Ford teams with AccuWeather to increase plant safety

Whether it is a tornado, lightning or high winds in Kansas City, a snowstorm in Buffalo or any kind of inclement weather, Ford Motor Company has made sure its employees are safe while at the manufacturing plants in North America.

Thanks to the partnership Ford has with AccuWeather, employees can count on the parking lots being cleared when a snow hits.

The partnership started in 2006, which made Ford the first auto manufacturer to work with AccuWeather. Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo manufactures the F-150 pickup and the Transit van.

“When we originally started the partnership it was strictly for snow and severe winter storms,” said David Small, regional manager for security and fire protection for North America manufacturing, in a telephone interview from Dearborn, Mich.

“One of the things we noticed in a lot of our North American plants was injuries in our parking lot. We wanted to figure out a better way when the weather was coming in so we could get out there and salt early and have the plows out there.”

More recently, the alerts included tornados, high winds and lightning.

“It has made a big difference for us,” Small said.

The way it works, Small said, is all the Ford plants are plotted out on AccuWeather’s radar system. There is a 3-mile radius around each plant, and if a storm is tracking to intersect the 3-mile radius, AccuWeather will immediately give the Ford plant notification.

“When it comes to high wind and lightning, and we have outside work being done, we are able to get out there sooner, change up the work, provide protection, cancel it or whatever that may need to be done,” Small said. “It gives workers a stronger peace of mind now because of how specific the reporting and tracking is.”

The partnership has made a difference, especially during the winter. Although Kansas City doesn’t see the same amount of snow as Buffalo, it does have an occasional snowstorm.

“We have definitely reduced the number of injuries, being able to get out and plow and salt earlier,” Small said. “It gives us much better response capabilities and we are able to better exercise our general program and use of the facility. We have them plow prior to the employees arriving.”

Ford has three levels of warnings, and each level has an appropriate action that all Ford facility teams will take.

  • Level I, severe weather watch: Conditions could develop into high winds, heavy rain, lightning or a tornado, but are not imminent. In this instance, facility teams are notified of potentially severe weather and should begin preparing in the event the conditions become more severe.
  • Level II, high wind or lightning warning: Severe weather conditions are confirmed, including the possibility of high winds or lightning. This level may include heavy rain, snow or ice. In the event that winds reach 55 mph, outdoor operations must cease. With a lightning warning, unsheltered, outdoor operations must be altered in accordance with the area’s local emergency response plan. Snow or ice notifications require implementation of a pre-determined removal strategy.
  • Level III, tornado warning: AccuWeather issues a tornado warning based on radar tracking and proximity to the storm, or by a confirmed sighting. Employees are then instructed to report to the nearest designated shelter area.