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I attended the ceremony at J.J. Keller & Associates' Neenah, Wis., headquarters where Mike Strickland received the 2010 award. EH&S Manager Strickland's work and enthusiasm helped Collins Bus Corporation of South Hutchinson, Kansas, lower its recordable injury rate dramatically and win a major state safety award.

Collins Bus employees manufacture Type A school buses using a metal fabrication shop, paint booths, welding shops, and power tools. The company's 2007 recordable injury rate was 14.09, its DART rate 3.06. Strickland was hired to help the company become a safety and environmental leader in its industry.

Staying active and visible, Strickland gained employees' trust because they knew they could voice their concerns to him. He used daily safety talks to keep safety at the forefront in all situations, not just at work. "I really try to impress upon our employees that what you don't know can hurt you and that knowledge is power," he explained. "Telling someone that an improperly locked out machine can kill them is important, but adding a real-world account of how someone was actually killed because a machine was not properly locked out helps them remember that lesson more clearly."

"What sets Mike apart from other safety professionals is his knowledge of safety and hazard prevention, combined with his experience and passion to teach and influence people's lives," said Kent Tyler, the company's president. "He does not preach safety, he teaches safety. He uses real-world examples of what could go wrong and appeals to each employee's intellect, as well as their heart."

During Strickland's first two years at Collins Bus, the recordable injury rate fell by 47 percent and the DART rate dropped by 73 percent. Production rates rose by more than 30 percent at the same time. "At the end of the day, Mike was responsible for leading a transformation that changed our culture and greatly improved our safety metrics and our business at Collins Bus," Tyler said.

This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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