Mich. Company Receives State VPP Award

TRW Chassis Systems' plant in Fenton, Mich., has become one of\r\nonly four facilities in the state to receive the Michigan Voluntary\r\nProtection Programs Star award for workplace safety.

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TRW Chassis Systems'' plant in Fenton, Mich., has become one of only four facilities in the state to receive the Michigan Voluntary Protection Programs (MVPP) Star award for workplace safety and health excellence.

Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry Services (CIS) Director Kathy Wilbur presented the Star flag to the company in a special ceremony.

"It is indeed an honor to present the MVPP Star flag to the employees and management of TRW Chassis Systems'' Fenton Plant," said Wilbur. "Your outstanding achievement will serve as a model of excellence -- for your industry, and for all Michigan employers."

The CIS Bureau of Safety and Regulation is responsible for the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) program. MIOSHA established the MVPP program to recognize employers actively working toward achieving excellence in workplace safety and health.

It was developed in 1996 to reward private and public sector work sites that develop and implement outstanding safety and health programs that go beyond MIOSHA standards.

"Too many employers believe that workplace accidents are a part of doing business in a high-hazard industry," said Wilbur. "The Fenton Plant''s outstanding safety and health record, which is significantly below their industry average, demonstrates that it is possible, and profitable, to protect workers."

The Fenton Plant''s incidence rates and lost work day rates are significantly below the Michigan average for their industry and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code 3714, "Automotive Parts and Accessories."

The total case incidence rate for the Fenton Plant was 3.65 in 1996, 2.0 in 1997 and 2.0 in 1998 -- compared to 22.7, 19.3 and 18.8, respectively, for Michigan.

The total lost work day cases for the Fenton Plant was 1.56 in 1996, 0.68 in 1997 and 0.31 in 1998 -- compared to 10.8, 6.8, and 7.1, respectively, for Michigan.

Accepting the Star award were members of the Fenton health and safety team; as well as Kathy Grisdela, Fenton plant manager; and Steve Lunn, senior vice president of operations, TRW Chassis Systems.

"Thanks to the diligence of our Fenton employees, we are gratified to be recognized as a Star location, and thank the Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry Services for this award," said Steve Lunn. "And while the numbers are impressive, the important thing to remember is that these statistics represent people, and our ultimate aim is to strive for zero injuries and a continually improving work environment. We believe that the Star award validates not only that we have a good safety record, but that we have the necessary systems in place to continually improve safety."

The Safety & Health Program

In pursuit of this goal, TRW management at the Fenton Plant plays an active and visible leadership role in the day-to-day safety and health activities of the facility.

They have demonstrated an understanding of the hazards and potential hazards at the facility, and have continually made changes in machinery, equipment and programs that have greatly reduced the incidence of these hazards.

Management has an established safety and health program with clearly stated goals and objectives. Written policies have been developed for more than 16 program areas, including: bloodborne pathogens, confined space entry, ergonomics, hazard communication and lockout/tagout.

"While management has certainly been in full support of the plant''s health and safety program, the credit for its success really belongs to all of our employees, and in particular to our safety team," said Grisdela. "By using a team with representatives from all areas and all plant shifts, we have been able to get the broad and ongoing input necessary to make safety and ergonomic improvements that have made our safety record possible."

The Fenton Plant health and safety team consists of 12 members who represent the safety interests of all employees.

The team serves as a communications link between management and workers. Among their many activities, the team: coordinates employee orientation and safety training, is involved in accident investigation, reviews accident reports, conducts monthly safety audits, and publishes a daily newsletter.

Based on interviews with employees and observation, MIOSHA found that employees are empowered to identify and correct safety and health infractions.

The employees take responsibility for their own health, as well as that of their co-workers. The plant has modern, state-of-the-art equipment with various safety features, such as machine guarding, already in place.

The company has initiated several new safety programs, including a "Violence in the Workplace," prevention program.

The plant has approximately 450 employees. It produces rear-wheel and four-wheel light vehicle braking systems for 28 automotive customers worldwide, and has combined with sister facilities in Fowlerville, and Brighton, Mich., and in Heerlen, the Netherlands, to produce more anti-lock braking systems (ABS) than any other company in the world.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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