Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Novi, Mich.-based Cooper Standard Automotive Inc. exceeded its average health and safety performance records last year with 29 plants achieving zero incidents, triple the amount from 2019.
This year, the company also reached a total of 13 plants achieving zero incidents for two consecutive years by "proactively seeking out potential issues that could impact or harm [anyone]," Patrick Clark, senior vice president and chief global manufacturing officer at Cooper Standard, told Plastics News.
For the 10th consecutive year, Cooper Standard did not experience any fatal accidents at its plants.
Although the pandemic "drove a different level of intensity in certain areas," including health and safety, Clark said, the automotive supplier doesn't "look at last year as something unique, but as something that continues to build."
With a dedicated environmental health and safety professional in each facility, Cooper Standard encourages plant managers and employees to engage in identifying job hazards and completing risk assessments through "safety balance score cards" that help to find the "root cause" of any incidents, he said.
"Get the voice of the individuals who are responsible to run the equipment. … Protecting our employees is our first responsibility," Clark said. "They're the ones that see the safety issues or risks that can be mitigated. … They're the ones that have to produce the products every day.
"[The pandemic] drove a heightened sensitivity," he said. "Formalizing the structure around the [emergency response teams] allowed us to look at things going on and have dialogues."
While the company encourages its workers to get vaccinated and offers on-site opportunities to do so, it's also employing a phased "safe return to operations plan" made up of four steps.
Moving through each phase is dependent on COVID-19 case numbers and government restrictions in the regions plants are located, Clark said.
As it starts to relax steps like mask wearing, social distancing, barriers, temperature checks and cleaning, the company is being "cautious on how quickly we move to the next phase," he said. "In the case that we have an area that changes direction [in case numbers], we would move the phase back."
Some of its locations, including those in Brazil and South Korea, haven't yet met the case-level criteria to move forward from phase "zero," with all pandemic safety measures still in place, Clark said. "As we move forward and things start to hopefully unwind and return to normalcy, we do see an opportunity to continue behavior and activities that will support overall safety."
Some plants in the U.S., where caseloads are low and vaccination levels are strong, are on phase three, while the bulk of its locations are around phase one and moving toward phase two.