When Kyle Orthmeyer of Thompson Metal Fab began as a safety professional, his daily interactions with co-workers were much different than today.

“We were the police,” says Orthmeyer. “When I started here, safety was all about correction. People thought of it as a negative topic.”

Today, things have changed so much that we’re highlighting Kyle and Thompson Metal Fab as our latest Approach Safety All Stars.

“Once we began to use positive reinforcement, the whole attitude of workers changed. I can talk with a co-worker now about both positive things and something that might need correction. It’s much easier to leave things on a positive note.”

I can talk with my co-workers about good things and something that might need correction, so we leave things on a positive note.

Rewarding safety culture

For over twenty years, Thompson Metal Fab has utilized a “safety bucks” program that gives employees a reason to care about their personal safety performance, plus that of the company as a whole. A combination of quarterly goals, safety meeting attendance, and personal performance can add up to a number of safety bucks. Employees can then spend those bucks on things such as apparel or sports equipment.

The items available are things the employees really like, so they are excited to earn the bucks and be able to redeem them. Since so much of the program is tied to company performance, it also helps everyone to see how important safety is to every position.

A safety committee that works

Next, the company established a behavior based safety program within the safety committee, made up of members that are elected by the employees. This committee meets monthly with Orthmeyer and supervisors to review performance and also take in new suggestions from employees.

“The committee members ask their co-workers for suggestions and then they take time to update team on status of previous suggestions and what was implemented,” says Orthmeyer. This was an important change in culture because employees know they are being heard and action steps are being taken from their suggestions.”

Committee members and supervisors also do weekly safety audits on the floor. Orthmeyer has seen a big change here, too, saying, “We usually see good safety behavior and don’t have many corrections during the audits because we’ve had a successful program for so many years now.”

Taking it to the top

As with each All Star company, safety is part of the culture all the way through to senior management. As safety manager, Orthmeyer is invited to join the owner/CEO and other managers for talks to entire company twice a year. He also meets with the owner/CEO on a monthly basis to review the monthly claim reports they receive from Approach.

“The graphs are a helpful tool in our meetings because they are excellent at pointing out certain types of injuries, said Orthmeyer. “If we notice a high-risk category, we can address the issue right away.”