This episode of Workplace Matters focuses on Parker Hannifin, a hydraulic and industrial hose manufacturer in Alliance, Nebraska. They implemented changes through policies and practices to improve their workplace health and safety culture and to protect worker well-being. Their success earned an award from Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest, the Nebraska State Chamber, and the Nebraska Safety Council.
We talked to Angie Kaiser, the safety lead at Parker Hannifin, about their approach.
Michael: You’re listening to Workplace Matters. Creating a safety culture at an organization can be a difficult task. It involves orienting the entire organization towards the goal of keeping all employees safe and healthy. Today we’re looking at a workplace that has oriented itself towards that goal.
Michael: Parker Hannifin is an industrial and hydraulic hose manufacturer out of Alliance, Nebraska. They have implemented health and safety initiatives for their workplace resulting in no recordable incidents in 2021. Angie Kaiser is the safety lead for Parker Hannifin.
Angie Kaiser: People on the floor will call me just to have me come look at something safety related. They have me there for those specific things. I do what I can to help resolve the hazard and make the workplace better.
Angie Kaiser: So, for health, some of the things that we have in place; each year every employee gets a health stipend that they can use towards something to help them implement a more safe and healthy lifestyle. Like, you know, a personal trainer. We also have active release therapy. So, somebody from that comes to our plant once a week and if employees are feeling fatigued or anything, they can go see this therapist and they have sessions with them for like a four-week interval just to help with any issues they may be having. And then also every year we have health screenings. And if you get the health screenings done, they come onsite, it’ll take $600 off of your insurance costs for the year. For every employee.
Michael: Workplace health is directly linked to workplace safety. An employee without adequate sleep can’t properly operate machinery. There are numerous studies showing how poor mental health is linked to heart disease. A poor culture of health at the workplace increases the risks for everyone. Parker put health initiatives in place, and those will protect the workers both in and out of work. Along with health initiatives Parker continued to improve their safety culture to better protect their workers. The interventions they put in place will be the primary focus of today’s episode.
Angie Kaiser: Safety has always been the number one priority with Parker. We’re trying to build a safety culture where, that’s our number one priority. We’re getting close. Definitely, getting everyone on the same page, understanding it. We did lots of presentations to explain things. All in all, everyone’s kind of on the same page now.
Michael: With improving their safety culture in mind, Parker Hannifin implemented new policies and practices to further achieve that goal.
Angie Kaiser: We’ve implemented a lot of those programs. A lot of those it’s been within the last year.
Angie Kaiser: Getting the safety people in there where their jobs focus on safety all the time. That was the big thing that’s kind of been helping a lot is getting a person in there that’s just focused on safety.
Angie Kaiser: We also have a program that we use. They’re safety escalations. Anyone on the floor can call safety escalation at any time. And when those get called all of the management team, the leads, and our safety representatives will go to the area where it’s called and they’ll problem solve and they’ll put in a solution right then and there to the issue that’s come up.
Michael: Addressing safety issues immediately and with the safest solution possible is a defining element of Total Worker Health called the Hierarchy of Controls. Briefly, the Hierarchy of Controls is a model to classify worker health and safety solutions from most effective to least effective starting with eliminating the hazard, substituting the hazard, engineering solutions to isolate people from the hazard, use policies to change the nature of unsafe positions, and the least effective using personal protective equipment. Parker Hannifin tries to get beyond the individual worker level and address the problems with the most effective solutions.
Another key part of a safety culture involves new hires. New hires are the most likely in an organization to be injured. A 2020 Travelers Insurance study found that 35% of workplace injuries between 2015 and 2019 took place during a worker’s first year on the job. New employees haven’t become accustomed to safety protocols, or possibly haven’t worked in an environment that requires strict safety before. Parker Hannifin took steps to mitigate this.
Angie Kaiser: A lot of our injuries happened with newer people within their first year. So, we really took that stand to make sure that they’re aware of the safety and how important it is and what they need to pay attention to. We have the Just 10 Minutes of Safety. So for the first 30 days a safety rep in the plant will pull them every day for 10 minutes and just go over safety stuff in the plant. And then we have the 30/60/90-day checklists which goes over their department specific safety things that they need to be concerned with and aware of. And that gets done at 30 days, 60 days and 90 days just so they’re aware of those things.
The new team members are understanding it. Having all of this information, they are available to them so they understand what our culture is and what’s expected of them is helping a lot.
Michael: The people who work in the factory, field, vehicle, or any other work environment will always know the safety failures and successes of that environment the best. With that in mind, Parker Hannifin created a tool that involves their workers in the process of making their workplace safer.
Angie Kaiser: Safety 360 cards or another term is Good Catch cards. What those are, they’re available for the team members. We have them on our team improvement boards. Anytime they see something and they want to fill out a card they’re available there. They grab one, they fill it out. It asks your name, the date, the time, what area of the plant you’re in and what you observed. So, someone could put one in saying, you know, this hoist at wrapper 6 is not working correctly. In that case, they would put a work order in as well so maintenance can repair it. But putting that in lets us know, OK, this was an issue, what do we do to resolve it? The safety reps of that area are the ones that go through those cards initially, so they keep track of them. We want them all closed within 30 days. So, if they don’t close within 30 days, we’ll see what’s going on and try to figure out how to get it closed, what we need to do to make it so it’s safer in their areas. They can also be used for positive things. If someone did something safe, they picked up a piece of a pallet off of the floor removing a trip hazard. So those cards get put in for those things as well. So, it’s not always the negative. We’re focusing on the positives too. We want to see those things.
Angie Kaiser: Team members are required to fill out one 360 card every quarter. They have to fill out one card every three months. We did get the pushback from that. But now, now that it’s in place and they know what’s going on with that, people use them, they get filled out. We have closed out a lot of safety issues and resolved a lot of hazards. That could have been something worse than what they were initially had we not caught it.
Angie Kaiser: It’s just a way to really empower employees so they can let people know when they believe something’s unsafe, something that needs to be fixed. So, it’s a really good way to empower people and help bring our safety metrics up.
Michael: The Safety 360 cards are a great demonstration of how to involve workers in the process. It is direct feedback from the employees about the state of their work and it comes from all sectors of the site. They can fill one of these out at any time, the workplace will respond immediately, and they aren’t just focusing on identifying hazards. Positive demonstrations of safety behaviors can be highlighted, and the workers are able to report positive changes or good behaviors from co-workers. They empower the workers to call out positive and negative safety situations.
Angie Kaiser: Talking to the people out on the floor who are the ones running the machines that are doing those jobs. They’re the people that are going to tell us when there’s something wrong. So listening to them, giving them the option to be empowered to fix those things has helped a lot.
Angie Kaiser: It started out with our plant meetings. We would let them know these things are here so you guys can let us know when there are issues. Use them. They’re here so we can help you guys out and solve any issues that we have. It was really just communicating that they’re there. Use the tools that we’re giving you. It’s definitely one of those things where it took a while for people to start using them, but they use them now and it does help significantly.
Michael: Parker Hannifin has done an exemplary job of creating a workplace safety culture. It’s a process of looking for where to improve, highlighting successes, and getting everyone to work together for one goal: safety. Parker oriented their workplace through policies, worker participation, and by following through on their commitment to safety by resolving issues. And their methods speak for themselves. For their efforts they won an award sponsored by the Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest, the Nebraska State Chamber, and the Nebraska Safety Council.
Angie Kaiser: Our year of 2021. We went the year with no recordable accidents. So, it’s definitely shown that it’s working. People are paying more attention to safety, people are paying more attention to the new hires. We’re doing really well. We’re still going with no recordable incidents.
Michael: Workplace Matters is supported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. To listen to more podcasts, view our ongoing video series, or for more information about us visit healthier workforce center (dot) org. Thank you.
The Workplace Matters podcasts are located here.