Yaskawa Electric America

America's Safest Companies 2023: Yaskawa America

Aug. 11, 2023
Yaskawa uses web-based systems to put safety information into the hands of associates whenever they need it.

Yaskawa America Inc.

Manufacturer of variable frequency drives, servo motors and industrial robots

Waukegan, IL

859 employees | 8 sites | 1 EHS professional

Safety can be a very complex process, and just the thought of the regulatory compliance reports and forms required to be filled out can make any safety professional bleary-eyed. Yaskawa America, a manufacturer of automation solutions, is very much an adherent to the “simplify” school of safety and focuses on the Safety Triad—an adaptation of a model developed by consulting firm ProAct Safety’s Terry Mathis and Shawn Galloway.

The Safety Triad, as the name implies, has only three steps. “Associates start by identifying all of the potential hazards in their work area,” explains David Thurwanger, Yaskawa’s EHS risk mitigation manager. “The second step is to control the hazard. Most often, this is done in the product and/or process design using the hierarchy of controls. The third step is that they do these things all of the time.”

As Thurwanger points out, the Safety Triad compresses all of the elements, policies and controls down to a localized level, which allow each worker to be a safety expert in their own work area. And it even goes beyond the work area, he adds, as many associates also use the Safety Triad at home and teach others the process. Yaskawa, which previously won the America’s Safest Companies award in 2017, believes in Safe Production, Thurwanger states. “It is never safety or productivity, the same as it is never quality or productivity. Our goal is to safely manufacture defect-free products to the customer at the time the customer wants them.” Thurwanger has a background in human resources and in training and development, so EHS is included in the development of the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and initiatives. The focus of Yaskawa’s DEI training is being respectful of how other people want to be treated, i.e., the Platinum Rule.

“We use web-based systems to put safety information into the hands of associates at any time they want it.” For example, Yaskawa offers microlearning-style safety briefs—two- to three-minute safety videos. The company also has developed a Safety Heat Map program, which displays incidents onto a web-based overlay of a facility drawing. “Each incident is an icon that shows the incident type,” he explains. “The icon can be clicked to learn more, such as what led to the incident, any potential unsafe conditions or unsafe behaviors, and any lapses in the Safety Triad.” Yaskawa also offers an Emergency Response Web Guide that associates can access via their smartphones. The app offers guidance on what to do in any emergency regardless of where the emergency occurs. When all is said and done, at Yaskawa, safety is not a department nor an additional work requirement, Thurwanger stresses. “Safety must be engrained in everything that we do.”

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