Photo provided by Glen Thompson
Industryweek 10558 Glenthompson

Putting Out Fires in the Factory

March 14, 2016
Using Firefighting Skills to Promote Safety at Work | Emergency Response

It's still dark when a red Dodge truck turns into the parking lot of Modern Fasteners, its headlights and a handful of streetlights the only illumination of the industrial driveway in Brook Park, Ohio.

The truck pulls up outside the employee entrance – the only entrance unlocked at this hour – and the driver, Glen Thompson, unloads duffel bags onto the ground. The night before he had trained fellow firefighters on CPR and needed to bring his training gear back to work.

Thompson, the safety manager for Modern Fasteners, carries the bags inside before parking, returning with his arms full of doughnuts – pastries he snagged from Fragapane Bakeries in North Olmsted on his drive in.  

As he performs his morning walk-through of the plant, he notifies workers he stops to chat with about the treats in the office.

The doughnuts, he says, keep employee morale high. That's why he gets chocolate-filled ones.

Thompson oversees safety at Modern Fasteners and provides safety training to all employees of Buckeye Fasteners – its parent company. The job, he says, is an easy one because Buckeye is employee owned.

"Buy in is very easy when it's employee owned because it's their money; it's their piece of the pie," Thompson says.

Thompson, too, has owned his career with the company, shaping it into something that mirrors his personal life. He started working at the plant in the warehouse's shipping department. But since then, his role has evolved as his life has changed.

After marrying his wife, who comes from a family of firefighters, he joined the local fire department as a volunteer firefighter. Over time, he became an assistant fire instructor, an EMT and an investigator.

"Safety just made sense," Thompson says. "These two jobs overlap a lot."

His days are fluid, easily transitioning from the factory to the firehouse to his 100-acre farm. After work, Thompson planned to turn in paperwork from the previous night's firefighter training, before dropping off a part from the farm for repair.  

He provides OSHA and CPR training to employees and runs fire and severe weather drills, every act melding his personal life with his professional.

Thompson stops to grab his travel mug, which is filled with Starbucks coffee he grinds on his own, from his desk, where a blue fire and rescue hoodie hangs from the chair. He has a desk in both the office and in the plant, making his a familiar face to workers on and off the factory floor.

"If I have to spend a lot of time out here putting out fires, obviously I'm not doing something right," Thompson says.

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