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Safety Is the Most Important Part of ‘Principled Leadership’

By AICC Staff

June 1, 2017

Earlier this year, AICC and the Fibre Box Association (FBA) announced the winners in the 2016 Corrugated Container Industry Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. AICC and FBA have cooperated in conducting this annual survey since 1988. It is an effort that speaks to the ongoing working relationship that both associations enjoy for the benefit of the corrugated industry.

This year we were happy to note a 7 percent increase in the number of plants recognized for safety achievements, which my FBA colleague Dennis Colley called “a true testament to the corrugated packaging industry’s commitment to creating safe work environments.” This increase in our member companies’ awareness of and accomplishments in workplace safety is, in my view, directly reflective of the “principled leadership” themes that AICC Chair Tony Schleich has spoken about this year. Why? Because a commitment to safety in the plant is the most important part of principled leadership, putting a first priority on the welfare of your employees and, by extension, their families.

This fact was starkly highlighted in early April, when a boiler explosion at a corrugated box plant in St. Louis claimed the lives of four workers—one in the box plant and three in a neighboring business. The accident, which made national news, reminds us that industrial accidents can happen anywhere and at any time, and it is always the responsibility of the company owner to ensure the safety of the work environment for his employees. While the investigation is ongoing, and while we extend our condolences to the companies and people involved, I believe we have a sobering opportunity to assess our own workplace safety regimen and, if need be, improve it and expand it so as to minimize the risks of even the most minor of accidents.

I’m not a risk manager or a safety expert, but it seems to me that every owner, manager, and supervisor can do some internal introspection and put together their own safety self-assessment, as follows:

  1. Do we have a formal safety policy and the written procedures for following it?
  2. Are the safety policy and written procedures available to and clear for all employees?
  3. Do we have regularly scheduled safety meetings to review procedures, incidents, corrective measures, etc.?
  4. Is every employee trained in the fundamental risks in your plant operations?
  5. Does every employee have personal protective wear—ear protection, eye protection, etc., as needed? Is this equipment in good working order, and are employees trained in its proper use?
  6. Is all our machine guarding in its proper place and in good working order?
  7. Are logout-tagout procedures clearly understood and instructions posted at each machine center?
  8. Are machine emergency stop (e-stop) buttons and pulls accessible and in working order? Are your employees familiar with their operation?
  9. Are Material Safety Data Sheets (now called simply Safety Data Sheets) up-to-date and in a place where they are accessible to all employees?
  10. Does the equipment manufacturer send safety bulletins or update safety procedure recommendations for the equipment in operation at your plant?
  11. Do we have a scheduled preventive maintenance program for machinery and energy supply systems?
  12. Is your OSHA 300 log (or its Canada equivalent) up-to-date and compliant?
  13. Do you have documented substance abuse policies and corrective measures consistent with state and local laws?
  14. If we require personnel with specific licensing credentials—e.g., engineers, drivers, etc.—are their credentials current and in good standing?

These are but a few of the questions a good safety assurance policy will have in your company. I’m sure you can add many more points to this list, and I’m even surer that all good AICC members have sound policies and procedures in place. Suffice it to say that safety should be top of mind every day and not a topic that comes up only as part of an investigation of an accident or injury in your plant. Let us all renew our efforts in this regard, placing safety at the head of our call to “principled leadership.”

PortraitSteve Young is president of AICC. He can be reached at 703-535-1381 or