Since 1938, when Philip McKenna created the first tungsten-titanium carbide alloy for cutting tools, Kennametal has been an innovator. Headquartered in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the company is an industrial technology leader, providing innovative wear-resistant products, application engineering and services backed by advanced material science to more than 80,000 customers in 60 countries across diverse sections of aerospace, earthworks, energy, industrial production, transportation and infrastructure.
The Kennametal Bedford, Pennsylvania plant is a leading producer of cutting tools for mining and construction. Their signature product is the conical — a cone-shaped cutting tool with a tungsten carbide tip — used most commonly for milling asphalt during road construction.
At the Bedford facility, ingenuity isn’t limited to the products they make — it’s the force behind the safety program that contributed to winning the America’s Safest Companies Award for Kennametal in 2011. Presented annually by EHS Today, this prestigious award celebrates U.S. companies with the most effective safety cultures and innovative safety processes.
But earning this distinction didn’t happen overnight. To understand how this New Pig customer made the transformation, you have to go back about five years.
Old Plant, New Tricks
For more than 60 years, the Bedford plant has been producing world-class products. But in 2007, when plant leaders reviewed OSHA Recordable and DART (days away, restricted or transferred) incidents, they discovered that people were still getting hurt unnecessarily. So they made a commitment to take plant safety to the next level.
EHS Administrator Jerry Burkhart brought in Samuel. J. Gualardo of National Safety Consultants to evaluate the Bedford facility and help them launch their Management-Based Safety (MBS) program. But overcoming sixty years of industrial culture took time and determination.
“The mindset of a lot of the employees was, ‘It’s a factory, it’s industry, you’re going to get hurt somewhere,’” says Burkhart.
Process improvements were rolled out, the most important being the Daily Safety Checklist. Every day, task number one for every employee is to review important points concerning clothing, personal protection equipment, work area conditions, safety rules and training, tools and equipment requirements. When the employee has gone through the checklist, they sign off on a central whiteboard. A green signoff means everything is good; a red signoff indicates a problem. This simple color code lets supervisors know at a glance if there’s an issue and who to see for follow-up. If the situation is serious, the employee is authorized to shut down the equipment and consult their supervisor.
“No Magic Bullet”
Along with process changes and safety checks, thirteen employee teams work to identify safety problems throughout the facility and solve them. Eight of the teams focus on specific areas including slips, trips and falls, ergonomics, hand safety and machine guarding. Slips, trips and falls is the largest category for injuries and the team’s goal is to identify the top areas where incidents are occurring and come up with ways to eliminate them.
Rather than spend thousands on complicated procedures that may not work, the safety teams devise simple, well-applied methods that do. Some, like installing ramps to press maintenance platforms or retrofitting older machines with safety guards, take time to study and execute. Others are common sense solutions, like using PIG Socks to stop oil from leaky machines from migrating into walkways and keeping PIG Spill Kits in strategic locations to clean up spills that happen during the day. And still others, like the hazard warning cones, are creative approaches, made from readily available components that can be used almost immediately.
For incidents that happen day-to-day — such as an oil spill or water on the floor — the cones provide a visual warning system that any employee can use to notify everyone that there’s a danger area.
“That kind of stuff is generated from shop floor ideas,” says Burkhart. “You’re going to see a lot more of that versus a real sophisticated identification process. I don’t really think there’s a magic bullet. It’s just a lot of little pieces jelling together. If there is a magic bullet, it’s the people here. We’re getting better at looking at things and what could happen and anticipating hazards.”
Positive Reinforcement Creates Positive Results
Rewarding positive behavior is the cornerstone of Kennametal’s success. The Safety Pays program, based on distributing tickets for prize drawings, rewards employees for identifying hazards, reporting unsafe conditions and correcting hazardous situations. The more they help improve safety around the plant, the more tickets they receive, and the better their chances are of winning.
The Bedford plant dramatically reduced their reportable incidents, even reaching a milestone of 18 months without a single DART. MBS was so successful that Kennametal adopted it for all its facilities — and was named one of America’s Safest Companies in 2011. The award was even more rewarding for the people at the Bedford plant because the original management-based safety program was made better through their hard work and creativity.
“As a safety professional, I am blessed with the kind of staff we have here,” says Burkhart. “They’re just fabulous people to work with. They know what they need to do and they step up to the plate and do it. Without a good staff we would never, never have gotten to where we are.”
The sign hanging outside the Bedford plant showing photos of happy times with family and friends sums up the goal: 100 Reasons to be 100% Safe.
You tell us: How do you approach safety at your facility? Let us know in the comments section below!