This being the night of the national college football championship, we're reminded of the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign in the tunnel that Notre Dame players tap before they enter their home field. Outside the door to the factory floor at Marlin Steel in Baltimore, there's also a motivational sign: ON THE JOB, SAFETY BEGINS HERE -- THIS PLANT HAS WORKED 1,492 DAYS (as of 1/6/13) WITHOUT A LOST TIME ACCIDENT. ACCIDENTS ARE AVOIDABLE
The count "up" -- now evoking Columbus' grand voyage -- recently eclipsed the four-year mark without an accident. The sign gets updated weekly.
The emphasis on "Playing like a champion, but safely" is a vital part of the culture at Marlin Steel. So much so that we've informed representatives from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) Division that we're interested in pursuing the rigorous Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), a safety inspection standard at the highest level. Only a handful of companies in Maryland have achieved it.For some Marlin workers, that's a marked change from other places where they have worked where state safety inspectors are greeted with something less than civility. Marlin President Drew Greenblatt believes a safe working environment, beyond the obvious health benefits, sends an important message to employees about how they are regarded. “They're thinking, 'This guy wants me to come home with all my fingers tonight. He doesn’t just want to cut corners and save a penny,'" he says.
A safety-committee of employees meets monthly to assess past remedies and consider ideas for new ones to make the factory safer. At a recent meeting, employees Andrew Croniser, Jodi Bailey, Chuck Poole and Kendall Browning discussed action items that ranged from replacing eyewash at stations on the factory floor to getting back results from noise and air-quality tests recently conducted fork workers at various robot cells. No investment the employee safety committee has ever proposed has been turned down by management. A safety-first culture also aligns with the "lean" manufacturing concept Marlin employs to be more efficient.
Marlin Steel had golf shirts printed to mark several of the no-accident milestones. No, there was no crystalline national championship trophy at Day 1,000 or Day 1,492, but for the folks who work here safely using equipment that slices through sheet metal down to 5/8ths of an inch at the speed of a foot per second, every day accident-free is an important accomplishment to celebrate nonetheless.