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The Official Baldrige Blog

How Can You Apply Safety Lessons from Steel to Your Organization?


In the steel industry, heavy machinery, hazardous energies, falls, heat stress, and noise and hearing issues are common dangers; unfortunately, safety incidents are also all too common. Luckily for their employees, some steel businesses see workforce safety as their first and foremost priority.

Baldrige Award recipient PRO-TEC Coating Company processes steel, including advanced high-strength grades, to help automakers build cars that are lighter and safer. It also focuses on safety as its number-one priority. This was made evident in the recent launch of a new facility that included the small business increasing its workforce by 33% and its product capacity by 50%. With all of these increases, how did PRO-TEC continue to ensure the safety of its workforce?

At the upcoming Quest for Excellence® conference, Eric Franks, PRO-TEC's manager of technology and quality assurance, will talk about “Addressing Workforce Challenges To Launch Our New Facility.” And the insights he will present in regards to safety at PRO-TEC are impressive. According to Franks,

  • On December 29, 2014, we marked ten years since our last lost work day (>5.4 million man-hours and still ongoing).
  • We finished 2014 with zero Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordables (still ongoing).
  • Our contractors working on-site have gone the last two years without an OSHA recordable (still ongoing).

Franks offers three tips in regards to safety:

  1. As safety is our number-one priority, don’t lose sight of what is most important, and never miss an opportunity to reinforce the message.
  2. Hire for attitude first, then aptitude (we’ve used behavioral-based interviewing since the beginning in 1992).
  3. Align expectations to allow Associates to know what is expected of them, how to measure and improve their work, why it’s important, and how it aligns with organizational goals.

PRO-TEC, which won the Baldrige Award in 2007, continues to use the Baldrige Excellence Framework as a reference for continuous improvement, and other small businesses, as well as organizations across all industries, can apply lessons learned. For example, Franks says that by performing a self-assessment using the Baldrige framework, an organization can begin to understand at a holistic level what may be an appropriate balance in order to establish priorities to make the best use of its limited resources. In addition, there is great value in  Leadership Team members filling out the Organizational Profile to end up with a common understanding of the environment, relationships, competitive environment, strategic context, and performance improvement system(s) for the organization. He adds, having seen the benefits of the first two steps, an organization should take advantage of the Baldrige-based Alliance for Performance Excellence state/regional program in its area for an award application and the feedback that will follow.

To learn from this and other sessions featuring role-model Baldrige Award recipients sharing best practices, register for the Quest for Excellence, April 12–15, in Baltimore, MD.

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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