AK Steel's Wardrop Pushes Injury Reduction

The chairman and chief executive officer of AK Steel says that\r\nwhile there are plenty of financial justifications for improving\r\nworkplace safety, the only important number is zero.

The chairman and chief executive officer of AK Steel says that while there are plenty of financial justifications for improving workplace safety, the only important number is zero.

"Employee safety is responsible business that needs no other justification," said Richard Wardrop Jr., in an address before the second annual presentation of the National Safety Council''s Green Cross for Safety Medal last week in New York.

Wardrop was the first-ever recipient of the medal presented by the National Safety Council last September.

The medal was created to honor exemplary commitments to workplace safety and corporate citizenship.

"True, good safety lowers workers'' comp bills. True, good safety lowers insurance premiums. True, good safety improves morale. True, good safety improves productivity. And true, we could calculate with some precision the net effect of all these things on our bottom line," said Wardrop. "But the fact is, we don''t. Because all of those are secondary to why we work so hard at safety."

In 1994, AK Steel had a total recordable frequency of 6.96. That was almost two times better than the steel industry average.

Today, The company''s number is 1.20, or nearly six times better than in 1994.

"The employees of our Ashland, Kentucky coke plant had an outstanding safety performance last year," said Wardrop. "In fact, the plant had only one recordable injury. That resulted in an OSHA recordable number of 0.26, fully 30 times better than the industry average. Ironically, that was not the best record in the industry. That honor went to our Middletown coke plant, with a total recordable rate of zero for the year."

Wardrop continued, "Zero. In my mind, that''s bottom line number for any safety program. And that''s what we should all be working toward every day -- zero injuries."

Wardrop, along with NSC Chairman Patrick R. Tyson, presented the council''s 2001 Green Cross for Safety Medal to Dr. Craig R. Barrett, president and chief executive officer of Intel.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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