from flying. The shield was installed and the safety of both operators has been greatly improved.

    Heating elements at Robroy: At Robroy’s plant it’s necessary to replace the heating elements on top of a production-related oven. However, when the oven was first installed employees didn’t fully understand how difficult such a replacement procedure could be. There were, at that time, no rails to hang on to and it was difficult to maintain balance. The employees, through the Shield Program, suggested to management that rails and chains should be installed to correct that danger. Management supported the recommendation and installed the rails and chains, which helped the balance problem and the backs of employess.

    Emergency stop on casing machines at Duoline plant: On the casing machines at Duoline was installed a manual operating emergency stop switch on the extracting back end (helper end). Previously, the machines just had one emergency stop switch on the front side (operator side). Now, with both ends of the machine having emergency stop switches, the operator and the helper can shut down the machine in an emergency situation.

    First-responder training at Duoline plant: CPR, accident, and emergency department, and first-aid training for all supervisors and specified employees was performed. These individuals are those to be first called upon during an injury or accident in the Duoline plant. They assess the incident and give first aid, CPR, or accident and emergency assistance as needed. Currently, 16 associates have had first responder training. All of the trained first responders now have red uniforms to differentiate themselves from the other employees, making them clearly visible throughout the plant.

    Safety carried over to customers at Stahlin: Recently, Stahlin nonmetallic enclosures launched the expansion of its control tower series of large industrial enclosures. Added into this expansion was a slim version of the standard free standing design up to 90 in. × 72 in. Overlooked was the potential for the enclosure to tip forward on to the person if the doors were opened before the enclosure was secured to its mounting surface. A lead associate in Stahlin’s hand lay up department was the first to notice this condition during the initial production runs and immediately brought it to engineering’s attention. Although the associate wasn’t concerned so much for Stahlin’s internal processes (the enclosure is mostly lying on its back during final assembly), it was a definite concern to safeguard customers installing the units in the field. The department and engineering immediately developed a stabilizing method and got a warning sticker placed on the outside of each door to warn the customer of a tipping hazard. This method is now incorporated into all designs that have the tendency for tipping during installation.

Return on investment
Maintaining safety and health in the workplace allows managers to protect other team members, and to achieve business goals and maintain a competitive edge. It’s that competitive edge that guarantees a company’s continuing success. All of Robroy’s plants have implemented this program since 2002, and the company has seen positive results. It has been able to significantly reduce the number of incidents in the plants and reduce the severity of incidents (lost time). Some of plants in 2006 and 2007 reported no lost days, and the others reported fewer than 30, compared to earlier years of reporting more than 100, which was before the program was in full swing.


About The Author

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David A. Marshall

David A. Marshall, president and CEO of Robroy Industries, has been with Robroy since 1995 and previously served as president of Robroy Industries’ electrical products division. He’s a member of the company’s board of directors, and under his leadership Robroy has posted six record performance years in a row. Marshall’s professional background features diverse sales, marketing, and manufacturing experience, including expertise in the lighting industry.