It's still dark when a red Dodge truck turns into the parking lot of Modern Fasteners, its headlights and a handful of streetlights the only illumination of the industrial driveway in Brook Park, Ohio.
The truck pulls up outside the employee entrance – the only entrance unlocked at this hour – and the driver, Glen Thompson, unloads duffel bags onto the ground. The night before he had trained fellow firefighters on CPR and needed to bring his training gear back to work.
Thompson, the safety manager for Modern Fasteners, carries the bags inside before parking, returning with his arms full of doughnuts – pastries he snagged from Fragapane Bakeries in North Olmsted on his drive in.
As he performs his morning walk-through of the plant, he notifies workers he stops to chat with about the treats in the office.
The doughnuts, he says, keep employee morale high. That's why he gets chocolate-filled ones.
Thompson oversees safety at Modern Fasteners and provides safety training to all employees of Buckeye Fasteners – its parent company. The job, he says, is an easy one because Buckeye is employee owned.
"Buy in is very easy when it's employee owned because it's their money; it's their piece of the pie," Thompson says.
Thompson, too, has owned his career with the company, shaping it into something that mirrors his personal life. He started working at the plant in the warehouse's shipping department. But since then, his role has evolved as his life has changed.
After marrying his wife, who comes from a family of firefighters, he joined the local fire department as a volunteer firefighter. Over time, he became an assistant fire instructor, an EMT and an investigator.
"Safety just made sense," Thompson says. "These two jobs overlap a lot."
His days are fluid, easily transitioning from the factory to the firehouse to his 100-acre farm. After work, Thompson planned to turn in paperwork from the previous night's firefighter training, before dropping off a part from the farm for repair.
He provides OSHA and CPR training to employees and runs fire and severe weather drills, every act melding his personal life with his professional.
Thompson stops to grab his travel mug, which is filled with Starbucks coffee he grinds on his own, from his desk, where a blue fire and rescue hoodie hangs from the chair. He has a desk in both the office and in the plant, making his a familiar face to workers on and off the factory floor.
"If I have to spend a lot of time out here putting out fires, obviously I'm not doing something right," Thompson says.
Instead, he gives ownership of safety to the employees. There are committees for both safety and health, as well as for ESOP matters.
"If somebody's walking through the plant, I want them to be able to say, ‘that's not right,'" Thompson says.
Because Modern Fasteners cross-trains all of its employees, workers are more able to identify problems they see in the factory.
"Safety, I think, works here because it's not a program where it's a punishment," says Jim Troxtell, plant manager at Modern Fasteners. "People are not afraid in those situations to tell you about safety problems."
If there's an injury in the plant, everyone responds because roughly 71 percent of the plant's 200 or so employees are trained in first aid.
The importance of that training and emergency preparation became clear one day at the plant.
An employee was exhibiting symptoms of a stroke but didn't realize it. Thankfully, Thompson recognized the symptoms and got the worker care. Now, that employee, while retired, still occasionally visits the plant.
"[Thompson] saved his life," Troxtell says.
For emergency situations like those, Thompson has set up a file of life system at the plant. Employees are given the opportunity to voluntarily fill out File of Life forms – a record of their medical history – that are then sealed and kept in a lockbox on the factory floor. In the event of a medical emergency, those forms accompany workers in the ambulance.
"As an EMT, you'd be surprised how many non-responsive people you know nothing about," Thompson says.
Thompson gets the forms from the local hospital, and offers them to employees to use at work and at home.
"It's given our people more personal accountability at home," Thompson says.
And really that's what it's all about for Thompson: keeping people safe. From firefighting and emergency response, to operating the farm, to serving as a Boy Scout leader, safety is ever-present in his life.