Ark. wood manufacturer changes safety culture, lowers comp costs
The cutting, shaping, drilling, milling, and grinding operations that take place in the wood manufacturing and processing industries make it an inherently high hazard industry, with employees potentially exposed to injuries caused by equipment and illnesses from inhaling wood dust and particles.
Canfor Southern Pine produces engineered wood products such as laminated beams, columns, and other glulam products, at its facility in El Dorado, Arkansas. The company, which has 65 employees, has an annual capacity of 30 million board feet, and its products primarily serve the construction industry.
Company reached out for assistance
In an effort to reduce workplace injuries and workers’ compensation costs, Canfor Southern Pine reached out to the Arkansas Department of Labor (AR/DOL), OSHA Consultation Division, which offers no-cost and 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 state agencies, such as the , OSHA Consultation Division or universities, work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs.
The company learned about the program while attending seminars through the National Safety Council and other state-sponsored safety programs.
During a 2001 walkthrough through the facility, the AR/DOL consultant identified housekeeping, machine guarding, lockout/tagout, and personal protective equipment (PPE) hazards. The operation corrected all of the identified hazards which included, but were not limited to, implementing engineering controls, safe work procedures, and PPE. Since the first consultation visit, the company has introduced a comprehensive Safety and Health Management System, invested in the workforce, improved employee involvement, and reinvested the cost savings into the operation to upgrade equipment.
"A work in progress"
Changing the culture of the workforce to get everyone to focus on safety at all times is a work in progress, according to Kelly Olivier, Production Supervisor/Safety, Canfor Southern Pine. Working with the AR/DOL, OSHA Consultation Division, benefited the company in a number of ways:
- an improved the safety culture
- enhanced employee involvement at all levels of the organization, and
- increased overall profitability through cost savings
Today, Canfor is achieving results by having a safer workplace and workforce, lower worker compensation costs, and positive recognition for safety in a high hazard industry.
Anthony Forest Products – which was acquired by Canfor in 2015 - was initially accepted into the OSHA Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) in 2002 and the operation remains an active SHARP participant under the Canfor brand. The most recent renewal was approved in 2019. To participate in SHARP, a company must have injury and illness rates below the national average and operate exemplary safety and health programs. From 2014 through 2017, Canfor’s total recordable case (TRC) rate averaged 3.68, and their days away, restricted, and transferred (DART) rate averaged 1.13. During this period for North American Industry Classification System code 321213, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the industry average TRC rate was 5.45, and the industry average DART rate was 3.58. [NOTE: 2017 is the last year the BLS injury and illness data are available. For 2018, the company's TRC rate was zero; their DART rate was zero.]
“It was an extremely proud day for the Anthony family business when all six of our U.S. manufacturing locations became SHARP certified,” said Hayes Anthony, EL Dorado Lam-Plant Manager. “Knowing what I know now as the manager, I can truly feel the pride. Our people are the most valuable asset we have, and ‘We look out for each other’ remains a part of our safety culture.
“Continuing SHARP participation shows our employees that we take safety personally when it comes to protecting them and running a quality operation. The level of support we’ve had from the AR/DOL consultants helped us in time to continually improve our site and strengthen our safety culture.”
How employees feel about safety at the plant
- The operations have become safer.
- Canfor has empowered the people to stop operations if there is a hazard detected hazard.
- The company provides in-house training and opportunities to attend off-site safety training.
- All reported hazards are corrected in a timely manner, and feedback is given to the workers.
- Management is visible in the work areas.
- Supervisors communicate that top management is supportive of never jeopardizing safety for production.
- The company always provides the necessary workplace safety and health resources.