Magazine article Occupational Hazards

The Surreptitious Treasures of Safety

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

The Surreptitious Treasures of Safety

Article excerpt

Cost savings from our safety programs have been reinvested into our company to help fund new construction and to modernize our facility.

In 1991, my company, Alpha Meat Packing Co. Inc., faced a formidable task. We had to develop and implement from scratch a written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) per CAL/OSHA's Bill 198 requirements.

Alpha Meat Packing, South Gate, Calif., is a USDA-inspected meat processor that manufactures case-ready pork, beef and lamb products for major retail outlets in California and Nevada. Started in 1981, we employ 95 full-time people. As vice-president of operations, I, along with Chris Pecci, our director of finance, and Regis Winter, our plant manager, direct and coordinate our plant's safety and health programs.

The benefits our company has reaped from SB 198 have far outweighed the costs and done little to substantiate the usual naysayers who warned of high maintenance costs, negative impact on production and more red tape. SB 198 forced us to develop a safe working environment and culture that we didn't have previously. In fact, SB 198 has more than paid for itself and continues even today to add to our company's bottom line.

Building the Program

During our initial preparation to meet SB 198's July 1, 1991 deadline, we attended numerous industrial safety and health seminars. We visited libraries and subscribed to safety magazines. We hired several industrial safety consultants who helped us set parameters for our IIPP. Still, we had a lot of work ahead of us.

Creating a customized IIPP program was important for us because we are in the meat and poultry industry, traditionally one of OSHA's top five most hazardous industries. The working environment is wet and cold. Employees start early and use tools such as 10-inch knives and electrically powered meat and bone saws.

We developed written job safety analyses for all specific job tasks in the production, sanitation, maintenance and shipping/receiving departments, and painstakingly implemented them. A variety of new personal protective equipment became mandatory for all our departments. Monthly supervisor meetings were expanded to include a forum that updated important safety and health issues, such as recent injuries, plant safety hazards and near misses. We purchased bilingual safety literature.

Soon, all of our forklifts were equipped with useful yellow flashing lights complemented by automatic backup warning alarms. These new sights and sounds of safety became welcome additions to our program. CPR and first aid training were started, which would later be combined with a bloodborne pathogen program. Respiratory programs, lockout/tagout programs and mandatory job rotations in production were created and implemented.

We developed a new employee orientation program combining good manufacturing practices with sound safety and health practices. This way, new employees know exactly what is expected of them right from the start. A safety incentive program called Safety Pays Bingo was introduced. The program rewards safe work practices and safety suggestions for all employees with gift certificates and congratulatory notes attached to their paychecks after safety goals are met. This incentive program helps keep safety up front every day.

Slowly, changes of philosophy concerning industrial safety from management through every line worker came about. Monthly bilingual safety notes were attached to each employee's paycheck and posted in high-traffic areas. Subjects have included "Slips, Trips and Falls," "Working Safely with Forklifts," "Anhydrous Ammonia Safety," and "Workplace Violence".

Injuries and Lost Workdays Fall

Since 1990, reportable injuries and lost working days have gradually been lowered. We trimmed our CAL/OSHA 200 Log of Injuries by more than 85 percent from 1990 to 1997. During that same time, we lowered our workers' compensation payments by more than two-thirds and received large workers' comp rebates. …

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