Tens of thousands of components and specialized materials pass through the Robinson refinery’s warehouse facilities every year to keep the refinery running. Managing the flow of chemicals, electrical equipment, catalysts, pipes, valves and other items presents daily safety challenges for the 15-member warehouse team. Yet the last time an OSHA recordable injury occurred in the warehouse complex, social media did not exist and Bill Clinton was president of the United States.
Angela Erton, who became warehouse foreman in January 2018, attributes this success to a tradition of promoting consistent, core safety practices even as warehouse leadership changed over time. “The warehouse has a strong safety culture. It is who we are and what we do,” she said. “It comes from getting a work group to own safety and talk openly about safety to create a trusting environment where employees feel comfortable sharing stories and concerns with each other and with leadership.”
Walking the Walk
Processing inventory items and delivering them throughout the refinery involves operating forklifts and flatbed trucks, placing loads on pallets, and using razor blades to open boxes. The warehouse’s safety practices are rooted in the refinery-wide Behavior Based Safety (BBS) Program, which emphasizes recording safety observations about work environments. Warehouse employees discuss their observations as a work group every Wednesday morning. They also conduct daily toolbox talks that allow employees to discuss the hazards they anticipate facing in the coming day. This vigilance continues throughout the day as employees evaluate each task with the SLAM (Stop, Look, Analyze, Mitigate) approach.
“As we assess each job, we are always asking ourselves what could go wrong? What could happen even though it hasn’t happened yet? We
are looking for pinch points and line-of-fire hazards constantly,” said Erton.
Decades of Excellence
In 2019, the team is moving toward extending the warehouse’s current safety milestones. If the team reaches Dec. 8 without an OSHA recordable injury, 21 years would have passed since the facilities’ last one in 1998. Carla Frye, warehouse supervisor, has been a warehouse employee throughout this period and much of the complex’s other safety streak. The warehouse marked 33 years without a lost-time injury on June 11.
Erton contends the same discipline required to achieve strong safety performance also enhances the warehouse team’s quality control work with alloy components the warehouse receives. The team is responsible for confirming that the metallurgy of each alloy is correct by using a device called a Positive Material Identification (PMI) Analyzer. Installing components with the wrong metallurgy in process units could be catastrophic, so the team’s attention to detail is critical to overall process safety for the refinery.
Hitting Close to Home
The warehouse culture’s emphasis on safety consciousness extends beyond the individual to promote a collaborative safety mentality. Team members are empowered with the right and the responsibility to stop any job that appears unsafe.
“If you value yourself and your co-workers on the safety front, then that contributes to better morale, efficiency, and productivity,” Erton said. “It feels good to come to work knowing that your co-workers have your back!”
Given the warehouse’s safety record, Erton noted the team stays grounded by never losing sight of the most important reason to follow safety procedures: to always be there for loved ones.
“We can never relax,” she said. “We talk about it only taking one time, one second of lost focus, for someone’s life to change forever.”