Langley’s Mauser Packaging Solutions was recently endorsed with an Occupational Safety Standard of Excellence (OSSE) by B.C.’s Manufacturing Safety Alliance.
On Oct. 2 Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese gathered with plant manager Matthew Ralph, safety coordinator Maureen Johnson, and other long-term employees to celebrate the achievement.
With only 70 other manufacturing plants in the province with the designation – the plant earned a 95 per cent score in its OSSE safety audit, 15 per cent higher than the percentage required to achieve certification.
The small facility, tucked away at 5850 272nd St. in Gloucester, is one of 180 company sites in a multinational company that tops nearly 11,000 employees.
The packaging plant has 160 workers. They produce, package, and transport large plastic buckets for berries, specialty fish containers, ice cream pails, and other items for buyers in Canada, Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska.
The Gloucester facility was built in 2001 to relocate the plant from Annacis Island.
Human resource manager Jane Symington said the plant’s push for safety began six years ago after its first observance of the North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) week.
“That was a pivotal point for us. We started getting people involved in safety, and looking for ideas,” said Symington, who has worked at the plant for 14 years.
Employees now compete in a safety slogan contest during NAOSH week. This year’s chosen tagline was ‘Let’s walk the path of safety together,’ by the molds team.
Ralph, a plant manager at the company for two years, said that his dedication to safety was borne out of a deep desire to see people “leave work the way they came.”
“I’ve been a manager through two major accidents in my career and I think when you’ve been through that you really gain an understanding,” Ralph elaborated, “You never want to see anybody get hurt.”
The biggest safety risk to operators on the floor, Ralph said, is when they snap metal handles onto buckets produced by machinery.
Technical manager Dillop Bhulabhai, from Surrey, has seen the plant through its relocation and 40 years of manufacturing changes.
“Before it was all hand, wrist, and finger force to snap the handle into place,” Bhulabhai explained. Such labour was minimized five years ago when tools were introduced to assist workers with sliding the handle into place.
In April, the plant won a Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC Safety Innovator Award in the workplace wellness category – as credit to its injury-prevention efforts, which include ergonomics and job-rotation programs.
Safety coordinator Maureen Johnson, whose worked at the plant for 9 years, said the repetitive nature of the job results in aches and sprains for many of its employees.
“It’s the biggest thing that people take time off for and it can happen in an instant. Even if they’re doing something properly it can still happen,” Johnson elaborated.
So, at the beginning of every eight-hour shift – 6:15 a.m, 2:15 p.m, and 10:15 p.m. – managers hold safety huddles to ensure the use of personal protective equipment. Employees are also led in a guided stretch.
The plant’s ergonomics committee broke ground in September on the integration of a job-rotation system. As of now, machine operators rotate stations every one to two hours. Assessments are underway to learn which station might need to be rotated more frequently.
“This will be decided so that we’re not injuring people,” Johnson said. The program is to undergo another eight months of development.
Gaining OSSE certification was a two-year process for the Aldergrove packaging plant, according to Jennifer Wiebe of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC, who agreed that its employees are now at less risk for workplace accidents.