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Tuesday | 14 April, 2015 | 8:57 am

Safety first

Written by By Emily Vasquez


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Service centers make safety a core value

MM-0415-saftey-lead2.jpgApril 2015 - “You can’t assign a monetary value to human life. It is a moral imperative,” says Chris Marti, vice president at the Metals Service Center Institute. According to the MSCI’s annual safety survey report, which details the issues on executives’ minds, metal service centers agree with Marti, ranking leadership and accident prevention the top safety concern of 2014. As a result, respondents can evaluate company culture and ask themselves, “Are we instilling the best safety practices for our employees?”

More than 100 years old, the non-profit Metals Service Center Institute is based in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. In 2014, the MSCI surveyed 62 firms representing 1,266 plants regarding safety and health performance. MSCI converted responses into a report comprising respondent profiles, top safety issues and safety data. 

The first survey was conducted in 2008 but the MSCI safety survey committee uses data back to 2002 to produce a composite view of industry trends. The survey’s recordable incident data indicated a decline from 2002 to 2013 despite annual fluctuations. Accident prevention is the No. 1 safety issue on executives’ minds. 

Marti credits individual company efforts for the improvement. “Safety has become increasingly important. An increased focus, coupled with heightened awareness and dedication within member companies, may have led to the declines in incident rates.”

Accident prevention

In 2014, OSHA recorded five service center fatalities and catastrophes; each involved being crushed by steel bundles or beams. Not all incidents qualify as OSHA-recordable injuries. A recordable incident is measured if it included an employee’s death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness. Based on MSCI’s reports, service centers have increased safety awareness to prevent fatal injuries. 

For David Sheer, vice president/general manager at The Steel Supply Co., Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and member of the MSCI’s safety committee, every incident,  recordable or not, is treated seriously. “We make an investment in every employee.” The company recorded three incidents last year. Sheer cites employees’ overconfidence in their abilities as the root cause of most preventable injuries. “When a 200-pound person goes up against a 4,000-pound bundle of steel, they are going to lose each and every time. Kicking at a bundle or reaching in and trying to position it doesn’t work—we have cranes and lift trucks for that.” 

As a result, Sheer will immediately correct an employee who is not wearing or using the proper personal protective equipment or who is handling equipment inappropriately. The company supplies every employee with steel-toe shoes, conducts monthly safety walk-throughs, and Sheer recently started sending his team daily safety tips he hopes can save someone from serious injury.

Sheer is hands-on about addressing safety precautions at two plants. But what about the large-scale service centers with many more branches?

Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. Senior Director of Safety and Loss Control Michael Kruse, Los Angeles, says he uses the MSCI report to evaluate 300-plus branches. Reliance finished 2014 with a 2.69 incident rate across 29.6 million total man-hours. How did a company that large achieve such a low rate? 

Reliance redesigned SafeStart, its online safety dashboard (its previous incarnation presented users with numerous access and download issues). SafeStart tracks, trains and organizes safety records, allowing Reliance’s eight-person safety team to monitor across all locations. 

“When we do find items that need to be addressed, [SafeStart] tracks the progress of any corrective actions from start to finish: due dates, pictures, documentation and proof [that the facility] has done everything to resolve whatever we might have found. We can be sure that corrections will be made,” says Kruse.

About a quarter of Reliance locations  completed SafeStart training and implementation; that should reach 50 percent by year end. Reliance has also boosted the number of safety compliance specialists available to its service centers.

 The MSCI report indicates service centers want to eliminate incidents altogether. “Standards haven’t changed [but] management’s perception on how important it is to care for their employee has changed,” says Kruse. “That’s become a core value which will never alter.” MM

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