Working with MIOSHA Pays Off

Ford Motor Company ACH and the United Auto Workers had two aims from the partnership launched 10 years ago with MIOSHA: focus on the hazards that can hurt people and get each plant involved.

Nineteen plants in the state of Michigan are included in the Ford Motor Co. ACH/United Auto Workers/Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration partnership that started in 2002. Renewed in 2007 and again in August 2011, it has been so successful that MIOSHA Director Doug Kalinowski expects it to be continued indefinitely.

It involves both MIOSHA and federal OSHA, which originally had their own separate partnerships, and a national partnership comes into play involving state plans in some other states where Ford has plants, Kalinowski said during a Jan. 23 interview.

He said at the outset, representatives of the UAW and Ford said, "We've got to figure out a way to deal with two things. Number one, your people come in here for a scheduled or programmed inspection, and you look at everything. If we have 50 power cords and hand-held power devices in a tool crib, you'll look at every single one. We spend so many resources dealing with everything. How about we try to focus, if you're going to do an inspection of any kind, on the things that hurt people?"

"It's ergonomics, falls, machine guarding, lockout/tagout," he continued. "That was number one. Number two, the second purpose of this partnership was, how do we get the plants involved? The plant sites themselves and plant managers, as well."

A committee met for several weeks and accomplished these aims by developing about a dozen protocols that were focused on specific major hazard areas, such as lockout and ergonomics, which Ford already was targeting through its own safety and health plan, he explained. "So whenever we did an inspection, either on a specific issue or a general one, we'd focus on the big things -– the serious hazards."

MIOSHA participates in an annual OSHA day at each plant. In alternate years, personnel from the agency's consultation staff visit every plant to meet with the safety leaders, review the plant's records, and conduct a half-day walk-through. MIOSHA can expand this visit into two days of monitoring and even to an enforcement visit that involves the protocols, he said. Thus far, this enforcement element has yet to be used, however. "They can still pop up on our inspection list because that's one of the industries we target –- auto manufacturing. If we do a programmed inspection, unannounced, we focus on the protocol issues -– the things that can hurt people. We always have the option do to a traditional 'wall-to-wall,' but we haven't had to do that during the decade [of the partnership]."

He described the partnership as "very successful" and "really unique" and said it has helped Ford reduce its DART rate to a level well below those of its peers in its industry. Still, Kalinowski said no other auto manufacturer has approached MIOSHA about entering into a similar partnership. "It is resource-intensive at times," he said. "We have two teams within MIOSHA that are trained to deal with the protocols." The teams include about eight employees and a MIOSHA manager who oversees all of the operations.

"One of the benefits of this partnership is that you really get to know the people. It's really based on trust and being open," he said. "They're open with the unions and vice versa. That's very important, to build those relationships."

Vehicle and parts manufacturers around the state are generally managing safety and health well because they realize safety is key to running a successful operation, he said.

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