Safety Star Reboot

Safety Star Reboot

The Safety Star program is getting a much-needed overhaul, making it more useful, interesting and effective. An element of employee engagement, the Star program was created with the intention of obtaining feedback from the floor for problem solving in areas of quality, cost and safety. As of now the Safety Star program remains as it can more easily be plugged in as an extension of the Workplace Safety System. Since its inception the program has evolved from a meeting in each department on the floor where it was difficult to hear what was going on, to a meeting in a boardroom where we were spoon-fed information with good intentions but in reality, this became just another safety talk. With little incentive to participate as Safety Stars, people interested in safety began dropping out after losing interest in the program.

At this year’s GM-UAW Safety Conference in Detroit, in a meeting chaired by our Regional Manager, a best practice was presented by GM Lockport of changes they made that added value to their SS program. With the support of our local Plant Leadership, we have jointly visited the Lockport, NY plant to learn firsthand what they have done, have jointly presented our findings, and Management has agreed to implement some of these changes to reboot our local program.
Why should we care about the company’s program? To be blunt, safety is everyone’s business and we as workers have a right to participate under the law, which is why you have Health and Safety reps. But we are only one part of the whole process and as much as we try, it is impossible for us to have eyes on the entire plant at all times with knowledge of every issue. We aren’t the ones who address your safety concerns; that’s your supervisor’s and your employer’s duty under the law. We are the gate keepers of the process to ensure the company’s safety system and policies are being followed to meet the regulatory compliance of the law.

We have chosen to support the company’s Safety Star program because we believe more eyes on safety with real input from workers on the floor benefits us all. You are the ones who know how to do your jobs and what you need to do them safely, and we can support changes that can empower you with knowledge to effectively raise awareness of unsafe conditions and employee safety concerns through the ESCP and other tools.

So, what’s changed? Safety Stars will be given two hours per month time off your regular job; half an hour for the Safety Star meeting and one and a half hours to preform focused tasks to improve safety. This time off will be scheduled through your G/L to provide coverage. An example of focus given in Lockport was for trip and slip hazards, where Safety Stars found and fixed over 175 conditions in one month, using the ESCP with majority completed by the end of their shift. Other examples could be learning how to audit your Level 5 boards or accompanying your G/L on a Safety Observation Tour. There are many activities that could be done to add value to safety. Safety Star meetings will be held every four weeks, and Stars will have a chance to report on their findings and provide feedback. If this interests you, we encourage you to take another look at the Safety Star program.

2019 Aerosol Mist Map

Since we began this job, one issue we have pushed hard is improving the quality of the air we breathe in the plant by focusing on regular preventative maintenance, cleaning and filter integrity of our oil mist collector systems and equipment. Through the Air Quality Committee, we have tracked a number of issues to completion including writing OMC operating and maintenance guidelines that monitors oil mist concentration around operating machining equipment in the event of an OMC breakdown, to ensure exposures remain below the GM action level of 0.5mg/m3. To validate the work of the AQC, GM Regional Industrial Pg.2 Hygienists conducted a joint plant aerosol survey column by column in all machining and assembly areas back in February. The final report issued in June is an overall plant wide oil mist aerosol map, and with the accompanying data shows we are making progress with some 60% of the measured area below 0.1mg/m3, 97% of the measured area below 0.2mg/m3 and gives us an idea for areas of focus going forward to try to reduce the 3% above 0.2mg/m3. All areas of the plant are below the 0.5 mg/m3 GM Action Level. Compared to the 2014 map, progress can be seen in the HFV6 Mod 3 Block and Head area and Mod 1&2 Block, areas that have received extensive attention. These maps will be included in the upcoming Metalworking Fluid training module for all machining employees.

Plant Ventilation Plan

The progress on air quality we have validated through the plant aerosol survey, has given us the flexibility to explore options for improving the operating efficiency of the plant ventilation air make-up systems. There are two different systems that affect air quality in the plant; Oil mist collection is a part of the production process that gathers and reduces the oil mist generated during machining operations. This is plant air that is suctioned from the machines, filtered to 95% efficiency and returned to the plant air we breathe. Make-up air is a different system apart from the production process that provides for our heating and cooling comfort. Most of these 54 air make-up units (AMUs) in our plant are located near the ceiling and have dampers that combine indoor air with 20% outdoor or make-up air to positively pressurize the building and replace air that is exhausted to the outside through local ventilation, mostly from production washers. Chillers are large air conditioning units that chill water in a continuous loop. This water flows through fan coils in the AMU that temper the air as it passes over the coil and through the fan. During extreme weather, outdoor temperature and humidity can rise above the threshold of our plant equipment’s capacity to temper this outdoor air drawn in from the roof, and it can seem like the “chillers” are not working. They are, but not efficiently enough to chill the incoming make-up air.
We received many complaints of elevated temperatures in Gen V Assembly during the first week of shut down, so we agreed to an experiment on two AMUs that service this area, 132E and 139E. Floor temperature was on target of 26.5*C but the 90% humidity being drawn in from the 20% open outside damper made the floor temperature feel much higher. We agreed to close the outdoor damper during the heat of the day, and reopen 100% at night when temp and humidity returned to levels lower than inside the plant. This would draw in 20% outdoor air over the entire day rather than continuously regardless of the equipment’s ability to temper. Within 2 hours of closing the outdoor damper floor temp dropped 2-3*C and humidity disappeared. Unfortunately, that night when the outdoor dampers were re-opened 95% humidity was drawn back indoors, so elevated humidity and temperatures returned.

Through the AQC we will continue to explore methods of automating these systems so external dampers can be controlled to close when outdoor temperature and humidity rise above the indoor setpoint, and can be programmed to open external dampers 100% wide open to draw in cool outdoor air when temperature and humidity are below the indoor setpoint. This interests the company because there is a cost savings involved. This interests us if we can work in more comfortable conditions without elevating oil mist aerosol levels in the machining areas jeopardizing air quality, and we will be monitoring these levels very closely. The experiment continues as we gather data and we will discuss further in future reports.

Please have a safe and enjoyable summer with your friends and family! Play safe!


Unifor Health and Safety Rep Edward Steers, 905 641 6420, Cell/Text 905 658 3271,
Alternate Unifor Health and Safety Rep Mike Pagano,   905 641 6420, PTT 7440029,