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This article was published 10/1/2018 (915 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For the most part, factory workers no longer have to worry about open saw blades buzzing close to unprotected limbs, or overly heavy loads that they’re expected to manually handle.
But there is still plenty of work being done to enhance worker safety in the manufacturing sector.
Two years ago, the Manitoba division of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) formed an organization called Made Safe, in conjunction with the Workers Compensation Board unit called Safe Work Manitoba, to develop safety programs for their members.
This week, Winpak, the large Winnipeg plastic packaging manufacturer, became the first plastics company in the province to be certified by the program — and one of only a handful of manufacturing companies to get the designation so far.
"We don’t have a long list of annual goals and objectives for the company, but improved safety is always on it," said James Holland, president of the company’s Winnipeg operations. "Safety is the starting topic of any management or advisory-level meeting."
Winpak did not necessarily have work-safety issues, but it does operate large machinery with plenty of moving parts. And Holland said others in the industry around the world, who do not pay as close attention to safety procedures as Winpak does, are vulnerable to "catastrophic" work-related injuries.
Buy-in from senior management, and a commitment to safety culture, is scrutinized closely in the certification process, said Ron Koslowsky, head of the Manitoba division of CME.
"It’s not just about guard rails and safety manuals and orientation protocols," he said. "Certification depends as much on the extent the top people in the organization to honour safety and build a culture of safety, as opposed to simply having a program."
The construction industry pioneered the implementation of rigorous safety standards many years ago. And in the last three years, the trucking, motor-vehicle repair, and service and manufacturing sectors in Manitoba have all established industry-based safety programs in collaboration with WCB’s Safe Work Manitoba program.
To participate in the program and have access to trainers and safety planning resources, manufacturing companies pay a levy equal to almost 10 per cent of their current WCB premium, but industry-wide reductions will ensue. Companies that are certified get an additional 15 per cent reduction after a year.
Jamie Hall, CEO of Safe Work Manitoba, said employers in the industries covered by the three industry-based safety programs are all expected to see a decrease in total premium costs in 2018 — a 14 per cent reduction for manufacturers, 18 per cent for the motor-vehicle service industry and 12 per cent for trucking companies.
"In addition to the 15 per cent discount for the companies that achieve certification, some will receive in the neighbourhood of 25 to 35 per cent reduction in rates from 2017 to 2018," Hall said.
"That’s pretty significant."
Holland said the health and safety of his 760 Winnipeg employees is the most important part of it. But in addition to a reduction in insurance costs, the company benefits because its reputation is burnished even more.
"The food and the consumer-product companies we supply are wanting to do business with companies with strong safety cultures and records, and promote those types of programs as well as environmental sustainability programs," he said. "Winpak is active on both of those fronts."
It’s one of the reasons Winpak consistently steals market share from its competitors.
The Winnipeg-based company is the third-largest in its field in North America.
The plant in Winnipeg is the second-largest of Winpak’s 10 facilities in Canada and the U.S. Last year, the company generated US$822 million in revenue.
And through the first nine months of the year, it is 9.5 per cent ahead of that pace and is growing at about three times the rate of industry-wide growth.
"We have amazing technology, but the difference between a good company and a great company is always the people element," Holland said.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
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