The Judges' Special Award gives recognition to factories which achieve impressive levels of excellence in particular aspects of their operations.
This year's award goes to the Slough factory of ICI Paints, which produces the popular Dulux and Matchmaker brands and is the 'most profitable paint factory in Europe', according to its general manager, Tim Walker. Although overall performance has clearly benefited from recent rationalisation and investment programmes, it is the factory's safety performance and the efforts of its management to make the workplace as safe and environmentally friendly as possible, that earned it this particular award.
The impressive effort made is best summed up as 'attention to detail'.
The pay-off is twofold. A paint factory in the middle of a residential area poses an obvious, if minute, risk to its neighbours: inculcating a safe and responsible working attitude among employees helps the factory avoid the sort of headlines that followed the incidents at Chernobyl, Bhopal and Flixborough. Equally importantly, a safe working attitude helps prevent those ordinary day-to-day accidents that have no impact on the plant's neighbours, but which are a sad fact of life for the employees of so many other factories. Since 1990, the Slough factory's frequency of classified accidents has steadily fallen from 1.14 per 100,000 worked hours to 0.32 per 100,000 worked hours in 1996. Just as impressive was the overall performance with respect to injuries, classified or not, which fell from 10.3 per 100,000 hours to 2.1 per 100,000 hours over the same period.
Simple management discipline goes a long way. Proper safety footwear, adequate lifting gear, the banning of non-retractable Stanley-type craft knives and an insistence on the wearing of safety glasses and hard hats in applicable areas - this is basic good management. Formal risk assessments and regular safety audits further improve the prospects for an accident-free factory.
ICI Paints' Slough factory may still have some way to go before it reaches the levels of manufacturing excellence shared by our other winners. Each of them, though, could learn from its dogged determination to create a factory that is as safe as possible.
Activity: Paint manufacture
Task: Formulation and packaging of a wide variety of decorative paints
Size: 350 employees
Outstanding Features: An approach to safety management that results in an impressive accident-free working environment.
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