A Winning Approach To Safety

The safety director of Morton Powder Coatings facility explains the company's guiding principle behind its impressive safety record.

"Nothing -- not production, not profits, not sales, not anything -- comes before safety."

This motto, which appears on several signs hanging throughout the Morton Powder Coatings facility in Reading, Pa., is what health and safety director Jeff Wetzel points to as the motivating force and guiding principle behind the company''s impressive safety record.

"Our safety policy is what reminds operators and management to constantly challenge each other with the importance of safety," Wetzel said. "You can''t sit idle for even one minute because the moment you let up, that''s when someone is going to get hurt."

By tackling that challenge on an ongoing basis, this plastic coating powder manufacturer''s 137 employees have not only managed to reduce their injury incident rate from 12.4 to 1.5 in the past decade, but they also have been twice recognized as a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star Worksite.

As the recipient of several safety-related awards, including the Pennsylvania Governor''s Award for Environmental Excellence, the American Society of Safety Engineers Award and most recently the Pennsylvania Governor''s Award for Safety Excellence, Morton Powder Coatings'' success is an illustration of the impact worker-management cooperation can have on workplace safety.

At Morton Powder Coatings, nearly one in four employees is active in one of three workplace safety committees. These committees meet on a monthly basis to set safety policy, investigate accidents, develop and implement safety programs and work on special safety projects.

These committees include:

  • The Safety Action Committee is responsible for reviewing "near misses" that occur on the production floor. Not only does this committee determine what caused the incident, but it also generates solutions on how the problem can be corrected or avoided in the future;
  • The Safety Program Enhancement Committee (SPEC) promotes health and safety at the workplace, at home and in the community. In addition to providing monthly safety training, the committee has also implemented several safety programs throughout the facility, including a hard-hat EMS identifier program, a contractor training certification identifier program and a lockout/tagout program; and
  • The Safety Committee, made up of both employees and management officials, meets on a monthly basis to review safety problems. Members of this committee also conduct monthly safety tour inspections of the plant as a proactive way of identifying and correcting any safety hazards before they have the chance to become safety incidents.

More than anything, what makes these committees and the plant''s overall safety program so functional, Wetzel said, is the fact that every aspect of the program is employee-driven. "Without employee buy-in, and without getting employees involved in their own safety, making safety a team effort would be impossible," Wetzel said.

by Melissa Martin

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