A 'Safe Start' to Work at Bon L Manufacturing

It might be a small company, but Bon L Manufacturing has an occupational safety and health training program that rivals that of most big companies.

By Sandy Smith

If you''ve visited Atlanta and seen the Peachtree Plaza, with its aluminum structure, then you''ve seen product produced at Bon L Manufacturing, of Newnan, Ga.

Chances are good the shower head in your bathroom uses aluminum from Bon L, and so do the tire rims on your bicycle. And chances are also good that no one got hurt extruding that aluminum for your showerhead.

The 460 hourly and 75 salaried employees at Bon L work in hazardous conditions. Scrap aluminum is melted and extruded into various shapes for several different customers. Yet despite the hazardous nature of the business, the company has logged no lost-time injuries this year and had a lost-time incident rate of 1.05 in 2002.

"Safety is considered a very essential part of our business functions," says Chris Andrews, safety and training coordinator. "We acknowledge that safety, production and quality all function as one unit. You cannot have one without the others, so we treat them as equals."

Andrews plays a pivotal role in safety at Bon L, because company management places such an emphasis on employee education. At Bon L, training begins with the SAFESTART program. A behavior-based training program, the company adopted SAFESTART approximately four years ago to change the culture, says Andrews.

"The program is easy to understand," he adds. "All the employees - hourly and salary - have been through the program, and all new employees go through the program as part of orientation."

SAFESTART reminds employees to stop and think about the work task at hand and their state of mind. For example, a poster reminds employees that rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency can "cause or contribute to these critical errors" such as "eyes not on task," "mind not on task," "line-of-fire" and "balance/traction/grip," which increase the risk of injury.

The monthly safety education program covers OSHA- and work-related topics such as bloodborne pathogens, personal protective equipment (PPE), hand safety and back safety. Each meeting is approximately 30 minutes long and includes a seven to 10 minute long safety video, a discussion of the topic that includes input from employees and short quiz. Employees who fail the quiz are asked to attend the session again.

"We keep the videos short because we know attention can wander," says Andrews. "The purpose for the program is not to test employees, but to educate them. We don''t really ''grade'' the quizzes; we evaluate them to determine if employees are learning about safety."

Employee education also includes a weekly safety meeting to discuss challenges and answer questions, and a five-minute pre-shift meeting to discuss tasks at hand.

"We want employees to have ownership of safety," says Andrews. To that end, employees are responsible for decorating and maintaining safety bulletin boards, where safety suggestions, injuries and illness statistics and educational materials are posted.

"These all seem small steps," says Andrews, "but when we added them up, they made a big difference. Employees are reminded to think about safety - both the big picture and their immediate safety - every shift, every week, every month."

Sidebar 1

  • William L. Bonnell Co. (Bon L Manufacturing- Newnan)
  • Newnan, GA
  • Manufacturing/Aluminum Extrusion
  • 460 hourly employees, 75 salary employees
  • 1 safety professional
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