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Fileco takes top spot for safety

By Mari-Len De Guzman
| www.cos-mag.com

Fileco is the gold recipient of Canada's Safest Employers Award 2012 in the Manufacturing category.

Fileco’s corporate values are based on four cornerstones: safety, quality, productivity and profitability. That safety is on top of the hierarchy is no accident.

“My belief is that if you follow that priority or that hierarchy, everything else will fall into place,” says Jeff Stal, vice-president and general manager at Fileco, manufacturer of office filing and storage furniture in Concorde, Ont.

These four core values became the basis for developing the company’s health and safety program and the “genesis of creating the health and safety culture” at Fileco, Stal ads.

Following this philosophy, Fileco embarked on a $3 million machine guarding project aimed at protecting workers from machine-related injuries — a major hazard at Fileco’s manufacturing facility.

To ensure that every project Fileco undertakes reflects the company’s strong commitment to safety as the first priority, the company uses a project prioritization tool that evaluates a proposed project based on a number of criteria, such as health and safety, environmental, return on investment and several other factors.  Health and safety is a factor that’s given the most weight, according to Tasha Fung, human resources manager at Fileco.

By setting up the project prioritization tool in a way that gives heavier weight to initiatives relating to health and safety improvements, the company is assured that safety always takes precedence.

“We would never allow efficiency or profitability to supersede a project where we had done a hazard and risk analysis and determined that there was a health and safety opportunity for improvement,” Stal says.

This project prioritization tool gives health and safety a high profile at Fileco, he adds, helping create a culture of prevention across the organization.

Communication is also key in keeping safety high in the minds of all workers at Fileco. In regular daily, weekly and monthly meetings, safety is always a topic for discussion. Weekly safety talk trainings are a regular occurrence for all Fileco employees that culminate in a “safety quiz” at the end of each month to gauge employees’ understanding of the safety talks.

Management constantly thinks of various ways to engage employees on health and safety practices at work, Fung says.

In the past, the company has sponsored a safety slogan contest, where workers were asked to come up with the best slogan that represents the company’s safety culture.

“We’ve also done the health and safety Olympics in the past and we’ll be doing it again to get people involved in health and safety in a fun way,” Fung says. “(We want) to make it more fun and entertaining to learn about safety and learn about safety policies at Fileco.”

One program that has generated support from the workers, and one that Fileco is especially proud of, is the company’s Brothers’ and Sisters’ Keeper program. Each employee is paired up with another as their work buddy, and they watch out for each other’s health and safety on the floor.

At one point, a worker noticed his buddy was looking pale and unwell. He immediately called the supervisor and paramedics were dispatched. It turned out the worker has a heart condition unknown to him.

“The Brothers’ and Sisters’ Keeper program is posted on the board and (workers) take it quite seriously,” Fung says.

All the programs and communications about safety at Fileco have helped build up safety consciousness among workers, according to Stal. The company has created an atmosphere where workers are empowered to watch out for their and their co-workers’ safety.

“Ten years ago, an employee might not put up his or her hand and say, ‘You know what? I think this can be done in a better, safer way — or this isn’t safe.’ Now they are encouraged to do that,” Stal says. “A lot of the feedback for improvements on the plant… are coming from our labour team and they see us implementing their ideas. It just reinforces the culture and sustains it.”

Harry Sagar, a lead hand at Fileco who has worked at the company for 17 years, says Fileco’s safety performance has improved over the years.

“It’s like (we) have total health and safety management… It’s a safe company to work for and I feel happy when I come to work,” Sagar says.

Stal says being recognized as one of Canada’s Safest Employers is not “the end of the line” for the company’s safety programs, but a “reaffirmation that we are doing things right so we know to keep on the same track and continue to improve.”

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