Case Study: Polishing a "Star"

March 1, 2007
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Hunter Douglas is a company known for shedding light on matters, quite literally. The well-known manufacturer of window treatments and coverings, including shades, sheers, louvers, blinds and shutters, makes a claim on its Web site that “Light can change everything.™”

At the company’s Broomfield, Colo., facility, a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star site that employs some 900 workers, safety personnel have shed light on how on-the-job injuries and compensation costs can be significantly lowered through better management of EHS information.

“We wanted to enhance worker safety and reduce costs by transitioning our safety reporting and incident tracking process from manual data entry to an automated information management system,” says Kevin Bucey, Hunter Douglas’ safety coordinator at the Broomfield plant.

Needed to do better

One of the biggest issues with the company’s manual safety tracking system, according to Bucey, was the inability to pass information on to management in such a way that it could be used in a proactive, rather than reactive, manner. In addition, manual tracking was slow — too much time would elapse from the time of the incident to the time of the reporting. The company also felt it needed to do a better job of identifying safety trends.

Bucey had been introduced to a software system when he served as safety manager at a previous job at Timminco Corp., a metal manufacturer. A former chairman of the VPPPA Region 8 board of directors, Bucey witnessed the benefits of automating EHS tasks while at Timminco and he pushed the issue when he arrived at Hunter Douglas in 2004.

“I did not hesitate to recommend that we automate because I knew it would greatly benefit Hunter Douglas, just as it did Timminco,” says Bucey.

Timminco was a much smaller operation with a different array of hazards than Hunter Douglas, where ergonomics-related repetitive motion injuries are a key issue. “Because of the risk of severe burns, fires and crush injuries at Timminco it was very important to stay on top of trends and be able to quickly respond to them. We do the same here at Hunter Douglas. Being a VPP Star site, continuing to improve is vital to the success of our safety program,” says Bucey.

Getting results

Heeding Bucey’s recommendation, Hunter Douglas switched from manual to automated information management. The software system contains more than 30 pre-loaded reports and graphs, according to Bucey. A built-in OSHA recordability test helps Hunter Douglas follow the agency’s injury and illness recordkeeping requirements.

It didn’t take long for Hunter Douglas to begin reaping the benefits of automating its safety tracking system. It’s all about nipping injuries in the bud rather than waiting for an incident and reacting.

“The key is to get information out to leaders that they can use in a proactive manner. We can trend incidents and create action items quicker, thus improving the way in which hazards are corrected and eliminated,” explains Bucey.

During the first year following system implementation, the company paid 50 percent less in workers’ compensation claims, injury incidents decreased by 50 percent, and staff days lost to injury fell by 80 percent. In hard numbers, the company’s injury claims have declined from 38 in 2004 to 16 in 2005 to five in 2006. At the same time, workers’ compensation costs have decreased from $179,000 in 2004 to $27,000 in 2005 to $17,000 in 2006.

Still learning

“We are still learning the benefits of the software and what more we can do with it,” says Bucey.

“I have gone to day-long classes, Web seminars, done a lot of reading, but most of all [I learn] just by playing with the program. If you have an idea, just try and see if it works.”

The only notable hurdle Hunter Douglas faced when implementing the new system was populating the data fields, according to Bucey. The company adeptly overcame that hurdle by creating a macro to download information from the company’s database, thus reducing the time needed to populate the fields.

Targeted improvements

As far as Bucey is concerned, Hunter Douglas already had an excellent safety program in place. “We were able to upgrade safety just by having the ability to communicate issues, such as how to improve ergonomics consistent with repetitive motion jobs. We were able to identify where improvements were needed to be made, preventing injuries and reducing cost.”


For more information on the safety management software used by Hunter Douglas, contact ESS — www.ess-home.com.

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