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GE Aviation: Soaring high on safety

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

Managing the health and safety of close to 700 employees may have its share of challenging moments, but when your efforts are backed by big corporate machinery like General Electric (GE), it’s a constant saving grace.

GE Aviation is a manufacturer of aircraft engines. The company’s Bromont, Que., facility —recipient of Canada’s Safest Employers Award — manufactures aircraft engine compressor blades and vanes. The entire GE Aviation division spans 85 locations worldwide, counting more than 20,000 employees.

GE Aviation’s health and safety management system is based on the GE Global Star program, which is General Electric’s corporate health and safety system standardized across the entire GE organization. The Bromont facility received its GE Global Star certification in 2005 and re-certification in 2010. In addition, the company has received several health and safety recognitions, including EHS Site of the Year in 2007, and World Class H&S Performance in 2007 and 2008. The company was also a regional finalist in 2008 at the National Innovation Awards by the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) — Quebec’s workers’ compensation board. 

“The GE Bromont management style is a highly participative process,” says Alain Ouellette, the director of health, safety and environment. “Employees are asked to participate in activities, not only for health and safety, but for quality, for continuous improvement.”

Employee involvement and engagement are the key drivers for the company’s successes in its health and safety programs. As a way to achieve this, GE Aviation conducts annual safety perception surveys among its workers. “People here recognize that we’re doing a lot of good things and that is very important to us.”

The company provides ample opportunities for employees to participate and let their voices be heard, through several committees. For instance, there’s a committee that’s tasked to deal with machine safety, another one on fire and emergency safety, and a first-responders group. All these committees meet regularly and are governed by specific mandates.

Ouellette calls it “empowering” the workers. “We’ve always had the same constant message that health and safety needs to be something we do well everyday. We have made budget available to get things done, and we have committed to get things done.”

Because of this consistent message, workers feel that their comments, ideas and suggestions are always welcome and acted upon. On average, the company receives more than 600 feedbacks from their employees annually, ranging from issues, ideas and suggestions. A multidisciplinary team representing various facets of the company’s operations — operators, JHSC members, engineers, directors, production managers and plant engineers — is in charge of reviewing and evaluating all the feedback from employees.

As Ouellette points out, “I think the beauty of GE is that whenever we have a good idea and we could justify that it’s worth the investment, we get the support of the company so we can do it.”

A case in point: GE Aviation’s Bromont site currently has over 120 robots making machine parts everyday. These robots have replaced over 30 million at-risk movements, which 10 years ago would have been performed manually by human workers.

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