Whitacre Greer Recognized in Brick Industry Association Employee Safety Contest

Wednesday, January 19th, Whitacre Greer was honored with an award recognizing its commitment to employee safety. The award was presented by the Brick Industry Association at the annual Carolina’s Brick Forum in Greensboro, NC. A summary of the safety program follows. Thank you John Miller, EHS Manager, for developing and implementing the program and thank you all Whitacre Greer employees for working safely.

We are submitting an entry for Reviving a Safety Culture.

For many years our company had a small number of employees supplemented by workers hired through several temporary agencies. These temporary employees were often here for very short periods of time, sometimes as little as a day or less. Safety was not a priority and this was evidenced by high accident rates and workers compensation costs.

Our management team changed and as a result, so did the philosophy of a safe plant. Under this new management our Safety Program was to be rebuilt, but in order to rebuild the safety program the culture had to be changed. We knew that changing the safety culture was not something that could be done overnight. In order to achieve optimum results and meet management expectations the program had to be multi-facetted, very aggressive, and proactive.

Our philosophy was to inundate the workforce with knowledge of safety procedures, provide evidence of effectiveness, and to make it a daily routine by making it personal. Our goal, as stated in our Safety Policy, is to return home every day without having suffered a work related injury or illness. Our motto: Safety is No Accident.

In order to achieve our goal of Reviving a Safety Culture we proceeded as follows:

Hire our Workforce
In order to develop a safety culture it was necessary to stabilize the workforce. We began by hiring the temporary employees as full time workers. We believed that a workforce with benefits and a secure work environment would help develop a safety culture.

However since it was also necessary to continue bringing in contract labor we also developed a safety program for the temporary agencies to follow. Their program was very similar ours.

Development of an Employee Handbook & Safety Manual
We developed an Employee Handbook and Safety Manual. The manual is in a loose leaf hard binder to facilitate updates and additions to the information. The Handbook/Safety Manual System consists of the following:
An acknowledgement of receipt to be signed and given to Human Resources
A safety signoff sheet listing the safety items reviewed
A generic safety brochure
Safety Statement signed by the President/CEO
Welcome letter with statement of work rules, policies, dress code, accident procedures; our Emergency Action Plan, storm water pollution prevention, explanation of our culture based safety philosophy, working in hot and cold weather
Employee Handbook
Hazard Communication training
Confined Space training
Forklift Safety training
LO/TO training

At the beginning of the program the EHS Manager met with each and every employee to review and explain the Handbook & Safety Manual. The manual is supplemented with various videos. As new employees are hired the EHS Manager meets individually with them to review and explain the safety program.

Caught Being Safe Program.
Because of the temporary workforce and the large turn over rate, we had a history of not providing items with our company logo to our employees. We wanted to begin recognizing employees for performing safe acts. When “caught being safe” that operator was given a ball cap with our company logo. Since there were currently no items with our logo this was noticeably special. We made it public knowledge when someone received a Caught Being Safe cap. This program caught on and soon workers were catching co-workers being safe so they too could get a cap.

Safety Talks and Contest
In order to keep safety in the forefront and maintain management and supervisor commitment we have periodic 5-minute safety talks. Although these talks are developed by the EHS Manager they are delivered by the direct supervisor on the shop floor. A handout accompanies the talk.

Some of the topics completed are:
OSHA – Why it’s needed and how it affects us
Safe Lifting Techniques
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Machine Guarding
Forklift AND Pedestrian Safety

The week following the talk we have a safety contest. The questions consist of 5 true or false questions from the current talk, one from the previous talk, and a “fill in the blank” based on the current safety poster hanging in the lunchroom. This reinforces the talks and promotes the reading of the safety posters.

Two winners are chosen randomly from those having all the questions correct. The prizes are the choice of a $50 gift card or $125 towards the purchase of safety shoes. Of course, we hope they choose the shoes, but as one winner recently said “I have good shoes, I need gas”, thus the cash option.

Supervisor Safety Bulletin
We subscribed to Supervisor’s Safety Bulletin, a twice monthly 4 page work oriented safety bulletin. The synopsis of this paper is compliance to OSHA regulations and problems encountered by other companies and their solution to that problem. The EHS Manager reviews this bulletin before it is routed and highlights articles that could be of special interest to the supervision.

We believe the data shows that we have achieved our goal of Reviving a Safety Culture; however, we also believe that in order to maintain the safety culture we must continue to improve and revise our program as situations arise.