At a special ceremony this week, Herbert L. Pirkey, corporate director for safety, health and environment for A.O. Smith Water Products Co, presented the 380 McBee, S.C., employees with a commemorative plaque along with a letter signed by Paul Jones, chairman and CEO of A.O. Smith Corp., for their outstanding safety record in achieving two-million hours without a lost-time accident.

At a special ceremony this week, Herbert L. Pirkey, corporate director for safety, health and environment for A.O. Smith Water Products Co, presented the 380 McBee, S.C., employees with a commemorative plaque along with a letter signed by Paul Jones, chairman and CEO of A.O. Smith Corp., for their outstanding safety record in achieving two-million hours without a lost-time accident.

The McBee plant reached the two million hour safety milestone on Nov. 19, 2007, attaining the two-million hour accomplishment for the first time in its 28-year history. Earlier in the year, the plant received the A.O. Smith President’s Safety Award ― the company’s highest form of safety recognition.

The key to its success, the company says, is the people. Also, McBee created a “culture of safety awareness” by maintaining ongoing safety awareness programs as well as hosting special programs and events.

One event illustrated the importance of hand safety. Random employees were selected during a safety meeting to make a peanut butter sandwich with their non-dominant hand. There was much fumbling and laughter as employees stumbled through this very basic task. The lesson learned was that even a simple task ― one that an individual probably has done since the age of five ― becomes difficult and challenging if he or she injures or even loses a dominant hand.

The plant also hosts a health fair every year that has 20 stations offering services ranging from blood pressure and cholesterol screening to bone mass testing. Monthly safety meetings ensure each employee is up to date with required safety training.

The 742,000-square-foot McBee plant manufactures commercial water heaters and high-efficiency copper tube boilers for commercial applications. McBee also is the site of the company's commercial product engineering center.