A manufacturer of storage tanks and pressure vessels for the petrochemical, paper, and energy industries sharply reduced its recordable injury rate after reaching out to OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program to help it identify and reduce workplace hazards.

James Machine Works, LLC (JMW), which has been family owned for three generations, has grown from three to 160 employees since it was founded in 1927. Services offered by the company include design, procurement, fabrication, transportation, and erection/installation and repair of the tanks and vessels it makes. It has a 120,000 sq. ft. fabrication plant in Monroe, Louisiana, in-house quality control department and safety department, in-house engineering and design, mobile cranes and equipment, and 10 field crews.

A high hazard industry

Working in this high hazard industry, a JMW worker's typical tasks involves cutting, forming, and joining heavy gauge metal to manufacture tanks.

"As a company, we realized that we needed to improve our safety culture, gear it toward a personal safety responsibility culture, and improve training," said Robert (Butch) Mason, JMW Safety Director. "We also wanted to get an outside view of our safety program and improve. Improving the company's workplace safety and health posture would enable us to be more competitive in bidding projects.”

In 2014, JMW management contacted the Louisiana OSHA Consultation Program, a unit of the Office of Workers' Compensation Administration of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, which helps businesses meet the Federal OSHA health and safety regulations.

Hazards noted during the consultant's walk-around included insufficient or missing machine guarding and problems with electrical systems, such as an unlabeled switch in an electric panel and a missing electrical box cover.

Beyond abatement

The company corrected all of the hazards that the consultant found and continued to work with the Louisiana consultants to improve its workplace safety processes and polices. To get JMW employees more involved in their own safety, an Employee Safety Council was established. This council includes people from all levels of the organization. The full-time Safety Department developed a comprehensive safety program that includes intensive employee training, open communication, and individual accountability. Worker safety and health needs at all levels of the organization were evaluated and addressed, ranging from getting worker buy in, to developing or updating policies and procedures, training and education, preventive maintenance, and to housekeeping/safety audits. Today, corrective action/preventive action processes, near accident reporting mechanisms, job hazard analyses, and refresher training are just some of the tools that routinely contribute to the company's safety culture.

JMW says the workplace safety efforts resulted in increased employee involvement, better training, and improved safety culture and that both workers and managers have learned to recognize hazards and implement cost-effective abatements.

"It has allowed us to build a valuable working relationship, and we are able to ask questions and receive suggestions from the Louisiana consultants," explained Mason.

The numbers

Over the course of four years, JMW’s rate of recordable injuries dropped by nearly 80 percent – seven times lower than the average injury rate for this high-hazard industry. Because of these efforts, JMS has been designated a Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program participant.

“Each day, we live the JMW safety motto: Safety Begins with Me!,” said Mason.

December 31, 2014, JMW was initially designated a Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program(SHARP) participant by OSHA. The company's renewal application to continue participating in this program was approved January 6, 2016. 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.

About OSHA programs

To be accepted into SHARP, a company's injuries and illnesses rates must be below the national average for their industry. The following table compares JMW's Total Recordable Case (TRC) and Days Away from Work, Job Transfer and Restriction (DART) rates with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported industry averages for NACIS Code 33242 from 2012 through 2016:

OSHA's completely voluntary On-Site Consultation Program services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. This program offers free, confidential safety and health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country and several territories, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. 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.