A Texas foundry pushes safety to the forefront
Back in 1991, this Dallas, Texas, steel foundry was a 385-employee facility experiencing 3,641 lost workdays. Incurred costs for workers' comp reached $1.5 million a year. So the company hired Safety and Environmental Manager Jerry Berryhill. Along with Carol Dunmyer, R.N., and Larry Parra, safety specialist, the team has instituted a behavior-based process, including worker committees and awareness campaigns. Engineering controls and visible management commitment are also integral to the process' success.
Now the company boasts a list of awards, such as the Texas Safety Association's Award of Honor for 1995 and the World Safety Association's 1996 Concerned Company/Corporation Award. Hensley also broke a foundry industry record with 4 million man-hours worked without a lost-time accident. Still, Berryhill says he hasn't figured out how to make employees realize they can come to work and not get hurt, that there's always time to get the job done safely. For now, Berryhill and Dunmyer (Parra recently left) plan to stick with the process, continually making improvements.
The tools Hensley uses seem similar to many in industry: awareness campaigns using pens, baseball caps, and fingernail clippers printed with a safety slogan, engineering controls, management commitment, and worker committees. But perhaps it's the attitude behind the tools that makes the difference.
Engineered hiringEngineering controls like pallet levelers and adjustable work tables are highly visible, to make sure employees know management cares, says Berryhill. Water fountains are at a higher level so an employee can avoid pulled back muscles when getting a drink. But before any employee can get a drink or adjust the tables, the company screens all potential hires for endurance, strength and good health necessary to get the job done.
"This is a labor-intensive facility. By testing employees and bringing in workers physically capable of completing the tasks, we lessen the hazard to both the employee and the company," says Berryhill.
Continual trainingBerryhill takes the OSHA mandate to train all new hires seriously. All new employees go through an orientation-consisting of audiometric testing, PPE, hazcom, and evacuation plans-with the safety staff. Supervisors teach the processes and equipment ins and outs. The attitude toward training is that it is always ongoing, and starts before the employee starts work. Everyone gets refresher training monthly, whether it's on OSHA requirements, equipment changes, or new training needs.
Visible commitmentManagement and the safety staff at Hensley keep safety in the forefront, catching employees' attention at every chance. The first topic employees discuss with the safety staff and plant management after being hired is safety. At supervisor and employee meetings, there's always a safety topic discussed. Managers also walk around the plant on occasion and ask safety questions. Berryhill spends a minimum of an hour a day walking and talking to workers.
Overall, safety at Hensley works because it has been integrated over the past five years as a necessity, the same as productivity and quality, for a successful plant, according to Berryhill.