Who is The Empire Company?
Founded in 1946, The Empire Company is one of the largest millwork distribution and manufacturing companies in the United States. With a geographic footprint that touches the majority of the eastern half of the United States, they have over 20 locations distributing Building Products.
At their location in Lakeland FL, John Cox (Safety Captain) and Anthony Buie (Inventory Manager) are responsible for creating a safe working environment for 90 people through their safety and maintenance leadership responsibilities. The facility operates 17 Forklift Trucks each day and serves major building suppliers and retailors in the South East of the United States.
Why are Forklift Truck Inspections Important to The Empire Company?
The answer to this was summed up by John who said:
“The safety of our people is number one, and so it is important for us to know that forklifts are safe both for the people operating them and those around them”. John went on to say “We of course also know that OSHA requires forklift trucks to be inspected every shift, and we want to meet, and exceed those standards”
In addition, like most warehouse environments, forklift trucks are the backbone of productivity. Therefore, keeping them in shape and catching small issues before something larger happens, is of course important to The Empire Company too, Anthony offered a great example on this:
“If an operator does their inspection, they’ll catch that minor leak to a hose that can be repaired at minimum cost. If not, and the hose explodes causing the hydraulics fail, not only is there a risk to life and limb but to our products too. Not to mention the other risks and costs that scenario will create.”
Overall, The Empire Company, like most, have a genuine commitment to making sure forklift inspections take place both for the safety and wellbeing of their people and the productivity of the organization.
How They Did Forklift Inspections Before and the Challenges
Like most organizations, The Empire Company gave their operators a sheet of paper and required them to do a pre-shift inspection. When asked ‘what was good, and not so good about the form you used before?’, John answered “It wasn’t visible”. John went on to say “We’d have to stop the operator, ask them if they had inspected the lift and to be shown the sheet. We’d also have to rely on them to turn in the forms, which we’d have to file and keep in readiness for audit or OSHA inspection.’’
The message from John & Anthony was clear: to make certain the inspections happened every shift, and stay on top of organizing and keeping the records was time consuming for managers and operators alike. Equally, the only way to manage the activity in this scenario is to be ‘the safety police’ which of course works against the momentum in building a safety culture.
Why SG World USA’s Patented Safety Checklist Product
John and Anthony had lots of examples and stories about how this solution is making a significant difference at their facility. The majority of the comments were about the visibility of the solution, so we’ve tried to summarize what they said about the visibility as follows:
Much of the conversation was around the ownership the operators now take of doing their safety inspections every time, because the visibility of the safety status of the machine has brought about an accountability that was not there before. They also spoke about the time saving nature of the ‘all in one’ and easy to use solution for the operator, as well as them no longer having to go to the office each day to turn it in. The comment we enjoyed the most was a real demonstration of the success it has delivered in their safety culture and it was shared by John:
“They call each other out now. When they see each other has not done an inspection they say, ‘hey you didn’t inspect your lift’. That’s safety culture”
That culture has been achieved in less than 6 weeks.
Much of the conversation in management was around time, both on the warehouse floor and in the office. It was clear, that like all organizations, there just isn’t time for supervisors to know if 17 forklifts have been inspected each shift, and of course address the gaps. But when asked ‘why is time saving so important?’, what Anthony said next was refreshing and a new perspective that we had not heard before! Here’s what he said:
“I don’t know if it’s the busyness [that’s the issue] because we’re always busy. You are inspecting things you can see and hear all the time as you walk up and down the warehouse, making sure stacks are safe, making sure people are beeping their horns etc… “
“With everything going on in your mind however, that visual representation [delivered by this patented product] is an immediate reminder that I need to look at that. And I’ll say it, when that [product] wasn’t there the operators drive by and whether the safety inspection happened is not at the forefront of a supervisor’s mind and we just don’t have time to stop everybody, every day, to make sure they did their inspection. Now we have this solution, when they are driving by I can see if they did their inspection and most importantly it brings it to the forefront of my mind”
The Inspection Book
We often find many benefits that seem small but carry a big impact. Sometimes it’s the waterproof nature of the paddle, or the fact you can customize it with your own checklist and logo. The thing that came through from John and Anthony, was the efficiency the solution delivers and especially with the book. Aside from the inspection book being intuitive and easy to use, Anthony said this:
“Your carbon copy is huge. Even if they don’t turn in the top copy every day, there is always a record in that book. Plus, you can pull that book out and go back, it’s right there at your fingertips”.
John talked about the need for efficient record keeping, not just to prove OSHA compliance but in the time saving it has delivered for administrators too.
Overall, The Empire Company cares about its people and their safety. They are committed to building a safety culture and making it easy for operators and supervisors to work safely while delivering for their customers. They told us “The product sells itself” and love its simplicity. They were more than happy to share their experience in this case study, with the intention of helping others discover this patented solution by SG World USA.