Be a Fenestration Safety Superhero

Laurie Cowin
September 3, 2019
THE TALK... | Strategies & Practices
Earlier this summer, I attended the Window & Door Manufacturers Association Technical & Manufacturing Conference in Minneapolis. Regina McMichael, president of the Learning Factory, opened the meetings with her general session, “Making the Safe Choice: Inspiring Your Team to do Great Things.”
McMichael, whose interest in safety commenced in 1986 when her young husband fell nearly 26 feet off a roof to his death, challenged everyone to be a “safety superhero.” She says that regulations and laws don’t work if there’s no human connection to the people we’re trying to keep alive. “OSHA is about the law,” she said, “but safety is about humanity.” Everyone, she said, deserves to come home from work at the end of the day.

Fall protection has topped OSHA’s top 10 most frequently cited standards for eight years running, and for good reason. Falls are the No. 1 cause of death in construction; 2017 alone saw 366 fatal falls. Although falls are a leading safety concern, safety encompasses so much more than proper fall protection education and equipment.

Factory floors also present multiple hazards, and safety practices are paramount to ensure everyone goes home safely each day. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports higher-than-average incidences for workplace injuries in the fenestration industry. In 2016, the wood window and door manufacturing segment reported and 4.8 injuries or illnesses per 100 full-time workers, with the metal and door manufacturing segment reporting 5.2. Compare that to the total injury and illness rate of 3.6 for all manufacturing.

Fortunately, fenestration companies aren’t na├»ve to the inherent risks associated with the industry, and many are taking active steps to ensure ultimate safety.

Quanex Building Products’ Cambridge, Ohio, plant recently achieved 1 million hours without a lost time injury. McMichael said during her presentation that safety culture must start at the top, and Quanex credits its safety culture to its leadership. “At Quanex, we’ve seen a reduction in accidents and injuries that can be attributed to a great safety culture that starts at the top with the CEO, COO and divisions presidents who are all committed to providing the safest workplace in our industry through continuous improvement,” says Richard Mack, director, environmental health and safety, Quanex Building Products, in a press release.

MI Windows and Doors’ top leadership also embraces safety as a core value. Four of its facilities earned OSHA’s VPP Star, which the administration awards to companies that “go above and beyond in their quest to ensure employee safety.” The Hegins plant in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, is the latest plant to receive the recognition, with the other three plants in Gratz, Pennsylvania, Prescott Valley, Arizona, and Millersburg, Pennsylvania. “This is a great example of what MI is all about,” says Matt DeSoto, MI CEO. “Safety is first in our quality standards, and the Hegins team has achieved it.”

Earlier this year, the company shared with Window + Door four steps it takes for the VPP process:

  1. Begin a partnership with OSHA.
  2. Find a mentor (preferably one who is local). Work with the mentor to define what needs to be addressed prior to putting in an application.
  3. Submit an application. Be thorough with it.
  4. Collaborate with OSHA as they perform a four-day audit. MI’s audit looked at documentation and included validation, interviews with 25 to 30 percent of plant team members, and proof of the plant's ability to provide immediate remediation.

Companies should always keep safety at the forefront of its practices and values to protect its most valuable assets—its employees.

Laurie Cowin is senior editor of Window + Door. Contact her at