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How textile innovator Milliken & Co. became one of America’s safest companies

December 1st, 2017 / By: / The Greater Good

One notable way of recognizing excellence in safety throughout its divisions is the annual Milliken Achievement in Safety Award.

Milliken & Co. is known around the globe for its innovations in the manufacturing of specialty chemicals, floor covering, and performance and protective textiles. It’s also one of America’s safest companies.

The Spartanburg, S.C.-based company was recently named as one of 13 companies featured in the 2017 America’s Safest Companies list, which recognizes companies that provide a safe working environment for employees. The list is put together each year by EHS Today magazine, a leading source for environment, health and safety best management practices. As a three-time honoree, Milliken also became the first company to be named to the America’s Safest Companies Hall of Fame.

Milliken & Co. was founded in 1865 by Seth Milliken and William Deering as Deering Milliken Company, a small woolen fabrics jobbing firm in Portland, Maine. In 1884, the company invested in a new facility in Pacolet, S.C., and the manufacturing operations grew from there. In 1976, Deering Milliken officially became Milliken & Co.

Safety has been part of Milliken’s DNA since its inception, says Paul Pruitt, director of Environmental, Health, Safety and Engineering at Milliken & Co. “Milliken’s leadership has long understood the role safety played in creating a successful company, so safety has always guided our growth and development.”

The America’s Safest Companies list considers nominees based on the quality of their company-wide environmental, health and safety leadership. Companies are recognized for their innovative solutions to safety issues, significantly lower injury and illness rates than industry averages, comprehensive training programs, robust internal and external communications that speak to the value of safety and a commitment to incident prevention.

Milliken provides safety education and training to other companies through its consulting business, Performance Solutions by Milliken. Photos: Milliken & Co.

Pruitt says that Milliken emphasizes its commitment to safety by devoting resources to train associates to perform their jobs safely, to ensure equipment is operated in a safe manner, to eliminate workplace hazards and to comply with safety and health laws and regulations. “Safety is a top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top initiative where both leadership and associates share in the responsibility of implementation,” he says. “By sharing this commitment, associates create the safety culture for Milliken worldwide.”

The company’s emphasis on safety has resulted in one of the lowest total incidence and injury rates of North American manufacturers, as well as recognition as a top recipient of the coveted OSHA VPP Star certification.

Milliken’s emphasis on safety also extends to the health and wellness of its employees. “Not only do we care about our associates’ safety,” says Pruitt, “we also hope to foster an environment where their health and wellness receive the same care and attention as safety procedures.”

Now, Milliken is spreading its mission of safety to other companies.

“Decades of successful work in the safety space have given us practical and relatable knowledge to help other companies achieve their own safety goals,” says Pruitt.

So in 2007, it founded Performance Solutions by Milliken, a consulting business to share Milliken learning with others in the manufacturing industry to further advance the success of other companies in safety and health.

Jahna Peloquin is a writer and editor based in Minneapolis, Minn.

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