Plant reaches safety record

Employees at the A. O. Smith Water Products Co.'s plant here recently achieved two million hours without a lost-time accident

MCBEE, S.C. - Employees at the A. O. Smith Water Products Co.'s plant here recently achieved two million hours without a lost-time accident.
At a special ceremony, Herbert Pirkey, corporate director for safety, health and environment, presented the 380 employees with a commemorative plaque along with a letter signed by Paul Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of A. O. Smith Corp., for their safety achievement.
“I can sense the commitment and leadership demonstrated by members of this safety committee and each of you so that you achieve status like working more than two years without a serious injury,” Pirkey said.
Also attending the ceremony was James Knight, director of the office of communications and governmental affairs with the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Knight presented a plaque on behalf of Gov. Mark Sanford recognizing the plant for its safety record.
The plant reached the two million hour safety milestone for the first time in its 28-year history on Nov. 19, 2007. Earlier in the year, the plant received the A. O. Smith President’s Safety Award, the company's highest form of safety recognition.
“You can’t do this without the employees here. Because of their help, you can see the change in culture,” said Tim Wallace, the plant’s safety supervisor.
The plant has maintained ongoing safety awareness programs and hosted special programs and events.
During the first quarter of 2007, the plant hosted children and grandchildren of employees for a collaborative safety event. A total of 15 children were given lollipops with specially made tags on them that said, “Don’t be a sucker, be safe.” The children then walked around the plant and handed out the lollipops to the employees.
Next, during the second quarter, the plant celebrated “Hand Safety Month.” Chris Count, manager of human resources, said the majority of injuries employees experience deals with the hands. To illustrate the importance of hand safety, random employees were selected during a safety meeting to make a peanut butter sandwich with their non-dominant hand. There was much fumbling and laughter as employees stumbled through the very basic task, Count said. The lesson learned was that even a simple task becomes difficult and challenging if he or she injures or loses a dominant hand.
McBee closed out the safety events for 2007 with a third quarter candy giveaway. Butterfinger candy bars were handed out with notes on them directing employees to “butter watch your fingers.”
In addition to the safety initiatives, the plant’s Safety Team meets twice a month to conduct safety checks, talk to fellow employees about safety and conduct training. Team members also participate in each accident or first aid case investigation.
Wallace has instituted health campaigns such as a walking competition and has partnered with the cafeteria management to offer healthier food options. He also hosts a health fair every year that has 20 stations offering services ranging from blood pressure and cholesterol screening to bone mass testing.
“Healthier people not only work better and work safer but are also more satisfied with their work and life,” he said.
The plant also hosts monthly safety meetings and makes sure that each employee is up to date with required safety training.
The 742,000-sq.-ft. plant manufactures commercial water heaters and high-efficiency copper tube boilers for commercial applications. It also is the site of the company's commercial product engineering center.