Toolbox talks bring safety to life at Lawton

By C.A. Lawton | April 10, 2019
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At The C.A. Lawton Co., worker safety is Job One. One way we strive to provide the safest possible environment in the foundry is through informal safety meetings called “toolbox talks.”

These short meetings are usually held just before a team begins its work day. They are a very effective way for supervisors to refresh workers’ knowledge on timely topics, cover last-minute safety checks and exchange information with their workers. Engaging employees in conversations around these topics helps keep safety at the forefront of their minds throughout their shifts.

Toolbox talks are also intended to promote larger discussions about employee health and safety and to promote Lawton’s safety culture. They are held in addition to formal safety training sessions.

“Often, toolbox talks are focused on what we call ‘good catches.’ These are potential safety issues that our workers notice and alert their supervisors to, so we can take immediate steps to prevent them,” explains chief operating officer Barry Adamski.

These quick, preventative fixes are part of Lawton’s continuous improvement initiative. That means the company has annual goals for employees to report them. They are also shared among foundry employees, so everyone can benefit from them.

“Last year, our goal was 200 good catches. We exceeded that number two months before the end of the year,” he adds.

A case in point is a recent toolbox talk written by Lawton compliance manager Steve Perks that reinforced the importance of keeping liquids and other foreign material out of scrap metal to be melted in the foundry’s furnaces. This bulletin was published after a worker discovered a partially empty plastic bottle in scrap material when it was brought to the melt bay.

When “wet charge materials” – anything containing water or moisture – come in contact with molten metal, they instantly turn to steam and rapidly expand in volume.

“When that happens, it can throw molten metal and possibly high-temperature solids out of the furnace, putting workers, the furnace itself and nearby plant and equipment at risk,” Perks points out.

Sections of tubing or piping that have been sheared shut on both ends also represent a potential safety hazard, because they can contain combustible liquids or fumes that can explode when they come in contact with molten metal, Perks adds.

This safety bulletin encourages Lawton foundry workers to be diligent about collecting “clean” scrap that is free of foreign materials, such as trash, glass, plastic or soda bottles and closely inspecting it before sending it to the melt bay. The collection container also needs to be kept free of rain, snow and other liquids.

The bulletin concludes by reminding workers that their safety depends on them being conscious of what they are doing and the impact their actions have on others.

Toolbox talks and good catches are integral parts of Lawton’s safety culture. And they help us to maintain a remarkable workplace where the health and safety of our workers is our number one concern.