AMES, Iowa — Manufacturers are becoming increasingly attuned to the importance of having a strong safety culture: the value and priority companies place on safety. Maintaining a strong safety culture not only helps companies prevent accidents and avoid the costs of work-related injuries, but it can also lead to reduced insurance premiums and out-of-pocket deductibles as well as improved morale.
The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Center for Industrial Research and Service assists companies in the area of safety in a variety of ways, said CIRAS project manager Jim Poe. These range from sending a team to conduct a safety assessment of the entire operation to addressing specific concerns such as testing air quality or noise levels to helping a company understand Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards and requirements.
Jerry Hultgren, environmental health and safety coordinator at MAHLE Engine Components in Atlantic, knows that a strong safety culture requires a team effort.
“It’s a matter of getting everyone — production workers, supervisors and the management team — involved and holding them accountable for safety,” Hultgren said. “Our goal is to make sure everyone leaves work safe, and that means providing the tools, education and knowledge to perform jobs safely and to insure that the workplace environment is safe. Sometimes people want to make excuses, saying ‘it will take longer that way.’ But there is no excuse; if it takes more time, that’s what it takes.”
Although the facility’s safety team conducts monthly safety audits, Hultgren recently sought CIRAS’ assistance to conduct a safety walk-through to see if there were issues and concerns that his team was missing. MAHLE, which manufactures components for combustion engines, has 100 production plants and eight research and development centers worldwide.
The plant in Atlantic is 113,000 square feet and has close to 1,000 different pieces of equipment and 255 employees. “With this much machinery, we have many different aspects to look at,” Hultgren said. “CIRAS offered the opportunity to bring in a different set of eyes to help us find areas where safety could be improved.”
The CIRAS team, partnering with the Iowa-Illinois Safety Council, conducted the half-day assessment. During the walk-through, they looked at such things as machine guarding, lock-out mechanisms on machinery, protective gear for employees, proper chemical labeling and housekeeping. A report containing descriptions and photos was then compiled and sent to Hultgren.
“The photos gave us a visual look at areas of concern, and OSHA regulations were referenced in the report, so if we had questions we could easily go and look more in depth at the actual OSHA regulation for that particular item,” Hultgren said. “The entire experience has been really helpful.”
For more information about how CIRAS can assist companies with safety, contact Jim Poe at 515-294-1507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo caption: An employee at MAHLE Engine Components adjusts equipment.