A Pennsylvania metal parts manufacturer thought it already had an “exceptional” safety program when it reached out to a government program for assistance.

Brockway-based Phoenix Sintered Metals, LLC, a family-owned manufacturer of sintered (compacted and formed without liquefaction) metal parts, is “committed to continuous improvement,” according to the company. While researching ways to expand the company's occupational health and safety policies and procedures, Phoenix found the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)PA OSHA Consultation Program webpage. (The IUP Safety Sciences Department is the officially designated agency in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for providing no-cost occupational safety and health consultative services made available through OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program.)

Hazards found and fixed

"We felt engaging the services of IUP PA OSHA was a good way to build on our exceptional safety program,” said Phoenix’ Safety Coordinator, Terry Fustine. During the initial walkthrough, Pennsylvania OSHA consultants identified housekeeping, improper labeling, machine guarding, improper use of extension cords, new employee safety orientation, electrical, and other hazards.

The company corrected all of these hazards. Explaining the safety issues to all employees and what injuries these hazards could cause was the first step. Additional safety trainings and department safety audits were performed. Phoenix Sintered Metals improved its written safety and health program policy manual and established a safety and health information board for all employees. With the help of their insurance carrier, the company also developed safety-training sessions. To enhance the Operational Excellence Program, the Phoenix Safety Committee also updated the near-miss program.

Employee engagement was a challenge

Motivating people to get involved in changing the safety and health program proved to be a bit of a challenge. Letting employees find solutions to the problems they were identifying increased their sense of involvement and ownership. "We created a Problem-Solving Sheet through our Operational Excellence Program to help investigate near misses, injuries, and accidents, using the 5 W's (Who, What, When, Where, and Why)," said Fustine. "We also set up a spreadsheet to track near misses, injuries, and accidents." Tracking this data helped in identifying trends. All near misses, injuries, and accidents are reviewed daily at the 8:30 a.m. Managers Meeting and at the 10:00 a.m. Steering Committee Meeting.

Fewer workplace accidents

Improving adherence to OSHA safety standards and updating company safety policies and procedures positively affected Phoenix Sintered Metals injury and illness rates. In 2012, the year before the first PA OSHA visit, Phoenix experienced three recordable injuries and illnesses. After working with PA OSHA, there was only one recordable injury in 2017. For this North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the national industry average total recordable case (TRC) rate was 3.4, and the national average days away, restricted, and/or transfer (DART) rate was 2.1 during this period. [NOTE: 2016 is the most recent year BLS national averages are available. For 2017, the company's TRC rate was 1.5, and their DART rate was 1.5.] Lowering these injury and illness rates helped to reduce the cost of Workers' Compensation Claims from $26,765.00 in 2014 to $803.00 in 2017.

On July 23, 2018, OSHA accepted Phoenix Sintered Metals into its Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). This program recognizes small business employers who have used OSHA On-Site Consultation Program services and operate exemplary safety and health programs. Acceptance of a worksite into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that singles the company out among its business peers as a model for worksite safety and health.

(Shown above: Phoenix Sintered Safety Committee with the SHARP Certificate and the governor's letter on the table. Left to Right: Sundervel Velayutham, Operational Excellence Coordinator,Steve Anderson, 2nd Shift Supervisor, Josh Crawford, Maintenance Manager, Terry Fustine, Safety Coordinator, Ron Perkins, Die Setter, Brad Smith, Manufacturing Engineer, Steve Cappetta, Tool Shop Manager.)

What has changed

Collaborating with PA OSHA and earning acceptance into SHARP has benefited the company's safety culture in a number of ways. Employee involvement in workplace safety efforts has greatly improved over the last couple of years. People at all levels of the company are proactively involved in not only finding and identifying hazards but also in helping to find solutions to such problems.

Established in 2005, Phoenix Sintered Metals specializes in producing high strength and density structural sintered metal parts and serves the needs of customers in many different industries, including automotive, outdoor power equipment, industrial applications, sporting goods, food service, medical and others. The company is a global supplier, shipping to China, Mexico, England, Hungary, and Canada.

The OSHA On-Site Consultation Program offers no-cost, confidential occupational safety and health services to small- and medium-sized businesses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. 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 local agencies or universities, such as IUP, work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs.

To locate the OSHA On-Site Consultation program nearest you, call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit www.osha.gov/consultation.

Source: Terry Fustine, Phoenix Sintered Metals, LLC, Safety Coordinator