Protective Clothing Helps Butler Mfg. Co. Slash Injuries

By Davisson, John | Occupational Hazards, January 1994 | Go to article overview

Protective Clothing Helps Butler Mfg. Co. Slash Injuries


Davisson, John, Occupational Hazards


Close attention to personal protective clothing and employee involvement are hallmarks of this manufacturer's successful safety program.

Kansas City-based Butler Mfg Co. registered no lost-time injuries at seven of its factories in 1992. Last month, as 1993 drew to a close, they were once again approaching another record year of reducing injuries and boosting productivity throughout all of the company's facilities.

A major manufacturer of metal buildings established in 1906, Butler has 4,000 employees operating 20 factories and 15 warehouses throughout the country. In 1992, the company registered 24 lost-time injuries. At press time, 1993 figures showed a drop to 14 lost-time injuries.

If Butler is enjoying its safety success now, company officials can remember a time when injuries were threatening the economic viability of its facilities. Just 13 years ago at its Galesburg, Pa., fabricating plant, injuries were sky-rocketing.

Butler Corporate Safety Director Glenn Baker remembers, "The Galesburg plant employed around 800 workers and in 1979 alone registered over 100 lost-time injuries." Tied to those injuries was a yearly workers' compensation expense rate exceeding $1 million. "We pay less than that now for our entire company and that's in 1993 dollars. Frankly, it was so bad at Galesburg, the company almost closed the plant."

A Change of Plans

Butler faced a pivotal decision with regard to safety in 1979. The company had the very best intentions for its employees, said Baker. It simply didn't have the technical expertise necessary to eliminate many of the unsafe working conditions and methods that burdened it.

As Baker now recalls: "In 1979, we had no corporate safety plan, no safety structure, no safety director." "In fact," he said, "that was the year I interviewed for the job."

Butler had contacted a major safety consultant that wanted $1 million to set up and monitor a safety program for the company. "So, they could hire the consultant and pay $1 million, or put their feet to the fire and hire Glenn," said Baker.

Butler management placed its bet on the young Central Missouri State graduate with a Master of Science degree in Industrial Safety. Baker promptly set to work, drafting a 16-point safety plan with personal protective clothing and equipment a central concern and the first to be employed.

Outfitting Workers

Butler manufactures metal panels, beams, and columns that form the skeletons of their structures. Coiled steel and flat stock are cut, welded, punched, bent, and painted. Along with fabricating accessory trim, down spouts, doors, windows, and corner trim, the building "kits" are then transported to construction sites by truck.

The protective clothing and equipment program is precisely designed to worker job descriptions and duties, points out Baker. For example, shipping and receiving employees wear bump caps (similar to hard hats), safety glasses with side shields, steel-toed safety shoes, gloves, and arm guards.

Welders are outfitted with leather welding gloves, arm guards, upper body aprons, welding spats, welding helmets with a special leather bib attached to the bottom of the helmet, hearing protection, and steel-toed shoes.

Employees in Butler structural departments remove oils and solvents that are applied to the steel coils during forging for protection from rust and other damage during transportation to its factories. Workers that unroll the steel and alter its shape and size through grinding and cutting are equipped with cut-resistant synthetic safety sleeves to protect arms from lacerations, special leather aprons and coats, hearing protection, steel-tipped shoes, and safety glasses with side shields. …

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