Mike Burk dons a safety vest to hit home some key points regarding plant safety.

The employees at Quanex Building Products will never forget the importance of safety. Partly because it’s built into their culture, but also because they lost employee Tim Harris several years ago who was killed when visiting a window plant.

Mike Burk will never forget either. Partly, because he has devoted much of his career to preaching the message of plant safety, but also because he worked at Quanex and knew Harris personally.

Burk writes a column for [DWM] so I know how devoted he is to this message. So while at the annual meeting of the Fenestration Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA), I wasn’t surprised when they honored him with the Distinguished Service Award for Glass.

And the next day when I walked into his session on “Safety Considerations for Contractors, Temporary Workers and Visitors,” I wasn’t shocked when I saw him standing in front of the room wearing a safety vest. Though I was 15 minutes late to his session, I walked in as he said this: “Visitors need to wear a safety vest so everyone in the plant knows there is a visitor.” Then he talked about his friend, Harris, who was killed while visiting a window plant.

All this made me pleased that I finally took the time to write an in depth article about machinery safety which you will see in the upcoming March issue of our magazine. I say finally because the topic was in my head for at least two years before I finally made it a priority.

One of the themes mentioned in that article is if you see something say something. In fact, I talked to a Quanex employee who said Harris would have wanted everyone to do this. So if you come across a machinery guard bypassed say something. If you are visiting a plant and see safety precautions not being followed, don’t be afraid to speak up.

With the article done, and days away from going to press, I listened to Burk tell story after story of those in our industry committed to safe practices.

One of those was when he received an email from a Pilkington employee who has this email signature. “I will not walk past someone who is at risk of injury without stopping to share my safety concerns.”

“Consider making that pledge,” Burk challenged attendees.

Then, instead of standing at the front of the room, telling them what to do, he had other window and door companies share their stories.

Like Christian Cerino from Associated Materials who talked about how the company handles temporary workers.

“Contractors who come in have to understand our PPE requirements,” he said. “The temporary workforce gets trained on safety for work cells before anything else. We tell them why those requirements are in place.”

He then had Trulite’s Ray Wakefield detail what happens when visitors come in. They meet Lisa—the receptionist who has worked there for more than 20 years, and tells them about safety protocols, PPE, evacuation routes and more.

“You can go in the plant but you have to stay within the yellow lines,” is one of the messages they hear.

Mike Troutman from MI Windows and Doors then told attendees how the company handles visitors. “We give them a vest because we want people to know it’s someone who is not normally there,” he said. (By the way, MI has a variety of safety practices in place and you can learn more in my article.)

“For contractors we ask them for three years of safety data, if they have OSHA violations and ask for a certificate of insurance,” he said.

“They don’t go on our roof unless they are trained.”

When it comes to forklifts it’s a similar story. “We have people who say ‘I am qualified,’ and we say that’s fine but you still have to go through our training.”

Hopefully, Burk’s stories, the upcoming article, and the conversations you have at your plants, will help everyone keep safety at the forefront of our minds. Until then, thanks to Burk, and all the others who make this a priority.

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