Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Boeing Employees Enjoy New Horizons

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Boeing Employees Enjoy New Horizons

Article excerpt

The Seattle-based Boeing Corp. employs 140,000 people at sites across the country. The company recently undertook a massive hazard communication training program, which has already been completed by 13,000 employees. During the course of that training, company officials began to realize that basic skill levels and literacy in English were inhibiting learning for some workers.

In a company the size of Boeing, it is almost a given that not all employees have English as a first language, or that all employees are at the same educational level. Boeing has had a corporate literacy committee for a number of years. A program to increase literacy and improve basic skills was funded in 1989 and implemented this year.

John Kvasnosky, a spokesperson for the company, said there is a large percentage of Asian and Hispanic employees at Boeing. While the company does not offer training specifically in languages other than English, steps are being taken to ensure that all employees understand their training.

"The hazcom training is interactive, featuring videos and computers, and has proven to help retention rates," said Kvasnosky.

He added that the training is self-paced, to make sure that people have adequate time to understand the basic principles involved. Tutors, employees from the workforce, are used to translate and help people who might have difficulties with the English language.

In addition, the company has set up a system, called Horizons, which is in the pilot stage, to provide employees with any type of basic skills training they might require. A joint activity between Boeing and the International Assn. of Machinists (IAM), Horizons is part of a company-wide Quality Through Training (QTT) program.

Trevor Ballinger, a Boeing administrator for the IAM/Boeing QTT program, said that a team at the company tried to develop a program which would fit the needs of any employee who might wish to take part in it.

Although Horizons does not specifically impact on safety and health, Kvasnosky noted it does have an indirect effect. "Any improvement in understanding and communication in the workplace will certainly make the job of the safety and health professional easier. There's no question of that."

The core of the program is assessing employee needs and advising them on options available to them. The company uses professional advisors from a local community college to conduct preliminary interviews with employees, who can either be active or laid off. As the program has evolved, it has become a career development/skills enhancement program, in addition to improving basic skills.

Once an interview has been done to determine the needs of the employee, an assessment is conducted to look at such elements as basic skills, English skills, reading and math for employability, career assessment. …

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