Operating a manufacturing facility for one million man-hours without having a lost-time accident is an impressive feat that almost any factory or business would love to celebrate. Now imagine achieving that kind of safety record for three consecutive years.
Teammates at Williamsburg’s Firestone Industrial Plant don’t have to imagine that kind of success. They live each day with safety as a top priority, and Friday they received the Governor’s Safety and Health Award for achieving 3,432,716 production hours without a lost-time incident by employees.
“This celebration is the most recent example of what we already know – that safety is our number one priority – and thank you very much for this,” said Williamsburg Firestone Plant Manager Pawel Gajda, who thanked the 550 teammates at the plant Friday, who helped make the celebration possible.
“As you can imagine, we are very, very proud to receive this recognition. I can promise all of us will be working very hard to achieve more and more.”
Firestone Director of Global Operations Brad Marks drew a loud round of applause from the Williamsburg workers when he noted that the Williamsburg facility now has the most production hours without a lost time accident of any facility that Firestone operates.
In addition, Marks noted that the Williamsburg facility also received the 2017 Bridgestone CEO Safety Award.
“Everyday you come in with a safety mind set and that is important,” Marks said. “We really do want to be
the best place to work in Whitley County and here in Williamsburg.”
The Bridgestone Americas family of enterprises, which includes Firestone, has more than 50 production facilities and 55,000 employees throughout the Americas. The Bridgestone Americas international footprint includes manufacturing and sales subsidiaries located in Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico, with additional offices throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Williamsburg plant opened on July 5, 1989, and now has 365,000 square feet of space. It is now the only remaining U.S. air spring manufacturing plant.
More than luck
Firestone Industrial Products President Craig Schneider added that it has been three years since the Williamsburg facility had its last accident and that doesn’t come by luck.
“At Bridgestone-Firestone Industrial Products there is one thing that unites all of us and that is our commitment to safety first and always,” Schneider said. “Across Bridgestone worldwide, we all do a number of different things but there is only one thing that we have in common and that is the commitment to safety above all things. When I step back from what you all have accomplished here today, it amazes me.”
He added that the award showcases this facility is thriving.
“It has been in the community for 30 years and it now represents one of the largest employers in this community. This community is critically important to us and we try to showcase that in everything we do every day, namely being a good corporate citizen, and trying to make this facility a premiere place to work. Also, we operate with health, safety and environment top of mind,” Schneider said.
“There are few facilities worldwide that have accomplished what you have done. To you I just want to say a thank you and my sincere congratulations.”
Kentucky Department of Workplace Standards Commissioner Ervin Dimeny, who presented the award Friday, noted that every company has good intentions when it comes to safety but what workers in Williamsburg have done goes beyond good intentions and shows real commitment to a work place safety culture.
Some local dignitaries were also on hand and spoke during Friday’s ceremony.
Whitley County Executive Pat White Jr., whose family did business with Firestone making wooden pallets for the company for several years when he was growing up and in college, said that he has been through the factory, which has some big scary-looking equipment inside.
“This is a huge accomplishment, that is a ginormous. It really says a lot about the job each and every one of you does every day. This isn’t just the group did well. Every individual had to do well for all of you to avoid an injury during that time period. It is very, very impressive,” White said.
“You are representing your county and your community at literally a national and international level. We are all proud of you. This community is proud of you. Your company is proud of you. The county is proud of you.”
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison, who was the last person to speak before the food was served, kept his remarks fairly brief.
Harrison noted that he recently used the Williamsburg Firestone Plant and its three million man-hours accomplishment as an example to a perspective employer about the quality of the area’s workforce.
“Thank you so much. Let’s go for four million,” he added.