Volume 43, Issue 10 - October 2008


Glass Companies Talk About the
Importance of a Safe Work Environment

Asafe work place is critical for any manufacturing or production environment, but especially so when working with a material such as glass that can itself cause injury and even death. Even when glass companies take all the necessary precautions and follow strict safety procedures accidents can and do sometimes happen.

Coastal Glass Distributors in Charleston, S.C., for example, has a safety manager who, along with a group of other managers and front-line personnel, form the company’s safety council.

“Our focus is on making sure we have a good understanding of the safety requirements for each job and training new employees to work safely,” says Jack Hoey, president. “We have weekly safety meetings with all our shop floor departments to keep safe practices at the front of our employees’ minds. We prepare a written analysis of every safety incident, no matter how seemingly small, so we can identify opportunities to improve safety further.”

Sharon Furnish, office manager for Glenny Glass Co. in Milford, Ohio, also says her company follows a number of safety measures.

“We outfit all employees with safety gear, including protective sleeves and torso protection, aprons and chaps, goggles, gloves and they all wear steeltoed shoes,” says Furnish. She adds that they have also installed overhead cranes to transport the glass.

“This way employees do not have to physically lift and move every piece of glass,” Furnish adds.

So why is work-place safety so important for glass companies? One reason is the fact that glass itself is a potentially dangerous product.

“Safety products are the primary things we produce; it would be inconsistent to concern ourselves with protecting customers but not employees,” says Hoey. “Second, from a manufacturing point of view, a safety-conscious environment can’t be separated from a quality-conscious environment.”

According to Furnish, worker’s compensation costs are also very high, another reason plant safety is so important.

In order to keep everyone involved and ensure the importance of safety is carried throughout the company, some say they’ve had success offering incentives to employees. Furnish says as part of her company’s safety program  sporadic safety walkthroughs take place from time to time and if employees are following all of the safety procedures they are awarded with a cash bonus.

For other companies, such as Coastal Glass Distributors, reward programs have not been very successful.

“I wonder if it’s because it creates a sense that safety is optional—something over and above the job requirement that you get a bonus for, rather than an essential component of every job,” says Hoey.

Guardian Industries, headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., also follows a number of measures to ensure the safest possible work environment. Following all local and federal regulations, is just the start.

“We expect employees to look out for their own safety, the safety of their coworkers and correct unsafe behaviors or unsafe conditions as they are identified,” says Mike Marsala, Guardian loss control manager. Regular inspections are also important to help maintain a safe environment.

Maintaining a safe work environment is just as important for contract glaziers, too. MTH Industries in Chicago, for example, conducts safety-training sessions on a weekly basis. Pete Pontikis, the company’s safety director, says this meeting provides an opportunity to make sure employees are aware of the importance of safety.

“We want employees to know they should not work on something if it doesn’t appear safe and they should let a supervisor know,” says Pontikis. He also says all employees when hired go through a safety orientation and drug screening.

He adds,“Our supervisors go through [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] 10-hour or 30-hour outreach training program.”

Investigation Pending
in Cardinal Employee's Death
Christopher Benson, 23, an employee at the Cardinal Coated Glass plant in Tumwater, Wash., died on August 18 after falling against a glass lite that severed his left carotid artery.

News reports said Benson tripped around 2:30 a.m. and hit his neck against a glass lite. It’s unclear, though, what caused Benson to fall. Paramedics said he died at the scene.

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is currently investigating the accident.

“The Department of Labor and Industries has an investigation in progress to make sure safety regulations were in place at Cardinal,” says Elaine Fischer, a representative of the department. “Typically [with an investigation] involving a fatality it will take two or three months and it could be longer,” she adds. USGlass magazine’s calls to Cardinal’s Tumwater facility were not returned. Benson is survived by his 3-year old son, Andrew Joseph; brother, Jonnathan Michael; mother, Jennifer Padgett; and grandmother, Loretta Shrank.


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