Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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Canada’s safest manufacturers: Meet the five recipients of the 2011 Canada’s Safest Employers Award


September 19, 2011
By Mari-Len De Guzman

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The votes are in and the winners have emerged. After rigorous screening by members of the judging panel, five employers from Canada’s manufacturing industry have earned the title of Canada’s Safest Employers.

In its inaugural year, the search for Canada’s Safest Employers focused on the manufacturing industry. More than 100 nominations were received from employers across the country. In addition to the nomination forms, where nominees provided details of their health and safety management system, qualified entrants were also asked to complete a safety perception survey. The survey was administered to their employees and the results were provided to the judges for consideration.

Congratulations to Innovative Automation, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Atotech Canada, CCI Thermal Technologies and GE Aviation for emerging as the most exemplary in their safety performance and, therefore, deserving to be called Canada’s Safest Employers.

Innovating safety

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To encourage its workers to live a healthy lifestyle, Barrie, Ont.-based Innovative Automation donates $2 to the United Way for each of its 47 employees who take a walk during break time.

When the H1N1 flu virus broke out in 2009, Innovative Automation actively promoted prevention among its employees through information dissemination and proper health and sanitation initiatives.

To top it off, the company has not had a lost-time injury for more than five years. Looking after, not just the safety of employees on the job, but also their health, has been a “long-term interest” for Innovative Automation, according to its general manager, Stephen Loftus.

“Our belief is that every employee must leave work at least as healthy and as safely as they arrived that morning,” says Loftus, who is also part owner of the company.

Innovative Automation is a custom machine manufacturer building industrial automation solutions – mostly for the automotive industry. With big-league clients like Honda, General Motors and Magna, Innovative Automation is carving its own name, not just in the manufacturing industry, but more importantly in the world of health and safety. For the past seven years, it has been an active member of the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium Safety Group.

Safety is always the first order of the day at Innovative Automation, says Loftus. At the daily “morning huddle,” all department heads meet to discuss the day’s activities, and all safety concerns are then put forward and corresponding action plans are put in place – and “action” is the operative word.

“If an employee makes suggestions and nothing happens, then the employee will stop making them,” explains Loftus. “The true way to make it work is to react quickly and thoroughly. And when the employee sees that happening, they’re willing to make suggestions because they know we’re, a) concerned about the culture, and b) we want to improve the culture constantly.”

Loftus notes that it’s this philosophy that helped build the company’s safety culture, where employees are truly engaged and concerned about health and safety issues, and the lines of communication between the employees and management are always open. Perhaps it’s an advantage that comes with smaller companies.

“As an owner, I am part of the health and safety committee,” notes Loftus. “The decision matrix is not middle management who puts a case forward and brings it to upper management to do a sell job so the funding could be put in place.

“There is no, or very little, middle management – so when you’re asking something, you’re usually asking the person who is charged with the responsibility to make those things happen.”

In 2009, as an initiative for the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium Safety Group, Innovative Automation developed an entirely new occupational health and safety management system. The system has been uploaded to an online searchable database so employees may have easy access to it. The system has just undergone its first audit and will continuously be improved upon, Loftus says.

Health and safety is constantly at the forefront of every employee-related initiative that Innovative Automation undertakes. The quarterly health and safety meetings are used to discuss safety concerns and follow up on any incomplete action items. The company’s quarterly newsletter consistently has health and safety as a front-page topic. The company’s “What’s New?” meetings held every two months always have health and safety as the first item on the agenda.

Innovative Automation has successfully created a company culture in which all workers are encouraged to voice concerns about health and safety, as well as present new ideas that will help improve processes and productivity.

“We’re a very progressive company that is constantly on the leading edge of technology,” says Loftus. “So this whole ‘putting forth ideas,’ and kind of creating new paths and leading-edge ideas, this is how we survive as a company.

“A lot of ideas come forward as part of everyday business because we react to them.”

Safety from the top

Earlier this year, CCI Thermal Technologies Inc. celebrated five-and-a-half years of operating without a lost-time injury. And every six months for the past five years, the company observed these safety milestones, marked by a luncheon and a gift for every employee, to whom the company’s safety achievements are attributed.

“The philosophy that everyone on the floor has is to make sure that everyone goes home safely at the end of the day,” notes Carl Williams, vice-president and general manager at CCI Thermal Technologies, a Canada’s Safest Employers award recipient.

CCI Thermal’s 50,000-sq.-ft. Orillia, Ont., plant manufactures electrical heating equipment for a broad range of industrial customers. With more than 130 employees, the site’s corporate culture is based on an open line of communication that starts from the very top.

Every year, no less than the president of the company conducts “roundtable” meetings with the employees to discuss their concerns, ideas and suggestions. This annual meeting with the president is just one of several opportunities the company provides to open communication lines between management and employees. Every month, the joint health and safety committee randomly selects an employee and invites him or her to participate in its regular safety meeting. This initiative gives employees a chance to witness the discussions, find out how the committee deals with issues, and voice any concerns they may have.

The Orillia plant runs on three shifts daily, and in each shift there’s a safety committee member. This was purposely done so every employee, regardless of what shift they’re working, is able to communicate their concerns to the committee.

Safety is always the first order of the day, particularly in the daily production meeting every morning, says Tony Burt, the company’s manager of production planning. The company has established a “three-level priority” that governs the plant’s day-to-day operations, with safety at the very top, followed by quality, and the third level of priority is operational issues.

“These meetings give us a pretty good impression and helps us give a consistent message to our staff about the importance of our safety program,” says Williams.

Each employee working at CCI Thermal has undergone an average of nine hours of safety training this past year. They were trained on various safety issues, including WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), heat stress, machine guarding, forklift training and rack safety. There’s a certified trainer on site that conducts forklift training with all operators. The operators are regularly tested to ensure continued safe operation of the equipment.

The production manager is trained on storage racking safety. CCI Thermal conducts monthly safety inspections of its racking system to ensure that all loads are being stored correctly and safely.

Burt says that the company is looking forward to this fall, when CCI Thermal Technologies will again be celebrating another safety milestone – this time it’s six full years without a lost-time injury.

Soaring high on safety

Managing the health and safety of close to 700 employees may have its share of challenging moments, but when your efforts are backed by big corporate machinery like General Electric (GE), it’s a constant saving grace.

GE Aviation is a manufacturer of aircraft engines. The company’s Bromont, Que., facility – a recipient of Canada’s Safest Employers Award – manufactures aircraft engine compressor blades and vanes. The entire GE Aviation division spans 85 locations worldwide, counting more than 20,000 employees.

GE Aviation’s health and safety management system is based on the GE Global Star program, which is General Electric’s corporate health and safety system standardized across the entire GE organization. The Bromont facility received its GE Global Star certification in 2005 and re-certification in 2010. In addition, the company has received several health and safety recognitions, including EHS Site of the Year in 2007, and World Class H&S Performance in 2007 and 2008. The company was also a regional finalist in 2008 at the National Innovation Awards by the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) – Quebec’s workers’ compensation board.

“The GE Bromont management style is a highly participative process,” says Alain Ouellette, the director of health, safety and environment. “Employees are asked to participate in activities, not only for health and safety, but for quality, for continuous improvement.”

Employee involvement and engagement are the key drivers for the company’s successes in its health and safety programs. As a way to achieve this, GE Aviation conducts annual safety perception surveys among its workers.

The company provides ample opportunities for employees to participate and let their voices be heard through several committees that meet regularly. Because of this, workers feel that their comments, ideas and suggestions are always welcome and acted upon. On average, the company receives more than 600 feedbacks from their employees annually, ranging from issues, ideas and suggestions. A multidisciplinary team representing various facets of the company’s operations – operators, joint health and safety committee members, engineers, directors, production managers and plant engineers – is in charge of reviewing and evaluating all of the feedback from employees.

As Ouellette points out, “I think the beauty of GE is that whenever we have a good idea and we could justify that it’s worth the investment, we get the support of the company so we can do it.”

A case in point: GE Aviation’s Bromont site currently has more than 120 robots making machine parts everyday. These robots have replaced over 30 million at-risk movements, which 10 years ago would have been performed manually by human workers.

Following the golden rule

It’s not the size of the workforce that defines a successful health and safety management system; it’s the commitment that every single individual in the organization makes to achieve the goal of injury prevention.

“If you don’t have the support at every level within the organization, it’s not going to work,” notes Ester Di Giovanni, health, safety, environment and security specialist at Atotech Canada Ltd., a recipient of this year’s Canada’s Safest Employers Award.

A subsidiary of Total Oil and Gas, Atotech Canada is a supplier of integrated production systems, chemistry, equipment, know-how and service for decorative and functional electroplating, semiconductor and printed circuit board manufacturing. With 47 full-time employees, Atotech Canada has established a culture of engagement, in which the safety of the workers is “the way we do business.”

“At all levels within our organization, whoever you talk to – whether it’s a chemical operator, a product specialist, a manager, a financial controller or a lab technician – everyone is committed to achieving the health and safety aspirations of preventing incidents and proactively identifying hazards or potential risks, and resolving them,” says Di Giovanni.

Atotech Canada has invested in various training programs to ensure that employees understand and remain committed to the company’s health and safety objectives: safety culture training, bi-weekly safety “tidbits,” monthly “golden rule” training, and various regulatory training.

As part of a global company, Atotech Canada adheres to numerous international standards that enable it to continuously make technical improvements over the years to optimize its safety management system. The company has certifications in ISO 9001 Quality Management System Standard, ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Standard and a Level 8 DNV – International Safety Rating.

“But it’s not those systems that make the day-to-day life real. Excellent performance depends on our people – it’s our behaviour and our compliance with those systems that turn them into reality,” Di Giovanni says.

Management involvement in health and safety has been evident across the company by making resources available to support various health and safety programs. For example, Atotech’s recently revitalized Housekeeping Policy, which mandates a “safe and clean plant” as a proactive way to prevent safety hazards and high-risk situations, has been well-received and implemented. Management provided the resources – time, personnel and equipment – to support the policy, Di Giovanni says.

“I would say that it starts with management – leadership support is critical,” she says. “It starts with setting realistic goals for the site, communicating what we’re going to achieve on an annual basis, and then providing the resources we need to achieve those goals.”

Atotech Canada also relies on useful corporate resources from its parent company, Total Oil and Gas. The most recent one is a corporate program called Total’s Golden Rules – a new health and safety training program that applies to health and safety both in the workplace and at home, which facilities like Atotech Canada can take and apply to its own plant. The program was designed to clearly explain the basic rules that everyone should know and apply, and strengthen prevention by encouraging people to step in whenever they see something being done wrong or if the risk is not being properly managed.

Rule No. 2 of Total’s Golden Rules applies to traffic safety – both inside and outside of the plant. Atotech conducts regular meetings to brainstorm ideas on how to implement the rules at its Burlington, Ont., site. This is an opportunity for Atotech employees to come up with ideas and suggestions to improve traffic safety within and outside of the plant.

As a result, pedestrian safety inside of the plant has been enhanced. Lines were installed to create safer pathways for pedestrians, safe from moving lift trucks and other industrial vehicles. Outside, new safety signs were put up and a new security gate to slow down and control traffic was installed. All of these implementations came from ideas and suggestions that the workers themselves came up with.

“The employees are very proud of having been recognized for their commitment,” Di Giovanni says about Atotech Canada winning Canada’s Safest Employers Award. “It’s because of what we all do on a day-to-day basis that we are who we are – and it’s nice to be recognized for that.”

Big on safety

If you’re a plant that manufactures huge aircraft engine parts and employs more than 300 workers, six million hours without a lost-time incident is pretty impressive.

It’s an achievement that Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) attributes to a culture of employee engagement and leadership.

“It’s the involvement of all employees focused on preventing incidents,” says Eric Boulé, director of environment, health and safety at P&WC, a global manufacturer of aircraft engines.

P&WC’s Halifax, N.S., facility is a recipient of Canada’s Safest Employers Award. As of this writing, the 270,000-sq.-ft. production facility has gone eight whole years without a lost-time injury. The site manufactures light alloy castings and cooled turbine airfoils for most of P&WC’s line of aircraft engines, and produces sub-assemblies for the company’s PT6 engine.

P&WC’s global operations employs more than 9,000 workers around the world, and has deployed more than 48,000 engines in over 198 countries. Boulé says that the Halifax site is a “good representation” of the entire company’s health and safety culture.

“Our priority is keeping our employees healthy – from hire to retirement,” he says. “It’s the short-term safety of the employee and the long-term health of the employees around the globe.”

To support this objective, the company offers numerous programs and services that are aimed at preventing health problems and promoting a healthy lifestyle. They include: an onsite medical clinic, availability of online e-doctors, general medical services, emergency health service, a yearly vaccination program, and wellness assistance programs.

At P&WC Halifax, there are about 20 environmental, health and safety teams that take charge of various environmental, health and safety management issues. There is a formal program for reporting near-hit or near-miss incidents, which is non-punitive and provides a way for the company to analyse and learn from the incident in order to prevent injury. In 2010, employees reported 204 near-hits – many of these focused on ergonomics and risks for repetitive motion injuries from the site’s 400 pieces of equipment.

A big part of P&WC’s success is employee engagement. The workers themselves are the ones bringing up issues and concerns about health and safety, and management are acting on them in a timely manner.

P&WC has devised a number of ways to keep their workers engaged. Every year, the company conducts an employee survey, which has been significant in getting valuable feedback from employees, says Boulé. A meeting with employees follows the survey to address their concerns and get suggestions on further ways to improve health and safety within the organization.

“One thing that we’re proud of and promoting in our facility is the active caring program, where we are encouraging each employee to look after their colleague,” Boulé says.

This means being responsible, not only for their own safety, but for their co-workers as well – reporting near-misses, reminding a co-worker to put on his personal protective equipment, watching out for hazards that could harm themselves or a co-worker.

The goal for 2011, according to Boulé, is to get at least one proactive observation per employee, globally.

“For us, it’s very key: identify and act on the risks before an incident.”

 

Mari-Len De Guzman is the editor of Canadian Occupational Safety (COS), Manufacturing AUTOMATION‘s sister magazine that launched Canada’s Safest Employers Award. This article originally ran in the August/September issue of COS. For more information about the award, visit www.safestemployers.com.

 

This article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.