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Mail-Well Succeeds With One Company Plan For Workplace Safety

Press release from the issuing company

ENGLEWOOD, Colo., April 14, 2004 — Workplace safety in industrial settings, when measured by all of the applicable yardsticks, shows that the trends in safety at Mail-Well Inc. are impressive. But, say safety managers for the 86-plant network and its 10,000 employees, there’s been an equally striking development that adds a human dimension to the statistics, which show dramatic declines in losses related to on-the-job safety incidents. They describe it as a pervasive cultural change that encourages safety-aware employees to look out for each other so that all can maximize their ability to stay injury-free at work, regardless of location or job description. Mail-Well takes a uniform and systematic approach to safety at all of its installations, according to Jon Cox, the executive in charge of the company’s safety and workers compensation programs. As corporate safety director, Cox oversees the work of two regional safety engineers whose primary task is to make sure that every Mail-Well site can pass a rigorous corporate safety audit. The group also is responsible for safety training and for helping the plants comply with OSHA safety requirements and other federal and state or provincial regulations governing workplace safety. It’s a challenging assignment, given the fact that Mail-Well operates in 31 states and provinces on a scale befitting one of North America’s leading suppliers of visual communications. Cox says that in simplest terms, his strategy is one of conducting “lots and lots of audits and training” until Mail-Well’s “One Company” philosophy is as deeply ingrained in safety routines as it is in every other aspect of day-to-day operations. According to Cox, practicing safety as one company means seeing to it that every plant can achieve a satisfactory score on its annual safety audit, an examination that sets rigorous standards for safety compliance throughout Mail-Well. Any plant that gets less than a satisfactory score must be audited again until it meets corporate standards. Mail-Well’s safety department continuously seeks improvements in safety so that Mail-Well can achieve its ultimate goal – to have a world-class safety culture everywhere it operates. “Being audited and learning how to do your corrective actions gives you a laundry list of what to do and who owns the problem,” says Cox, who travels almost continuously to bring the “One Company” safety message to plants throughout Mail-Well. He’s supported in the endeavor by on-site safety committees made up of front-line employees who meet monthly at each facility. An equally comprehensive training effort complements auditing as a safeguard against on-the-job injury at Mail-Well. Mail-Well’s safety team has developed a 28-module safety training program that it presents to every facility, modifying the contents to suit operations at each plant. The team also helps the plants develop written safety information mandated by OSHA. As supervisors at each plant receive training, they in turn train the employee population so that safety goals and procedures can be shared by everyone. Suzanne Broski, vice president-human resources for Mail-Well’s Commercial segment, notes that by adopting a uniform approach to safety, “you insure a higher threshold of awareness and leverage your best practices across the group more effectively.” Employees’ participation in the effort is growing, she adds, as they “realize the value that Mail-Well places on safety education.” According to Broski, the plant safety committees spearhead the localized training by making safety awareness a regular element of everyone’s workday. One way the committees accomplish this, she says, is by raising safety as a topic in what Mail-Well calls “toolbox talks”: five-minute conversations on workplace matters between supervisors and their teams before production begins. Thanks to measures like these, the program’s documented results speak eloquently of the protection that it extends to the well-being of employees. In a corporate report entitled “Mail-Well One Company Safety Update” comparing 2003 with 2002, Mail-Well’s safety team listed, among other milestones: • a 50.8 percent reduction in the number of lost-time accidents; • a 34 percent reduction in OSHA recordable incidents resulting in 32.5 percent reduction of the OSHA incident rate; and • a 12.3 percent reduction in payments for incurred losses. As Mail-Well’s chief workers comp administrator, Rachel Johnson can comment on the trends from both a business and a human perspective. She points out that an improved safety record naturally benefits a company’s bottom line, noting that the dramatic impact made by the safety program has made an equally dramatic impact on the dollar amount of workers compensation claims paid by Mail-Well. But the program’s most notable achievement, according to Johnson, has been the alignment of attitudes toward safety across all of Mail-Well, a large network of once independently operated companies that had a patchwork of approaches to on-the-job injury prevention. It clearly wasn’t acceptable, she says, to have “86 different locations doing it 86 different ways.” Now, she says, the locations share a standardized methodology, each plant has a safety committee, and the message that safety is everyone’s responsibility is taking hold throughout the company. “Employees watch out for each other now,” Johnson says. “They’ve received the training, and they recognize the hazards, so that, for example, if an employee sees another employee lifting something improperly, they’ll say, ‘That’s not the right way to do it.’ “At the end of the day, we want employees to leave the same way they entered the building – to go home to their families without being hurt,” Johnson says. The work, like the concern it addresses, is never-ending, but, as Cox says, “Safety is not a switch that you can flip on or off – it has to be on at all times.”