At American & Efird, "zero accidents" is more than a goal, a priority or a mission statement – it's "simply the right thing to do," explains John Eapen, vice president of environmental, health and safety/sustainability for the sewing-thread manufacturer. That's been a common thread throughout the company's 121-year history, during which the firm never has experienced a work-related fatality.
The foundation of American & Efird's success – the company had a lost-time-injury rate of 0.08 in its fiscal 2012 – has been upper management's steadfast support of EHS initiatives, Eapen says.
It doesn't take more than a quick glance at the company's organizational chart to see how executive management views safety. With a staff of two full-time EHS professionals – augmented by safety coordinators at every facility – Eapen reports to the CEO, giving safety an influential voice in the C-suite.
"When I visit our facilities around the world, it's easy for me to sit down with the top person in manufacturing operations and talk about issues and challenges and how we can address them," Eapen explains. "If that organizational structure isn't there, [safety] gets squished to the bottom somewhere."
American & Efird takes a top-down and bottom-up approach to safety, though, encouraging employees to participate in safety committees, voice their concerns and ideas via suggestion boxes and report near-miss incidents.
The company also requires supervisors to conduct at least one behavior-based observation of an employee each week, fostering engagement and communication between shop-floor associates and their main point of contact.
"With an average of 1,100 employees, and each employee engaged at least five times a year, we engage our employees 5,000 times a year," Eapen says. "That has helped us tremendously."
American & Efi rd LLC
Mount Holly, N.C.
1,130 employees/11 sites/
3 EHS professionals