Approach Management

Safety Spotlight - Braun NW

If there is one thing all Approach clients share, it’s their concern for safety – so we decided what better way to learn, than from each other! Over the next few weeks we will be posting a series of interviews with various Approach Safety All Stars on their workplace safety commitment.  

This week we introduce Dean Criss from BraunNW!




Many of you have probably driven by the headquarters of this week’s Approach Safety All Star without ever realizing it:

Braun Photo Capture

Source: Google 


Braun NW makes custom vehicles for the first responders who help us in times of need, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the company has what Dean Criss describes as a “top-down commitment” to workplace safety. Criss is the safety and process improvement supervisor at Braun NW and he took a few moments earlier this month to talk with Approach. Here’s a quick look at how Braun NW keeps their employees safe and on the job:


Safety starts on day one

New employees at Braun NW learn about workplace safety almost as soon as they walk in the door. “Safety is at the top of the list,” says Criss, referring to the checklist that each new hire carries throughout their orientation program. Checklists also help with documentation, ensuring that the employee, supervisor, and safety supervisor all know which topics have been covered. Regulatory inspectors will also want to see documentation that each employee has received necessary training.
After an overall safety training provided by Criss, new hires are introduced to the safety lead for their team, who takes over the orientation from that point, as well as to the safety reps for every other department in the company.

Introducing these key employees “lets new employees know that we encourage people to speak up about safety and you are not going to be in trouble for getting hurt or expressing a concern about safety,” says Criss.


Get input and act on it

Employees at Braun NW can raise concerns at any time, but there’s also a chance for them to mention less-urgent ideas at their department meetings. Topics are then passed up from the department meetings to the safety committee for discussion at their monthly meeting. This team – currently made up of nine elected or volunteer members along with six management appointees – must determine how to address the idea and then make sure that the decision is communicated back through the department meetings.

With more than 175 employees, it takes real dedication to get feedback on safety procedures and then make sure the employee knows action has been taken. Criss believes the effort is well worth it, saying that “employees respond better to a safety program when they know they’re being heard.” The Braun NW safety committee reviews suggestions from department meetings and then quickly provides a response to the department. “That way,” Criss says, “the employee knows that the message got through and can take pride in speaking up.” 


Invest in your employees

Training is another challenge for larger organizations, as many choose to gather everyone into a single monthly training session. This may save time, but when a meeting is in an overcrowded, uncomfortable space (as they often are) how much information really gets through?

Braun NW decided to change the model, with a “big commitment” from the owners to make sure training is as effective as possible. Now, each employee attends safety training once every 6 weeks, with small groups cycled through the same topic until it’s been shared across the whole company. The sessions are more effective, with 25-30 employees each, and Criss can easily reschedule employees who miss their team meeting to another week.

Criss says, “You can imagine the impact of taking a team off the manufacturing floor for one hour, but the owners believe we need a combination of safety, environmental responsibility, and quality production to ensure the sustainability of our company.”


Braun Photo 59d3b85d74eb1.image2

 John Braun, President of Braun Northwest, points out the production line at his emergency vehicle factory in Chehalis. Source: The Chronicle,

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