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Published: Saturday, 4/12/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Owens Corning garners major award for safety in workplace

Toledo manufacturer trims 95% of reportable injuries

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Owens Corning’s efforts to significantly improve workplace safety were recognized this week with a major award from a well-known national nonprofit that promotes safety.

Starting in 2003, the Toledo building materials company began a priority push toward eliminating on-the-job injuries and improving the health of its employees. The results have been impressive — OC officials say they’ve eliminated 95 percent of reportable injuries over the last dozen years.

Doug Pontsler, vice president of Environment, Health and Safety & Operations Sustainability at OC, said the company had 1,400 injuries in 2001 that were recordable under federal workplace safety guidelines.

“We were performing at about industry norm,” he said. “It wasn’t a case where Owens Corning was performing really bad from a safety standpoint, we were just basically industry average.”

Still, leaders thought they could do much better, and began forcefully preaching a message that employee safety was more important than anything else the company does.

In 2013, OC had fewer than 100 recordable injuries. By another measure, OC’s recordable incident rate fell from about seven injuries per 100 employees per year in 2001 to 0.47 injuries per 100 employees per year in 2013.

“This is not an OSHA thing, this is not a rules and regulations thing,” Mr. Pontsler said. “This is about us caring about our people. We go far beyond any required regulations to be sure we’re doing that.”

For that commitment to workplace safety, the National Safety Council presented OC with the Green Cross for Safety Medal on Thursday. The award is a major honor from the council. Delta Air Lines and Exxon Mobil are previous recipients.

The 101-year-old National Safety Council is perhaps most widely known for its campaigns around teen drivers and curbing cell phone use by drivers.

That message is one that’s been adopted by Owens Corning, which banned employees from using cell phones to conduct company business while behind the wheel two years ago. All company campuses also prohibit the use of cell phones by drivers.

Mr. Pontsler said such a focused safety program has benefits beyond healthy employees.

“A lot of the disciplines in keeping people safe are the same kind that are necessary to produce a quality product, take care of customers, and manage a business well,” he said.

Based in downtown Toledo, OC has 90 manufacturing plants and 15,000 employees worldwide.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @BladeAutoWriter.



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