2019 CEOs Who "Get It"
Maree Russo Mulvoy
M R Products Inc., home of Mr. Chain
- Sets safety and health as a top priority and demonstrates commitment on a daily basis by leading by example.
- Makes routine checks on employees throughout the day, as well as on weekends and evenings.
- Fully commits to identifying and eliminating hazards within the workplace.
- Focuses on being proactive instead of reactive.
- Allocates resources for upgrading safety equipment as needed.
M R Products Inc., dba Mr. Chain, was started in 1960 by Michael T. Russo. It continues to be owned and operated by his heirs and is a certified woman-owned business. It is an innovative company that manufactures proprietary products for the safety and crowd control markets. All products are made in the United States, with the primary focus being plastic safety chain and stanchions. The company has 64 employees.
Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are today?
Much earlier in my career, I worked at a firm where we learned that “the whole person comes to work.” To me, this struck a chord and always reminds me that each employee comes to work with his or her own family issues, worries, concerns, aches and pains, hopes and dreams, etc. This realization has given me a real concern for each person and a desire to show our employees that I care about them as individuals, and that we are working together on the same team. The very least I owe each employee is to keep him or her safe and healthy at work.
Why is safety a core value at your organization?
In any heavy manufacturing environment like ours, safety has to be a core value because of the very real potential for serious or even fatal injury. The difference between saying that safety is a core value and actually meaning it is all about our actual practices. When we shut down production so that a worker can perform a task more safely or to conduct safety drills, this demonstrates to all employees that safety is more important than productivity, and that people are more important than profits.
What might be unique about our company is that our core business is to develop and manufacture products that are used in the safety and crowd control industries. As we consider new products for our customers, we are always studying solutions to safety concerns in other industries and applying them here. Therefore, this focus on safety is always on our minds.
What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?
Complacency or inattentiveness are the biggest obstacles. When an employee performs the same task repeatedly for months or even years, it is easy to overlook a potential risk. In order to overcome these factors, we bring these issues up at our safety meetings. Our safety director, general foreman and plant manager walk our factory and warehouses every day looking for potential hazards, eliminating them right away.
How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?
We constantly reinforce the idea that every one of us is responsible for safety. We ask employees to identify any potential hazard and to speak up. We keep adding more visual reminders about plant safety, and if there is an incident – no matter how small – we interview the employees who were involved or observers to be sure that all procedures were followed and the best results obtained.
We also insist on preventive measures, like the proper gloves, safety glasses and other protective gear. Even trivial matters, like earbuds or long hair, can cause a problem, so we are always checking to be sure every employee can hear instructions or warnings, and that no loose clothing or hair is too close to a machine.
How does your organization measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe your organization is, and where do you see room for improvement?
As a minimum, we make sure we meet all MIOSHA standards for safety and training, but the ultimate measure is to have zero injuries. We have been fortunate that it has been many years since we have had a serious injury, but we are still focused on preventing any injury – no matter how small.
Because of our growth, we are constantly adding new employees, so it is important that their safety training takes place right away, during their first week of employment.
What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?
For the past few years, we have focused a lot of energy and resources on employee wellness. These programs include providing employees with fire extinguishers for their homes; fire extinguisher training; healthy snacks are provided for all employees on a regular basis; a wellness board is provided with health and safety tips and information, which is changed on a biweekly basis; health risk assessments; flu shots; nutrition kitchen classes; trail bikes employees can sign out to use at home; and opportunities for exercise using a walking trail and playing basketball, horseshoes and cornhole at work during breaks. We greatly subsidize the cost of gym memberships, too. We also recognize that good health includes good mental health, so the company covers most out-of-pocket costs for counseling – all done on a confidential basis. We provide an excellent benefits package for our employees to help maintain their health.