Md. to let ESSD monitor own plant safety Governor signs accord with Northrop

February 25, 1997|By Greg Schneider | Greg Schneider,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and executives at Northrop Grumman Corp. signed an agreement yesterday that allows the company's Linthicum radar plant to monitor its own safety performance for the next year instead of having surprise state inspections.

The Electronic Sensors and Systems Division (ESSD) of the California-based defense contractor becomes the first large manufacturing center to strike such a deal under the governor's 2-year-old effort to reform business regulations.

"We are sending a really powerful message to businesses that the state wants to form partnerships," Glendening said in a ceremony at the plant.

He said the deal rewards Northrop Grumman for having an exemplary safety record and frees up state inspectors to focus on problem companies. And the governor said he would use the arrangement as a "selling point" when wooing other businesses to the state.

The state has set up similar programs with four businesses that have fewer than 250 employees, and is negotiating with the Maryland Manufacturers Association for such an arrangement with about a dozen more small companies, the governor's office said.

Northrop Grumman had to meet several criteria to qualify -- the state reviewed its safety program, for example, and interviewed employees -- and will be subject to scrutiny when the year is up.

William O. Brackney, vice president for business operations at ESSD, credited the plant's nearly 5,000 employees with maintaining a safety record strong enough to qualify.

The division -- which has about 7,300 employees at several Maryland locations -- has a safety record seven times better than the average electronics company and 12 times better than the average for all U.S. industries, Brackney said.

While Glendening's initiative has raised questions in the past about whether it endangers workers by removing state oversight, representatives of the three major labor unions at ESSD were enthusiastic participants in yesterday's announcement.

"This will help bring work into our company," said Gladys Greene, president of Local 1805 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents about 600 employees. "It makes doing business less costly."

Asked whether she worried that it would allow safety lapses to slip through, Greene said, "Never. Never. We're moving up, not down."

Glendening said the setup would increase worker safety by making the company view the topic day-to-day instead of encouraging it to simply gear up for periodic inspections.

Pub Date: 2/25/97

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