"About four or five years ago, the president, Rob Durham, sat the senior management down and said we needed to begin a safety program," says Tom Matousek, production manager and safety director of HKM. "He said he expected all the employees to return to their families uninjured and healthy. He essentially said, spend the money and take the time to do it right."
The first step the 160-employee company took was to contact the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and ask for help.
"They gave us an overview of what we needed to get started," says Matousek. "We began by implementing a committee made up of representatives from each department for each shift."
HKM took advantage of several free state programs to study processes.
"They came out and did a review of our equipment and how we are using it, and made recommendations on how to reduce the chance of injuries," says Matousek. "We applied for (and received) a grant for lift trucks that lift the paper up so the pressmen don't have to lift it. We only had to pay about 30 percent of the cost."
The state also helped the company set up a return-to-work program for injured employees to ease back into their jobs by performing light duties until they are ready to return to their original positions.
And HKM brought in a professional consulting firm to help it create an effective safety program, including doing a safety inspection of the facility, and reviewing training and education programs.
Matousek says the employees have bought into the program partly because the senior managers are leading by example.
"All the senior managers were trained in CPR, first aid and hazardous material cleanup," says Matousek. "They have led the way rather than telling everyone what they should do and learn. Each plant also has its own defibrillator."
The commitment also comes from the time sacrificed to safety programs.
"This is a very high-speed and fast-paced business," says Matousek. "The training isn't just a half hour here and there; some of these classes last three to four hours. Everybody struggles with trying to get the rank and file to buy into a safety program, especially if there are not a lot of horrific accidents. What brings them into the fold is that they are very impressed when we stop production to train them on lockout tag procedures.
"It shows them we are serious about what we are doing. We are pushing for more production all the time, but when we stop that for training, it tells them that this is important information."
The award-winning program came about not because of a rash of injuries -- the occasional cut or other minor incident is all HKM has dealt with -- but rather from a proactive approach at formalizing a safety program so that employees understand and take responsibility for the risks associated with their jobs.
"One of the things you'll notice is that we didn't go it alone," says Matousek. "We looked for help. The state offers free help, and we took that a step further by hiring a consultant. The state was highly efficient. They come out and do the testing necessary, along with giving any follow-up reports.
"The BWC can give you the resources you need and tell you what you need to do. You can do it all relatively inexpensively." How to reach: HKM Direct Market Communications, www.hkmdirectmarket.com