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Car parts builder shares safety success

By Nestor E. Arellano

Managers and workers at the Oakville, Ont. plant of Dana Canada Corp. were always proud of their nearly spotless health and safety record: one lost-time incident over a course of two years.

But when Steve Kogon, the company’s global safety system and training manager, first walked into Dana’s shop floor he immediately realized that the firm owed this amazing record perhaps more to luck than sound occupational health and safety policies. Dana Canada designs and builds axles, drive shafts, structural, sealing and thermal products.

“Almost instantly I spotted workplace hazards such as unguarded press and carelessly placed equipment. We’ve been lucky all along but it would only take time for something serious to happen,” explained Kogon to attendees at Health and Safety Canada 2009.

Kogon recounted how the company mustered proactive management and worker support, and save big bucks by developing in-house an OHS management system using existing OHS standard. Kogon was joined in the presentation by Stephen Oakley, consultant for the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA) and Kurshed Kutky, certification manager for OHS management systems firm QMI in Toronto.

The system and hazard registry developed at the Oakville plant were considered so effective that it was eventually tailored for adoption in Dana facilities in 28 other countries.

Kogon, who was hired by Dana to upgrade the company’s OHS management system to OHSAS 18001 standards, said the following situations in the company provided both challenges and opportunities:

• There were already safety programs perceived to be effective in place.

• Workers and management had a good safety performance record and the workplace was considered to be safe.

• Management initiated the move for improvement.

• Need to reduce cost was not a major driver for the project.

“It was both good and challenging. For example, the good safety record risked lulling people into complacency and could potentially be a roadblock to change,” Kogon said.

To push through, Kogon followed these steps:

Foster management and worker buy-in: One effective strategy to win over workers and management, according to Kutky, is to align any planned OHS system to current business process. “By integrating process for identifying hazards with business processes, people who will use the system can appreciate the rationale behind the plan and there is a greater chance of acceptance.”

Consistent and regular communications with workers were kept, said Kogon, and he made sure workers were involved in the process.

Resource allocation and training needs: It is important that management knew all the time what resources would be needed to carry out the program, according to IAPA’s Oakley. “In almost any organization you would find some management resistance, especially when expenses and resource allocations are not spelled out. They need to see the costs,” he said.

Choosing a standard and gap analysis: Management, supervisors and workers were consulted in choosing the safety standard to adopt. Once OHSAS was chosen, it was compared with other existing standards. Gaps in policies, objectives, metrics and risk analysis process were identified while consistencies were integrated,

Action plan developed: A strategy to deal with the gaps was developed. This included identifying legal requirements, developing a hazards registry, risk assessment and control measures.

Implementation: Once everything was in place, workers, supervisors and managers were trained on the new OHS management system. Progress on training and implementation was measured and monitored to determine training effectiveness and compliance with the new system.

Kogon said the coordinators and workers themselves developed proactive metrics such as: obtaining an “all clear” report during inspection; measuring the time it takes to report an incident or hazard; and time it takes to accomplish training.

A key component for success of the project was the team’s decision to incorporate appropriate components of existing safety standards. “There was a lot of good stuff out there. We saved a lot of time and money by not reinventing the wheel,” said Kogon.

Involving the workforce and management rather than totally relying on consultants to develop the OHS management system encouraged a culture of safety.

“We were building this system for ourselves to keep us safe.”

Kogon said he knew the safety culture was kicking in when one of the supervisors reported on a hazard that was missed by the system. “That sort of thing helped us avoid a safety audit finding that could easily cost a company.”

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