Miami Rod Mill Reaches Safety Milestone
August 17, 2022 - When a sales expert takes time to compliment the health and safety record at a rod mill, that should demonstrate the impact 1,400 – and counting – injury-free days can have.
But it even goes beyond safety for Randy Nickle, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing-Phoenix, when it comes to talking about the Miami, Ariz., rod mill.
“I acknowledge the safety performance with the team every time we speak. We have to do the work safely, every day,” Nickle said. “But when it comes to Miami, it’s not just about the number of days they’ve worked safely. It’s about the attitude with which they approach all aspects of the work, day-in and day-out, everything from safety to quality to cost to customer service and employee engagement. The whole team is fully engaged.”
The 34-year career of Patrick Shanahan at the Miami rod mill has afforded a wealth of perspective on swings in safe production. Shanahan noted he’s been around long enough to experience the ebbs and flows of the site’s safety performance over the years.
“It usually comes down to people just getting complacent, getting in a hurry, but it can also happen if management is pushing a little too hard on production,” said Shanahan, Rod Mill Production Operator V-Miami.
There was a time when the Miami rod mill averaged a work-time injury every 100 days. For David Herzog, who has 37 years of company experience, the turning point at Miami came in 2010, a year after he arrived from a company rod mill in Chicago.
Shifting safety mindset
“They shut down the plant at Miami in 2010 because we were having so many accidents,” said Herzog, Senior Service Maintenance Specialist-Miami. “It gave everybody time to go home and think about it and start developing a different mentality – and it wasn’t easy – but little by little, we realized we could go longer than 100 days, longer than 200 days, and we just started to see the change. We would have setbacks, but things changed. People changed.”
As of July 28, employees of the Miami rod mill have worked 1,412 consecutive days since the last work-time injury Sept. 19, 2018.
“What I enjoy is that when we have visitors, they see the posters on the gate about how long we’ve gone without somebody getting hurt, and when they ask how we did it, what changed, I tell them it’s just the people. It’s just people looking out for each other,” Herzog said.
The culture at Miami is one where veterans at the venerable Arizona rod mill help ensure that newbies know the ropes of a relatively small footprint housing a buzz of activity; and there’s a lot of ropes when that activity is centered on an ever-shrinking rectangular strip of molten copper, which in less than 30 yards transforms into copper rod neatly coiled in a shiny bundle about the size of a dishwasher.
“We spend time with all of our employees, taking them by the hand, walking through every process we have in the rod mill. We have them observing each step of the job they’re going to do before we have them step in to try it,” said David Rubin, Supervisor, Rod Mill-Miami.
Leadership by listening
It’s part of a comprehensive strategy that has leaders at the mill spending as much time as possible out on the floor working with and listening to their operators and technicians, said Michael Rubin, Laboratory Supervisor-Miami.
“If you want to develop that culture of quality, that comes from really having your leaders out there on the floor, working with people, listening to their concerns, giving updates and information about how we’re doing,” Michael Rubin said. “You can’t just talk about getting your leaders out in the field more. You have to walk that walk every day. You have to really get out there and be a presence every day. That’s how you help build and sustain a culture.”
Photos (clockwise): Charles Burtlow, Rod Mill Operator III-Miami, and Anthony Gatewood, Rod Mill Operator II-Miami, work another safe shift finishing coil at the Miami Rod Mill; David Rubin, Supervisor, Rod Mill-Miami, is part of a workforce that hasn’t experienced a workplace injury since September 2018; Ray Vidales, Rod Mill Operator II-Miami, aims his forklift tines at coil of rod to pick and move at the Miami Rod Mill; David Herzog, Senior Service Maintenance Specialist-Miami, said the safety record at the rod mill is a function of people “always looking after each other.”