Employees play key role in building - and spreading - a culture of environmental health and safety at Medtronic.
It should come as no surprise that studies show happy and healthy workers can significantly boost productivity on the job.1 But for organizations, large and small, it can be challenging to embed health and safety best practices into everyday work.
In 2014, the Medtronic manufacturing facility in Brooklyn Center, MN took to heart the notion that what's good for employees is good for business, and completely redesigned its production line to be more ergonomically sound for employees and more efficient for the company's bottom line. The work earned the team the Medtronic Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Award.
The center manufactures parts such as batteries, capacitors, connectors, and tubing used to generate energy for Medtronic's implantable devices. Its medium rate battery manufacturing line and the capacitor line were reworked as part of the effort.
Leaders like Mark Horton know the impact these kinds of changes can have. "It was complicated, and involved many pieces of equipment in each line," says Horton, who was Senior EHS Manager at the center when the redesign took place. He is now the Director of Environmental, Health, Safety & Sustainability (EHS&S) for Minnesota and Canada. "We knew the changes were needed to improve manufacturing efficiencies, increase capacity, reduce scrap, and improve employee safety and health," he adds.
"A mockup of the proposed production line was created and shared with employees to make sure they were involved and could see what it would look like," Horton says. “Everything had to be at the right height and position. The design process was made to fit around employees and not the other way around."
According to Doug Fullen, Vice President of Environmental, Health, Safety and Sustainability, getting employees involved in improvement efforts is key to instilling an EHS&S culture and delivering cost savings to the business.
But the work didn't stop there.
The program aimed to eliminate repetitive strain injuries, and the site came up with new ways to move product to reduce the amount of manual haulage required.
Fullen says the changes were smart for business, and good for employees' overall health and safety.
In just two years, the number of recorded injuries and illnesses plummeted by more than 60 percent, and there was an 80 percent drop in worker compensation costs. And it saved more than two million dollars in annual operating costs.
For Fullen, the attention to employee health and safety made the effort especially impressive. "We're a health-based company, we work to protect patients but just as importantly we keep our employees safe and healthy too," he says, "EHS&S is a core, fundamental value at Medtronic."
Medtronic sites and offices must meet strict criteria to even be considered for an EHS Sustainability award — potential winners are assessed in terms of innovation, teamwork and the ability to create scalable solutions and campaigns around energy conservation, waste reduction and employee safety.
"We recognize EHS&S excellence at an annual awards ceremony presented by an Executive Leader in the company," says Fullen.
Leaders hope to scale the Brooklyn Center improvements to other sites. In the meantime, the team there continues to make EHS a priority, which Horton says is key.
"At Medtronic, we celebrate teams that have contributed to our Mission, which is to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life," says Fullen. “The EHS Sustainability Award winners exemplify the Company's values by focusing on reducing our environmental impact and protecting the health and safety of our own employees."