Safety plays a key role in the success of Eaton Corp.’s world-class assembly plant in Lincoln, IL. “Keeping our employees safe is our No. 1 priority,” claims Rick Wyatt, plant manager. “Safety is noted on all value stream maps created, and plans are formulated around areas of concern that are identified. Safety is also included in our 5S process checks and assessments, along with other required elements.”

The 2010 Assembly Plant of the Year has a dedicated environmental health and safety (EHS) manager to oversee all programs. “The EHS manager ensures compliance with all environmental health and safety regulations and drives continuous improvement in our processes to provide a safe work environment for all,” Wyatt points out. “The plant also employs an occupational nurse and sponsors a visiting doctor every other week.” Both healthcare professionals are regularly accessed by employees.

“Paramount to the success of this program is the level of employee involvement,” says Wyatt. Two employee safety teams meet weekly. In addition to these meetings, a safety ambassador from those teams works each Thursday with the EHS manager on specific processes and audits to monitor and improve safety performance.

“Various employees from all levels of the organization [participate in] our management of environmental health and safety process, which is a corporate-wide set of standards to which we are held,” adds Wyatt. “Our progress is assessed by outside corporate teams.”

Many employees also participate on emergency response teams and are trained on how to handle specific emergency situations. The teams have worked over the last three years to implement processes that drive accident reduction.

Examples of these programs include a safety contact process that involves a one-on-one discussion with each employee on a quarterly basis regarding safety issues. Lincoln Eaton also focuses on ergonomics, including reviews by outside experts to drive improvement and provide training.

The Lincoln plant has a cross-functional ergonomic team, in conjunction with an ergonomics expert who reviews, proposes and implements changes. Recent actions include varying the height of the paint line chain to eliminate bending for loading and unloading components; adding lifting devices at the beginning and end of the assembly lines to keep parts at the appropriate height; building automated equipment to reduce repetitive operations, such as a door line stacker; and CNC punch press material holders.

“Communication is a huge component of our [safety] programs,” says Wyatt. “Every production meeting begins with the topic of safety, including daily preproduction huddles to remind everyone to work safely and to update all employees on the latest issues and successes.”

Weekly meetings are held in all departments, and include training on specific topics. “Monthly all-employee meetings include updates on our plant metrics, including safety,” explains Wyatt. “These processes allow two-way communication, [providing] employee input on concerns or ideas for improvement.

“To reward success, our variable pay plan includes reward for the attainment of the accident reduction goals, and quarterly rewards for departments that reach their goals,” Wyatt points out. “These actions have helped drive incident reduction over the last 10years. Within the last three years, our total recordable accident rate reduced by 50 percent and our days-away case rate [dropped] by 85 percent.”