Engaging New Hires Helps Local 9-675 Improve Workplace Safety

A renewed focus on engaging new hires is helping Local 9-675 eliminate hazards, resolve longstanding health and safety concerns and make the 3M’s Guin, Ala., plant a safer workplace.

When Angie Mayo took over as the local’s Triangle of Prevention (TOP) rep last year, she began consciously reaching out to new members and working with the company to bring more health and safety training to the new hire orientation.

She observed that new hires were getting finger injuries working with the equipment, which prompted her to evaluate their training.

Now, the new hires have one week of class work, TOP training the second week and one extra week for on-the-job training. New hires team up with a fellow worker who shows them how to do the job safely.

Pictured: 3M’s Guin, Ala., plant.

Mayo started working with the first new hire group this year. “They’ve been really engaged, and I have good worker-trainers. I tell them they have a voice on what happens in the plant to keep themselves safe,” she said.

The USW’s TOP program is a union-run and controlled health and safety program that involves workers, salaried employees and management in keeping the workplace free of hazards, providing solutions to potential health and safety problems, and investigating near miss incidents and accidents to prevent future reoccurrences.

Mayo’s efforts in bringing new hires into the TOP program resulted in new ideas for improving existing processes, procedures and equipment.

“Having fresh eyes for a job everyone is used to doing is always a plus. We encourage workers when they change departments to give a new eye to what is happening,” she said.

Mayo walks through the plant every day and talks to each employee by the end of the week. Workers approach her and tell her about potential hazards.

One of those hazards was in the bubbles department. The workers wanted an exhaust fan with louvers because when it was cold, their only option was to place cardboard over the fan. The previous manager was content with that solution, but Mayo consulted with plant engineering, which ordered louvers and modified them to the exhaust fan.

Another hazard concerned dock safety.

“We have had several near misses with outsourced or non-3M truck drivers driving off from our docks with our employees still inside the trailer,” Mayo said. “We are now trialing the air brake locks we ordered, hoping to get rid of this hazard. The air lock locks the breaks on the trailer, so even if a trucker is there, he can’t move the truck with the breaks locked.”

Hourly employees aren’t the only ones who approach her with safety issues. Supervisors and other salaried employees turn in hazardous items as well.

“Most people now say, ‘If you want something done, turn a TOP in on it,’” Mayo said.

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