Safety is more than creating a certain environment-it's a
culture change that to be effective involves a mentality that
flows through a company from top to bottom. At least, that's
how many steel industry players see it.
Steelmakers Republic Engineered Products Inc. and Commercial
Metals Co. (CMC), along with pipe and tube distributor
Marmon/Keystone LLC, are among those that have focused hard on
safety and employ a top-down approach.
"We put a lot of emphasis on it (and) we have had tremendous
results," Linda McCue, Marmon/Keystone's vice president of
human resources and head of safety, said. "It's a credit to the
commitment from the executive and management level and on down
Considering the challenges the company faced in 2009,
including a reduction in staff, "our people stepped up to the
plate and got work done without injury," she said. "We had 21
branches go accident-free in 2009-a record year-after 2008's 14
(accident-free) branches. We are ecstatic."
Butler, Pa.-based Marmon/Keystone had 13 recordable
accidents in 2009, a 67.5-percent improvement from 40 the
previous year, and reduced hours lost. "(But) we look at safety
as more than just the data; it's a culture that we have to
create," McCue said. "We spent a lot of time and effort on
training. Managers get measured on it. Are they doing the
training, having the meetings, doing all the proactive things
we want them to do?"
Getting good safety results happens when management is
committed and involved. "Starting in 2009, our branch managers
have participated in quarterly warehouse inspections," a task
formerly assigned only to shift supervisors, McCue said. "It's
important for employees to see that commitment. And it gives
managers a first-hand look at what the employees go through on
a daily basis."
Marmon/Keystone runs a defined structure with a safety
committee at every location, "so there is a mechanism for
employees to bring to light hazards that need to be taken care
of. It has been effective," she said.
CMC's Americas division also practices a top-down approach,
according to Jeff Adams, the company's safety director. "Over
the past couple of years, one initiative (developed by CMC) is
the location manager safety evaluation. From a top-down
management scenario, we have the commitment of our chief
executive officer and other executives," he said. "But when you
get to location manager-where the rubber meets the road-we
evaluate managers on their performance and we look at incident
CMC expects location managers to drive safety improvements
and they are rated on their leadership in that area. They are
required to outline the company's safety policies and
procedures throughout the facility and ensure the procedures
are fully implemented.
"Workers have to have a reference for what they're supposed
to be doing. Otherwise, they might not do it," Adams said.
Irving, Texas-based CMC has facility managers report whether
training has been completed and documented for every employee,
whether weekly and monthly employee meetings are held, and
whether the manager, when available, participates in the safety
But for a system to be effective, there have to be checks
and balances. CMC, for example, developed a job safety analysis
for every operational procedure, which is reviewed and updated
as needed, Adams said. It is used for instruction as well as a
checklist in investigating incidents.
"The industry still has a long way to go, but it has made a
marked improvement over the past five to 10 years," Adams said.
"Our leadership, and everyone else at the company, understand
that true safety requires more than just OSHA (Occupational
Safety and Health Administration) compliance. If all you do is
meet OSHA requirements, you aren't going to be that safe. We go
way beyond that."
The primary safety guideline at Canton, Ohio-based Republic
Engineered Products is OSHAS 18001, an international
occupational safety and health management system specification,
according to Patrick Monnot, corporate manager of environment,
health and safety.
Republic began the qualification process under the system in
2007, an approach that "was driven by our chief executive
officer," and achieved certification in February 2009. Much
like other standards certification programs, "you say what you
are going to do, what your standard operating procedures are,
and then you educate the employees and audit," Monnot said. "We
have internal audits (conducted by line employees and salaried
managers) and external audits to assess how we're doing against
the system. Based on the audits, we know where to improve and
The system works because it is "so all-encompassing,"
including labor and management committees that meet monthly at
each plant using a template of topics that are touched
on-"whether talking about personal protective equipment or
maybe one department that needs a certain type of glove" to
handle material or equipment, he said.
Between meetings, each department's employee representative
and a manager conduct a walk-through "just to do a visual
look-see to find any issues that have to be fixed or attended
to. And if they need assistance, it's brought up in the
Communication is part of the framework of OSHAS 18001,
Monnot said. This includes communicating how to alert employees
to dangers in the plant, communication between different levels
of the company and communication with contractors.
Republic's accident rate improved 8.7 percent to 8.l3
incidents in 2009 from 8.9 the previous year, while the number
of lost-time accidents fell to 1.99 from 2.4 in the same
comparison. CORINNA PETRY