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Johnson City Plant Recognized For Record-Setting Safety Performance

Dec. 4, 2009
The employees of the A. O. Smith Water Products Company plant in Johnson City, Tenn., were honored for breaking one of the company’s most enduring safety records.

JOHNSON CITY, TENN. — The employees of the A. O. Smith Water Products Company ( plant in Johnson City, Tenn., were honored on Dec. 2nd for breaking one of the company’s most enduring safety records by working more than 8.53 million hours without a lost-time accident.

The original record was set in 1970 by a former A. O. Smith Automotive Products Company plant in Granite City, Ill. No other A. O. Smith facility has come within three million hours of the all-time record since it was set 39 years ago.

Johnson City began its accident-free performance on Nov. 23, 2005, and broke the Granite City record on Oct. 21, 2009. To date, the approximately 1,200 employees of Johnson City have worked nearly 8.8 million hours without a lost-time accident.

A. O. Smith uses the criteria of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in defining lost-time accidents as work-related injuries or illnesses that result in one or more lost work days

“There’s a similarity that the plants at Johnson City and Granite City share, and it’s what contributed most to their record-setting achievements, an absolutely uncompromising attitude when it comes to employee safety,” Paul W. Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of A. O. Smith Corporation, said in presenting the employees with a special award to commemorate the event.

“When it comes to Johnson City, that attitude manifests itself in four success factors, the secrets behind your historic safety achievement: awareness; training; accountability; and commitment,” Jones continued.

“Working safely is a matter of focus, discipline, and good work habits,” Ajita G. Rajendra, president of A. O. Smith Water Products Company, said. “Creating a safe plant is a process, one that involves every employee in the facility. It includes procedures, training, and communications. It is a process designed to ensure employees have the right safety equipment, that all machines are properly guarded, that all documentation is thorough, accurate, and up-to-date.”

Johnson City implemented its current plant-wide safety program in 1995, managed by a 25-person Safety Steering Committee that meets twice each month. The Safety Steering Committee is responsible for monitoring safety performance, overseeing training programs, and reviewing every safety-related incident in the plant.

The plant has conducted regular safety training programs for all employees since 1995.

“Safety training and awareness is part of every training course at the Johnson City plant including certification programs and qualification classes,” Andy Demski, director of operations in Johnson City, pointed out. "It's a unique situation; safety is part of all training. Each class has a section on safe work practices, from blueprint reading to forklift driving. No one in the plant can be promoted or change jobs without extensive training in safety.”

Earlier this year, Johnson City began a pilot program using online safety training in a new computer safety lab. Topics covered range from lock-out/tag-out procedures to fork lift driver recertification coursework.

The plant’s safety staff works closely with the Johnson City United Steelworkers Local 7739 Safety Committee, conducting regular review meetings and a monthly walk-through of the production areas.

Each year, the plant selects a safety theme and ties its promotional and training efforts to that theme. The plant also makes a point of recognizing employees' efforts through commemorative gifts and celebrations.

This is not the first time the plant has achieved a significant safety milestone. In the 1990s, Johnson City employees had worked 5.8 million hours without a lost-time accident. In 2008, the plant received the L. B. Smith President’s Safety Award, A. O. Smith Corporation’s highest recognition for workplace safety.

The Johnson City plant manufactures American brand residential gas and electric water heaters, American commercial gas and electric water heaters, and Polaris high efficiency gas water heaters.

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