Chain of Thought

Crown finds safety offers many rewards

Some companies build safety in a series of steps.

First they look for different ways to improve safety.

Then they start training managers on those improvements.

Then that training spreads to key employees at various plant locations.

Finally, all employees end up helping each other work safely.

That's how Crown Equipment Corporation started improving its safety numbers year after year once committing to its SafeSteps program in 2005. It's also why this lift truck manufacturer recently received the Occupational Excellence Achievement Award from the National Safety Council. More specifically, Crown was recognized for coming in at 50% below the industry average for workplace injuries in the last three years. A lot of that has to do with the positive reinforcement fellow employees give each other.

“They're looking for the things on the floor that people are doing right with regard to safety,” says Brian Duffy, Crown's environment and safety manager. “We promote feedback between the employees, saying ‘Great job, you sounded your horn as you approached the intersection.' It fosters communication between the employees with regard to safety.”

It also fosters innovation. Management doesn't want accidents to spur ideas. It encourages employees to write their ideas down on cards. These ideas are evaluated by the SafeSteps team. Here are a few of the ideas that were implemented:

Employees once had to go up and down stairs to retrieve parts from the second level of a mezzanine. Carrying these parts down the stairs in boxes, these employees couldn't see the stairs as they descended. The big idea: Build a dumbwaiter to hoist the parts between the two floors.

Welders often handled 75-pound spools of wire in loading their machines. The big idea: purchase this wire on smaller spools. Not only were the 40-pound spools easier to handle, but it was less expensive to purchase them that way.

Employees were getting zapped by static electricity from their hoists. The big idea: examine the building's grounding system. Turns out the ground was intermittent due to a short. No more shocks.

SafeSteps isn't tied to an incentive program, says Duffy. However, Crown is finding that personal recognition from a supervisor or a VP is not only rewarding, it is cementing relationships between employees and managers.

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