ELYRIA, Ohio — How did Bendix follow up its 2019 recognition as one of America’s Safest Companies? For starters, it achieved the lowest injury rate in its 90-year history. Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC (Bendix) logged its safest year ever in 2020, in the midst of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s contribution to ongoing market volatility throughout the year – and manufacturing-level extremes across the organization.
With a Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR) of recordable injuries that was far lower than the industry average, the five Bendix manufacturing campuses across North America continued to practice preventive and corrective safety programs in support of the company’s zero-injuries goal. Of the company’s 21 North American locations, 18 finished the year with no recordable injuries, also a record.
In 2019, Bendix was recognized as one of America’s Safest Companies, among 15 companies selected for the honor by the magazine EHS Today. The organization dedicated to setting the industry safety standard for commercial vehicles throughout North America remains equally committed to organizational safety.
“To say 2020 was a year like no other is an understatement. The health and safety of our workforce – ensuring that our team members return home in the same condition they arrived – has always been our top priority. It’s a deep passion we all share as we look out for each other,” said Carlos Hungria, Bendix chief operating officer. “Despite the disruptions, we remained dedicated and strong. We came together to support continuous operations, to deliver exceptional results, and – most important – to achieve record safety performance. That’s something we can all be proud of.”
Hungria continued, “The immense challenges of the pandemic added a completely new dimension that none of us could have anticipated. Leveraging the depth of our existing safety processes, policies, and practices to develop and deploy a comprehensive world-class COVID response plan was key to keeping our employees safe and our operations intact. It was a Herculean effort by many talented people, but one made just a little easier with our time-tested foundation already in place.”
By the Numbers
Bendix’s workplace safety performance, measured annually by TCIR, exceeded the outstanding results achieved in 2019. TCIR measures the total number of recordable injuries per 100 workers per year. In 2020, Bendix achieved a TCIR of 0.37, a number that is far below the industry average.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the TCIR for similar manufacturing facilities in 2019 was 2.7. A recordable injury or accident in the workplace is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) as a workplace injury that requires medical attention beyond first aid.
Twenty of Bendix’s 21 North American locations improved their performance or had zero injuries. Eighteen sites surpassed the one-year mark without a recordable injury. Other noteworthy milestones for length of time free of recordable injuries include two years at Lebanon, Tennessee, and the R&D centers in Monterrey, Mexico, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
They join the ranks of the company’s consistently top-performing locations, including Montreal, Canada, which completed more than 17 years of operations with no recordable injuries; and the Mexico City, Mexico, and Vancouver, Canada, locations, which have experienced no recordable injuries for more than 12 years. Additional milestones for length of time free of recordable injuries included 10 years in Sparks, Nevada, and nine years in Irvine, California.
“Last year’s record safety performance is the result of all of us performing countless tasks safely, while looking out for each other,” Hungria said. “No matter where we report to work each day, we take the time to ‘see safety’ by thinking about the potential hazards of every task.”
Foundations of Safety
At the core of Bendix’s sustained safety performance is a combination of strong commitment by leadership and mature safety processes. Guided by Bendix’s Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) team, the broad and consistently applied range of activities in place to help ensure employees and visitors return home safely each evening includes annual leadership back-to-work sessions, which feature a message from the Bendix Executive Board and reaffirm the company’s commitment to safety every day.
Among the other activities is consistent integration of a required Safety Share reminder at the start of all meetings, including each quarterly Bendix Town Hall. The Safety Share includes instructions in the event of an emergency, as well as a personal safety tip – applicable for home or work – from a meeting participant.
A multifaceted Safety Walk & Talk program at all Bendix locations incorporates proactive monthly safety audits conducted by leadership and regular executive review. Outcome updates and timely corrective actions resulting from any recordable injury investigation at Bendix manufacturing sites are also part of the company’s comprehensive safety agenda. These critical programs and more continued amid the COVID backdrop, as site walkthroughs and inspections were added to check on COVID precautions, along with adjusting large employee trainings to small group settings for the production team members – to maintain the company’s commitment to safety.
According to Maria Gutierrez, Bendix director of corporate responsibility and sustainability, “As injury rates continue to fall across Bendix locations, the need for every employee to stay engaged in the safety process remains and will always be critical to the safety of every employee.”
The importance of this point was further accented when Bendix acquired its wholly owned subsidiary, R.H. Sheppard Co., Inc., in June 2020. Bendix introduced core safety expectations on day one of the combined organization, and it continued to apply enhanced safety processes and tools through the implementation of the Knorr Production System Safety Pillar throughout the year and beyond.
“The absence of injuries does not ensure the presence of safe – thus it cannot be mistaken as the end of the journey,” Gutierrez said. “At Bendix, our safety journey never ends. We will continue to strive to make every day at each of our North American locations a ‘Perfect HSE Day’ where no injuries occur. In 2021 and beyond, this will require the use of problem- solving for every incident, no matter how minor, to take the steps necessary to prevent recurrence.”
The Bendix Safety Pillar, integrated within the organization’s Knorr Production System (KPS) lean manufacturing system, provides the structure to make sure problem-solving becomes part of the routine process across the organization.
Bendix continues to encourage every employee to use their “stop work authority” any time an at-risk situation occurs. Stop work authority is a foundational component of safety, and it begins with safety awareness and the ability to “see safety” and take actions before a hazard results in an injury.
Gutierrez noted that the company’s Safety STARS (Safety Top Achievement Recognition System) program drives employee engagement, encouraging employees to report unsafe conditions and behaviors, attend safety trainings, and submit ideas (Quick Kaizens) for safety improvements.
For 2021, Bendix is striving to achieve even stronger performance, with a focus on highlighting the principles of safety excellence. These foundational and cultural training programs are designed to drive even greater accountability and ownership of safety performance among all levels of the organization to achieve the zero-injuries goal.
“Achieving an all-time low for injuries and injury rate during the extraordinary COVID-19 pandemic clearly shows our ability to keep our focus on safety, no matter the circumstance,” Hungria said. “We’ll need this continued focus in 2021 as the industry recovery takes shape and we see customer demand and work hours continue to tick upward as they did in the final months of 2020. There is still uncertainty in the global economy, but one thing that stays unchanged here at Bendix is our commitment to build an injury-free workplace.”
About Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC
Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, a member of Knorr-Bremse, develops and supplies leading-edge active safety technologies, energy management solutions, and air brake charging and control systems and components under the Bendix brand name for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, tractors, trailers, buses, and other commercial vehicles throughout North America. An industry pioneer, employing more than 4,100 people, Bendix – and its wholly owned subsidiary, R.H. Sheppard Co., Inc. – is driven to deliver the best solutions for improved vehicle safety, performance, and overall operating cost. For more information visit bendix.com. Stay connected and informed through Bendix expert podcasts, blog posts, videos, and other resources at knowledge-dock.com. Follow Bendix on Twitter at twitter.com/Bendix_CVS. Log on and learn from the Bendix experts at brake-school.com. And to learn more about career opportunities at Bendix, visit bendix.com/careers.