Ensuring safety in the data center supply chain

Zero is possible – injury prevention in data center generator manufacturing

Kohler’s implementation of a far-reaching injury prevention program is actively pursuing the elimination of workplace accidents, delivering a credible and trusted data center supply chain.

Achieving zero accidents in the workplace is possible. That is the philosophy that guides Kohler’s approach to accident prevention across its global power group sites.

This vision decrees that all accidents – however minor - can be prevented and that no one should be injured in the workplace.

Safety first in generator supply

But how do we go about delivering on that ambitious statement of intent? First and foremost, the answer lies in a recognition that our employees' health and safety is our most important value. This ethos requires a top-down approach to safety – with leadership providing the authority and commitment to ensure that our facilities are as safe as they can be.

This is supported by adopting a risk-based, data-driven injury prevention program (IPP) applied consistently across the shop floor. This strategy underpins the ethos of continuous improvement and monitoring of potential risks and is embedded into all manufacturing processes across our plants.

Injury prevention policies in action

Let us look at what the IPP means in practice – using our main generator production site in Brest, northwest France, as an example. Here, any potential accident hotspots are identified and analyzed using flow simulations to enable plant managers to predict where issues might occur.

Regular leadership-led safety tours are conducted at the plant, with a strong focus on employees’ postures, behaviors, and interactions with their environments.

Meanwhile, a zero-is-possible (ZIP) card process is used to encourage associates to flag any potential issues. Workshop managers and operations leaders regularly review these ZIP cards as part of 'scrum' meetings. As a result, new processes/safety measures such as education on best practices and even equipment upgrades are implemented to drive improvements.

For example, on a recent tour in Brest, the ZIP card process flagged the use of a non-conforming step ladder in the final control bay. This was identified as a potential fall hazard and subsequently removed and replaced.

Also, at the Brest facility, the ZIP card process highlighted a subcontractor failing to comply with Personal Protective Equipment rules. Corrective action was immediately taken, with additional safety follow-ups put in place.

Other safety responses have required more significant time and investment. After a near-miss between a warehouse worker and a forklift, new technology was implemented to limit forklifts' speed and lift function in some specific areas of the plant.

None of these approaches work without a culture of openness where all employees are encouraged to have their say. Stand-up meetings at the start of each shift provide an opportunity for any safety challenges or concerns to be discussed. The same goes for non-manufacturing locations, where risks and inappropriate safety behaviors also need to be carefully assessed and discussed.

Continuous improvement in safety

Implementation of the IPP at Brest is having a marked effect, with the recordable incident rate (RIR) on a long-term downward trajectory. In the last quarter, the RIR stood at 1.5, compared with 3.0 for the same period in 2020, and 3.4 in 2019.

Looking to the future, we recognize that safety is a never-ending journey, and there is no room for complacency. The IPP remains alive and constantly evolving initiative that adapts as production processes change.

Ultimately, we pursue the same approach to safety as we do to manufacturing – one of continuous improvement. And by following that tried-and-trusted pathway, we believe that achieving zero on-site accidents is an eminently achievable ambition.

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