Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Ford Motor Co. Rolls out a New Safety Model: How the Automaker's Chicago Assembly Plant Improved Incident Investigation and Changed the Safety Culture

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Ford Motor Co. Rolls out a New Safety Model: How the Automaker's Chicago Assembly Plant Improved Incident Investigation and Changed the Safety Culture

Article excerpt

When the Chicago Assembly Plant opened its doors in 1924, Model T's were rolling off the assembly line. The plant produced 4,211 Model T's with a base price of $490. Soon, the Model T's were joined by Model A's, Model B's and, over the years, such iconic models as Ford Fairlanes, Galaxies and Thunderbirds.

Currently, 2,360 employees manufacture three models of vehicles at the facility: the Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montigo and Ford Freestyle. Local 551 of the United Auto Workers (UAW) represents the majority of the employees at the facility.

Chicago Assembly is the oldest production facility within the Ford Motor Co. Since 1924, the facility has incurred 13 major expansions, arriving at its current size of 2.8 million square feet.

Times have changed, cars have changed and the safety culture has changed.

The facility has been honored with numerous production and quality awards, such as the Harbour & Associates Top 10 Most Productive Plant in North America for 2002 and 2003; 2002 Shingo Prize for Excellence in Lean Manufacturing; and J.D. Power Silver Award in 1998. In 2004, during the new product launch of the Ford Five Hundred, Ford Freestyle and Mercury Montego, the facility earned the Ford Motor Co. President's Health and Safety Award for Innovation representing the Americas for incident and injury reduction.

Things weren't always so bright at the facility, however. Several years ago, some aspects of the safety process needed some polishing. At that point in time, efforts to reduce injuries at the Chicago Assembly Plant created as many questions as they did answers to safety challenges.

One aspect of the safety process that came under scrutiny was the quality of incident investigations.

As part of the plan to reduce injuries, the safety department undertook a review of incident investigations for a work zone in the Trim Department. A systematic approach was formalized to review past incident and injury data. During the review, it was determined that injury data was skewed due to incomplete information entered into the investigation database.

Safety professionals at the facility attempted to fully utilize the investigation database to identify workplace injuries and illnesses by identifying workstations and job tasks with a high frequency of incidents. Current data regarding job process codes--alphanumeric codes that are assigned to each workstation on the assembly line--within the investigation database was reviewed for any type of injury trends, including first aid injury data.

When incomplete job process codes were found, the safety department determined that a quality control process needed to be established regarding investigations by line supervisors. Six issues impacting the quality of incident investigations were identified and addressed.

The Six Criteria

If the six criteria were not met during the review phase of the incident investigation process, the incident investigation was rejected and sent back for additional information before proper corrective action would be taken. The six criteria examined:

Overall Quality--Investigations would be rejected if the investigation was poorly written. This included, but was not limited to, misspelled words, vague investigator statements and personal opinion written into the investigation statement.

Job Process Codes--The job process code (if available) had to be included, because it ensures that every workplace injury and illness recorded can be linked to a workstation and/or task. Service departments such as Quality, Maintenance and Human Resources are not limited to a job process code and move freely throughout the facility.

Job Safety Analysis (JSA)--If the corrective action involved a process change, the change must be noted and changed on the JSA at the workstation. If the investigation noted a change to the process, including personal protective equipment (PPE), changes to the JSA must be noted and documented into corrective action. …

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