Stylish in Safety

Millard Refrigerated Services decided to reward employees' safe work with customized jackets.

THE seeds for creating safer workplaces were sown in the early 1900s. In 1912, the Bureau of Labor Statistics fielded its first full-scale survey of safety and health conditions in the American workplace, with its study of industrial accidents in the iron and steel industry. Today, the focus on workplace safety is tightly woven through the fabric of nearly every American industry.

All told, there are many different kinds of products available designed to make the workplace safer, each with its own specific purpose. Most safety products fall into two general categories: those that are personal protective equipment and those that are a type of treatment or containment product. PPE includes a variety of protective gear (including hard hats, ear plugs, gloves, safety vests, and safety goggles, just to name a few). A real value exists in ensuring every employee is properly outfitted from head to toe in equipment that meets the specific needs of his or her environment.

But beyond actually protecting workers, can personal protective equipment keep workers safe even if they don't use it on the job site? The short answer is Yes.

Enter Millard Refrigerated Services, the second-largest refrigerated warehouse and distribution company in the United States. With current and projected space of more than 6.4 million square feet of refrigerated warehouse, distribution, and processing space in 27 locations throughout the country, Millard's strategy is simple: Build a network of state-of-the-art distribution centers outside major city limits and close to key interstate highways and rail lines. Complement each with sophisticated logistics and transportation services, and staff the facilities with the best people in the industry, all while creating a seamless package of storage, distribution, logistics, and transportation services that gives customers the competitive edge. Millard's goals for the future go hand-in-hand with its customers' goals of maximizing distribution dollars. While continuing to expand and improve its network of distribution and warehousing facilities, Milliard will implement innovative programs that offer customers superior products and services at a competitive price.

In 2002, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million job-related injuries. Of the injuries reported, more than a million resulted in time away from work. For companies such as Millard, maintaining a safe working environment is a key element in reaching the goal of offering customers superior products and services at a fair price.

With the goals in mind, the operations manager at Millard's Louisville, Ky., facility was looking for a partner to help the plant create and execute an incentive program to reward workers for paying attention to safety and performing their duties accident-free. Millard sought out the assistance of a company recognized for helping improve safety and performance through the use of proper personal protective equipment. For 15 years, Millard had outfitted its employees with this company's personal protective equipment to keep workers warm, comfortable, and safe. So it was only natural for Millard to turn to this same vendor to help it create an innovative employee reward program that is centered on a specific, customizable jacket.

Creating a Buzz
Because Millard already has a positive, longstanding relationship with this vendor, implementing the rewards system with high-quality work wear at a reasonable price and supported by exceptional customer service was an easy task. Millard implemented a creative employee reward system that provides accident-free workers with two jackets, one for personal use and one for use at the warehouse. Each jacket takes advantage of custom embroidery options and includes the employee's and the company's names.

The most interesting aspect is that the model of jacket Millard chose to use was a style already used by managers at the plant. The first non-managerial employee seen at the plant with the jacket created quite a buzz. Not only were the workers talking about the jackets, but since Millard starting using these customizable jackets as safety incentives more than three years ago, it has recorded zero accidents at the Louisville warehouse facility. Lost-time accidents cost the company about $22,000 per incident, so it is safe to say Millard sees a large return on investment for the $40 jackets they've purchased.

Additionally, throughout the Louisville facility, workers recognized their incentives are much more than jackets. The jackets have become a symbol of status and a reminder of safety because they are available only as a reward for helping the company strive to achieve its goals. Because employees can get the customizable jackets only by being a manager or as a safety reward, the jackets are the "in" things to wear around the plant. This unexpected trend around the plant has given the jackets an increased value beyond their purchase price.

Who would have thought that plant workers could be so fashion conscious?

This article appeared in the September 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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