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Lights! Camera! Action! Training!
by Tim Rakestraw
Lights! Camera! Action! Training! by Tim Rakestraw During its first few years as an aluminum wheel manufacturer, Superior Industries International, in Pittsburg, KS, had a less-than-stellar safety record. But now the company is a VPP Star.

For several years after the company started operations in late 1989, the average number of recordable injuries was 202. The management group, committed to lowering those numbers,

reduced the rate over the next 5 years to an average of 38 per year. In 1996, Superior Industries started to pursue VPP while continuing to reduce the number of recordable injuries to 32 for the past 3 years. In 1998, the company became the only VPP Star site in Kansas.

The greatest contributor to this accomplishment was the company's dedication to training. The problem during its early years was that most of its training consisted of "canned" programs that taught the basics of safety, but nothing job-specific enough to have real meaning for the workers. Superior took matters into its own hands, entering into a partnership with a local university to develop the company's first job-specific training video, centering around equipment and processes the workers use every day.

Based on the success of that training program, Superior's management "went Hollywood," purchasing video cameras and editing equipment so the staff could produce valuable and job-specific training videos on a wide range of topics: hazard communication, lockout/tagout, confined space, environmental training, eye and hand safety, and fire extinguisher training. The company currently is creating more videos on fall protection, forklift training, and hearing protection.

The company also developed visual guidebooks to accompany the videos. These books use digital photos showing step-by-step work instructions employees need to perform their jobs. The books give employees additional tools to ensure safe equipment operation and control of hazards related to a specific task.

Employee opinion surveys show that the training program is making a difference, with employees demonstrating a dramatic increase in safety awareness and appreciation-and an appreciation that the company cares about their safety.
Rakestraw is the Safety Specialist for Superior Industries International.