Herman Miller Earns Workplace Safety Kudos

July 1, 2007
| By Pete Daly |
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 HOLLAND — A major factor in risk management is health and safety in the workplace, which gets far more attention today than a generation ago.

"There is a greater focus on the prevention side," said Jim Dawdy of Universal Insurance Services Inc., in Grand Rapids. He has worked in the insurance industry for more than 35 years.

Herman Miller is an example. In late June, the company's Midwest Distribution Center received the state's highest safety and health award from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth. The Michigan Voluntary Protection Program Star Award for the distribution center is the third Herman Miller facility in Michigan to achieve such status.

The GreenHouse Seating Operation received the award in 2005, and the Spring Lake 171st Avenue facility received the award in 2006.

“Herman Miller is one of Michigan’s ‘Best Corporate Citizens,’ and we are honored to recognize them for their workplace safety and health excellence,” said Department of Labor and Economic Growth Director Keith W. Cooley.

Todd Miller, corporate safety supervisor at Herman Miller, said the big change at the distribution center that led to the award was employee involvement in the safety process in ways that Herman Miller could demonstrate to MIOSHA.

Employee teams were created in six areas of safety, and "100 percent" of the 275 employees in the distribution center have had some involvement, ranging from making suggestions to doing safety audits and training other employees.

A major risk facing hourly workers at the distribution center is ergonomic injuries, and that generally involves hand-loading of office furniture into semi-trucks, which requires a lot of heavy lifting. There has been a "major improvement" on the emphasis of safe lifting methods, said Miller.

The injury incidence rates at Herman Miller's Midwest Distribution Center are well below the industry average for the North American Industry Classification System code 49311 (General Warehousing and Storage), according to MIOSHA. Herman Miller’s “total case incidence rate” was 3.8 in 2003, 2.8 in 2004, and 2.5 in 2005, compared to the Bureau of Labor Statistics industry average of 10.1 in 2003, 9.3 in 2004, and 8.4 in 2005. The firm’s "days away/restricted cases" rate was 2.9 in 2003, 1.4 in 2004, and 1.3 in 2005, compared to the industry average of 7.5 in 2003, and 5.6 in 2004 and 2005.

Herman Miller’s Midwest Distribution Center is the company’s main warehousing and distribution center for office furniture. The MIOSHA review team conducted 36 formal and 12 informal interviews during its site visit. The team examined each of the required elements of the safety and health management system, and found them to effectively address the scope and complexity of the hazards at the site, noted a MIOSHA press release.

Areas of excellence cited by MIOSHA at the Herman Miller distribution center included "stellar housekeeping," vehicle safety and pedestrian walkways, alarmed gates at loading docks, and ergonomic checklists that provide valuable information to employees.

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