Safety Team efforts foster employee engagement and culture change
In early October of 2015, Quality Industries (QI) revitalized its Safety Team, creating a team of dedicated employees at all levels of the organization who are passionate about improving the safety culture. Since then, this team has seen remarkable results in terms of plant-wide improvements, teamwork, and employee engagement.
"We knew we really wanted to emphasize employee involvement,” says Mike Swift, Director of Operations. “The Safety Team has a good cross-section of hourly employees across the shifts and representation from multiple departments , and we also have active participation from our salaried organization.”
The Safety Team is open to anyone who wants to participate. Currently, the team is made up of 15 members, guided by an executive steering committee that ensures the team is being supported, helps set goals, and provides funding.
“First and foremost, the Safety Team benefits Quality Industries by making sure that our employees are safe,” Swift reports. “We make sure our employees know that safety is our number one objective. We want to show them that we mean it — having this team empowered to make change sends that message to our workforce."
The Safety Team’s key initiatives are centered around identifying areas of improvement at the facility, physical improvements, behavioral compliance, and reassessing the ways that work is being done.
“For us, it’s about creating a culture of self-initiated safety that is owned by everyone in the organization, instead of just a single team or manager,” Swift adds. "Having a strong team dedicated to our number one priority, safety, helps us accelerate this goal.”
The Safety Team plays an important role in identifying opportunities, creating solutions, and carrying out the implementation of those changes. Safety Team members regularly check in with fellow workers to ensure that improvements made yield expected results. According to Swift, the team has already exceeded expectations.
“The team has worked very well together including making their own decisions around the types of audits they do,” Swift offers. Examples include auditing work conditions as compared PPE, compliance, or ergonomic opportunities. “For action items that don’t require maintenance or engineering resources, the team has been empowered to take the initiative and implement it on their own. From painting 5S marks on the floor, to locating materials, to doing cleanup activities like getting excess equipment out of the way, the team is consistently going above and beyond to drive action.” Additionally, says Swift, improving environmental health and safety within the plant has a positive cost impact.
Their main priority, however, is to make QI a safer place to work for everyone— and it’s a mission that team members are passionate about.
Andrew Brown, brake press operator, is a prime example of involving employees who are dedicated to the cause. As president of the Safety Team, Brown’s leadership has been instrumental in the progress that they have made so far. “Our team plays an important role in bringing information to management’s attention,” he notes. “We are closely involved in identifying issues, offering ideas for new systems, and putting those changes in place."
Brown has been at Quality Industries for almost two years, but he has worked in manufacturing for more than 15. Because he has been part of safety committees in his earlier work experience, Brown saw an opportunity to be part of something very worthwhile when QI revitalized its safety initiative.
“We have already made a lot of improvements,” Brown asserts. “Our whole team is excited to be part of the culture change here at QI. I’m glad to be working with such a passionate group of people."
Brown says his favorite parts of Safety Team include interacting with fellow employees, listening to their stories and feedback, working closely with other safety committee members, and finding ways to improve existing practices.
"For the company as a whole, the long term benefit of this initiative will be keeping everyone safe,” Brown concludes. "We want to help educate people about safety so that everyone goes home each day in the same condition that they came to work."