What does it take to go a million hours without a workplace accident? In June, Emerson Network Power announced that its Welcome, NC facility surpassed 1,000,000 man-hours without a lost day from an accident. The Welcome plant, a manufacturing facility for ASCO Power, is not the company’s only example of a staunch commitment to safety. ASCO’s Reynosa, Mexico facility reports 3.5 million man-hours without lost day accident. To reach these milestones and make safer workplaces, Emerson Network Power has employed several approaches including testing, training and automation.
Automate Risky Tasks
Automation is largely used in departments where employees work with sheet metal. “Sheet metal has more cases of injury than other departments,” says Bhavesh Patel, Director of Marketing for ASCO Power Technologies. To distance workers from dangerous handling, robotics transport sheet metal components. Employees working with sheet metal are also frequently tested for vision and hearing damage possible in their positions.
“Certain jobs get certain kinds of testing more often than others,” says Patel, as safety is personalized for each department. ASCO’s Welcome facility has vending machines that dispense safety equipment so it is easily accessible to all employees. Each worker has an ID which allows them to vend equipment that is appropriate for their position. ASCO can even use these IDs as a tool to pinpoint areas which need improvement.
“The vending machines give us a sense of who’s vending what. They are an indirect indication of who is following regulations,” and also let the company know where they need to refresh safety training, says Patel.
Train Workers Thoroughly
This regular training includes procedures for proper use of equipment, troubleshooting and tool identification and utilization. Patel reports, “The training is for making sure they do their job right, and also teaching them what not to do. It is for reinforcing good habits and identifying bad habits.” This not only shows employees the company's vision for a safe workplace, but also exposes workers to scenarios ASCO strives to avoid.
By choosing this safety regimen, ASCO has made possible many positive effects in other areas of the workplace. “This is not the only thing we do to keep employee morale high. This has created a sense of belonging and ownership,” says Patel on the results of the training and testing. He added that the workplace community has even started to expand, as the existing pool of employees has contributed many new applicants for ASCO positions by recommendation.
Invest in Safety
Though such attention to safety is an undeniably costly investment, Patel described how it has paid off for ASCO. “You can cut corners in safety equipment, which causes costs in quality," he said. "We would rather look at the overall cost of safety. This is more of a cost of quality issue.” He explained that when considering the investment involved in assuring safety, it is important to focus on the larger picture. This investment has allowed ASCO to create stronger employer-employee relations, expand their community, and better ensure quality. Patel concluded, “Safety is not just a department, it’s a way of life for us. It leads to better products, and that’s what keeps us going.”