Safety truly is a feeling, and everyone can recall a time where they did not feel safe. This uncomfortable emotion usually brings one action to the forefront – leave as soon as possible.
At DeKALB Molded Plastics, safety is everything. When our employees come to work or when guests visit, we want them and their families to know that DeKALB is a safe place.
We believe from top to bottom at our company that safety requires everyone. When we feel safe, we are more productive and happier. When being safe, we maintain a sense of security for everyone who enters our building.
Why Workplace Safety Matters
While there will always be critical safety regulations for every business to follow, ensuring the safety of everyone takes work. In January 2021, Honeywell conducted a survey that found that 68% of workers do not feel completely safe in their buildings.
Beyond safety being a basic human right, developing a safe work environment creates happier, more productive employees who are less accident-prone, decreasing downtime.
Making Workplace Safety Our Top Priority
In late 2019, while attending the annual Manufacturer's Association for Plastics Processors, Inc. (MAPP) Benchmarking Conference, DeKALB was struck by the powerful story shared by keynote speaker Kina Hart. Kina shared the horrific tragedy of how she lost her arm within an hour of the first day of her summer job at age 20. Kina’s living testament for safety reminded us about how we need to make safety personal.
Kina’s inspiring message empowered us to reflect on our thought process and reemphasize the importance of safety throughout our company. After completing our 2020 goal planning, our top priority was ensuring that we were fully committed to safety. The result of our planning was a zero-tolerance policy on accidents in the workplace. Outlined in our updated Safety Policy, DeKALB is dedicated to creating a safe work environment because we are unwilling to give up anyone’s safety.
“Our goal was to create an environment where people no longer felt like they were reprimanding someone if they ask them to put the safety glasses on,” said Doug Bonecutter, general manager at DeKALB Molded Plastics. “We wanted to create a sense of caring about others regarding safety to the point where I have to say something or I may regret it.”
How DeKALB Refocused Safety Efforts
Having a safety policy is just the start. The next step is to create a culture where everyone buys into it. While DeKALB Molded Plastics has always committed to safety, we saw an opportunity to encourage growth by having employees think about their personal safety and the safety of those around them at every opportunity.
We implemented several different tactics to make this happen:
- Safety Tab on our Website: From our manufacturing floor to the website, safety is vitally important to us – which is why it is the first tab on our website. Our safety page includes our safety policy and our first safety video, which explains our zero-tolerance goal.
- Revised our Coaching Philosophy – The DeKALB Way: To make safety the priority of everyone, we have empowered our employees to call out unsafe situations. Every leadership person at our facility can do a coaching event with any employee to talk about something they see them doing right or something they need to change related to safety. We created this philosophy not to call out mistakes but to ensure that all of our employees are safe.
- Instituting the Stop, Call, Wait System:
- Stop – the person or activity that is going on unsafely.
- Call – to have it fixed or get the proper PPE, etc.
- Wait – before resuming, to ensure that the situation is safe or the PPE is on.
This system allows everyone on the floor to point out good things or give reminders related to safety. There are blue cards for employee-to-employee interaction - helpful for building a family culture that cares enough about each other to immediately take action to stop at-risk behavior or recognize safety leadership.
- Ready to Respond: At DeKALB, we are thrilled that our entire company has bought into safety, which has extended well past following our guidelines. Currently, almost one-third of our employees are certified CPR and first aid first responders. Recently one of our employees on the floor stepped up and went through training to be a certified CPR and first aid teacher, allowing us to train additional personnel right at the plant as needed.
- Weekly Safety Talks – Each week, every person in the facility attends a safety talk, led by the supervisor, where employees and departments who meet their safety contact goals are recognized. These meetings also provide the opportunity to reiterate the safety theme of the month. DeKALB also tracks overall safety contacts as a KPI and discusses them at these meetings.
In addition, we have revamped our safety committee and meet monthly. US Compliance partnered with DeKALB to help update all of our written programs, ensuring our training is complete along while helping to train someone at the facility to allow for them to be certified to lead instruction for new employees.
Overall, safety at DeKALB is an all-out effort by everyone every day. Safety not only requires you to look out for your safety, but by practicing safe work habits, you are also looking out for everyone around you.
"Our program has changed the mindset that safety is the responsibility of the company, to it being the responsibility of everyone," said Bonecutter.
Safety Recognized - The DeKALB Difference
In early 2021, MAPP awarded DeKALB Molded Plastics with their 2020 Safety Award, a significant reflection of the hard work that all of our employees have done to make DeKALB a safe environment for everyone.
“Every single person here is engaged in our safety effort, and our employees have embraced the safety contact process,” said Marcia Lee, Human Resources Manager at DeKALB Molded Plastics. “It is a point of pride in getting recognized for the good things that you are doing and the work that everyone is involved in to make sure that we are all safe.”
We are thrilled with the success of our refocused efforts and are quickly establishing a reputation for when you think about safety, think DeKALB Molded Plastics.
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