Nearly a decade ago, a safety supervisor at a major food plant in Oregon decided he’d had enough. He had safety data sheets stored in six different places. This lack of organization made it difficult to find the information they needed, much less keep track of which ones were up to date each time there was a change.
The plant also had a lot of moving parts - 6,000 pieces of equipment, to be exact.
Just keeping up with the lockout/tagout procedures to keep workers safe while maintaining the machinery had become a full-time job.
And no one even wanted to think about the JSA documents. The company kept their job safety analyses in file cabinets that were six feet tall, 12 feet long and three feet deep.
A simple edit meant thousands of documents would have to be changed, and all on paper.
Keeping up with this tedious task required another full-time employee.
Safety supervisor Gerald Cowperthwait decided there had to be a better way.
He called BasicSafe’s founder Kevin Shoemaker, who had helped the company with its maintenance program in the past, and told him he wanted to create a software program to manage all his safety data sheets.
This was a huge undertaking, but the company agreed to fund the development. A few years later, in 2006, Cowperthwait’s plant started using the software.
Next, the pair tackled the lockout/tagout program.
“Prior to this, we had a template and were building all our LOTO on an Excel doc,” Cowperthwait said. “It was very difficult and took up tons of memory. Also, it was impossible to edit the template. So, each year we had to remake the template.”
The first year the software systems were in place, the company no longer needed full-time employees dedicated to managing safety paperwork. Those employees took on other responsibilities where they could work more efficiently.
Using the software, Cowperthwait began assigning LOTO procedures to mechanics to review and validate.
“So now we had 80 guys going out and doing LOTO instead of just two,” he said. “It was 80 guys spending 10 minutes on it instead of two guys spending 80 hours a week on it.”
OSHA audits become much easier now that the Heinz staff was trained to retrieve any safety documents upon request.
But the most remarkable change was the reduction in injuries.
Cowperthwait’s plant reduced its incident rate by half, from 3.2 total reportable incidents to 1.58 within a year.
Additionally, with fewer employees getting hurt, the plant was able to cut its workers’ compensation in half, from more than $300,000 a year to about $150,000.
Cowperthwait attributes this to the employees, who began to take greater responsibility for their own safety because they had become more involved in managing safety-related paperwork.
“They would call out someone who was using unsafe practices,” Cowperthwait said. “Our safety auditors were able to spend more time on the floor and less time on the clerical side of things.”
Now, almost ten years later, this plant is using our full package of safety software tools, including our action management and auditing tool.
The problems this plant was experiencing weren’t unique; we find them at companies of all sizes. This happened to be a food services plant, but it could have been any plant. In fact, it could have been yours.
Of course, this wasn’t only an innovation in safety for them. This project helped propel our emerging software company to success. And it all started with a problem that we, as engineers, saw as a challenge. It’s the story of how BasicSafe began by doing what we do best: finding a simple solution to complicated safety management.
And that’s what we plan to do for many years to come.
To learn more about how BasicSafe can make your job easier, download our guide, 9 Ways to Make Your Life As Safety Manager Easier.