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Safety Pays At Champion

A company-wide safety culture at Champion Compressors is taking productivity to a new level, as industry and the wider community benefit from its corporate responsibility.

Safety's commercial significance is a waking giant. One company, the Australian industrial air compressor designer and manufacturer, Champion Compressors, has set out to make safety earn its keep, by ensuring its safety protocols impact positively on the bottom line of its clients. This company-wide commitment to safety has set Champion apart from its peers in the Australian industrial scene.
Significantly, with nine branches and 200 employees throughout Australia, Champion has not lost any work hours to injury in the last two years. The company nurtures a culture of safety among its employees and considers this its priority. A three-pronged strategy targeting the final products, corporate administration and field services, has been adopted to implement safety initiatives throughout the company.
Champion-designed products have safety actually built-in, while prudent management directives ensure best-practice methods are employed on the shop floor. In the field services sector, Champion's service department targets safe operations, even in the most unfamiliar environments. It is this company-wide safety culture that sets Champion Compressors apart from its competitors.

Committing To Safety

Parent company, United Technologies Corporation (UTC) directly influences Champion's dedication to safety. UTC's directive on corporate responsibility details the company's commitment to key environmental, economic and social outcomes associated with all aspects of its business activities.

"Champion Compressors has always considered safety as important as profits," says Champion Compressor Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) coordinator, Simon Meyrick. "Safety and profits walk hand in hand. A safety conscious and confident workforce produces efficiency, which results in more cost-effective products," Meyrick says.

Prevention is a notion always in the minds of the company's design engineers. The design of Champion's products is shaped by the engineers' attention not only to safe operation, but also to safe maintenance. Meyrick says "Minimising the hazards from the design stage greatly reduces the dangers associated with construction and servicing."

Home And Away Winners

With over 10,000 customers in Australia alone, Champion employees are faced with a diverse range of potential hazards and safety issues. These are encountered on-site at Champion's Victorian manufacturing facility, off-site at various customer installation sites, and in transit between the two.

Specific plans are in place to minimise the risks and hazards that Champion personnel might be exposed to. One such scheme is called 'Step back 5 by 5'. This initiative entails spending five minutes prior to commencing a task, to critically evaluate the associated risks. After assessing and attending to all possible hazards, the crew can complete the assignment, safe in the knowledge that all precautions have been taken. The implementation of the 'Step back 5 by 5' plan has addressed on-site safety issues such as manual handling and electrical/mechanical equipment use. "Using five minutes to assess the situation actually increases efficiency in the long run," says Meyrick. "The employees gain confidence enabling them to complete their tasks more quickly and without injury."
According to Meyrick, a safety culture is one where the prevention of unsafe practices becomes automatic. "We want our employees to perform their jobs safely when no-one is around," says Meyrick. Champion is achieving these high standards of safety by empowering its staff through regular training, re-enforcement and equality among its employees. This directive comes all the way from senior management and drives the company's pursuit of safety awareness.

The safety education of Champion's staff consists of an initial induction, with annual refreshers and monthly training covering a variety of safety topics. Staff are also encouraged to raise new issues at regular 'tool box' meetings, outside the designated training times. The culture of safety that thrives at Champion promotes an environment where employees regularly engage in open communication with regard to day-to-day safety issues.

"If one of our employees notices that someone has forgotten to put on their safety glasses, he or she will alert that person - regardless of their position in the company," says Meyrick. "Everyone is equal in the eyes of safety."

Champion's list of core values, which forms the foundation of its safety culture, is derived from that of its parent company, UTC. These core values are family, good health, friends, job and community. The values form the centrepiece and key objectives of all of the company's safety initiatives.

Extending The Reach Of Safety

The recognition that safety is influenced by employee well-being and environmental health has produced a unique holistic safety philosophy at Champion Compressors from which innovative concepts are born.

Flexible tailored working hours to suit the individual needs of its staff are a feature of this distinctive commitment to safety. These ensure employees are available for personal and family commitments. "If our people feel safe and appreciated, they are more likely to be confident and happy in their roles. This results in an efficient, healthy and enthusiastic workforce," says Meyrick. The intention is to develop an educated team of compressor specialists who remain with the company for long periods, thus retaining knowledge and expertise. "Champion has numerous employees who have been with the company for over 15 years," says Meyrick.

Along with UTC, Champion Compressors endeavours to maintain the highest level of sustainable ethical, environmental and community safety standards. What Champion describes as its long-term corporate responsibility is demonstrated by its record of zero emissions to land, water and air - all of which are monitored. Timber, metals and plastics are all separated from general refuse and re-used or recycled.

This environmental consideration also extends to Champion's consumable products. A case-in-point is Champion's high-performance, biodegradable compressor lubricant Sullube. With an operational lifetime of up to 8000 hours (conventional lubricants may only last 1000 or 1500 hours), Sullube reduces the total volume of lubricant disposed into the environment. Moreover, its biodegradability in water means that such mixtures can be legally disposed (with permission) into the sewage system, precluding the need for costly oil/water separators. "Sullube was developed to provide excellent protection for compressors, with the environment in mind," says Meyrick. Champion's other non-biodegradable lubricants are safely recycled as fuels to power stations.

As others begin to realise the commercial benefits associated with the implementation of a comprehensive safety philosophy, Champion is already building on its established foundation. With safety and the greater environment sharing equal importance to that of design, performance and profits, Champion Compressors is futureproofing its leadership in the industry. "Safety is a proven asset that yields tangible benefits to its subscribers and extends its reach beyond its obvious worth," says Meyrick.

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