A.O. Smith Corp. presented its highest safety honor, the Lloyd B. Smith President's Safety Award, to the 1,200 safety-conscious employees of its Water Products Co. plant in Johnson City, Tenn.

A.O. Smith Corp. presented its highest safety honor, the Lloyd B. Smith President's Safety Award, to the 1,200 employees of its Water Products Co. plant in Johnson City, Tenn. The 500,000 square foot Johnson City facility manufactures residential water heaters. Johnson City is also the location of Water Product’s residential design engineering center. 

The award was established in 1954. This year, it was re-inaugurated as the Lloyd B. Smith President’s Safety Award in honor of Lloyd B. “Ted” Smith, the grandson of the founder of the company and retired CEO, who passed away in December 2007. 

Smith was concerned with employee safety and well-being, and began a competition in 1954 to reward the employees of the company facility showing the most improvement year-over-year in workplace safety.  The A. O. Smith President's Safety Award has been presented annually ever since.

The award is given to the facility that compiles the best safety record in a calendar year. Johnson City was one of 40 company facilities worldwide competing to receive this year's honor. The award is presented based on statistical evidence of improvement over a one-year period, as well as by sustaining a comprehensive facility-wide safety program focused on the goal of accident prevention.

"Workplace safety recognition ceremonies have become regular events here, and I couldn’t be more pleased," said Paul W. Jones, chairman and CEO of A.O. Smith Corp. during a special award presentation in Johnson City.

The company uses three statistical measures to determine a facility's safety performance:
  • Lost workday case incidence rate. This measure relates to the most serious, work-related injuries or illnesses that result in one or more lost work days.
  • Recordable case incidence rate. Recordable incidents are significant, work-related injuries or illnesses beyond first aid as defined by OSHA.
  • Lost workday incidence rate. This category measures a facility's total number of lost work-days and provides a measure of accident severity.
The Johnson City plant had a record of more than 5 million hours without a lost-time accident, and achieved a perfect score of zero in the category of lost work-day cases. It also achieved a perfect score in the category of lost work-days. It was one of five manufacturing plants to go through all of 2007 without a lost-time accident and no lost work-days, the best company-wide performance in recent memory, and the largest plant to earn that distinction.

In addition to statistical measurements, a facility must demonstrate it has a comprehensive, sustainable safety program in place in order to be considered for the award. Two main functions of a comprehensive safety program are training and employee engagement.

Johnson City  emphasizes awareness and accountability by making safety a part of the training for each assignment in the facility, from blueprint reading to fork lift driving. No employee may change job assignments without understanding the safety aspects of the new job.

”In addition to the extensive training, Johnson City’s comprehensive safety program extends to every facet of the operation. Each department contributes to the safety program by requiring that safety is a mandatory element of each project or machine upgrade. This effort has extended to machine guarding, die storage and an integrated press lock-out system,” the company reported. 

There also has been great emphasis on ergonomic improvements at Johnson City. Projects such as installing lifts for heavy components, lowering work stations to eliminate the need for bending, and positioning tools on retractable hangers for easier accessibility have helped reduce fatigue and the potential for accidents.

The Johnson City plant helps engage all of its employees though an annual Summer Safety Celebration, where employees are entertained by a bluegrass band and a mascot from the local baseball team, the Johnson City Cardinals, while they eat a picnic lunch.

The main focus for the Summer Safety Celebration is the Health and Environment Fair. This fair hosts various health-related booths for employees, such as blood pressure and cholesterol checking. This year, Johnson City Power Board, the local electric utility, will be giving a talk on energy efficiency. The plant's Engineering Department will also give a presentation on the energy management system in the facility.

The Johnson City Safety Team, Andy Demski, Andy Shumaker, Dale Austin, Dan Royston, Everson Weekley, Gerald Thompson, Jeff Walker, Jerry Duncan, Joe Carpenter, Joe Ortola, John Dreher, Mark Sewell, Mike Cummings, Mike Wilson, Penney Davis, Rick Murray, Rick Watkins, Robbyn Maylott, Ronald Bowling, Steve Sloan, Terry Edwards, and Travis Thayer, and the Union Safety Tour team, Michael Lane, Donna Kendrick, Sheri Layher, and Charles Abbott, accepted the award on behalf of the Johnson City employees.
“Everyone at this plant has embraced workplace safety,” Jones stated as he congratulated the Johnson City employees. “It’s a part of your culture and an expectation for everyone who joins the Johnson City team.”