Company Description:

R.C. Bigelow ("Bigelow") is a family-owned company headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, that produces and markets blended teas. The company was founded in 1945 by Ruth Campbell Bigelow, who started her company with "Constant Comment" blended tea, which remains popular today. The R.C. Bigelow facility in Boise, Idaho, is one of two bagging, packaging, and distribution facilities. The company employs approximately 60 workers at the Boise facility and 320 corporate-wide.

The Situation:

Before 2002, about three recordable injuries occurred each year at the Boise facility. The company knew they needed to make improvements and reduce these rates, so management identified worker safety and health as a point of focus for continuous improvement efforts.

While researching workplace safety, Don Scantling, Bigelow's Human Resources and Safety Manager at the time, learned about Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)On-Site Consultation Program, services. The program offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country and in several territories, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-Site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.

Funded through a cooperative agreement with the Department of Labor, along with some state matching funds, Idaho's Occupational Safety and Health Consultation Program is administered by Boise State University (BSU). Scantling made the call to Boise State to start the dialogue.

The Solution:

During the initial visit on March 22, 2002, BSU On-Site Consultation safety professionals identified hazards involving inadequate documentation of personal protective equipment, respirator fit tests, management of electrical cords, labeling of secondary containers, and storage of flammable materials. In addition to correcting deficiencies that the consultant identified, Bigelow used the consultation visit to begin its team approach to instilling ownership of safety practices and principles at all levels of the organization.

The Impact:

With assistance from BSU consultants, Bigelow was able to reduce its injury and illness rates below the national average as compared to companies operating in the coffee and tea manufacturing industry. Bigelow reported a Total Recordable Case Rate (TRC) of 2.0 in 2002. By 2005, this rate dropped to 1.25, and the Days Away, Restricted, and Transfer Rate (DART) dropped from 2.20 (reported in 2002) to zero. Over the years, they have maintained their TRC and DART rates below the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) national averages for the industry NAICS code 31192.

Bigelow's dedication to protecting workers was rewarded in 2005 when the company was accepted into OSHA's SHARP. SHARP recognizes small business employers who have used OSHA On-Site Consultation Program services and operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program. Acceptance of worksites into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that distinguishes a company amongst its business peers as a model for workplace safety and health. Bigelow has continually participated in SHARP and earned its most recent renewal in 2016.

Bigelow is always finding new ways to maintain a focus on safety. As part of their continual improvement initiative, the Boise facility implemented an Engagement Program in 2016. The program creates opportunities for all team members to become more active participants in the key functions of the Boise plant. It also strives to encourage all team members to engage in meaningful activity beyond their regular job duties through the following two categories of engagement opportunities:

  1. Activities and Audits – team members complete assignments that contribute to the regular monitoring activity of the plant function through activities, such as machine guarding, housekeeping, and ladder audits.
  2. Self-Directed Engagement – team members participate in activities, learning opportunities, or teams. Members request an audit by one of their co-workers and arrange time with shift leadership, and the auditor and person requesting the audit each get an engagement "credit" for completing the acitivity.

Individual team members are considered "engaged" for the month after completing at least one activity as described in the Boise Engagement Program. The program is fully supported by management, including Plant Manager Tony Greer. The management team stated that "initially, achieving and maintaining workplace safety and health excellence seemed challenging. It's not something that can be accomplished overnight." However, by diversifying their approach when faced with change, such as the implementation of the Boise Engagement Program, R.C. Bigelow continues to be creative in their SHARP efforts, thus ensuring workers go home safe and healthy each day. The team believes that a safe workplace will pay for itself many times over.

Additional information about OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program and other small business resources is available at or 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Source: Tony Greer, Plant Manager at the Boise facility, R.C. Bigelow Tea, Inc., Boise, Idaho