Have a Safe Day at Owens Corning

Story and Photos by Diane Andrews

At the Owens Corning home insulation manufacturing complex in Santa Clara, the 234 employees really mean it when they say “Have a safe day.” They have just worked more than one million man hours—five days a week 24 hours a day for two years—without a single Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable injury.

The last OSHA-recordable injury—a work-related incident that requires medical attention beyond simple first aid—was on Nov. 15, 2015. The company hit one million injury-free man hours on Dec. 2, 2017.

“Getting to one million man hours is a really big deal from a safety perspective,” said Derek Adams, Human Resources Leader. “That’s a really big thing to say.”

Safety, over even production, is the priority at the 43-acre complex at 960 Central Expressway, which was built in 1949.

“Safety is our number one concern,” said Adams. “Our ultimate goal is to have an injury-free work place. We look for ways to reduce risk. We put safety above everything, before production goals.”

Anyone on the production floor, even guests, must wear personal protective equipment: a bump cap or hard hat, ear plugs, safety glasses, gloves and hard-toed shoes. Employees are required to participate in monthly safety training, sometimes viewing safety videos. Meetings begin with a report on safety matters and concerns.

“You don’t know when that risk might come,” said Adams. “We have a safety mind set.”

Inside the 19-acre covered plant, Owens Corning manufactures its trademark Pink Panther home insulation for distribution throughout the western United States. There are two production lines spinning the Eco Touch Pink Fiberglass insulation with PureFiber Technology (a plant-based binder to hold the glass fibers together).

Formaldehyde-free Eco Touch insulation is made with 50 percent total recycled content. Inside and outside the plant are mini-mountains of crushed, recycled glass awaiting transformation. The unofficial estimate is that it takes six beer bottles or two wine bottles to make one “batt” of insulation.

Indoors, the manufacturing process is noisy, hot, wet and nonstop, demanding the full attention of workers as the crushed glass is melted in furnaces at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The molten glass is then formed into strands that are water cooled as they are extruded from the furnace.

The strands are strengthened and bonded by a chemical binder, which also colors the insulation the trademark pink, formed into a thick pack and oven cured. Next, facing is added to the insulation, and it is cut to width and length as it moves along by conveyor belt. Last is packaging in rolls or batts.

“Safety is our number one focus,” said Complex Leader Minh Nguyen, who manages the day-to-day operations on the plant floor. “We brought in a lot of new team members in 2017, and we kept everybody safe. Making people aware of risks on the floor lets everybody be a safety leader.”

To celebrate the two-year safety achievement, Owens Corning will host a company-wide celebration for employees. Also, employees have a choice of receiving either a backpack or a jacket with the company logo.

“It feels good. We did it one time before,” said Rigo Duran, a tech coordinator.

The prior two-year recordable injury-free period was Jan. 2, 2009, to Jan. 2, 2011, while working 1,000,867 hours.

The company’s safety first philosophy even carries over outside the workplace.

“No talking while driving is Owens Corning safety policy, including hands free,” said Adams.

“Have a safe day!”