Safety Drives New Partnership in Michigan

March 19, 2002
A new safety partnership focusing on the automotive industry is speeding along in Michigan, where state authorities, the UAW and Ford and Visteon want to improve worker health and safety.

A new safety partnership focusing on the automotive industry is speeding along in Michigan, where the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services (CIS), the United Auto Workers Union (UAW), Ford Motor Co., Visteon Corp. and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) plan to improve worker health and safety at Ford and Visteon facilities in Michigan. The CIS Bureau of Safety and Regulation will administer the MIOSHA program.

The partners agreed to provide employees in the 17 Ford and eight Visteon plants in Michigan a healthful and safe workplace. The partnership''s primary goals are not only to reduce injuries and illnesses at each location, but also to create a proactive safety and health culture and a non-adversarial relationship that stresses cooperation.

Federal OSHA signed a formal partnership agreement with the UAW, Ford and Visteon on Nov. 14, 2000. That agreement covers 21 Ford and two Visteon plants in federal OSHA states, and addresses hazards specific to the automotive industry.

"The safety and health of the American worker is our top priority," said John L. Henshaw, assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "Working together is critical, and the expansion of this partnership will strengthen worker safety and health at Michigan Ford and Visteon sites."

James Patton, UAW co-chair, National Joint Committee on Health and Safety, says the agreement "is a proactive effort to further promote health and safety in our plants. The partnership provides an opportunity for each party to benefit from the collective knowledge, experiences and sharing of information to maintain a working environment free of exposure to hazards."

He adds the partnership gives all the parties the opportunity to focus attention on issues of specific concern at each plant.

Sharing safety and health information between all partners will be a key component of the agreement, and will help identify emerging issues in the automotive industry. The partnership represents a new strategy that will emphasize proactive measures to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. During the implementation of the partnership, MIOSHA will use both consultation and compliance staff.

Each Ford and Visteon location covered under the agreement will conduct an annual MIOSHA Day where MIOSHA representatives will meet with the plant manager, union chairperson and their leadership team. The meeting will include a review of the injury and illness reports, an overview of their safety and health progress, and an informal walk-through of the facility.

The partnership with MIOSHA also provides that Ford and Visteon may be asked to pilot and evaluate draft regulations for consideration by a MIOSHA standards commission. Elements of this agreement may serve as a model in the future to all businesses subject to MIOSHA regulations.

MIOSHA inspections to investigate employee complaints, serious injuries or fatalities, and national or state emphasis programs are not precluded by this agreement. Ford and Visteon plants selected for general schedule inspections from the MIOSHA Inspection Targeting list will receive a focused inspection. The focused inspection will include an evaluation of the inspection protocols listed in the agreement.

Under the agreement, an 11-point set of guidelines will provide more focused inspections. The guidelines address hazards specific to the automotive industry and include confined spaces, skilled trades hazards, maintenance vehicles, chemical safety, energy control and power lock out, ergonomics, noise control and hearing conservation, heat stress, powered material handling vehicles, machine guarding and personal protective equipment.

"We believe this innovative coalition creates a new standard for public/private partnership and will help us achieve our mutual goal of continuous improvement of workplace safety for employees," said Shamel Rushwin, Ford vice president, North American Business Operations. "To be truly successful, we believe our effort should be based on tangible results that translate into year over year improvements in injury and illness rates among our workforce."

The welfare of employees is a priority that Visteon takes very seriously, says Frank Croskey, vice president, North America and Asia Operations. "We''re excited to participate in this unique partnership with the UAW and MIOSHA because it will help us enhance the working environment for our employees."

The MIOSHA program is one of 23 State Plan states. State Plans are OSHA-approved job safety and health programs that are operated by individual states and require standards and programs that are "at least as effective" as the federal OSHA programs. From time to time, representatives from OSHA may participate in the MIOSHA meetings to help assure consistency with the UAW/Ford/Visteon federal OSHA partnership. MIOSHA representatives also serve on the federal OSHA partnership steering committee.

"We are proud to be the first State Plan to sign a partnership with the UAW, Ford and Visteon," notes CIS Director Kathy Wilbur. "MIOSHA has been a leader in partnering with the private sector, and we believe this partnership can be a vital force to create a workplace environment at Ford and Visteon plants that fosters worker protection."

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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