All signs on Tank Day point to importance of safety success

June 7, 2011 By    

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak to marketers at the Quality Steel Corp. Tank Day in Tunica, Miss.

While the rising Mississippi River closed the casinos, we all boarded a bus south to Cleveland for the plant tour. Upon walking into the plant, we were greeted by a sign that read:

“We are not tank builders, we are owners that build tanks and provide unmatched service! The products that we own are the best in the industry, and our workmanship is second to none! We strive every day to ensure that our product is safe for the families we produce it for!”

I challenge propane marketers to design a mission statement or company creed to serve as a visual reminder of what they and their company stand for. It’s a great idea, but rarely do I see a company put its heart and soul into such quality commitment to safety.

Quality executives updated us on the state of the industry, new technology and how safety is a critical component to their past, present and future success. We were introduced to their safety director and the on-site loss control adviser employed by their insurance carrier during production runs. It was an impressive display of safety leadership involving all stakeholders in the process.

We also learned that Quality Steel Corp. is an ESOP company, which is 31 percent owned by employees. The safety message here is that they all have a stake in their safety success.

Another impressive sign challenged employees to be leaders and take ownership of their quality control: “You are the only person that can control quality today!”

I had never seen tanks being built, and it was an impressive process. Specialized equipment controlled by well-trained employees molded flat sheets of steel into the tanks we see today.

One of the most impressive safety controls related to the ergonomics in moving the curved end pieces into place. Skilled employees did not lift but rather utilized balance and gravity to move these heavy pieces of metal. It was refreshing to see a company master the process of combining specially designed equipment with ergonomic training to accomplish this goal.

I have found that the most successful strategies in reducing or eliminating work-related injuries in the propane industry, where back and knee injuries are prevalent, involve lifting techniques and the utilization of lift-assist equipment when appropriate.

Management at Quality told us about a work-related tragedy in which an employee died a few years ago. They were forthright and earnest in their disclosure and diligent in efforts to prevent such accidents in the future. While there were many contributing factors, one significant factor was the failure of the employee to utilize safety equipment. The resulting investigation and audit of safety procedures was a grim reminder for all companies that we are only as safe and strong as the last employee to adhere to policy, procedure and the utilization of safety equipment designed to prevent accidents and save lives.

The next day was filled with presentations. My program on “The Practice of Safety” focused on many areas of concern, with proactive ideas about problem solving and accident prevention. One marketer told me afterward that he would have nightmares for the next few nights as he evaluated his company’s safety exposures and procedures. I reminded him that safety is not about being perfect; it’s about doing your best every day.

When it comes to quality, safety and accident prevention, it is my hope that these messages continue to challenge and encourage your company to put safety first – because it’s the right thing to do.

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