South / Regional Reports

A.O. Smith Honors Tennessee Plant for Safety Record

September 15, 2008
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A.O. Smith Corp. has presented its highest safety honor, the Lloyd B. Smith President’s Safety Award, to the 1,200 employees of its Water Products Company plant in Johnson City, Tenn.

The A.O. Smith President’s Safety Award was established in 1954. This year, it was re-inaugurated as the Lloyd B Smith President’s Safety Award in honor of Lloyd B. “Ted” Smith, the grandson of the founder of the company and retired chief executive officer, who passed away in December 2007.

Smith was concerned with employee safety and well-being and began a competition in 1954 to reward the employees of the company facility showing the most improvement year-over-year in workplace safety. The A.O. Smith President’s Safety Award has been presented annually ever since.

The award is given to the facility that compiles the best safety record in a calendar year. Johnson City was one of 40 company facilities worldwide competing to receive this year’s honor. The award is presented based on statistical evidence of improvement over a one-year period as well as by sustaining a comprehensive facility-wide safety program focused on the goal of accident prevention.

“Workplace safety recognition ceremonies have become regular events here, and I couldn’t be more pleased,” Paul W. Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of A.O. Smith Corp., said during a special award presentation in Johnson City. “Today, however, is special because I am here to present the employees of the Johnson City Fairview Avenue plant with the highest safety achievement in all of A.O. Smith. It is the most sought-after safety award in our company.”

A.O. Smith Corp. uses three statistical measures to determine a facility’s safety performance:

• Lost workday case incidence rate. This measure relates to the most serious, work-related injuries or illnesses that result in one or more lost workdays.

• Recordable case incidence rate. Recordable incidents are significant, work-related injuries or illnesses beyond first aid as defined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

• Lost workday incidence rate. This category measures a facility’s total number of lost workdays and provides a measure of accident severity.

“Thanks to your amazing record of more than five million hours without a lost-time accident, you achieved a perfect score of zero in the category of lost workday cases,” Jones said. “Not surprisingly, you also achieved a perfect score in the category of lost workday days. You were one of five manufacturing plants to go through all of 2007 without a lost-time accident and no lost workdays, the best company-wide performance in recent memory. But you were far and away the largest plant to earn that distinction.

“You did extremely well in recordable cases, tying for second place in that category with 43 recordable cases. That is a remarkably low number for a plant with this many employees running the types of operations you have here,” Jones explained.

In addition to statistical measurements, a facility must demonstrate it has a comprehensive, sustainable safety program in place in order to be considered for the award. Two main functions of a comprehensive safety program are training and employee engagement.

The plant emphasizes awareness and accountability by making safety a part of the training for each assignment in the facility, from blueprint reading to forklift driving. No employee may change job assignments without understanding the safety aspects of the new job.

In addition to the extensive training, Johnson City’s comprehensive safety program extends to every facet of the operation. Each department contributes to the safety program by requiring that safety is a mandatory element of each project or machine upgrade. This effort has extended to machine guarding, die storage, and an integrated press lock-out system.

There has also been emphasis placed on ergonomic improvements at Johnson City. Projects such as installing lifts for heavy components, lowering work stations to eliminate the need for bending, and positioning tools on retractable hangers for easier accessibility have helped reduce fatigue and the potential for accidents.

Johnson City helps engage all of its employees though an annual Summer Safety Celebration. During this celebration, a bluegrass band and a mascot from the local baseball team, the Johnson City Cardinals, entertain employees while they eat a picnic lunch.

The main focus for the Summer Safety Celebration is the Health and Environment Fair. This fair hosts various health-related booths for employees such as blood pressure and cholesterol checking. A representative of the Johnson City Power Board gave a talk on energy efficiency. The plant’s Engineering Department also gave a presentation on the energy management system in the facility.

The Johnson City Safety Team - Andy Demski, Andy Shumaker, Dale Austin, Dan Royston, Everson Weekley, Gerald Thompson, Jeff Walker, Jerry Duncan, Joe Carpenter, Joe Ortola, John Dreher, Mark Sewell, Mike Cummings, Mike Wilson, Penney Davis, Rick Murray, Rick Watkins, Robbyn Maylott, Ronald Bowling, Steve Sloan, Terry Edwards, and Travis Thayer, and the Union Safety Tour team of Michael Lane, Donna Kendrick, Sheri Layher, and Charles Abbott - accepted the award on behalf of the Johnson City employees.

The 500,000-square-foot Johnson City facility manufactures residential water heaters. Johnson City is also the location of Water Product’s residential design engineering center.

Publication date: 09/15/2008

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