Klein Steel Service Aims to be a Less Risky Business

Jan. 17, 2012
Five-step risk assessment tool helps drive safe performances and reduce the potential for mission failure.

Team members at Klein Steel Services Rochester, N.Y., location have been moving some very big, very heavy pieces of machinery lately, both to improve flow and to make room for other pieces of equipment. Done poorly, these moves could damage equipment, damage the building or, in the worst case, harm people.

Klein Steel wont let it be done poorly.

The company, whose Rochester location is a 2011 IW Best Plants winner, doesnt take safety lightly. Evidence of that includes the orange hard hats that must be worn by new employees working in the production and warehouse area, where heavy pieces of metal are frequently on the move. The orange hard hats make colorfully clear to the more experienced workers who the less experienced ones are. The distinction is made for one reason: to remind everyone to help the new workers to be safe.

The importance of safety also is evidenced by another tool the company uses to help reduce risk, and one that was employed prior to the machinery move. The tool is a five-step risk management process. The process forces team members to think hard and plan prior to taking on potentially hazardous assignments.

The five steps of the risk-assessment process require personnel to:

1. Identify Hazards: What could go wrong?
2. Assess Hazards: How bad could it get? This is assessed in terms of hazard severity and probability.
3. Develop Controls: How can we prevent it?
4. Implement Controls: Steps to prevent
5. Supervise and evaluate effectiveness of controls

Employees must address these five steps and detail them on a form created for this process. The form first requires an identification of the mission, or task, and a list of all potential hazards related to the task. Then, the team or associate must identify each potential hazard and assign it an initial risk level on a scale from "low" to "extremely high." A chart aids in determining the initial risk level.

They then develop hazard controls. Once the hazard controls are determined, the risk-management process requires that a residual risk level be identified for each control. In short, it asks how must risk remains with the control in place.

Ultimately, an overall risk level is calculated with the hazard controls in place.

The level of remaining risk dictates what level of management must sign off on the risk assessment, explains Deborah Kurvach, compliance manager. For example, supervisors can approve projects that achieve an overall risk assessment of "low." On the other hand, the president would be required to approve an action whose overall risk level is determined to be "extremely high."

The company uses the risk assessment process when it is doing something, with safety risks, that it hasnt done before, such as moving a big, awkward and heavy piece of equipment across the facility. But Klein Steel may also employ it whenever we have an idea that something could happen, says COO Todd Zyra.

He also notes that the process also can be used for assessing risk in areas unrelated to safety.

The power of the process is getting people together to consider risk, he says.

By the way, the laser equipment move -- which proceeded following the five-step risk assessment process -- went smoothly, with no injuries or damage to people, equipment or facility.

See Also:

Klein Steel Service: IW Best Plants Profile 2011

2011 IW Best Plants Winners -- See the complete list.

About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

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