Health and Safety training is top priority at UAW-Chrysler NTC
Jan 15, 2019
Even more than building quality cars and trucks, the success of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is about the people who work at its facilities across the nation and making sure they are all able to do their jobs safely.
So when it comes to training, the No. 1 priority for FCA and the UAW is health and safety.
The Warren-based UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC) plays a critical role in this area of training, with a wide range of programs offered at the NTC and at plant locations to help FCA achieve its goal of zero worker injuries.
Steve Perrott, FCA co-coordinator for health and safety at the NTC, said the company’s dedication to safety goes far beyond meeting basic federal OSHA regulations — it also incorporates adherence to more stringent FCA safety requirements and includes the implementation of supplemental safety obligations as established in UAW-FCA contractual safety agreements.
“The company mission with respect to health and safety is to have zero incidents and eliminate injuries in our plants. Our goal to achieve zero injuries is only as good as our program,” Perrott said. “Our vision is to provide a workplace where employees are protected from injury, while maintaining compliance with regulatory requirements and conformance to company policy. It also requires that we (UAW & FCA) work jointly together to ensure that we fulfill the intent of the health and safety obligations outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.”
UAW Assistant Director for Health and Safety Harvey Hawkins, Jr. added: “The UAW and FCA have a responsibility to provide programs that train all employees to have safe practices and maintain a healthy environment. We are proud that we have established a culture of world-class safety programs that exceed the mandates of the law and have been collectively agreed upon.
“The UAW and FCA’s steadfast goal of zero injuries to some may seem unrealistic, but for the team, we believe in our programs and have shifted the paradigm of accepting low levels of injuries as we continue to strive for zero injuries. The significant decrease in serious injuries over the past years is proof that our joint initiatives work well for the membership. The NTC’s goal is that all employees return to their homes and families in the exact condition upon arriving to work. The Joint Program has established training standards that are award-winning and our greatest reward has been accomplishing our goal.“
The NTC plays a significant role in all FCA worker training, either developing the programs for use in plants or offering on-site classes at the NTC. There are multiple levels of training, depending on an employee’s role.
• Large groups of new hires get general health and safety training during orientation at the NTC.
• Once workers go to their home plant, they receive additional health and safety training (including hands-on training) based on their specific department and work activities (assembly, paint shop, machining operations, etc.).
• A training matrix is set up by each plant’s lead trainer, listing all the required health and safety training each employee must complete each year.
• Beyond the required trainings listed in the matrix, employees can reach out to their plant’s health and safety rep or lead trainer if they feel they need further training.
An additional level of health and safety training is provided to those working in skilled trades and apprenticeships.
“Employees working at different jobs have different types of exposure and risk. For example, employees who work on the production line may require training in ergonomics, however may not need training on how to operate a forklift. But people working for MLM are going to get powered industrial vehicle (PIV) training,” Perrott said. “These employees will complete a formal standardized PIV training, then hands-on instructor-based training in the plant where they actually get on the vehicle and learn how to properly and safely operate a fork lift. These employees are issued a temporary license and go through a period of time where their operation of the PIV is observed and evaluated, until they reach a specific level of competency in the plant, at which time they are issued a more permanent license.”
While some of the training the NTC provides to workers is hands-on — lockout/energy control, confined space, PIV and electrical safety, etc. — they also provide efficient and effective digital solutions. There are dozens of online training modules in health and safety offered that workers use to enhance their skills and knowledge.
These online modules introduce topics that are often followed up with hands-on/practical training. What makes them effective and unique is they do not offer generic training lessons — instead they incorporate photos, videos and references that are specific to FCA operations and activities.
“They’re not a generic training program that you would buy off the shelf from a training provider,” Perrott said. “We put in video footage and pictures of our own operations, our own equipment and people, so employees see the actual environment and situations they’re going to experience on the shop floor.”
Testing is another key element of the training modules. Quizzes measuring a user’s knowledge are done both at the start of a training session and at the end following the World Class Manufacturing methodology. Sometimes key components are evaluated throughout the training as well. This quizzing allows a measure of knowledge that has been gained, and also allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of the training.
One of the biggest keys to an effective set of health and safety programs at the NTC and FCA as a whole is the process of collaboration between management and union leaders and workers in developing the programs.
“Our FCA safety experts and their union counterparts work side-by-side in the plants,” Perrott said. “Those people, in addition to the UAW-trainer and plant ergonomic-analysts, go through more advanced training. The joint safety teams along with other plant leadership are the drivers and leaders for health and safety in the plants.”
Hawkins also touted the importance of collaboration to efforts to improve safety.
“The main reason the safety programs are successful and continue to support a world class safety culture is because of the joint collaboration on the shop floor. The commitment begins with the UAW Vice President and FCA Corporate Vice President as their vision toward providing the employees the best training has resulted in the best practices that all derive from 100% joint commitment and collaboration.
“It has been said: ‘Safety doesn’t happen by accident!’ The parties work hard. We constantly discuss innovative ways to take our training and practices to levels that will guarantee zero injuries. These actions are not by accident as they are concerted activities that have revealed proven success,” Hawkins added. “We may not always agree on labor issues, but the union and management definitely agree to keep our most valuable assets, the employees, totally safe and working in 100% healthy environments.
Other training in the health and safety realm occurs at the World Class Manufacturing Academy (WCMA), which is housed at the NTC and focuses on the key manufacturing processes, known as pillars.
“If you do a really good job of identifying unsafe acts, unsafe conditions and addressing near-misses, then eventually you are going to reduce the potential for all of those serious injuries from happening,” Perrott said. “The whole focus of the safety pillar at WCMA is to teach the methodology on how to become world class in health and safety, and how to identify and properly apply the tools you’re going to use to get there.
“The other trainings are a lot more technical, dealing specifically with how you’re going to get your job done safely. But at WCMA, you’re going to learn about the process of manufacturing, how to use standardized, effective tools to complete a formal job safety risk analysis and how to investigate an injury, identifying a true root cause. This allows you to respond with a sustainable fix or control that is evaluated for effectiveness and overall improvement in the workplace. What’s learned at WCMA is shared. What employees learn at the academy is practical for application in our manufacturing operations and this knowledge gain is waterfalled to other people in the plants.”
Whether training happens at a plant or at the NTC building, lessons are developed jointly with input of both management and union leaders, as well as workers.
Giving workers a level of input helps to create a sense of ownership and pride.
“It’s easy for management to say here is the OSHA rule, here is the policy and thou shalt follow. But one of the key factors in a successful training program is to include the people who are doing the work on the floor,” Perrott said. “We look for their experiences, their thoughts and ideas. Taking that to a level where you’ve got buy-in from the plant teams. What you’re effectively doing is involving the experts who are doing the job. They’re going to tell you their experiences on the floor, and they can provide you with valuable information on how to conform with requirements and still get their jobs done safely.”
Perrott went on to say that this approach is a win-win situation and much more strategic than just laying out the rules for people to follow.
“It’s a lot better when you include the employees. They have a say in how they would like to be trained and can offer us things to avoid,” Perrott said. “Once the trainings are complete, the employees are pretty receptive because they had a say in how it was developed. They had ownership in their own safety. It’s not just the company coming in and saying, ‘This is how you’re going to do business.’ Collectively, everybody wins with a safer work environment.”
Hawkins stated that the members are the experts of their work assignments and work stations. “The members know how the environment reacts and how the job works and where the hazards exist. We take the ideas and input of the worker and implement them into the safety program and we use their day-to-day experiences to create and utilize safety training modules and programs to prevent hazardous conditions.”