Workplace safety for the shop and beyond

When MCI's U.S. facilities implemented a formal health and safety program, good things started to happen. Now, three years after adding the company's first full time U.S. based health, safety and environment manager, there are even better results, including one  location reporting seven years without an OSHA -recordable incident.

While MCI has made a major  commitment to this program, your program can be scaled to match the particular needs and requirements of your shop, offices and other work spaces. And the rewards can be many, from reduced worker's comp claims to increased productivity.

"The biggest thing a shop can do is housekeeping," says Don Phillips, MCI's health, safety and environment manager. "Slips and falls are leading causes of incidents, and by taking care of what causes them, we can eliminate up to 50 percent of all accidents. Lacerations are another leading cause, and by giving our technicians gloves, we eliminate 75 percent of our exposure."

Take five

By housekeeping, Phillips means the system known as "5S," which stands for Sort, Sweep, Simplify, Standardize, Sustain.  It's not too different from the old household axiom of "a place for everything, and everything in its place." The 5S system is designed to encourage safe practices such as putting tools away and removing electrical and other cables immediately after use. This helps to reduce the temptation to use tools inappropriately (using a screwdriver in place of a lost pry bar, for example). Other benefits from the same practices include a lower chance for workers to trip over tools and cords and the improved productivity that comes from employees spending less time looking for misplaced items.

Idle-free zones

MCI has implemented other programs that have helped as well, and many of them can be duplicated in operators' shops. Consider MCI's return to work program by way of example. Under the program, injured workers are brought back to the workplace with necessary adaptations so they can continue to be productive. If, for instance, a technician injures his back, instead of staying at home for weeks on end, MCI might bring him back, but limit him to tasks that require little or no lifting.

"We don't bring people back to sit in a chair and count ceiling tiles," says Phillips. "A technician brings his knowledge and can still troubleshoot coaches. Employees have responded well to the policy. It keeps them fresh, and it's been well received by doctors as well. Many things heal better when they're being exercised."

Material issues

Even seemingly major investments can pay off when it comes to shop safety. Mark Thuer and Dan Heath, general managers of MCI's Des Plaines, Illinois, and Orlando, Florida, facilities, respectively, recently researched new heavy duty hydraulic coach lifts that MCI is in the process of purchasing. The new lifts are battery-powered, which Phillips says will eliminate several floor cables — possible sources of tripping and other incidents. They are marginally more expensive than traditional wired lifts, but Phillips anticipates they'll be a wise investment — and the fact that MCI's GMs are on the lookout for better, safer equipment shows that a culture of safety has firmly taken hold.

Beyond the shop

The same kinds of practices that work in equipment-heavy shops can work for the desk set as well. Phillips says MCI's corporate headquarters have now gone two years without an OSHA incident. Phillips is only half joking when he says he wants to ban high heels. "Last year we had two heel-sprain incidents," he says.

So what kind of results can you expect? Every shop has its own challenges and successes, but MCI's Los Alamitos, California, distribution center has gone seven years without a recordable incident; the Lebanon, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida and East Brunswick, New Jersey, facilities have hit three years; and many other MCI facilities have racked up impressive incident-free records. At MCI's Winnipeg manufacturing plant, the numbers are similarly impressive, and the facility is receiving an award this month for the in-plant health programs held during a North American Occupational Safety and Health week in May.

Phillips is especially happy that MCI's DART rate, the combined rate for lost-time accidents and incidents with work restrictions for its U.S. facilities, is 1.5 per 100 employees; 0.2 below the 1.7 applicable industry average.

Your results may even be better.

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