Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.


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USA - 2012

Program for High-Risk Capacity Restarts Improves Safety, Productivity


Despite inherent risks and a high percentage of employees new to the job, three Alcoa smelters restarted idled capacity ahead of schedule and with 60% fewer recordable injuries and a 37% improvement in productivity compared to previous years of stable operation.


In 2011, Alcoa decided to restart 779 idled smelting pots at its Massena smelter in New York and Wenatchee and Intalco smelters in Washington. Restarting idled smelting capacity is one of the riskiest operations within the company. Compounding the safety challenge of the three restarts was that 750 employees, or 52% of the combined workforce, would be new to Alcoa (300) or new to the jobs they were assigned (450). New-to-job employees face an injury risk that is 12 times higher than experienced employees.


To minimize injuries and overcome the added challenge of the three smelters using different smelting pot technologies and restart processes, Alcoa developed a restart safety program that included a common new-to-job process and the implementation of human performance.


The new-to-job process started with pre-placement physicals and agility testing to ensure each employee was fit to handle specific duties. The orientation and training phase involved plant tours and classroom training. The latter included talks by previously injured employees and a review of fatality/risk maps to show where past fatalities and major incidents had occurred in specific work areas.


After the classroom portion, employees underwent on-the-job training and skills checking in small-group sessions. Each smelter’s safety team made daily contact with each new-to-job employee for the first 60 days. In addition, all new-to-job employees had to wear a hardhat with a unique color for the first three months so they could be identified easily on the production floor.


The 300 new-to-job employees who also were new hires underwent eight hours of human performance training before going to work on the floor. In addition, human performance advocates and coaches were on the floor of each smelter around the clock during the restarts.


Human performance focuses on the way people, programs, processes, work environment, organization, and equipment work together as a system. Employees learn how to recognize error and error-likely situations to predict, reduce, manage, and prevent fatalities and injuries from occurring. With good observation techniques, 80% of human error can be identified before injuries occur. (Read more on human performance. go)

Due to the safety program, all three smelters restarted capacity ahead of schedule with 60% fewer recordable injuries than the last year of stable operation. Unexpected benefits included a 37% increase in productivity and a measurable improvement in each plant’s score on Alcoa’s annual employee engagement survey. The initiative also earned the Alcoa 2012 IMPACT Award for environment, health and safety.