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    Johnson City Employees Worked Two Million Hours Without Lost-Time Accident

    Johnson City, Tennessee (Thursday, 14 December 2006)

     Through a combination of individual accountability, dedicated Safety Steering Committees, and a program that integrates safety into all training activities, the A. O. Smith Water Products Company plant in Johnson City, Tenn., has been able to work more than two million hours without a lost-time accident.

    Johnson City's latest period of safe work hours began on Nov. 23, 2005, and the employees achieved the two million hour mark on Oct. 16, 2006.  To date, employees have worked approximately 2.4 million hours without a lost-time incident.  The 500,000 square foot facility manufactures residential water heaters and employs approximately
    1,200 people.

    "We talk a great deal about keeping the promises we make to our customers, our shareholders, and each other," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Paul W. Jones wrote in a letter to Johnson City's employees.  "One of those promises is to maintain a safe working environment at all times.  Over the last 10 years, you have truly integrated
    safety into everything you do at Johnson City."

    "You are one of just two A. O. Smith plants to surpass the two million hour milestone since 2001," Herbert L. Pirkey, corporate director-safety, health, and environment, told employees at a special recognition event today.  "We emphasize sustainable results in all of our safety programs, and yours is an outstanding example of an effective, sustainable safety effort."

    Pirkey presented the plant with a commemorative plaque and safety flag as part of the recognition event.

    Johnson City has had programs in place to maintain the focus on workplace safety for more than 10 years.

    "Safety is part of the inter-strength of the organization," Everson Weekley, safety manager of the Johnson City plant, pointed out.  "We emphasize accountability for everyone at all levels of the organization."

    Part of that emphasis is the result of the plant's Safety Steering Committee, led by Andy Demski who heads manufacturing operations and Dale Austin who heads human resources at Johnson City.  The 25-member committee, which has been meeting twice each month since 1995, continually monitors safety performance, oversees training programs, and reviews every safety-related incident in the plant.

    "For any type of incident in the plant, we ask the department manager to meet with the committee to describe how the incident occurred, explain how the situation was handled, how the manager and department supervisor responded, and describe the corrective action," Demski explained.

    "It's not a matter of how large or small the incident, it's how can we prevent it from happening again."

    Weekley also works closely with the Johnson City United Steelworkers Local 7739 Safety Committee, conducting regular review meetings and monthly walk-throughs of the production areas.
    "One of the reasons our program is so successful is that the union has been supportive and has endorsed our efforts," Demski said.

    Safety training and awareness is part of every training course at the Johnson City plant including certification programs and qualification classes.  "It's a unique situation; safety is part of all training," Austin pointed out.  "Each class has a section on safe work practices, from blueprint reading to forklift driving.  No one in the plant can be promoted or move to another job without extensive training in safety.”

    The committee also credits Bob Trudeau, formerly president of American Water Heater Company and currently vice president-general manager for all retail operations  across Water Products Company, for providing ongoing support to their efforts.  "He has always eagerly supported requests for training, investments in safety, and recognition." Demski said.

    The relentless commitment to safety has paid off over the last 10 years. Johnson City celebrated its first two million hours without a lost-time accident in November 1996 and, at one point, employees had worked 5.8 million hours without a lost-time accident.

    Each year, the plant selects a safety theme and ties its promotional and training efforts to that theme.  The plant also makes a point of recognizing employees' efforts through commemorative gifts and celebrations.
    Johnson City is the fifth A. O. Smith facility to be recognized for its excellence in safety performance during 2006.  Reaching one million hours without a lost-time accident were the A. O. Smith Electrical Products Company's plants in Shenzhen, China, Acuña, Mexico, Juarez, Mexico, and Tipp City, Ohio.

    Johnson City Employees Worked Two Million Hours Without Lost-Time Accident (PDF)

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