Safety leaders share best practice at manufacturers’ forum

Health and safety practitioners agree that engaging employees about workplace safety go a long way in improving the safety culture, and there’s more than one way to achieve an engaged workforce.

At this year’s Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC) Conference and Exhibition, three organizations shared proven best practices that have helped them increase employee participation in health and safety programs and improve their safety record. 

“I will not work for companies that don’t take pride of their most valuable asset, which is their employees,” said John Evans, plant manager of Simcoe, Ont.-based Ranpro Inc., maker of personal protective apparel.

Ranpro was one of three companies that presented during the Health and Safety Bearpit Panel at the EMC conference. The other two were beer manufacturer Sleeman Brewing & Malting Co. and Mahle Filter Systems, maker of automotive air filters.

Evans said management support is essential in ensuring that all programs are implemented effectively at Ranpro, which had now gone close to two years without any lost-time injury.

To celebrate safety milestones, the company’s senior management makes breakfast for all employees — a gesture that Evans said brings a powerful message to the workers about management’s commitment to their safety.

Ranpro’s joint health and safety committee (JHSC) also encourages employees to be informed of the developments in health and safety by posting JHSC meeting minutes and quizzing employees on their content. What’s in it for the workers? Every right answer qualifies them for a prize draw.

Sleeman’s national health and safety officer Linden Gossen, was tasked to develop the company’s health and safety management system, he knew he needed to secure management leadership and commitment to the project.

“If you don’t have that, don’t start,” he said.

Sleeman’s OHS management system is audited based on eight elements: management leadership and commitment, hazard identification and assessment, hazard control, workplace equipment and facilities inspections, safe work practices and training, emergency preparedness, incident investigation and analysis, and communication and administration.

Sleeman’s health and safety policy is posted all over the company, Gossen said. “Now the workers are taking notice of it, since it’s now posted instead of just gathering dust.”

Through the audit process, the company is able to gauge not only whether the workers have read the policy, but also whether they understood it, Gossen said.

Claims management was also a topic discussed by the speakers. Mahle Filter Systems has successfully integrated its return-to-work offer right at the point of injury, said Lisa Granger, the company’s claims management and EHS advisor. 

“I am always talking to my supervisors about documentation, due diligence and accommodation,” Granger said. 

Through the company’s improvements to its health and safety programs, including its return-to-work program, work hardening program, ergonomic awareness program, behaviour-based safety and prevention programs, Mahle Filter Systems dramatically reduced its lost-time days from 214 in 2007 to 45 in 2009. Lost-time injury claims also decreased from 13  in 2007 to six in 2009, Granger said.

The company has also been proactive with ergonomics, she added. “We built ergonomics right into our design phase — how the workers will put the parts together.”

Ranpro is also investing in its employees’ health as part of a cost-reduction effort, said Evans. The company bought gym membership for all its employees, which encouraged employees to take better care of their health and physical wellbeing. As a result, Ranpro has not had a lost-time accident in three years, Evans said.

The Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium conference was held May 10 to 12 at the Hamilton Convention Centre.