National Safety Month

June marks National Safety Month, an initiative started by the National Safety Council in 1996 to raise awareness about the importance of safety.
At Star Plastics, safety is our top priority, and our expectation is that our people return home safely every day.

The plastic compounding industry faces many safety challenges, from chemical exposure to fire safety and ergonomic stress. That’s why it is crucial for workers and management in the industry to prioritize safety and put in place measures to prevent accidents and protect workers from harm. Star continues to invest in improvements that ensure the safety of our people, our workplaces and the communities where we operate.

In observance of National Safety Month, we talked with Mike Vacek, director of operations, to learn more about Star’s safety culture and what we’re doing to prioritize safety. Here’s what he had to say:


How would you describe the safety culture at Star?

Our culture is based on continuous improvement, and we’ve applied multiple continuous improvement methodologies, from DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) and Kaizen projects to 5S and lean process improvements, to ensure our safety progress.

We also value the voice of the employee (VOE). Our ask is simple: If you see something, please bring it to Star’s attention. So, we’re constantly seeking feedback – both quantitatively and qualitatively – through employee surveys. Additionally, we communicate with our vendors, customers and consultants for ideas on what is working at other organizations to ensure we’re implementing best practices at our sites.

We also believe that safety starts with leadership. That’s why safety is always the first, and primary, talking point at all meetings, and our leadership team is actively involved in safety reviews.


What actions is Star taking to prioritize safety and keep its employees safe?

Star is proactively engaged with our employees and industry SMEs to ensure we are exceeding expectations for providing a safe working environment. We continue to invest in improvements in all areas of safety that are leading impact in the industry, and we’re prioritizing investments that uphold our safety culture and keep our people safe, secure and happy.

Recently, we implemented a cross-functional safety committee to provide solutions for safety issues at their source – our employees. VOE is a valuable tool, and by involving front-line workers in the safety process, we gain access to valuable feedback and insights that can help identify potential hazards and develop strategies to mitigate risks more effectively.


What is a common misconception about safety, and how do you address it?

One assumption that’s often made is that once you’ve received training, you’re good. But that’s not the case. Safety is an ongoing process. It’s a mindset that requires constant focus and engagement.

Star spends countless hours of VOE and employee Q&A time, reviewing and gathering feedback on safety improvements and training to ensure our people fully comprehend safety expectations and procedures. And we’re constantly reviewing work habits to make sure proper safety training is being followed and utilization of personal protection equipment (PPE) is in place.


How can safety be a competitive advantage?

When a company values the well-being of their employees and demonstrates a commitment to keeping them safe, you see higher morale and job satisfaction, which can lead to increased productivity and lower turnover rates. From a customer standpoint, people are more likely to want to do business with a company that has a reputation for being safe and reliable.

Finally, companies that invest in safety mitigate the risks associated with safety incidents and accidents and ensure they are not putting profitability and long-term success at risk. Making safety a top priority is a smart business decision that leads to better outcomes for the company, its employees and its customers.