Christian Burney Marketing Assistant, Oliver Manufacturing

Like a well-oiled machine, an efficient manufacturing line contains many moving pieces – welders, carpenters, painters, forklifts, flying sparks, docking semis, hammers and wrenches. A manufacturing line is only as healthy as its employees. That’s why a coordinated Safety Team is vital to the success and well-being of the people who make that business what it is.

At Oliver Manufacturing, we take safety extremely seriously. So much so that we have a dedicated Safety Team that meets regularly to review procedures, precautions and possible complications. From potential environmental hazards such as red flag warnings to irresponsible use of company equipment or vehicles on and off the Oliver property, the Safety Team addresses a myriad of issues twice monthly.

Oliver’s Safety Team is a collaborative group of seven to 10 employees concerned about factory and office affairs alike. Thanks to the Safety Team’s efforts, Oliver Manufacturing in 2017 had a total recordable incident rate (TRIR) of 1.86, well below 2016’s industrial average of 5.0. But the team wasn’t always quite so effective. It’s important to structure such a council to make sure that the right people are managing safety rules and procedures.

“Oliver’s always had a safety committee,” says Brandon Dickinson, former Safety Team chairman. “But it’s evolved from a committee to a team over time. It used to be that newcomers or employees with fewer responsibilities would be drafted onto the old safety committee automatically when monthly meetings were held in an upstairs office space above the factory floor. New recruits were never asked whether or not they wanted to be a part of the committee. Not much got accomplished.”

Because those lower on the totem pole were forced onto the team, some people weren’t fit for or interested in the job. This cast a gray cloud over the idea of safety.

In February 2015, Dickinson and COO Joe Pentlicki restructured the safety committee when it became the Safety Team. It is still working well.

Dickinson sought participants who wanted to be team members. The restructuring led to more productive meetings, which began to churn out effective procedures to reduce safety hazards and promote safety awareness. Team members receive a small pay differential. This attracts people who really want to help and be a part of the team.

In addition to keeping the workplace and workers safe, the collaborative effort demonstrated by Oliver’s Safety Team exemplifies the team’s real value from a B2B perspective. “The Safety Team keeps the factory current on our safety ratings,” says Dickinson. “Without this sustained rating, we cannot gain access to crucial customer sights/facilities.”