Ehstoday 2320 Milliken

SLC 2015: Safety is Everyone's Responsibility at Milliken

Oct. 27, 2015
The associate-based leadership structure goes a long way in empowering, engaging and involving workers.

Safety is everyone’s job at Milliken’s Pendleton Finishing Plant.

The South Carolina plant on the edge of Clemson University’s campus has an entirely associate-driven safety culture.

“Management leads from the back of the room,” said Meghan Patel, a practitioner at Performance Solutions by Milliken who led attendees of the 2015 Safety Leadership Conference on a tour of the facility.

The associate-based leadership structure goes a long way in empowering, engaging and involving workers, Patel said.

All 276 associates – even the 75 new hires – are members of a safety subcommittee or project team and the safety steering committee is entirely made up of associates.

Those could be lockout/tagout, health and wellness, mobile equipment, environmental/fire and emergency and a number of other safety-based committees and teams.

It is through these committees, which meet weekly to cover the rotating work schedules, that associates innovate and develop new safety strategies.

Safety is not only ingrained in the culture at the 409,000-square-foot Pendleton plant, it’s also physically evident.

Through any of the entrances into the production area of the plant, there are communication boards, which convey safety information, display pictures of the safety steering committee and update workers on the number of days since an unreported incident.

At these boards, associates grab green paw print stickers each day and on them write the number of days since the last unreported incident – a push by Milliken to encourage workers to report all incidents.

Because there is an emphasis on communication and training, Milliken takes a hard line on safety. There are two things associates can do that result in automatic termination: no performing lockout/tagout on a machine and bypassing a safety mechanism on a machine.

Yet, while safety is serious business at Milliken, associates also make it fun.

Workers have led environmental treasure hunts, games of The Not So Newlywed Game, Win Lose or Draw and Ergonomics Over Under and even let associates empty expired fire extinguishers to give them experience.

And employees receive safety diplomas once they earn 200 safety points – points awarded for completing assigned homework, performing safety audits and participating in safety activities, among other activities.

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