CEO Q&A: Company's emphasis on safety starts at the top

Founded in 1988, ADO Products has become an industry leader in manufacturing insulation accessories, ventilation products and protective wear. All the while, CEO Jim Andrews has been making sure that employees — which now number about 65 — have a safe place to do their work. We asked Andrews how he does it and how others can do the same.

Where did your focus on safety originate?

We’re just celebrating 26 years in business, and I look back at the past with a lot of fondness. Nobody gives you a blueprint on how to start a business, and it’s been a learning process all along. In the beginning, we wanted to have our own business to provide some financial security, but more importantly we wanted to create a place that was a better type of work environment than where we came from. That ties into the philosophy of safety in our business.

First and foremost, you want somebody to be able to come to work and feel safe. One of the biggest concerns of every human being is that they want to feel safe, and we’ve built an environment where they have that.

How did you get started with controlling safety?

It’s not something that just happens overnight. It’s a process. We started with a safety committee around 20 years ago, and it’s met regularly ever since, living and breathing safety. It’s been an evolving process, to the point where we’ve begun reporting every incident that could have become an accident. We make it clear that it’s everybody’s responsibility to keep the workplace safe and clean. If you see a spill, you clean it up. If you see anything that might be unsafe, you report it. We address it immediately and put a corrective action plan in place. We preach it and we reward it.

How do you reward safety?

We try to keep it fresh and alive. We’ve organized all kinds of special events to keep safety on people’s minds, like our safety slogan contest. Every 90 days without a lost-time accident means we throw a pizza party. We just celebrated 10 years without a lost-time accident, and it could have been even longer.

How have your employees responded to your commitment to safety?

People around here live it. They understand that safety is of value, and they get it. If you asked anybody who works here what the number one priority in this company is, it’s safety over profits. We will never sacrifice safety for profits.

How has SFM helped with safety controls?

We’ll rely on SFM’s loss prevention people to come in and help us with another set of eyes. That’s really been great for us. We use the safety materials regularly, and conduct our safety training with SFM’s resources.

How do you measure the return on the investment you’re making in safety?

To me, safety is not an investment – it’s just a way of life. We do have the experience rating to go by, and ours is good enough to save us quite a bit on premiums, but for us it goes beyond saving money.

What’s your advice for other business leaders to ensure a safe workplace?

Think about it like you’re having guests in your home. The people who work with me are kind of like my guests, and that’s how I treat them. There’s really no difference in my mind between keeping guests safe in my home and keeping employees safe in the workplace. Would I want to have guests come over to my house and slip and fall because there’s ice all over the sidewalk? No. Would I want my guests to be subjected to furniture falling apart because they sit on it? No. If you look at safety that way, it carries forward in all aspects.

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