New Year, New Top Dog Safety Program


Metal work is a tedious art form, no matter which stage of fabrication or distribution you find it in. The very nature of handling metal brings great potential for hazards. We understand this self-evident truth, so the frontlines of all Kloeckner branches thrive in a “Safety Always” discipline that encourages employee input for continuous improvement. 

“Safety Always” isn’t just a catch phrase we use on the clock; it’s at the core of our culture, and over the years it has evolved into something that has become more and more tangibly engaging. We call its latest iteration “Top Dog.” 

Safety Always Culture

When we say we’ve structured our safety programs to be more engaging, that means we’ve trained everyone to be experts in the rigorous practice of safety. We expect everyone to be vigilant in identifying risks and complying with corrective measures, particularly because our most common injury occurrences are sprains, strains, slips and falls, all of which are easily avoidable.

We believe that you can only be a master of your trade once you understand these fundamental parts of it. You could be the world’s most talented welder, but you’d be useless to us if you were to passively disregard the safety procedures we’ve painstakingly developed to keep people healthy.

In fact, we have a well-established lookout system within our operations, where something as basic as putting on your hard hat at the beginning of your shift, means you’re also actively scanning to make sure everyone else is wearing theirs to code. Management and employee adherence to this exercise is vital, and all our people are empowered to say something if they see anything that doesn’t meet the standard. 

Building Something Bigger

Based on that ‘brother’s keeper’ principle, we introduced a company-wide Close Call Card program in 2018, which was the spark of Top Dog. Essentially, all warehouse workers and drivers were challenged to make note of any risks they observed on the job, and we’re so proud of their commitment to turning in those Close Call Cards, we’ve run with the momentum. Top Dog will continue to utilize this proactive tool, but we’ve expanded on it with several other opportunities that ensure everyone goes home safe.  

Rick Gruca, Vice President – Safety, Health, Environmental & Sustainability, said the charge to go bigger came from the top when “John Ganem challenged the Safety Steering Team to come up with an employee recognition program.” 

Gruca explained, “Our recognition programs in the past have always been branch awards. We wanted to recognize and reward standout safety champions throughout the organization. The hope is that this program will give us the ability to properly recognize and celebrate those employees that are already actively engaged in the ‘Safety Always’ culture we are driving towards at Kloeckner, and also to encourage others to get engaged.”

Objectives, Points, Incentives…Oh My!

This incentivized point-based-system was created in two forms, one for warehouse workers and one for drivers. Each version is built on five pillars, with the shared one being Close Call Cards. Everything else is specific to environments and roles. 

For instance, ‘Warehouse Safety’ awards points in the following areas: Leading a Toolbox Meeting, Leading a Stretching Routine, Positive Coaching Observations, and Monthly OSHA Recordable-Free Status.

On the other hand, the ‘Road Safety’ side is defined by: Speed Gauge Compliance, Clean Roadside Inspection, JJ Keller/MTS Compliance, and Monthly DOT Accident-Free Status. The common ingredient in all of these markers is mindfulness.

Once we were done framing these objectives, we came up with a scoring system, which includes room for infractions. Then, it was time to determine incentives, and we decided that to best demonstrate our commitment to a comprehensive program like this, we’d need to reward almost as rigorously as we remind. 

We’re pleased to announce that Top Dog has budgeted for monthly, quarterly, and annual awards, which are broken out locally, regionally, and company-wide respectively. Overall, we will be recognizing and rewarding up to 559 Top Dogs each year, but the amount of prevention earned along the way will be even greater.

Unleashing the Beast

We’ve agonized over every tiny detail of Top Dog for the past year, and we’re ready to begin 2022 by rolling it out across more than 40 branches. When we asked Gruca how it feels to finally unleash the beast, he stated, “Exciting!” He thoughtfully followed up by saying, “We are anxious to see what new heights we can achieve with our Safety culture.” Gruca also quipped, “Besides, who wouldn’t want to be TOP DOG!”

Last year, in part thanks to a pilot of our now-launching Top Dog program, we reached a record low in company-wide Lost Time Accidents (LTAs), which was a 38% improvement over last year (a record at that time). Over 85% of our branches didn’t have a single LTA, and more than a quarter of our branches hold the distinction of making it through 2021 without an OSHA recordable injury! Those are already impressive numbers, but our CEO, John Ganem, puts it succinctly, “Our vision remains; zero injuries, zero non-conformance.”

Lauren Wiggins
Lauren is the Communications & Engagement Manager at Kloeckner Metals, spearheading different programs that facilitate conversation throughout the entire organization, while enhancing company reputation across digital mediums. Lauren has a background in experience in social media management, as well as copywriting for big brands from an ad agency position. She’s a graduate of the University of South Carolina, an AmeriCorps alumna, and a published storyteller.


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