photo courtesy of ACCO Brands
Booneville Mississippi 2 64c7cf4f2aedb

America's Safest Companies 2023: ACCO Brands

July 31, 2023
Lessons in leadership from a three-time America's Safest Companies recipient.

ACCO Brands Corporation

Academic, Consumer and Business Products Manufacturing

Lake Zurich, IL

1,806 domestic employees | 9 domestic sites | 5 EHS professionals

ACCO Brands understands the discomfort of aches and pains. That’s why the company offers on-site massages to all U.S. manufacturing and distribution center employees—regardless of whether those aches and pains are job-related or not.

Each week, the company brings in certified active release technique (ART) providers who can help treat problems with employees' muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves.

“While there is a significant cost to providing the ART benefit to our employees, we believe we have prevented many minor employee issues from becoming more serious medical issues and have a healthier workforce as a result of this program,” says James Edwards, senior director of environmental, health and safety.

In addition to its ART program, ACCO Brands has a detailed ergonomics program at all locations that entails training, having an outside expert conduct yearly assessments and reviewing any jobs that experience a musculoskeletal injury.

These reviews allow ACCO Brands to proactively identify ergonomic risks and make adjustments. In fact, they have resulted in significant improvements to operations and made it easier for employees to do their jobs, Edwards says.

ACCO Brands understands the value safety brings to an organization. The manufacturer of well-known stationary brands such as Mead, Five Star, Trapper Keeper and At-A-Glance and Day Timers planners has thrice been named one of America’s Safest Companies, a feat only six other companies have achieved. Since their last win in 2017, it’s clear the company hasn’t been resting on its laurels—a noteworthy accomplishment since the company has grown through acquisitions and developed new products during that time. Four of its manufacturing and distributions sites were recently recognized by the National Safety Council for no lost time injuries.

The cornerstone of ACCO Brands' safety program is its Comprehensive Environmental and Safety Management Plan (CESMP), which has 82 items and has been implemented globally.

One aspect of the plan is that each manufacturing and distribution center is audited annually for compliance. Audits are completed by the corporate senior director of EHS along with an EHS manager from another facility over the course of multiple days.

“Having EHS managers audit each other’s facilities has been key in facilitating communication among our EHS team and the sharing of best practices,” Edwards says. “Each time an EHS manager has conducted an audit at another location, they take back additional best practices to implement at their own facilities. It has also resulted in a much deeper understanding of the CESMP and has really enhanced our process.”

As part of the audit process, the multi-person audit team interviews several employees at all levels and shifts about a number of safety topics, including their safety responsibilities and knowledge of safety-related procedures. The team also reviews written programs and training records as well as conducts an extensive walkthrough to analyze physical and behavioral safety on the floor. After, the team calculates an audit score.

That audit score is combined with the location’s injury rates to determine a company-wide ranking of all locations. This information is then communicated throughout the organization.

“This has created some good-natured competition among our audited facilities to try and perform best on the annual audit, which has resulted in us making great strides in all areas of safety performance,” Edwards says. “As employees take pride in their performance ranking and the recognition that goes along with it, we have obtained broad buy-in on our CESMP.”

In order to keep the CESMP current and proactive, the entire EHS team reviews the plan annually to determine what areas may need modified and what, if anything, needs to be added for future audits to help prevent future injuries in the workplace.

As part of ACCO Brands' efforts to make safety everyone’s job, safety is included in yearly performance reviews for all levels of employees. In addition, all employees must review their documented job hazard analysis at least once a year to ensure it is still current. If not, they must make any necessary changes in coordination with their supervisors.

Each ACCO Brands location has a detailed safety training calendar that includes extensive annual safety training as required by regulations as well as training in best practices. Each location must have an active safety team comprised of EHS, human resources, operations management, maintenance and hourly employees. Safety teams must meet at least monthly, and all meetings must be documented and minutes posted; these teams also conduct monthly facility safety inspections.

ACCO Brands goes a step further to make sure each location has a defined safety plan based on what is most effective for their population. There are individualized safety incentive programs to encourage employee involvement and rewards to improve selected safety metrics.

“The key to our success is teammate involvement and the pride that each employee has in keeping their co-workers safe and seeing their location succeed,” Edwards says. “Implementation…has moved us from ‘doing things just because we are going to be audited’ to actually doing these things because it is how we work, resulting in a gradual—but significant—culture change.”

One way the company supports a culture of safety is by conducting a lost-time injury review meeting after an accident with the local facility management team. This helps to show the commitment of senior management, including Chairman and CEO Boris Elisman, as well as create an opportunity to discuss the injured employee’s condition, examine the root cause(s) and implement proactive control measures to prevent similar events from reoccurring

Another example is that the corporate office will not authorize any operational capital expenditure request without sign off from the EHS manager and corporate senior director of EHS. This ensures safety is involved in all operational changes and new equipment purchases—and that any safety requests or upgrades are completed before the equipment is used in a facility.

“While we have a very dedicated, caring staff of facility leaders, managers, supervisors, and EHS professionals, it’s our hourly workers who deserve much of the credit for our success," Edwards says. "During the employee interviews that are conducted during our annual CESMP audits, employees regularly say that ACCO Brands is the safest place at which they have worked and that they feel truly engaged in our safety process.”

About the Author

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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