An Industry with a Creed
JOSEPH LISTER RUTLEDGE
The story of the world's biggest asbestos mine and of the company which operates it with mutual goodwill
THE OBSERVATION car lacked some of the refinements of modern travel, but that was because on the three-hundred-odd working days and nights of the year it makes no pretense of being an observation car and is content to be everybody’s handyman. It is a small flat car with a gas engine in a cab at the rear, and on average days it pursues a busy life, distributing dynamite or drill steel or tools or repair materials.
Today, but for a couple of steel kegs and a smattering of drill steel, the car was in gala dress, with a couple of wooden benches on its flat deck. There we sat, and were trundled into the biggest hole this writer has ever seen or hopes to see. We were in the biggest asbestos mine in Canada, which means the biggest asbestos mine in the world—Jeffrey Mine, owned and operated by the Canadian Johns-Manville Company, at Asbestos, Quebec.
Perched precariously on the wooden seats, we got our first impression of the pit. The road went spiralling down in great sweeping corkscrew curves: like an inverted tower of Babel. The grade is easy and the shelf on which we travelled was wide, dropping thirty-five feet in each circuit of the pit. Away off in the centre, antlike figures were working by a diminutive electric shovel. On the various levels, trains with important little engines seemed to be playing games with trains of pigmy dump cars. Bit by bit as we descended we came to another view, and drew into sidings as one of the trains went laboriously by with its load of rock, the winter sun flashing on it for a moment and causing some fragment of it to sparkle into a limpid green beauty.
They were toy engines no longer, but black titans hauling their dozen or sixteen cars on the long corkscrew journey to the surface. We passed other engines and their cars in fussy attendance about a loading shovel, and so came eventually to the broad floor of the pit, 250 feet below the level of the surrounding countryside.
Here a slow-moving behemoth was sloshing about its business on clumsy caterpillar feet that paid no heed to rocks or frozen pools. This was the diminutive shovel that we had seen from the surface, a phlegmatic monster of 750 tons, gobbling fourteen tons of rock at each slow bite, eating its way into an avalanche of broken rock with a cold, methodical persistence.
Years ago, the great pit was a craggy hill, known as Webb’s Ledge because it happened to be on the farm of one Charles Webb. The ledge had gained a certain local note because of the peculiar character of the rock. Sometimes the sun would shine on olive green crystals of unaccountable beauty, crystals that had a way of threading themselves out into silky fibre that could be worked with the fingers into bolls like cotton, only of a more silky texture.
It was interesting, in a quiet sort of way, and the neighborhood became a favorite picnic spot. Most of the local farmers had a look at this strange rock, one time or another. It was a curiosity; but so were a lot of things in the progressive eighteen-eighties. The youngsters of the district were somewhat more practical than their elders. They used the white fibre as a sort of chewing gum. It wasn’t very satisfying, but it gave the jaws something to do, and that, so present-day beauticians tell us, is of value.
Such was the story of Webb’s Ledge until, around 1881, a Welshman named Evan Williams happened to visit a relative in the neighborhood. He was, of course, taken the rounds of the local sights, among them Webb’s Ledge. How this Welshman happened to know, the records do not mention, but he promptly recognized the green crystal as asbestos. He tried to interest the local farmers, but they had known the ledge too long to get excited about it at this late date. Williams went to Richmond, Quebec, and succeeded in interesting W. H. Jeffrey, a wealthy farmer, in the property. Jeffrey operated it, by digging into the hillside, for some fourteen years with not even moderate success.
In those days the town of Asbestos was bom. A post office, a store or two, and a few scattered homes, were grouped about the modest beginnings of this gargantuan hole. Had they remained there, they would now be occupying a perilous aerie with nothing but a hundred feet of Quebec air beneath them. The Asbestos and Asbestic Company that later took over the Jeffrey interests, were not much more successful. But they did do the first really extensive work on the property.
To connect the mine with the outside world four miles away, at Danville, they organized the Danville and
Asbestos Railroad to connect with what was then the Grand Trunk. But their best efforts—and they were aggressive efforts—ended as had the Jeffrey venture. In 1916 the property was bought by T. F. Manville, and two years later, railroad included, was transferred to the Canadian Johns-Manville Company, who since have operated it—the biggest asbestos mine in the world.
Jeffrey’s was not the first asbestos minc'd in Canada, however. In 1867 a rich deposit was discovered at Thetford Mines, about thirty-five miles northeast of the Jeffrey property, which, possibly, is why many people who think of asbestos, think of it in terms of Thetford Mines.
You Can’t Carry Matches
T> UT SEATED on our swaying jaunting car, and gazing at a horizon such as an ant might see from the bottom of a bowl, it didn’t seem necessary to worry about any other source of supply. Everywhere shovels were scooping up rock in great mouthfuls, everywhere trains crawled slowly up their spiral ramps to the switching yard, always under the watchful eye of the train dispatcher in his control tower high above the pit. At the yard, electric engines would haul the loaded cars to their appointed destination, while the other engine hurried back down the ramp with a load of empties. Day and night, with never a letup, the work goes on.
We lighted a casual pipe, and only when a pleasantspoken official reached for the dead match did we realize that a strict rule had been broken. Looking about at the unnumbered acres of this immense pit, it hardly seemed possible that a small match stick could be of any importance, yet it is an immutable rule that a man who carries a match into the pit is liable to dismissal. You can smoke all you like, but no matches, for no wood appears in the pit. The constantly shifting tracks are bound to steel ties, and scraps of any sort are collected in steel l>oxes. Tool houses are of steel. An engineer may not drop locomotive ashes in the pit, on pain of who knows what awful penalty. Special drip pans placed on all working machinery prevent the escajie of oil ; and all to the end t hat no foreign matter, even in the most minute form, should contaminate the asbestos fibre.
On the rock face close by, men with modern air drills were making the day unpleasantly raucous with a staccato hammering. A few feet from the drills little groups of men sat, like prisoners on a rock pile, ¡xjunding at bits of rock with hand hammers, stopping now and then to light their pipes with mechanical lighters.
These are known as the “cobbers”—men who flit about the mine at every rumor of a rich strike being uncovered. For the precious long fibre is still extracted from the rock just as it was almost a thousand years ago when a cloth of amianthus fibre—asbestos—was made for Charlemagne to toss into the fire on the hearth, later to be withdrawn, undiluted and undestroyed, to the lasting amazement of the visiting notables.
That little incident is almost the sum total of the history of asbestos for a thousand years. As late as the eighteennineties, the “Encyclopedia Britannica” blandly put it aside as of little importance. “It has often been proposed,” it states, “to employ asbestos in the manufacture of fireproof goods, and it was at one time thought that an important industry would grow out of this product.”
So much for the fickleness of human wisdom. The “one time” thinkers turned out to be right in a matter of some importance to us Canadians, for in 1988 we did an export business in raw asbestos and its products of better than fourteen millions of dollars. It is important to us too in that, with an ever-expanding demand, the world must still look to Canada for more than half its total supply, with the British Empire controlling much of the balance in its mines in Rhodesia and South Africa. Soviet Russia is the only other considerable source.
But what is asbestos? How dot's it happen, and why? We had ridden our swaying jaunting car up the long spiralling grades to the surface, past the locomotive shops that could house a dozen standard locomotives if any remained idle long enough to be housed. We had passed the immense grey dumps where millions of tons of tailings from the pit await some possible future use, and were seated in the comfortable mine office. There we put the question to C. D. Borror, mine superintendent.
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An Industry With a Creed
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He retorted with a couple of questions of his own. Did we know anything about chemistry?—anything about geology and metallurgy? Evidently approving our I admission of ignorance, he sat back comfortably. “Then I can explain,” hesaid.
I We gathered that even experts would bite their fingernails in exasperation over the explanations of other experts. How come ' these asbestos veins? Are they intrusions I of outside substances, infiltrations in i fractures in the rock, or some chemical j reaction in the rock itself? And just why does this serpentine intrusion appear just here and there, with little apparent reason?
Nobody, we learned, seems to be able to give a categorical answer. They know that in one group asbestos appears as : silicates of magnesium, iron and calcium. They know that another group appears in serpentine, and in its most fibrous form is known as chrysolite asbestos. This is the form present in the Jeffrey mine. And the curious thing about it is, that the serpentine rock itself, and the asbestos crystals it encloses, are of precisely the same chemical composition, a hydrous silicate of magnesium.
' I 'HE LITTLE men who crouch in the mine and tap with hammers do onlypart of the job. They account only for the long fibre crystals that are the aristocrats of the asbestos world. But, after their work is done, there is still an immense residue that cannotbe hand-picked and j cobbed. That is why loaded trains of dump ! cars go trailing round the circle to arrive at the mill that crowns the height, all that remains of Webb’s Ledge.
At the mill the massive boulders from the dump cars take a terrific beating from I the time they meet the two great crushers j that can take a four-foot boulder and ! reduce it to almost nothing at all in the I, space of seconds.
From these inhuman monsters we were i led by IL F. Jansen, mill superintendent,
: to a battery of four other crushers that ! took up the work where the ethers left off. j To the driers, for dryness is essential to j the threading out of the fibre, then more I crushers, and so to the storage bins.
From the crushing plant we went to the mill proper—or rather two mills—that seemed interminable. There was an allpervading din, and the whole building
rocked in time with the swaying screens that bit by bit threaded out the fibre until it all reached the end of the screens, from there to be whoofed away by something that looked and acted like a vacuum cleaner of a Gulliver’s dream.
This fibre goes to a settling room where it is deposited. The residue, divided into “overs” and “throughs,” continues its tortured path, the overs to other crushers and other screens, the throughs to “A” mill where, on a somewhat diminished scale, all the operations are repeated. Here and there you come upon open spaces where hurrying men are putting burlap bags under chutes, to be promptly filled with fibre, tied, weighed, and skated across the polished floor ready for inspection. Then more screens, grey dust, and we emerged to where Mr. Jansen had a neat dry-cleaning plant. A moment under the compressed air and our overcoat was black again.
There is. at that, surprisingly little dust in all these complicated operations; nothing to do anyone much harm who hasn’t a washing on the line. But officials are amazingly resentful of what dust there is. It is just that they can’t get over the fact that there is asbestos in that dust that might be turned to better ends. True, they have done a good deal about it, for most of it is sucked up by air pressure and taken to an immense building known as a settling chamber, where the dust settles and is ready to be turned into useful products. And they are still planning.
Directly across the pit is the factory, whose presiding genius, R. S. Gardner, has under his direction one of the most complex manufacturing problems that a man might care to face. It is a problem whose handling is made possible only by the fact that the major product involved —asbestos—is mined, milled and manufactured at the point of origin on a practically continuous flow line basis. Manufactured products run from papers of various sorts, made on a standard paper machine, to packing for boiler and engine-house equipment, pipe coverings and insulations, asbestos roofing, paints and cements, rock wool and brake linings. In a textile plant asbestos is woven into cloth and made into clothing, gloves and other articles.
Some idea of the extent of the asbestos operation is evidenced by the total of 1,740 styles and sizes of commodities that
must be warehoused ready for immediate shipment. The demand represents a dozen carloads of fabricated materials a day. and brings the average daily outgo over the company-owned railroad to some thirty carloads.
In addition to all this, maintenance is a vast industry in itself. Inspection alone is a vital cog in the machinery. There are nine standard groups of crude and milled asbestos, and subgrades of these groups number almost three times as many. All these must meet rigid government regulations, so that an elaborate laboratory must be maintained at the mill, and a still more elaborate one at the factory, to check every process of operation.
The machine shop, under G. G. Clark, can handle almost any job, from the building of railroad cars for special needs, to any sort of a repair job on the battalions of mammoth machines that make up this complex operation. The railroad has only to go four miles to Danville, but in and about the pit it has twenty-five miles of standard gauge track and almost a dozen steam and electric locomotives to be serviced. It is easy to see, too, that the immense pit would shortly become a lake if precautions were not taken to prevent it. The pumping equipment must be capable of handling a thousand gallons of water per minute. Steam and electricity play an elaborate part in the operations, and each is an industry in itself.
Peaceful Industrial Relations
OVER ALL this extensive operation.
and the correlating head of its various enterprises, is a quiet-spoken, quietmannered, friendly man, H. K. Sherry, vice-president in charge of operations. lie is known as a man who can drive an organization and still keep on terms of friendly intimacy with his staff. Under his general guidance has come the amazing development in industrial relations that has made the story of the Jeffrey Mine, and the operations of the Canadian JohnsManville Company at that point, a matter of more than passing interest.
For what has preceded is just a background for the story of how this plant, with its more than 1,300 employees and its widely differing activities, has been welded into something that stands as a colorful and moving experiment in putting a heart into industry.
The industrial relations program at the Asbestos, Quebec, plant stems directly from the president of the parent company, Lewis H. Brown, who last year was the recipient of the Franklin Institute “Vermilye Medal” for enlightened business management.
One paragraph from “The Creed of Management,” that he enunciated, might stand as a test:
“It is management’s duty to be alert to its own shortcomings, to the need for improvement, and to new requirements of society, while always recognizing the responsibility of its trusteeship.”
Perhaps the essence of this goodwill policy is the management’s recognition of the worker’s right to know. While we are all familiar with the balance sheet prepared for the information of stockholders, it is unusual to find the same material presented in simple and graphic form for the humblest worker. Yet this is done. The report shows the income for the year, just as it is shown to the stockholder, only couched in simpler and more picturesque terms. The worker is shown the disposition of that income. The dollar earned is broken down for him. He is shown how fifty-one cents goes for materials, fuel, supplies and other costs, five cents for the ageing of buildings and equipment and the depletion of the mine, three cents for taxation—leaving forty-one cents for wages for employees, stockholders’ dividends, for additions to plant, and to provide working capital for bad times and possible emergencies.
All this is easily understood, but it becomes more effective when this forty-one cents also is broken down. In the annual report for the year 1938, to the common stockholder went nothing; to the preferred stockholder, one cent. Put aside for emergency capital is four cents; leaving thirtysix cents in every dollar going to the jobholder. This is the sort of persuasive reasoning that has built up among the employees a confidence in the management. That confidence is kept alive by bulletins dealing with company policy. They are issued frequently, and are frank and simple statements of policy that affect both employer and employee. There are other items that deal with a man’s own problems as they are related to his work; and everything is presented in both English and French.
All this material is addressed to the individual home, so projecting these issues and problems, not into gossiping groups in the plant where they might be the subject of argument by jxîssible hotheads, but into the restrained atmosphere of the home whose fortunes are at stake in the matter.
The home has quite a part in this policy of goodwill building, and to make that relationship more intimate, the company stages occasional family days when the worker is encouraged to bring his wife and children to the plant, to see what he does, to understand the conditions under which lie works. It makes for better relations, not only between the man and the business, but between the man and his family, and that too reacts favorably on the business.
As an illustration of the effects of the employee relationship plan, R. S. Gardner tells this:
It wasduring theheightof the depression, when orders were light and employment slack. The company received a substantial order at a specified price. Orders were orders in those days, and almost any price looked good, but figure it any way they could, it showed a loss. They tried paring down here and there, but always the labor cost upset the calculations. A lower wage scale would solve the problem, but what would it do with the friendly relations that had been so carefully building?
They put the problem up to the men involved. Here was the order that would give so many days work; here was the price offered. Everything was there, all the correspondence, all the figures, cost of materials right down to the last memo, all laid out before the men. At so much an hour lower wages it could be handled at a modest profit, and the changed rate was only for the particular job. The men themselves could decide whether to take it or let it go, on that basis. They voted to accept, and everyone profited, because management had talked its problem over with labor. The factory made a small profit. The men had more work. But if the management had accepted, and forced a lower scale, they would have been faced with bitter feeling, possible strikes, and almost certainly costs would have overtaken profits. Everyone would have lost.
Employee Qualifications Charted
AT THE head of the Industrial Rela4^ tions program is C. M. McGaw, liaison officer between men and management. Possibly, considering the multiplicity of occupations and their varying requirements in intelligence, initiative and endurance, one of the most interesting developments is the way the employee is fitted to the job. Just because a job happens to be vacant, the next man who comes along isn't pushed in to fili it. There is a job evaluation form that is a handy rule of thumb in estimating just what various qualifications the individual job requires. Under mental requirements, and skill, come such matters as knowledge of equipment, materials and methods, education, initiative, judgment, precision, and so on. They are evaluated in regard to their importance to the particular job. If education is of minor importance, the
score is two; if it is important, the score would be six, or if education is essential to success it may be rated at ten. The same with precision dexterity, and so on.
Then there are factors of job conditions. Value of equipment and cost of error enter in here; whether supervision is needed or given, to what extent the particular job involves the safety of others. Again it is a matter of tabulating these qualities as of minor, medium, or extra importance. Hazard of occupation is covered—how much cold, wet, or dust may be involved. Then comes the question of physical requirements—is weight or lack of it, or a tendency to fatigue, of minor importance or is it vital? When such a chart is completed, it gives a fair picture of what the job requires in mental and physical equipment.
Employees are similarly charted. Workmanship is the first qualification. Is the workman—in regard to quantity of production—slow, wasteful of materials, or fast and usually busy? Is the quality of his work influenced by carelessness, or by care? Is he in a rut? Does he learn slowly, or is he fast and resourceful? Dependability, co-operation, safety habits, initiative, leadership, all are broken down into various shades of these qualities, and each has a separate rating. Here you have a certain job that demands certain specific qualities, and here are listed the qualities j of the men available for new jobs, or for i promotions. The charting may not be a j wholly perfect guide, but at least it is a lot I better than older, frankly haphazard methods.
All this may look a bit detached from human relationships but such is not the case. There is a very real effort to influence human lives for their own betterment, in so far as it can be done and still leave them their individual liberty. There is no hint of paternalism. Regarding this, an official was emphatic. “We’ll co-operate with anything our employees want— within reason,” he stated. “But we won’t compel them to do anything. If we start something with the idea of benefitting them, we first try to explain the advantages as we see them. Of course, the choice I is theirs, and no matter which way they decide, it won’t influence their position with the company.”
It is on such a basis that the group life insurance works. Any employee of six months standing is eligible. The company I sends him a booklet that propounds and I answers every question likely to occur to j him. If he decides to take insurance, the I company pays half the cost, and fifty I cents a month is deducted for every thousand dollars of coverage.
Group health and accident insurance is on the same basis. The company pays twelve i>er cent and the employee, if he undertakes it, from seven to twenty cents weekly, according to his wage scale. For this he receives thirteen weeks benefit for any illness or accident not covered by the Workmen’s Compensation Act. Again there is no compulsion, yet ninety per cent of the employees are benefitting from this policy.
! In line with the management's willing; ness to aid employee projects, a local band j came into being. A band can't get far j without trumpets and bassoons, and i comets and piccolos, and there weren't I many bandsmen ready equipped. So they ! propositioned the company and. despite a ¡ qualified enthusiasm, the company sub| scribed $500 as a starter. That was the makings of a band, what with the odds ; and ends of instruments already on hand.
I They had something of a break too, for the ; station master at Danville once played in I Sousa’s famous band, and he agreed to ¡ become bandmaster.
I It began to be noised about the Town' ships that Asbestos had a band, and soon they were playing for modest honorariums, that grew steadily less modest, as witness the present record—a band of forty-eight pieces, and a waiting list of aspiring musicians. Last year the band bought itself resplendent uniforms out of its
takings, at the cost of $1,500. So, while you might call it management assistance, you certainly couldn’t call it paternalism.
Health, and Homes
O IMILARLY with the Athletic AssociaC-J tion. It isn’t a company project, but the company has assisted handsomely. When they wanted the association clubhouse, the funds just weren't available, for it was an extensive plan including a fully equipped gymnasium, badminton courts and bowling alley, to say nothing of a full-size motion picture theatre. It’s all nearly completed now, just as planned. The company’s engineers planned the building, and funds were made available to complete it, the company taking the chance of recouping itself out of revenue.
If you are athletically inclined, you have a pretty good chance in Asbestos. They have the best athletic field in the Eastern Townships, an open hockey arena that is the home of four hockey teams, with tennis, badminton and softball for variation, while, for golf enthusiasts there is a decorative nine-hole course with an annual playing fee of fifteen dollars.
While none of these are company affairs, the company has dug down in its ample jeans to assist, substantially, most of these undertakings—not because they have paternalistic leanings, but because of a firm belief that happy work and play conditions invariably make for a better product.
Not so very many years ago there was a barn near the pit. It was thirty-seven feet wide by seventy-five feet long and in the cold of winter and the heat of summer it housed one hundred men, women and children. That is the sort of thing that doesn’t make for a good product, any more than it makes for a good citizenry. Today, while the company does not own or in any way control the destinies of the town of Asbestos, it does own more than 175 of its homes, which is a fair percentage of the total; and one way and another the company pays seventy per cent of all the j taxes. In keeping with its policy of not ! trying to direct people’s lives, if a man ! wants to build a home of his own with garish doo-dabs not provided on the company’s houses, he can buy a lot from the company under reasonable terms and conditions.
In addition to these 175 homes there are sixteen staff houses. Homes are valued at $7,(XX) and up. and city dwellers might be surprised at how much of a home, both in appearance and equipment, can be bought for that figure in Asbestos. These houses rent for just over thirty-seven dollars monthly.
The company also owns the only hotel in town, a substantial three-story brick ! building, and it supplements the athleticclub as the social centre of the community. j The primary object of the hotel is to j provide pleasant living quarters for the unmarried members of the staff; but it does provide also for the occasional visitor. It is operated by a resident manager on a I service-at-cost basis, with no charge for j rent or depreciation, and we can assure you from personal observation, that we I have been in many city hotels where ! accommodation, service and food could not ; compare with it.
If by chance you happened to see some staff member slipping into the hotel in mid-morning or mid-afternoon, you might give a good many guesses without hitting the reason. He’s going to school, probably learning to speak French from a professor from the Berlitz School of Languages, j There is no charge for this instruction, and : it is taken in company time, the idea being, of course, that as the undertaking is so essentially bilingual, by reason of the large proportion of French-speaking employees, a knowledge of both languages is an immeasurable advantage.
But this is only part of the educational program. During the winter, night classes are held, with instructors drawn from the staff and community and paid for their
services by the company. That one small undertaking cost the company better than a thousand dollars last year. Again there was no suggestion of compulsion, but the class attendance averaged around one hundred and fifty.
One noticeable thing is that the whole company organization is controlled by comparatively young men. Not, of course, that this is the invariable case. They have a Quarter Century Club, for men who have been employed that long in the plant. There are fifty such members. Last year alone they took in twenty-three, and celebrated the event by a great banquet. Each quarter century member gets a gold watch to signalize this occasion.
There are other points worthy of detailed notice, if space permitted. A monthly, pictorial news sheet goes to all employees, helping to weld the organization into a united family; scholarships are given to some of the young folks, particularly of French extraction, that they may be trained for executive positions in the organization. Too, libraries have been organized—all interesting side lights just in passing.
Employers Meet Employees
THE RELATIONS between the company and its employees are correlated by a shop council that works in clcse relationship with the National CatholicSyndicate, and the labor organizations with which the company annually negotiates the wage schedules. This men’s committee meets monthly with the vice-president and other executives, to discuss mutual problems. At these informal gatherings employer and employee meet as men equally interested in their share of a great undertaking. “The men make suggestions,” said Mr. Sherry, vice-president in charge of operations. “Some we can deal with at once, but some of them aren’t so simple. We explain to the men just how we’ll have to take a bit of time over it. As a matter of fact, over a period of a year or so, most of the suggestions seem to work out somehow, and if that is explained, there’s little chance of trouble. In my experience eight out of ten men are reasonable.”
When causes for complaint do arise in any department of the plant, the men are urged not to go to the shop committee or to the union with it except as a last resort. Their first appeal is to the foreman, and failing a satisfactory adjustment there, then to the superintendent, or other company officials. Only if all such appeals fail, and the man still feels that he has a reasonable complaint, is an appeal made to the shop committee or the union.
Out of these discussions, and differences, one clear thought has emerged—that there isn’t as much diversity of opinion between labor and management as might appear. Difficulties, traced to their source, often end with someone who hasn’t the right conception of company policy. As it is useless to attempt to find a remedy without first reaching the source of the trouble, arrangements are made for groups of foremen to gather with instructors to discuss company problems and policy, all such meetings being in company time. By letting these key men know the details of the company’s business and policies, and that the company’s interest is the interest of the men, they come to a place where frequently it is possible to adjust difficulties before they actually arise.
THAT the foreman is very much the key to the situation was brought out by Dr. R. H. Stevenson. He was speaking of the accident rate as it had existed in days past. Twenty-five years ago it was an accepted fact that there would be four or five men killed during the year’s operations. Then the figure dropped to three in
every two years, and during the last six years there hasn’t been a single fatal accident. At the time of which Dr. Stevenson spoke, there were some 900 men employed, and the rate for major and minor accidents was running a steady average of eighty a month. Not a very happy condition, but nothing they could do seemed to make any difference.
Then someone got the idea of making the foreman responsible. If an accident happened to one of his men, it meant a four or five day layoff for the foreman. And it wasn’t a picnic for him. He couldn’t go fishing, for he was constantly on call. All he could do was sit and reflect that he might as well be working, that time passed quicker that way. The result? The following month the accident rate dropped to thirty, and though these heroic methods have long been discontinued. the accident rate has never reached even thirty since that time.
The line present-day record which in face of hazardous occupational activities shows only ten lost-time accidents in the whole year, and in the last two years not a single such accident in the mine department, is the direct result of the company’s attitude.
The company takes the view that a complaint regarding a product, and an accident to an employee, are equally a reflection on the organization. Throughout the plant there are bulletin boards on which safety posters are placed. At the factory department, whenever an accident occurs or a customer complaint is received, a red flag is hung out, so that no worker will pass it by unheeded.
There are four safety committees that meet monthly, one for each department of operations. They go over every accident case, investigate its cause, and endeavor to prevent its recurrence. The eleven sections of the factory department have a friendly rivalry to see which can be most free from accident. Theone that shows the best record in each six-month period, assures a prize for every one of its employees.
What all this means in added security is shown by taking a look at the record of twenty-five years ago. There was just about half the present staff, but we'll let that go and set record against record— five killed and nearly a thousand injured, as compared to a total of ten injured last year, the most serious injury being five broken toes.
Dr. Stevenson has helped, too, to remove much of the blind prejudice that made men think that the company’s efforts to keep them well and safe were, in some unexplained way, to the men’s disadvantage.
Who wants to be medically examined? With a new employee it can be made a condition of employment. But an annual check-up is a different story with a company whose definite policy is one of no compulsion. But less and less is it being considered an ordeal, and many a man has saved his health, if not his life, because Dr. Stevenson’s report enabled the management to move the man from a job that was harming him, to one that would help him.
We saw the little hospital that is the doctor’s pride. It cost the company $15,000, with $9,000 in equipment added, and because fractures are one of the greatest possible hazards, its X-ray equipment is complete. The hospital serves the community as well as the organization. In addition to the doctor there are two fulltime nurses—Miss Roy, who is expert with the X-ray equipment, and Miss Reay. Anyone planning to have toes smashed couldn’t want a better place.
Here, then, is an organization that has brought a social conscience to a rural community, that has succeeded in bringing men of different faiths and different languages, to a better understanding.