Bill Hayes, general manager of APL Logistics' Tracy, Calif., distribution center, has reason to be proud. The 750,000-square-foot warehouse recently achieved two notable safety milestones: 1 million man-hours with no OSHA-recordable injuries, and four years without a single injury. What makes these achievements all the more remarkable is that this is a high-volume, fast-paced operation: Its 110 employees typically handle 120 trucks' worth of consumer packaged goods a day over three shifts.
What's Hayes's secret? For one thing, he has paid special attention to visibility. The roof supports, guards around doors and loading docks, and other uprights in the Tracy DC are painted pink—a color that's easily noticeable because it stands out sharply from the surroundings.
Hayes also adopted a trick developed by another APLL facility. He had each forklift outfitted with a safety flag that juts out horizontally from the back, at a level above employees' heads. That visual signal has proved more effective than sound. Although the lift trucks beep while backing up, the sound echoes, and it's not always obvious where the truck is located. Now, when drivers back out of a storage bay into an aisle, the colorful flag is visible to pedestrians before they see the truck.
More conventional tactics also are in place. All new employees undergo an in-depth orientation and training program that stresses zero tolerance of safety violations. In addition, APLL conducts monthly training sessions, with topics chosen to reflect real-life incidents. For instance, if employees at one of the company's 167 facilities were experiencing back strain from incorrect lifting, the company would include a segment on proper lifting techniques in the next month's training materials.
The Tracy DC has incorporated safety into its gain-sharing program, giving workers an added incentive to play by the rules. "If there are any incidents," Hayes explains, "the people involved in them do not get a payout that week."