Two-Time ASC Milliken & Co. Keeps Safety Fresh

Employees know that nothing less than 100 percent involvement in the safety process is acceptable.

Milliken & Co. headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C., is a superstar…really! Not only are all Milliken locations rated as Star sites in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (except those acquired in the last year), but it is the first two-time winner of America's Safest Companies honors.

Milliken, which is involved with textile and chemical manufacturing, has over 5,400 associates in the United States and an additional 1,250 worldwide. Safety is viewed as the company's No. 1 value.

“Our safety goal is zero injuries,” said Kevin Cox, corporate safety manager. “We are committed to safety excellence in everything we do. Our basic belief is that all incidents can and will be prevented.”

At Milliken, all meetings begin with a safety message. Associates are empowered to stop production if they witness an unsafe act or behavior. Employees are “their brother's keeper,” said Cox.

The company is proud of the 100 percent involvement of its associates in the safety process, and of its partnership with OSHA through the VPP process. At Milliken, safety is a daily-managed process with statistically significant improvement. Safety and health education is continuous with attention paid to every detail and associate participation in safety courses is tracked.

“Milliken's safety process is driven and owned by the company's production associates and supported from the very top,” said Kevin Cox, corporate safety manager. “Our leadership believes that safety is our No. 1 core value and understands that the best person to tell you how to run a job safely is the person actually doing the job.”

For companies participating in OSHA's VPP program, a significant component is being willing to mentor other companies. Milliken does this by:

  • Allowing and encouraging three employees to act as special government employees who assist in OSHA audits of other companies.

  • Mentoring companies that wish to benchmark its safety process by conducting walk-through audits of their locations, having representatives from the other companies visit Milliken locations and assisting other companies with their training and procedure changes.

  • Working with schools and hospital systems to improve their EHS processes.

In addition, several Milliken associates participate as board members of various manufacturing and safety organizations. Now, the company has taken those initiatives a step further by creating Milliken Performance Solutions.

Phil McIntyre, director of business development for Milliken Performance Solutions, said the company was approached 3 years ago by a food processing company that was seeking the kind of performance and safety success experienced by Milliken. Milliken realized there was a business opportunity to share its expertise in safety and performance with other companies.

McIntyre said Milliken invites representatives from interested companies to come to its headquarters in Spartanburg for a free, 2-day stay that he calls an opportunity to “accommodate, educate and demonstrate.” Representatives from the visiting companies are invited to stay at a guest house on the Milliken campus (accommodate), where they spend time in a classroom setting learning about the Milliken process and the value it can provide to their company (educate) and visit two Milliken facilities where they can see the process in action (demonstrate). Milliken covers all costs except those related to transportation to Spartanburg.

Following the accommodate-educate-demonstrate visit, Milliken Performance Systems conducts an assessment of the company and offers deliverables, said McIntyre, to help “move the safety process from here to there.”

Milliken Performance Systems has worked with a diverse group of companies, including those in the food processing, paper, steel, aluminum, construction, chemical, household products and packaging industries.

“The core of the Milliken process is associate engagement, and that really resonates with a lot of companies,” said McIntyre.

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