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Innovative Automation - Innovating safety

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

To encourage its workers to live a healthy lifestyle, Barrie, Ont.-based

Innovative Automation,

donates $2 to United Way for every employee who would walk during their break time.

When the H1N1 flu virus broke out in 2009, Innovative Automation actively promoted prevention among its employees through information dissemination and proper health and sanitation initiatives.

To top it off, the company has not had any lost-time injury for over five years.

Looking after not just the safety of their employees on the job, but also their health has been a “long-term interest” for Innovative Automation, according to its general manager, Stephen Loftus.

“Our belief is that every employee must leave work at least as healthy and as safely as they arrived that morning,” says Loftus, who is also part owner of the company.

Innovative Automation is a custom machine manufacturer building industrial automation solutions — mostly for the automotive industry. With big-league clients like Honda, General Motors and Magna, Innovative Automation is carving its own name not just in the manufacturing industry, but more importantly, in the world of health and safety. For the past seven years it has been an active member of the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium Safety Group.

Safety is always the first order of the day at Innovative Automation, says Loftus. At its daily “morning huddle,” all department heads meet to discuss the day’s activities, and all safety concerns are then put forward and corresponding action plans are put in place — and “action” is the operative word.

"If an employee makes suggestions and nothing happens, then the employee will stop making them,” explains Loftus. “The true way to make it work is to react quickly and thoroughly. And when the employee sees that happening, they’re willing to make suggestions because they know we’re, a) concerned about the culture, and b) we want to improve the culture constantly.”

Loftus notes it’s this philosophy that helped build the company’s safety culture, where employees are truly engaged and concerned about health and safety issues, and the lines of communication between the employees and management are always open. Perhaps, it’s an advantage that comes with smaller sized companies.

“As an owner, I am part of the health and safety committee,” notes Loftus. “The decision matrix is not a middle management who puts a case forward and brings it to upper management to do a sell job so the funding could be put in place.

“There is no, or very little, middle management — so when you’re asking something, you’re usually asking the person who is charged with the responsibility to make those things happen.”

In 2009, as an initiative for the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium Safety Group, Innovative Automation developed an entirely new occupational health and safety management system. The system has been uploaded to an online searchable database so employees may have easy access to it. The system had just undergone its first audit and will continuously be improved upon, Loftus says.

Health and safety is constantly at the forefront of every employee-related initiative that Innovate Automation undertakes. The quarterly health and safety meetings are used to discuss safety concerns and follow up on any incomplete action items. The company’s quarterly newsletter would consistently have health and safety as a front-page topic. The company’s “What’s New?” meetings held every two months would always have health and safety as the first item on the agenda.

Innovative Automation has successfully created a company culture in which all workers are encouraged to voice out concerns about health and safety, as well present new ideas that will help improve processes and productivity.

“We’re a very progressive company that is constantly on the leading edge of technology,” says Loftus. “So this whole ‘putting forth ideas’, and kind of creating new paths and leading edge ideas, this is how we survive as a company.

“A lot of ideas come forward as part of everyday business because we react to them.”

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