Crucial Conversations Training Recap

crucial convo bookThe Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing in partnership with the University of Virginia’s College at Wise Professional Development recently held a training by Carla Glass who discussed how to apply practices from the New York Times best-seller, “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High”. She interactively highlighted key tips to improve dialogue, engagement, and relationships which inevitably contribute to a high performing culture.

Ms. Glass defined a conversation as two or more people who are communicating. What makes a conversation crucial is:

  1. The stakes are high
  2. Opinions vary
  3. Emotions are strong

When having a crucial conversation it is important to have information rather than being tied to your own opinion. Lack of information leads to either silence: withdrawing from the conversation, or violence: a heated response. When participating in a crucial conversation you should know that you want to have a productive discussion, so stick to your purpose/intent.

When preparing for a crucial conversation, assess yourself for shortcomings. The Ideal Team Player self assessment worksheet can be a helpful self-assessment tool. It is important to know in conversations which of these skills need improvement. Assess yourself on your ability to be:

  1. Humble – being willing to hear someone else’s opinion
  2. Hungry – check facts and gather information
  3. People Smart – be aware of how others perceive you and be able to respond to changes in their tone and body language

Create a safe space to have the crucial conversation. Have a mutual purpose and respect. To have a dialogue it is important to know what your purpose and desired results are. When this is established STATE your discussion by laying out facts then asking the other person for their side of the story with the goal of coming up with a plan.

  • S – share your facts
  • T – tell your story
  • A – ask for others’ paths
  • T – talk about each party’s views
  • E – encourage testing of resolution

The goal of a crucial conversation is to establish next steps. You must be receptive to hearing what the other person thinks the results should be. It is necessary to leave the conversation with measurable results.


Important Notes: The information above serves as a recap of the presentation provided by Carla Glass, but was not written by Carla Glass. All information and quotes were sourced from the presentation provided.

About the Award Winners: Somic America

In October, SVAM honored Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for manufacturing companies who go above and beyond in various categories. Through this blog series, we would like for you to get to know the award winners and learn more about their accomplishments.

SVAM has chosen to offer the Environmental Excellence Award as a way to show the community that manufacturers truly care about the environment in which they live and go to great lengths to minimize their environmental footprint.

Somic America in Wytheville, VA produces quality components for the North American and South American automotive markets. They specialize in the manufacture of ball joints for suspension and steering systems, and rotary dampers for seat and tailgate applications.

Somic America is dedicated to doing everything possible to have the smallest environmental footprint. They have a dedicated Safety and Environmental Manager who works diligently each day to make sure that they are abiding in all laws and regulations. They have monthly safety and environmental audits throughout the facility and recycling containers throughout the facility for plastics, aluminum, and paper. They also recycle all of their scrap metal and carbide through reputable vendors. They are able to turn their wooden pallets into fuel for a local lumber mill for the drying of local hardwood, further reducing their landfill waste.

Somic America has an aluminum arm material waste stream for their new Subaru control arm project. This process requires the wet machining of 6061 aluminum and produces waste coolant and aluminum shavings. The easiest way to dispose of the aluminum is to simply dump the shavings into a metal bin and send to recycling. However, Somic America took the initiative to invest more into the waste process to have less environmental waste. They invested in a state of the art aluminum briquette machine that presses all of the coolant out of aluminum chips and makes a solid slug of aluminum that can be transported easier. They are able to reclaim more than 95% of the coolant from the process in this manner which is ran through filtration and re-used instead of wasted when dumping the chips.

To find out more about Somic America visit

Somic Enivronmental Excellence

About the Award Winners: Appalachian Plastics

In October, SVAM honored Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for manufacturing companies who go above and beyond in various categories. Through this blog series, we would like for you to get to know the award winners and learn more about their accomplishments.

In Southwest Virginia Manufacturing you’ll find a breeding ground of innovative companies, ideas, and people. When you take a look, it is truly exciting to see all of the new products and processes that are being created here in our region, allowing us to make an impact on a global scale.

Appalachian Plastics in Glade Spring, VA, winner of this year’s Manufacturing Innovations Award, manufactures composite light poles that are seen by millions at theme parks such as SeaWorld. Their light poles serve as a sustainable alternative to traditional wooden poles that woodpeckers were destroying. The composite material of this company’s poles were distend to prevent all damage from woodpeckers, maintain the aesthetic look of a tropical landscape of palm trees, and to withstand a category 5 hurricane.

Congratulations to Appalachian Plastics for winning SVAM’s 2019 Manufacturing Innovations Award.

Appalachian Plastics Innovations

About the Award Winners: Strongwell

In October, SVAM honored Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for manufacturing companies who go above and beyond in various categories. Through this blog series, we would like for you to get to know the award winners and learn more about their accomplishments.

tekai headshotStrongwell in Bristol, VA received the Community Impact Award. To learn more about the company and the impact of the award, we interviewed Te-Kai Shu, Social Media and Business Development Manager at Strongwell.

Tell us about your company.
Strongwell currently has 500 employee located throughout its four facilities in North America. This makes Strongwell the world’s leader of pultruded fiber reinforced polymer composites and structures.


Tell us about the program(s) you have implemented that led you to win this award.
Strongwell’s guiding principles are what drives our training, social impact, and business model. Our social impact initiatives recognize that our people are our most important resource and integrity should never be compromised. Our initiatives are always driven by sustainability and the community at large. We participate in a variety of educational programs, wellness outreach projects, and classroom to workplace outreach projects. We also sponsor many local organizations as a corporation.

How do you feel your company was set apart from other companies who might apply for this award?
All of the nominees were deserving of this award as manufacturers are large community stakeholders. For over 60 years, Strongwell has been a community advocate and partner of the Twin-Cities in its short and long term objectives. Our involvement with education, mentorship, wellness, and career outreach have resonated well with our workforce and community.

Where do you see the future of your company in regard to community impact?
All companies should embrace social impact as we are all investors within our communities. The competitive business landscape requires businesses to recruit and retain new ideas and talent. The best way to engage in community impact is by hiring and inviting stakeholders to participate, engage, and advocate on how their community needs should be met. We will continue to explore internships, career fairs, camp involvement, and mentorship opportunities.

What has winning this award meant to your company? Have there been internal or community impacts of winning the award?
Careers shouldn’t be just about jobs. It should motivate people on how best to serve their community. It has been a humbling and rewarding opportunity to celebrate and highlight the work of our associates and our company. Our employees are enthusiastically looking forward to 2020 and our social impact initiatives.


Strongwell also won the Community Choice Award. They were nominated for the award by Marissa Sluss. Ms. Sluss nominated Strongwell for their internship program. She said, “Strongwell was at no obligation to allow any interns into the plant, but they did because they want to establish connections with the community and more importantly to establish connections with the next working generations. In addition to the internship program, I found that Strongwell does other outreaches with the University of Tennessee and even with young girls in the STEM programs of the surrounding area. I was, and still am, truly astonished at the initiative Strongwell is taking to connect young people with manufacturing.”

To learn more about Strongwell visit their website

community impact strongwellcommunity choice strongwell

About the Award Winners: Universal Fibers

In October, SVAM honored Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for manufacturing companies who go above and beyond in various categories. Through this blog series, we would like for you to get to know the award winners and learn more about their accomplishments.

teddy smith headshot.jpeg

Universal Fibers, Inc. in Bristol, VA was awarded our Excellence in Safety award. To learn more about the company and the impact of the award, we interviewed Teddy Smith, Safety and Training Coordinator at Universal Fibers, Inc.

Tell us about your company.

As the only solution-dyed fiber producer in multiple chemistries, our versatile products and capabilities begin with four core polymers; Nylon 6, Nylon 6,6, PET and PTT. Universal Fibers offers finished yarns in both single colors and multi-end specialties. We welcome orders in small to large lots in specifications to meet the unique needs of our global customers in diverse markets such as carpet, industrial, medical, filtration, military, rope and cordage.

Universal Fibers is committed best in class quality, service, color and innovation. We are smart in what we invent, and savvy in how we choose to invest and grow. Our commitment to sustainability is unwavering, steadfast and serves as a basis from which all products and processes are developed. We believe true sustainability begins with a safe workplace environment and includes support of the communities in which we live and work, worldwide.

Tell us about the program(s) you have implemented that led you to win this award.

We have created the Green Shirt Program for use internally in our plant. Employees volunteer and are chosen to participate in this program for four months. During the period that they are Green Shirts, the employees go through the facility looking for potential safety hazards. When issues or hazards are found, the Green Shirt will document it, have a member of Management sign off to acknowledge. The report is then turned into the Safety Department to ensure that all hazards have been corrected and will follow up on any that is required. All observations are kept in a pivot chart by department, by Green Shirt and distributed each week so that Department Managers can see the types of hazards found in their respective area.

Safety Walk Throughs– This program we started in June, and it involves getting together a team of individuals from other areas to walk through departments in other areas of the plant. On our walk through, we look at work practices, PPE compliant, environmental, and machinery. During this time, we study and look at work practices to ensure that we are doing all that we can do safely. We also use this walkthrough as a platform to discuss any matters that the manager would like to discuss in relation to safety.

When an accident occurs at the facility, all salaried employees wear a yellow vest during the day after an accident. On this vest, written on the back, is the phrase, “Ask me what happened.” The salaried employees will answer questions from hourly employees concerning the accident when asked. By wearing this vest, our goal is to open the discussion about the incident and prevent a similar one from occurring.

All accidents/incidents are covered monthly in the monthly safety meeting, regardless of severity. We discuss these accidents so that we all can learn from and prevent from happening.

A Daily Safety Tip is emailed to all employees that have access to a company email, every morning, Monday through Friday. The Global Safety Team is also a recipient of the email as well.

How do you feel your company was set apart from other companies who might apply for this award?

We have a multitude of varying communications and programs our safety teams work on daily/weekly/monthly, with participation from all global locations. Communication from each department throughout all levels in our organization is key to keeping up the level of buy-in that is needed to consistently get better year over year.

Where do you see the future of your company in regard to safety?

Part of the theme of this 50th year is outlined as a “LEGACY”. A legacy is what we have written at Universal Fibers, it’s what we’re writing now to leave behind. What’s next to come – on the horizon? For us, we know it’s only the beginning…. But we are so thankful for this recognition that we are heading in the right direction – but we know it’s only the beginning.

What has winning this award meant for your company? Have there been internal or community impacts of winning this award?

This proud moment in our company’s history is only possible because of our greatest assets – our people. We have an extremely loyal, dedicated and hardworking associates at our facility – and around the world. Safety is communicated as our main focus throughout our organization. Our Safety commitment statement begins “we place the highest value on the safety and well-being of our Associates at Universal Fibers”. That is a vital part of our DNA at Universal Fibers.

To learn more about Universal Fibers, Inc. visit their website

SVAM Awards 2019

About the Award Winners: Tempur Sealy

In October, SVAM honored Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for manufacturing companies who go above and beyond in various categories. Through this blog series, we would like for you to get to know the award winners and learn more about their accomplishments.

tabetha head shotTempur Sealy in Duffield, VA received the Manufacturer of the Year Award. To learn more about the company and the impact of the award, we interviewed Tabetha Church, Human Resources Manager at Tempur Sealy.


Tell us about your company.

Our facility, Tempur Production USA, LLC is located in Duffield, Virginia which is in Scott County. We are a part of Tempur Sealy International. Tempur Production began operations in Duffield in 2000. We produce Tempur-Pedic mattresses, toppers, and pillows for customers in North America, as well as products and components for our sister brands, Sealy and Sterns & Foster.

Tell us about the program(s) you have implemented that led you to win this award.

The Duffield facility maintains excellent Quality, Environmental, and Safety management programs, as witnessed by the ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001 certifications. We are also pursuing the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnergyStar certification, which is expected to be finalized by the end of 2019. For several years, we have been working to change our environmental culture and have focused on recycling, waste streams and reducing our carbon footprint. We not only want our employees to be environmentally friendly at the facility but to take the idea back to their homes and community. The Duffield facility has been a zero-landfill facility since June 2014. We partnered with a waste-to-energy company which incinerates the “trash” and converts to useful energy. This also allows us to include our non-hazardous waste, which allows us to cut cost at this waste stream.

How do you feel your company was set apart from other companies who might apply for this award?

We are proud of our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that affords our employees a safe, clean, well lit, climate-controlled environment to work in each day. With our current safety culture, effective on-boarding, training of employees, and ergonomically designed manufacturing lines that minimize risks – our safety recordable case rate is world class for our industry. Everyone in the building knows that they are empowered to stop a production line if there are safety or quality issues. This is not just encouraged, but expected.

We even provide on-site physical therapists twice per week to assist any employees with any physical needs they might have. We provide training and opportunity for growth to all employees and strive to promote from within the organization whenever possible.

Where do you see the future of your company in regard to the programs for which you won?

In addition to new product introductions this year, the Duffield plant also implemented new manufacturing processes. The plant installed two state-of the art production lines in order to in-source certain manufacturing functions that were previously outsourced. The new production lines resulted in significant cost reductions, faster response time to customer demand, and creation of new jobs. Our investment in our facility in both capital equipment and workforce development has been substantial. Our 2019 capital investment alone is $11.7 million. These things have set us up for future success.

What has winning this award meant to your company? Have there been internal or community impacts of winning the award?

We have over three hundred employees who embrace the notion that its all of our jobs to ensure that the products we produce are top-notch and meet our high quality standards. We are proud to have a part in making a product that affords our customers a better night’s sleep. The impact of that, to know that we have played a part in someone’s life with the products we manufacture, is not ever taken for granted.

As a team, we have always felt what we have at our plant is special because of the passion and dedication of our workforce. Having that recognized by the SVAM Awards Committee was truly a great honor for the entire Tempur Production family.

To learn more about Tempur Sealy visit their website


Changing Culture and Behaviors to Improve Training Effectiveness Lunch & Learn Recap

The Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing held a Lunch & Learn, hosted by General Dynamics Mission Systems in Marion, Virginia, entitled, “Changing Culture and Behaviors to Improve Training Effectiveness”. The training was led by Mike Leigh, President of OpX Solutions, a performance improvement company in Roanoke. Mr. Leigh used to work for GE and before that was a Navy Officer. He has a Computer Engineering degree and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. Here is what we learned:

When budgets are tight training tends to get cut because the return on investment isn’t always immediate. However, training is important and necessary. The primary reason for training is to improve performance of an organization through safety, customer service, or profit. Training might also be offered as regulatory, a reward, or as on-boarding/employee orientation. Discretionary training dollars are cut when training effectiveness cannot be demonstrated. Training budgets are an investment, not an expense, and must be thought of in that way.

Mr. Leigh offered two case studies to support training:

  • Company A was a profitable, growing company and felt they benefited greatly from the training, however they did not continue with it.
  • Company B was a stagnant company, but had measurable results and invested more in training.


Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick developed a model in the 1950’s for training effectiveness and it became popular after his book was published in 1994. Dr. Kirkpatrick discussed 4 Levels of Training Education:

Level 1 – Reaction

Measures how your trainees reacted to the training.

  • Did participants like it?
  • Did participants consider it relevant?

Methods of evaluation:

  • Feedback forms/surveys
  • Verbal reaction
  • Easy to obtain

Level 2 – Learning. Most trainings stop at this level, but it is hard to show value.

Measures increase in knowledge

  • Did participants learn what was intended?
  • Did participants experience what was intended?

Methods of evaluation:

  • Before and after assessments and tests
  • Relatively simple, but more investment needed

Level 3 – Behavioral Application

Extent to which trainees applied the learning and changed their behavior

  • Did employees put learning into effect on the job?
  • Was behavior change sustained?

Methods of evaluation:

  • Observations over time
  • Some assessments
  • Important, but harder to do

Level 4 – Impact/Results/ROI

  • Effect on the organization from the improved performance of trainees
  • Typically business metrics/KPIs

Methods of evaluation:

  • Often many of these are already in place
  • Challenge is to link to training input
  • Hard to link changes to training and not to other metrics
  • Try to accurately measure other factors and variables

ROI is the next level and questions if the training was worth the investment. Most training is done in the first two levels. The challenge is: it is hard to show value at these levels.

There are criteria to evaluate training at higher levels:

  • Life cycle of training
  • When training is linked to strategic goals
  • If there is executive interest
  • High cost programs
  • High visibility through organization
  • Sizeable target audience

In order to have a behavior change, two things are required: 1. Trainee must be willing to change behavior. 2. Organizational culture must support the change. Organizational culture is the behavior of humans within an organization. It matters because the assumptions and beliefs of employees drive behavior. The collective behavior of employees determines results.

The Success Formula explains

  • Results come from
  • Behavior which comes from
  • Attitudes or habits of thought that comes from
  • Conditioning that comes from
  • Spaced Repetition which is the more we are exposed to something over time or the more we practice something.

Spaced repetition leads to conditioning which leads to attitude. For an organization this occurs through repetitive communications and actions by leaders. Then behaviors change and that equals results.


To create effective training:

  • Start with goals and objectives
    • Reality based training solutions
    • SMART
  • Get buy-in from leadership
    • Does the organizational culture support it?
    • Observations from supervisors & leaders
  • Create a plan to evaluate the training
    • Level 3 and 4 where possible
    • Considerations: program cost, visibility, life cycle, target size
  • Incorporate attitude change into methods



Important Notes:

The information above serves as a recap of the presentation provided by Mike Leigh with OpX Solutions, but was not written by Mike Leigh. All information and quotes were sourced from the presentation provided.

Skeletons in the Closet: When Old Conduct is the Basis for New Claims

Matthew Davison with Baker Donelson recently led a Lunch & Learn about challenges companies are facing since the beginning of the #MeToo movement in October 2017. Companies are facing issues not just of sexual harassment, but also harassment based on race, age, gender, and religion. The reality is concepts of harassment continue to develop as the result of cultural change.

One of the first big cases involving sexual harassment was when Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas, her boss at the EEOC, of sexual harassment. During the trial her complaints were played off, insensitive questions were asked, and it perpetuated the idea that harassment isn’t harassment unless it is overt. A series of Title VII cases have changed outlooks since then. These cases made hostile work environment, sex stereotyping,  and same-sex harassment actionable. Since 2018, two cases are deciding whether sexual orientation and gender identity harassment fall under Title VII.

Since October 2017, 201 powerful men lost jobs or major roles because of sexual harassment accusations. This is due partly to the huge impact of the #MeToo movement. For the first time this decade, the EEOC had an increase in sexual harassment complaints. There was a 12 percent increase in sexual harassment charges from 2017-2018.

eeocIn June 2016, the EEOC released a 130-page report on harassment in the workplace. The report identified “live, interactive training” as the preferred method of anti-harassment training. Some key takeaways from that report are:

  • No one-size-fits-all training
  • Training in multiple languages, or one that provides for different learning styles and levels of education
  • Training that clarifies what conduct is not harassment and is acceptable in the workplace, reflecting the reality of human interaction and common courtesy
  • Training that educates employees about their rights and responsibilities if they experience or witness harassment and the “(hopefully) multiple avenues offered by the employer to report unwelcome conduct”
  • Training that describes, in simple terms, how the formal complaint process will proceed

What do jurors think of #MeToo?

  • Do you think the #MeToo movement has exaggerated how big a problem sexual harassment remains in the workplace?


  • Employees often do not report sexual harassment by a supervisor for fear of retaliation



  • The #MeToo movement has put companies on notice that they have much more of a sexual harassment problem than they may have thought

more probelm


With the power of social media, the flow of information is at lightning speed. Nothing is secret with social media. The #MeToo movement has presented an interesting question: how do we deal with accusation of old, historical conduct? NBC’s response to the accusations against Matt Lauer can be used as an example.

  • Investigation… then termination
  • Mandatory anti-harassment training
  • “Cultural assessment”
  • New harassment policy
    • zero tolerance for workplace romances
    • hugging rule (quick and immediate release)
    • strict rules about socializing (no sharing taxis home)
    • terminations for not reporting

The primary focus of the #MeToo movement has been on high-profile celebrities, multi-millionaires, or politicians accused of abusing their tremendous power over  others. The threat of negative publicity is massive and millions of advertising dollars are often at stake. These factors explain much of the publicity, as well as the resignations, quick terminations, and massive settlements. At present, it’s unclear how much the #MeToo movement will impact regular employers. What is clear is that public perceptions are changing and employees are a part of that public. As a result, employers must carefully consider how to adapt in sensible ways.

Step 1: Review Your Policy

  • Take a close look at your anti-harassment policy.
  • When is the last time it was updated?
  • Is it effectively communicated or buried in a book no one reads?
  • Consider ways to make it a “live” policy, one that is integrated into your company culture.
  • Consider regularly assessing the policy’s effectiveness via anonymous surveys or
    outside assessments.

Step 2: Training

  • Let’s face it, we all know we should spend more time and money on harassment training.
  • Is there a better time than now to convince executive management of the need for this training?
  • EEOC guidelines strongly suggest: “live, interactive training” presented by trainers “who are dynamic, engaging, and have full command of the subject matter.”
  • Consider small groups instead of full classrooms.
  • Does a 15-minute video still cut it in the #MeToo era?
  • It’s time to get serious about training and education.

Step 3: Complaints and Investigations

  • It’s also time to reevaluate how we investigate harassment complaints.
  • Like it or not, the public (your employees) expect lightning-quick investigations.
  • Perhaps the most dangerous result of the #MeToo movement is the perception that an employer’s only real option when faced with sexual harassment allegations is to fire the accused.
  • This is not the law and it has never been the law.

Step 4: Keep up with Developments

  • Several states are in the process of passing laws that would impact sexual harassment claims:
    • New Jersey: Confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements N/A to discrimination and harassment claims
    • New York: Same as New Jersey, plus mandatory arbitration agreements cannot apply to such claims
    • Pennsylvania: Agreements that bar victims from reporting or naming harassers are unenforceable
    • South Carolina: Mandatory arbitration agreements N/A to sexual harassment claims
    • Washington: Confidentiality agreements
      N/A to sexual harassment claims
    • More to come…………


There is a statute of limitations to take into consideration. Under Title VII, the suit must be filed within 90-days of receipt of a right to sue letter. To obtain a right to sue, the individual must file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of relevant events. Under Virginia Human Rights Act, a person must file with Virginia DHR within 180 days. However, there is no statute of limitations on the right to free speech.

Something else to consider is whether or not the accused is still employed. If not, consider limited investigation and making any policy/training changes needed. If so, it is likely wise to investigate as fully as possible. Discipline still may be appropriate, as well as additional actions. Investigations are often difficult as memories fade with time, witness may not be available, and changes in structure, policies, and processes.

Investigations also have publicity/culture implications. Consider:

  • Will not investigating send a bad message?
  • What is the likelihood of publicity?
  • What is the “right thing to do?”
  • Risk of overreaction/under reaction



Important Notes:

The information above serves as a recap of the presentation provided by Matthew Davison with Baker Donelson, but was not written by Matthew Davison. All information and quotes were sourced from the presentation provided.

SVAM Members can view the full video presentation here.


Assessing and Addressing Workplace Violence Lunch & Learn Recap

SVAM recently hosted a Lunch & Learn titled, “Assessing and Addressing Workplace Violence”, led by Rex Carter, retired Virginia State Police trooper. Carter has 23 years combined Law Enforcement experience. He has specialized training in self-defense/martial arts/advanced tactics as well as trauma counseling/crisis management. He is also a UFI Security Operations Specialist and has 20 years service in Pastoral Ministry.

Mr. Carter started the training by defining workplace violence. According to workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. also states that nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported. Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain worksites. Such factors include exchanging money with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. Working alone or in isolated areas may also contribute to the potential for violence.

A case study from Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois was used as an example of workplace violence. According to authorities Gary Martin brought his firearm to a meeting where he expected to be fired. Five people were killed and six officers were injured in the subsequent shooting. It took about ninety minutes to find the suspect.

It is important to remember that it can be very difficult to know when a person is going to be violent. While not all people will show the following signs, these types of behaviors and physical signs can serve as warning signs that a situation could turn violent. Also, watch for escalating behaviors and examine behavior within context. Take note if:

  • There is a change in their behavior patterns.
  • The frequency and intensity of the behaviors are disruptive to the work environment.
  • The person is exhibiting many of these behaviors, rather than just a few.
  • Crying, sulking or temper tantrums.
  • Excessive absenteeism or lateness.
  • Pushing the limits of acceptable conduct or disregarding the health and safety of others.
  • Disrespect for authority.
  • Increased mistakes or errors, or unsatisfactory work quality.
  • Refusal to acknowledge job performance problems.
  • Faulty decision making.
  • Testing the limits to see what they can get away with.
  • Swearing or emotional language.
  • Handles criticism poorly.
  • Making inappropriate statements.
  • Forgetfulness, confusion and/or distraction.
  • Inability to focus.
  • Blaming others for mistakes.
  • Complaints of unfair personal treatment.
  • Talking about the same problems repeatedly without resolving them.
  • Insistence that he or she is always right.
  • Misinterpretation of communications from supervisors or co-workers.
  • Social isolation.
  • Personal hygiene is poor or ignored.
  • Sudden and/or unpredictable change in energy level.
  • Complaints of unusual and/or non-specific illnesses.
  • Holds grudges, especially against his or her supervisor. Verbalizes hope that something negative will happen to the person against whom he or she has the grudge.

Sometimes it is not what a person says, but what their body is “doing”. Use caution if you see someone who shows one or more of the following “non-verbal” signs or body language:

  • Flushed or pale face.
  • Pacing, restless, or repetitive movements.
  • Signs of extreme fatigue (e.g., dark circles under the eyes).
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Clenched jaws or fists.
  • Change in voice.
  • Loud talking or chanting.
  • Shallow, rapid breathing.
  • Scowling, sneering or use of abusive language.
  • Glaring or avoiding eye contact.
  • Violating your personal space (they get too close).

Also watch for a history of violence:

  • Fascinated with incidents of workplace violence.
  • Shows an extreme interest in, or obsession with, weapons.
  • Demonstrated violence towards inanimate objects.
  • Evidence of earlier violent behavior.

Threatening behavior:

  • States intention to hurt someone (can be verbal or written).
  • Holds grudges.
  • Excessive behavior (e.g. phone calls, gift giving).
  • Escalating threats that appears well-planned.
  • Preoccupation with violence.

Intimidating behavior:

  • Argumentative or uncooperative.
  • Displays unwarranted anger.
  • Impulsive or easily frustrated.
  • Challenges peers and authority figures.

Increase in personal stress:

  • An unreciprocated romantic obsession.
  • Serious family or financial problems.
  • Recent job loss or personal loss.

Negative personality characteristics:

  • Suspicious of others.
  • Believes he or she is entitled to something.
  • Cannot take criticism.
  • Feels victimized.
  • Shows a lack of concern for the safety or well-being of others.
  • Blames others for his problems or mistakes.
  • Low self-esteem.

Marked changes in mood or behavior:

  • Extreme or bizarre behavior.
  • Irrational beliefs and ideas.
  • Appears depressed or expresses hopelessness or heightened anxiety.
  • Marked decline in work performance.
  • Demonstrates a drastic change in belief systems.

Socially isolated:

  • History of negative interpersonal relationships.
  • Few family or friends.
  • Sees the company as a “family”.
  • Has an obsessive involvement with his or her job.


It is a good idea to prepare a comprehensive crisis management plan, which includes a workplace prevention program, for each facility. In developing the plan, consider:

  • Preparing and distributing a contact list of all local emergency agencies
  • Performing a hazard assessment
  • Identifying evacuation routes
  • Placing crisis kits
  • Crisis management action procedure with an incident command system at corporate and local levels
  • Regulatory response procedure
  • Media coordination procedure
  • Incident recovery plan
  • Select and train management officials in conflict resolution and nonviolent techniques for handling hostage, hijacking, crisis incidents and counseling situations. Train employees for active shooter situations.
  • As part of the company’s overall management safety and health training, instruct all managers and supervisors in how to identify and deal with early warning signs and potential safety problems associated with workplace violence. Develop systems for reporting signs of potential violent behavior.
  • Identify and publicize Employee Assistance Programs, employee support services, and healthcare resources available to employees and their families.

Physical dynamics such as:

  • Security Guard Service (armed or unarmed)
  • Camera Video Systems
  • Access Control Points – Point of Entry (Lobby areas)
  • Identification Card Usage
  • Vehicle Parking Permit
  • Office Layout (Door/Desk Ratio)
  • Specific location for terminations / interviews
  • Number of Persons available for terminations / interviews / inquiry
  • Lockdown Capability for doors / gates
  • Perimeter Access Points – Parking Lot; Vendor & Delivery
  • Determine Ingress and Egress within the facility (Are there fatal funnels?)



Important Notes:

The information above serves as a recap of the presentation provided by Rex Carter, but was not written by Rex Carter. All information and quotes were sourced from the presentation provided.

SVAM Members can view the full video presentation here.


Excellence in Safety: Tempur Sealy

In October, SVAM honored six Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for their outstanding companies. Through this blog series, we would like to highlight the achievements of these manufacturers.


Charles Johnson, EHS Manager

Tempur Sealy in Duffield, VA was awarded our Excellence in Safety award. To learn more about the company and the impact of the award, we interviewed Charles Johnson, EHS Manager at Tempur Sealy.


Tell us about your company.

Tempur was originally based on NASA’s research to develop a material that would cushion aircraft seats and improve survivability in the event of an accident.
The first Tempur-Pedic mattress was introduced by DanFoam, a Swedish technical foam firm. The brand was brought to the United States in 1992 and the company Tempur-Pedic, Inc. was founded. The plant in Duffield started manufacturing in 2001.

Tell us about the program(s) you have implemented that led you to win this award.

We do industrial hygiene monitoring annually in areas where Isocyanates (a family of highly reactive, low molecular weight chemicals) are present. We have updated our Slabstock line and pillow mold carousels to more of an enclosure to increase the ventilation flow. Safe chemical handling has been improved by adding safety interlocks to all delivery systems including pumps & valves. All control systems are now hooked into a safety PLC & safety relays if needed. Other improvements include closing in slab molding tunnel with metal & sheetrock to contain off gases. Carbon filtration system speed has been increased to extract more off gases. Also filtration system was interlocked to machine so it cannot be ran while the system is off.
A complete Hybrid assembly line was engineered to handle mattress tubes, coil springs & stacking of complete mattress. This includes unrolling of springs in a safe enclosed machine. Also machinery was put in place to deliver springs to the tub without operators having to handle the weight of springs. All spray equip are hanging from a tool balance device to reduce handling of heavy hoses & spray equipment.

We also put systems in place for safe removal of scrap trimming from the saws at the laminators. The systems include multiple conveyors to let the scrap fall then be transferred to the overhead conveyors that will auto feed the foam baler. These conveyors have eliminated need for operators to handle scrap foam trimmings.

img_0503We have a very solid forklift program from training down to engineer controls we have put into place. When training a new forklift operator we go by the OSHA standard that includes class room training with a written test. The most important part of the training is the on hands or the driving part. We require the employee to operate the forklift 4 hours a day for 30 days with an experience driver nearby training them. This is completed prior to when their performance is evaluated. We have put in engineering controls in place or on our Powered Industrial Equipment; we installed a shock watch/total trax system on our forklifts. This system allows us to control who can or cannot operate our forklifts. This system also monitors the driver’s performance and if he or she comes into contact with anything and generates a Gforce higher than the set amount the shock watch system will shut down the forklift operations, and this will require the supervisor to reset the forklift and complete an investigation on the incident.

In January 2012, we added certification to the OHSAS 18001 Health & Safety standard. The Health & Safety standard requirements have been incorporated into our existing Quality and Environmental Management Systems. By using this successful foundation of management system control, we now have a true Quality, Environmental, Health, and Safety (QEHS) Management System that will benefit our customers, neighbors, and employees. The commitment and effort to maintain the health and safety at our facility is evident from the 3rd party audit results of “zero” audit findings for the past two years for our OHSAS 18001:2007. Certification to the new ISO 45001:2018 standard is planned for March 2019. We also have enhanced our near miss/safety suggestion program to get the employees more involved in reporting and as well as help come up with the corrective action. We continue to have monthly all hands meetings to communicate any near misses or incidents that are reported during the month

img_2264We have implemented a strong wellness program which includes a stretching program along with having a physical therapist onsite to help with work related and non-work related strains and pains. The MedFit Early Intervention Program (EIP) is designed to recognize and start early treatment prior to an injury occurrence. Employees with aches, pains and concerns come to our specialist and are assessed according to their complaints. The specialist will then determine a Medical Exercise Training program to start with the employee if an outside referral is not needed. The employee will come for 30-minute sessions one to two times per week determined by the specialist. We will then look at the type of complaint and perform an ergonomic assessment on the employees’ workstation to see if there are modifications that are needed to help address the employee’s complaints. Our goal is to give the employee a healthy quality life inside the Tempur work field as well as when the employees are off duty.

How do you feel your company was set apart from other companies who might apply for this award?

Tempur has been rebuilding the safety culture over the previous years; the Tempur safety culture is the attitude, beliefs, perception and values that the employees share in relation to safety in our workplace. Tempur’s senior management commitment to safety, realistic practices for handling hazards, continuous organizational learning, and care and concern for hazards shared across the workforce. Employee involvement is not the goal nor is it a tool, we believe it is a management and leadership philosophy about how people are most enabled to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of our work organization.

Where do you see the future of your company in regard to Excellence in Safety?

The improvements Tempur has made of the past few years has made us a company with a world class safety score. Tempur has improved dramatically over the last 4 years due to employee involvement, upper management buy in, effective accident investigations, and no fault safety attitude. The national Recordable Case Rate for mattress manufacturing is 4.2 and Tempur’s 12 month average is .40 and we set an all-time high of working 362 days without a recordable incident.
What has winning this award meant to your company? Have there been internal or community impacts of winning the award?

By winning this award it has proven to the company that the time, man power and money that company invested to improve the Safety Program was a great success. Our employees along with Tempur do a great job to ensure that safety is one of the top priorities of every work day and winning this award validates all their hard work.

tempur building