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Machine Safety Q&A: A look at Firestone Textiles’ approach to health and safety


February 23, 2015
By Mary Del


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Feb. 23, 2015 – Kim Davie is the manager of health and safety with Firestone Textiles, based in Woodstock, Ont. Manufacturing AUTOMATION had the chance to chat with Davie about the textile manufacturer’s approach to safety, and his role in managing the health and safety of the 200-plus employees at the manufacturing plant.

MA: Tell me about the health and safety program at Firestone, and what your role is in carrying it out.

Kim Davie: I look at my role primarily [as] the conductor. I am the health and safety department; however, since health and safety is everyone’s responsibility, everybody has a level of responsibility throughout my plant — not only my managers and my staff supervisors, but also my workers as well. That’s basically how it works at this facility. I have a classic industrial environment — forklift traffic, mobile equipment challenges, material handling. I also have chemicals, because we are a polymerization plant, as well as a weaving and twisting plant. So it’s a fairly classic industrial environment.

MA: In terms of machine safety, what steps do you take to make sure employees on the plant floor are safe?

Kim Davie: Of course we’re pretty adamant on training from the operator standpoint. They go through currently about four hours of orientation before they get on the floor. That’s going to go up to about six hours in the new year. And then they go down to the floor, and they are with a person training, and they have to meet several milestones throughout the training. It’s six to 12 weeks [depending on the position] before they’re actually qualified to do the job on their own… [For] the equipment itself, any new or modified equipment will go through an equipment release process. If it’s new equipment, we’ll buy new equipment and then we’ll actually get an engineering company in to go through it once it’s in the site and installed. And then we’ll also have a management review, and a management PSR [Pre-start Health and Safety Review] release as well. So there are four stages… There’s an engineering release from a standards standpoint. And then there’s a productivity release — ensuring that it’s productive and does what it’s supposed to do. And then there’s a safety review… and a management review [where we] go through the equipment in its realm. So when equipment is installed and it’s able to operate, then we’ll do one final safety check.

MA: In the past, I’ve heard the argument that sometimes safety gets in the way of productivity. How are you able to balance the two, and make sure the employees on the plant floor are both safe and productive?

Kim Davie: I don’t have to balance the two, because safety will be there. And that comes from my corporate office as well, not only my management team… Both have to go hand in hand.

MA: What is your key to success where occupational health and safety are concerned?

Kim Davie: The key to the success of this facility is really accountability. I have a very strong belief in my corporate level, which is in Nashville, that safety is a large value that they hold close. And that’s driven down from my CEO. So what that ultimately means is every year I have certain achievements that everybody has to make in health and safety. So every manager has a list of things they have to do. Every supervisor has a list of things they have to do. And they’re all safety-related. And there are typically about 20 to 30 items. I audit that every quarter. So basically I go around to every supervisor and staff member and manager, whether they’re my superior or not, and I audit them to make sure they’re getting done, and I report it directly to corporate. And of course I get audited, too. Everybody gets audited. But that’s holding people accountable.

MA: What is your biggest challenge in making sure that your employees on the plant floor are safe?

Kim Davie: My biggest challenge is probably culture. ‘This is the way we’ve always done it.’ The plant is an older plant. Firestone Textiles has been in the community for 75 years.

MA: How do you get buy-in from employees to make sure that everyone is participating in the program?

Kim Davie: Well, there’s lots of ways to do it. Safety rules are number one. Bypassing guards in my facility would be a free trip to HR. And we take that very seriously. And that does go up to a termination at times, depending on the severity. But if it’s something new, if we bring in new equipment or new ideas, we will bring the employees involved with it [in] at the time it’s being developed, and then roll it out with their buy-in already. So at least you have some of the employees that have bought into it already, and they’re using the equipment the way it’s supposed to be [used].

MA: How do you measure the effectiveness of your safety program?

Kim Davie: I look at the overall picture of the facility. I look at leading indicators and lagging indicators — first aid, near misses, incidents, non-lost-time, lost-time. Another big rule of thumb for me is near-miss reporting. If I get too many near misses, I get concerned. If I get too little near misses, I get concerned. So that is a big leading indicator for me.

MA: For smaller manufacturers with fewer employees and, perhaps, less money to invest in safety, do you have any suggestions for them? Where should they start when it comes to developing and carrying out a successful health and safety program?

Kim Davie: It depends on how much change you want to make. If you want big change, you have to start at the top. And if your general manager or manager has bought into safety, he’s got to be able to show it. He’s got to be able to be visible. Hands on, visible and on the floor is a big thing with a small facility, particularly.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.