By Dan Davis
Cam Valle, Plymouth Tube’s director of hu- man resources, who also has oversight of safety e;orts for the tube manufacturer’s
nine locations, attended the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association’s (FMA) 2017 Safety Award
program in Elgin, Ill., on April 19 for a good reason:
Plymouth Tube’s Streator, Ill., facility was collecting its second consecutive Rusty Demeules Award
for Safety Excellence (see Figure 1). That’s the
kind of honor that follows a manufacturer with a
firmly established safety culture.
The Streator mill produces cold-drawn seamless
low-carbon and alloy steel tubing for primarily hydraulic and aerospace applications. It had achieved
1,145 consecutive days without a lost-time injury at
the time it received the safety award, named a;er
a metal fabricator who was a longtime volunteer
leader with FMA and founder of the organization’s
Earlier in the day, Valle reminded conference attendees (see Figure 2) that such success didn’t
happen overnight. It was slightly more than 10
years ago that the company was faced with $1.5 million in workers’ compensation claims. Safety rules
were discussed even back then, but they weren’t
taken seriously. That changed over the years, Valle
explained during a panel session.
Valle, who prior to moving on to corporate activities for Plymouth Tube was the Streator facility
plant manager, said managers made safety e;orts
visible and personal. Job safety analyses were done
for almost every activity to determine potential hazards and find the safest way to do the job. Safety
talks before shi;s focused not only on safety on the
job, but safety at home. Everyone was encouraged
to participate in some way, and investments were
made to demonstrate the company’s commitment
to keeping everyone safe.
“The union employees came to us and said you
always talked about safety, but now you believe in
safety,” he said.
It Has to Start Somewhere
In a morning keynote address at the Safety Confer-
ence, Bob Tepe, president and CEO, Winergy Drive
Systems Corp., and vice president, Mechanical
Drives Business Unit, Siemens Industry, reminded
conference attendees that all facilities, new and old,
have to work to establish a culture where employ-
ees are engaged in keeping an eye out for each oth-
er. Winergy, an assembler and refurbisher of very
large gearboxes for wind turbines and other appli-
cations, built its facility in Elgin, Ill., in 2009 and has
seen its business grow with the expanding wind en-
ergy sector. As a result, new employees have been
added at a steady pace over the years, which creates
the need for increased vigilance with so many fresh
faces walking around. Currently, about 180 employ-
ees work in the facility.
Attendees got to see the challenge that Winergy
faces on a daily basis during a tour on April 20.
Workers move and manipulate gearbox assemblies
that can weigh 40,000 to 90,000 lbs. Electric li;
trucks, 60 cranes (see Figure 3), and more than
100 hooks are used for material handling. Extensive
audits of the equipment and employee training keep
injuries to an absolute minimum in the 170,000-sq.-
;. building, Tepe said.
So how is this done? Plant Manager Juan Carlos
Rivera said it’s important to get everyone involved.
It’s driven from the top of the organization, and
the shop floor and front-o;ice personnel all are involved in process improvement and reporting on
positive and negative safety behavior.
Darrel Shankles, safety manager, PlayCore, and member of the FMA Safety Council, reviews conference activities
with attendees at the 2017 FMA Safety Conference, which was the first educational event to be held at FMA’s new
Elgin, Ill., headquarters.
Cam Valle of Plymouth Tube holds the Rusty Demeules Award for Safety Excellence that was presented to him by
Jim Vose of The Dupps Co., the 2015 winner of the award. Roger Wilson, a representative of CNA, the sponsor of
the award, and FMA’s Dan Davis join in the award presentation.
FMA Safety Award winners
remind other companies that
a safety-first culture can’t be