One SHARP Company: DeBourgh Manufacturing Has Found That It Pays to Get SHARP-And Stay SHARP

By Cable, Josh | Occupational Hazards, March 2007 | Go to article overview

One SHARP Company: DeBourgh Manufacturing Has Found That It Pays to Get SHARP-And Stay SHARP


Cable, Josh, Occupational Hazards


DeBourgh Manufacturing Co. is one of OSHA's small-business success stories. In 2000, the La-Junta, Colo.-based manufacturer of custom athletic, corridor and industrial wardrobe lockers was accepted into OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement and Recognition Program (SHARP), which honors small businesses for having exemplary workplace safety and health programs. In 2005, DeBourgh was named OSHA's SHARP Employer of the Year.

DeBourgh, which employs about 100 people, has earned five SHARP certificates and is featured prominently on OSHA's SHARP Web page. DeBourgh President Bill Dutro--who also is the company's safety director--speaks at OSHA regional conferences to highlight the benefits of collaborating with the agency. DeBourgh's commitment to stay SHARP has helped the company drastically reduce its total recordable case rate as well as its lost-workday injury and illness (LWDII) rate and workers' compensation costs.

Considering all of that, it's probably hard to believe that DeBourgh once averaged 30 to 35 recordable injuries per year and, at one point, even found itself on OSHA's Site-Specific Targeting inspection list.

"It was in April of 1999 that we were listed in one of our local newspapers as being a company--along with a number of other companies--where you might be more apt to get hurt," Dutro explains. "So we were put on OSHA's Site-Specific Targeting list."

Although DeBourgh at that time had been making strides in improving its EHS program--the company had been working with OSHA consultants for several years--company officials decided to take DeBourgh's safety program to the next level.

"At that point we said, 'OK, let's make this jump. Let's take this leap of faith and see if we can qualify ourselves for SHARP in the next couple of years or so.'"

"A Complete Culture Change"

It took less than a year for DeBourgh--with the help of consultants from Colorado State University, which administers OSHA's consultation program in Colorado--to make the improvements necessary to become a SHARP company.

To meet OSHA's requirements for SHARP certification, Dutro recalls having to describe the components of De-Bourgh's EHS program in a stack of documents "that kind of read like 'War and Peace.'" But while DeBourgh had to precisely demonstrate how its safety and health management system met OSHA's SHARP criteria, Dutro says that some improvements to the EHS program were a bit less quantifiable.

"It's the culture within our organization that has changed," Dutro says. "... I think there was a complete culture change about how we approach safety and how we communicate to our team members about how important it is that they be as conscious of their work environment as possible.

"And I think another piece of that culture is that there isn't anybody here who's afraid to report something to their supervisor if they feel it is a safety hazard."

Today, DeBourgh's model EHS system includes an active safety committee; monthly, facilitywide safety audits; and "intensive and extensive" training and re-training that goes beyond SHARP requirements. …

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