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February 08, 2011  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

After the Storm: Rebuilding the Bus Plant

When a microburst inflicted heavy damage on Collins Bus Corp.’s manufacturing facility, employees pulled together to keep bus production rolling throughout the repair process.

by Thomas McMahon - Also by this author

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Remarkably, the Collins Type A bus plant was back at full production one week after the microburst struck.

Working through repairs
After the initial temporary repairs, Collins’ contractor worked on the permanent construction. Collins was under full production for the entire reconstruction, so the contractor had to work on small sections at a time, only taking down the temporary repairs that could be completely reconstructed in a day.

That limitation stretched the entire project out for a full year, but the Collins staff worked through it.

“Throughout this period, our employees’ dedication to safety enabled them to meet production needs, coordinate with the construction contractor, and avoid accidents and injury,” says John Doswell, Collins’ vice president of sales and marketing.

The company was recently recognized for this performance when it earned Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) certification. The program is administered by the Kansas Department of Labor in association with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“SHARP is an award only presented to companies that have achieved excellence in the area of safety and health and have met rigid OSHA criteria,” says Clifford Morris, acting director of the Kansas Department of Labor’s Division of Industrial Safety and Health. “Collins Bus Corporation is one of only 157 companies that have achieved this distinction in Kansas.”

To qualify for SHARP certification, companies must undergo a comprehensive evaluation and series of audits, correct any identifiable hazards, demonstrate that effective safety and health programs are in place, and maintain lostworkday injury and illness rates below the national average for the past three years.

Collins’ SHARP certification is good for two years. It frees the company from OSHA compliance inspections during that period, and it can be renewed for another two years.

The SHARP certification is one of two safety awards that Collins earned in 2010. In June, the company received the Kansas State Safety Award for operating more than 500,000 hours without a time-lost injury.

Local flavor
The combined cities of Hutchinson and South Hutchinson (where the Collins plant is located) have a population of about 41,000. They are about 50 miles northwest of Wichita, in the south-central region of Kansas.

“We’re pretty much in the middle of the country,” Tyler says.

Every year, Hutchinson hosts the Kansas State Fair and the National Junior College Athletic Association’s National Basketball Championship.

“Hutch,” as locals call it, is home to the Kansas Cosmosphere space and aviation museum. It’s known as “The Salt City,” as it sits on top of the most productive salt mine in North America. Visitors can go 650 feet below the surface to the Kansas Underground Salt Museum (as shown on the cover of the January 2011 issue).

Fortunately, microbursts and tornadoes don’t regularly hit the Hutchinson area.

“Just like California has their fires and earthquakes and the East Coast gets the hurricanes, we in the Midwest have our occasional severe weather,” Tyler says. “Most of the dangerous storms that hit [Kansas] don’t affect heavily populated areas. That being said, we certainly pay close attention to the weather forecasts and warnings.”

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