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  Building on Success
OSHA's Wichita Area Office joined Ford-Visteon and the United Auto Workers to celebrate a successful partnership that keeps looking to the future..

by Kristina Lenoch
safety sign
Safety awareness signs throughout Ford's Kansas City Parts Distribution Center keep workers focused on the plant's commitment to safety and health.
"I must admit, when the company first proposed a partnership with OSHA, I was apprehensive," admits Ford-Visteon safety engineer Nathan Bailey. But more than two years after Ford-Visteon, the United Auto Workers, and OSHA entered into a national partnership focused on workplace safety and health, Bailey says,"Now I'm convinced that this was the right thing to do." The partnership covers 30 plants in OSHA's New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City regions and 25 plants in Michigan. Signed in November 2000, it builds on existing safety and health programs developed by Ford/UAW and their National Joint Council for Health and Safety. These programs established a strict internal audit system, based on 11 safety and health components, that place a high priority on management commitment to safety.

At one participating plant, Ford's Kansas City Parts Distribution Center in Lenexa, Kan., Bailey recently helped celebrate the partnership's success during the second annual "OSHA Day."

OSHA Day offers an opportunity for OSHA representatives to meet with the Ford plant leadership team and union chair to assess progress and look ahead for ways to build on it. Ford's Kansas City Parts Distribution Center, which employs about 150 workers who distribute automotive parts worldwide, got together with staff from OSHA's Wichita Area Office to review injury and illness data
for the past year and discuss developing trends. They reviewed the continuous internal inspections conducted by the plant's safety engineer and safety and health representative, and corrective actions taken. The OSHA staff also reviewed results of the facility's own audit programs and conducted an informal facility walkthrough.

Touring the Ford Kansas City Parts Distribution Center during OSHA Day are, from left, OSHA Kansas City Assistant Area Office Director Kris Lenoch, UAW Local 249 Health and Safety Representative Lloyd Chandler, and Ford Safety Engineer Nathan Bailey.
"One key element of a successful OSHA Day," said Wichita Area Director Judy Freeman, "is to build a positive rapport by openly exchanging information." The Ford and union leadership agree that cooperation is the key to the partnership's success. Since the partnership began, the facility has seen a 55.1 percent decrease in days away from work or restrictive duty due to injuries and illnesses. At the time of OSHA Day, the Kansas City Parts Distribution Center had gone 261 days without a lost-time accident.

"It's teamwork between plant management and the union that allows us to address safety issues in a timely way," said Bailey. He said employees' awareness of safety issues has increased, and that the plant management shows strong support for safety and health.

Lloyd Chandler, health and safety representative for UAW Local 249, says the partners have developed some of the best safety programs in the industry. "These programs exist because UAW/Ford Motor Company have worked together to keep their employees safe while on the job, and they have made safety a priority," he said. Compliance Assistance Specialist Dave McDonnell said the cooperative, non-adversarial relationship established through the partnership optimizes safety and health resources among all participants and reduces injuries and illnesses on the job. "I'm happy to see that Ford Motor Company has taken this proactive approach via the Ford/OSHA partnership," he said.

"It's good for Ford, it's good for OSHA, and it's good for the American worker." Freeman said the partnership is a strong example of the value of expanding OSHA's partnership and voluntary programs. "It demonstrates that the Ford-Visteon/UAW partners see that safety and health add value," she said. JSHQ

Lenoch is a team leader in OSHA's Wichita Area Office in Kansas.