Rea Magnet Wire: Doing Safety the Rea Way

Nov. 1, 2007
The 1,200 employees at Rea Magnet Wire share a passion for safety and it shows. In a recent employee engagement survey conducted by the National Safety

The 1,200 employees at Rea Magnet Wire share a passion for safety and it shows. In a recent employee engagement survey conducted by the National Safety Council, a Rea Magnet Wire location scored in the 99th percentile compared to 317 other world-class safety programs. The survey allowed employees to anonymously report their perceptions of management commitment, resource allocation, employee involvement, hazard detection, response to safety issues and employee input into safety.

As Ken Vandenberghe, corporate EHS manager at Rea Magnet Wire, says, “Our safety system is built on passion. We embrace our employees and fuel their passion to work safely and to help develop a safe working environment for others.”

At Rea, employees have three responsibilities in safety: showing up for work each day ready to produce a top-quality product in a safe manner; returning home safe from their shifts able to enjoy the things that make them special to their families; and fulfilling the responsibility to their families to reach retirement age without suffering a disabling injury.

“In our family-oriented approach, we try to satisfy our employees' deeply held needs for wholeness and to help provide support for their values and aspirations for personal as well as economic growth,” says Vandenberghe.

The company's health and safety process contains six elements: establishing corporate and business unit safety goals, initiatives and strategic plans; developing key operational safety metrics and benchmarks with other corporations; developing a central system of standardization and assessments in work practices, procedures, assessments and audits; establishing a behavioral-based safety system that allows employees to understand and correct personal risk factors such as fatigue, frustration, rushing and complacency; executing and tracking results; and engaging employees in the safety process.

“Rea Magnet Wire wants engaged employees,” says Vandenberghe. “These are the employees who are passionate about their work and take great pride in being involved.”

Safety incidents and related costs at every one of the company's nine plants in North America and China are tracked, similar to other performance metrics like sales and quality numbers. Every month, the Executive Health and Safety Team, which consists of division presidents, the CFO, the corporate vice president of human resources and the chief technology officer, meets to review the results. This team also meets with the plant manager within a few days of an OSHA- recordable injury to understand the measures the location is taking to ensure such an injury does not occur again.

Each business unit has a safety committee responsible for performing formal proactive analysis, involving hourly employees, abatement activities, correction action identification, behavioral-based departmental audits and employee observations. Vandenberghe calls it a “no-blame/no-name” process that focuses on risks — not rules — to keep employees safe.

“At Rea Magnet Wire, we have ingrained in our employees that their safety is the most important element in what we and they do at work and away from work,” he says.

And the company's commitment to safety extends beyond the walls of its facilities. Vandenberghe has been sent to assist other companies in specific safety training including ergonomic training and assessments, OSHA 10- and 30-hour training , world-class best practice safety shares and in establishing a safety culture.

The senior management team at Waukesha Electric Systems invited Rea's management team to share its safety improvement strategy. Waukesha's management team was so impressed by what they heard that they asked Rea to send a team back to conduct training for the safety committee, engineers, maintenance personnel and management on an interactive tool that was designed to help reduce strains.

The visit prompted Melvin Rhodes, safety managaer at Waukesha, to write: “The members of Rea Magnet Wire envision an industry that conducts and manages its operations safely and with respect for the environment and the safety of its workers.”

wrote Melvin Rhodes, safety manager at Waukesha. “As we have seen progress in our safety efforts by the implementation of the interactive tool and the injury retraining system, it is our plan to continue to work with Rea and their management team in improving our safety processes.”

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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