Fiberteq LLC, located in Danville, IL, produces wet-formed fiberglass mat, which is the substrate for asphalt roofing shingles in the roofing industry. The company has 79 employees.
Safety at Fiberteq is our core value because our employees and their families are by far what we treasure most. By creating a culture where safety is valued, you protect your people from harm, which not only benefits the organization but, more important, has a positive impact on employees’ lives and the lives of their families. We want our employees returning home to their families and friends every day. In return, our employees are loyal, engaged, and committed to making Fiberteq a safe and great company.
We employ a concept we developed called “Living Safely … A Personal Choice.” This concept encompasses all facets of safety, including training, accountability and the empowerment of employees. It embraces safety at work as well as outside of work.
It starts with the plant’s leadership being totally committed to safety. In the first few hours of employment, I personally sit down with each new employee to get to know them and discuss my philosophy of “Safety is Fiberteq’s No. 1 Value.” I explain that I would rather shut the line down, send everyone home and resign my position versus meeting one of their loved ones in the emergency room or a funeral home. Working safely is a condition of employment here. That is the start to a continuous daily effort throughout the facility to keep safety in every thought of every employee. In addition, I explain to each individual what “living safety” will do for them and their families.
At work, we use every method possible to keep safety in front of everyone. We put every employee through 10-hour OSHA certification training, employees attend monthly safety meetings and each employee completes weekly safety talks. We also sponsor People-Based Safety training, support and finance an independent employee-driven safety team, and make safety a major part of the employee incentive program.
We stress the importance of safety outside of work as well. From safety talks dealing with home-related topics and encouraging employees to take personal protective equipment home for use to purchasing motorcycle PPE for employees who purchase new motorcycles, we stress that everyone must live safely. All in all, Fiberteq preaches safety from every angle. But in the end, it is more than just preaching or talking the talk, it is actually walking the walk every minute of every day.
Complacency. As we have instilled the culture of living safely and corrected many of the daily safety issues, there becomes a point where your employees take working safely for granted. In other words, they feel safe because of the culture. This can lead to losing sight of using good safety practices while performing your daily routine tasks. Many of our workers have several years of experience doing their job. While good in terms of efficiencies, we are constantly concerned about people going through the motions without thinking about safety.
To combat this, no employee stays at one position. Employees change work stations hourly, daily or weekly within job classifications. In addition, we emphasize the importance of doing the job correctly using the proper tools and procedures. We explain the consequences of people losing focus or doing the job unsafely, not only to them but to their families, co-workers, friends and the organization as a whole.
There are many benefits from developing a safety culture at your company – none of which is more valuable than employee loyalty. When employees know you care about their personal well-being and you prove that to them in their workplace, it increases morale, engagement, awareness, motivation and productivity. All of these benefit the company in the areas of reduced workers’ compensation insurance, improved productivity, lower product costs, improvement ideas and employment security.
There are multiple ways you measure safety at a facility. At Fiberteq, we measure safety using both leading and lagging indicators but, more importantly, through employee engagement. Each year, Fiberteq surveys its employees for safety concerns throughout the plant. The top five concerns requiring capital or engineering are set as part of the plant goals. Next, I select from the remaining items and create “Dan’s List.” This list represents what I, as the plant manager, commit to addressing during the coming year.
Each employee is required to participate as well. The safety team collects safety suggestions from employees, which are posted for others to see. These suggestions are reviewed and turned into work orders by the safety team. They are then tracked through completion. In addition, each employee is encouraged, as part of their personal incentive program, to submit and implement safety improvement ideas for all areas of the facility.
The site management team must be engaged. The team at Fiberteq does this by investing time with their team members and direct reports in the employees’ work environment, following up, and encouraging safe working habits. When you can go out to the floor and see people practicing correct lockout/tagout procedures, pointing out safe or unsafe behaviors, or taking care of the areas in which they work, the lagging indicators will show it. You will now know that you have created a culture were every employee “gets it.”
It’s big! I have yet to meet an employee that can turn on safety and turn off safety when they walk through the door. You must be safe all the time. As our motto goes “Living Safely … A Personal Choice.”
At Fiberteq, we all understand what safety is and that it has to be practiced outside of work as well. We offer a variety of programs to get not only employees thinking about safety but also their families. This includes items such as mailing safety tips sheets to employee homes, allowing employees to take home PPE for home projects, fire extinguisher training for family members, purchasing safety gifts at Christmas, and paying spouses for getting a physical. We do everything we can think of to get the entire family involved. After all, what we treasure most at Fiberteq is our employees and their families.