“We haven’t had a single reportable accident since our production came on stream in July four years ago,” Shen reports with pride. A native of China, 39-year-old Shen is the plant manager for the Polymer plant in Zhangjiagang, where his team produces silicone polymers and silicone fluids. That means using some highly flammable raw materials that are not particularly easy to handle. As Shen explains, handling conditions must meet the highest of safety standards as a result.
And for his team it means that safety has to be their number one priority. Yet many of his employees are less than enthusiastic when safety training comes around. “Most people are bored by theory.” He combats that with brief, vivid training sessions. And again and again, Shen stresses to his employees that they are the ones most at risk in the event of an accident.
The strategy has worked. In 2013, Shen’s team won the country-wide safety competition that WACKER Greater China holds each year. The team won for two reasons: For one, the plant had no accidents. For another, the 45 Production, Laboratory, Quality Control and Warehouse employees are constantly improving safety at their workplace. Three employees even won individual prizes for their suggested improvements.
The team submitted a total of 892 concrete suggestions for improving safety over the past year. As the plant manager explains, many of these were just small changes that could be implemented quickly. Others were more complex. “Safety suggestions benefited other plants here on site too,” Shen observes.
Right now his plant only holds second place in the current competition. “The other teams definitely don’t want us to win again,” he says. But he’s not admitting defeat just yet. “We just have to work at it even more.”
Safety has taken hold of his private life too, such as when he is driving a car. “I drive an hour and a half to work every day from Suzhou,” he explains. “I’d be crazy not to drive cautiously.” For him, dangerous sports are just for watching on TV. Take motorcycle racing, for instance: he would never do something like that himself. “I’d have to do a safety analysis first,” says Shen with a laugh.