VonRoll USA Inc.VonRoll USA, Inc. -- which manufactures insulating materials, resins, varnishes and mica -- has decreased its injury and illnesses rates to “considerably below industry averages,” according to OSHA, which worked with the company under its On-site Consultation Program.

In the process, three of the company’s facilities earned Safety and Health Recognition Program (SHARP) status and its workers compensation experience modifier decreased from 0.81 to 0.71, saving the company over $200,000 in workers compensation Insurance costs.

Meeting the SHARP challenges

"We initially intended to achieve a Safety-First culture at the Schenectady facility and enable employees to identify hazards and promptly report them,” said General Manager North America Jon Roberts. “Today meeting the SHARP challenges has become a shared source of pride. Our SHARP designations and recertification makes everyone proud of the role they play in earning this recognition," said Roberts, "and we work every day to maintain it."

VonRoll’s Safety Manager/ Environmental Compliance North America, Phillip Browning, turned to OSHA because the company’s products and services require expertise in several high hazard industries.

Separate from enforcement

OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country and in several territories with priority given to high hazard work sites. 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.

A DOSH consultant conducted a walkthrough of VonRoll - Schenectady and identified areas of concern in their manufacturing facilities in April 2009. Machine guarding of equipment and identification of workplace hazards were key issues that needed to be addressed. While working with the consultant, the company recognized a need for improved management and worker communications.

The process

The DOSH consultant clarified OSHA regulatory requirements, provided hazard correction assistance, and aided the company in the development of written safety and health policies. In turn, VonRoll corrected the deficiencies in engineering controls, machine guarding, policies, and procedures identified during the consultation visits. To improve communications and keep everyone informed of safety and health activities and conditions, daily safety meetings between workers and supervisors were established. The company trained the workers to identify hazards and encouraged them to promptly report safety issues.

Roberts called earning SHARP status and sustaining adherence to the program's guidelines “a worthy challenge.”

Cooperation is important

“To be successful, our programs must embody the proper attitude toward injury and illness prevention on the part of management, supervisors, and workers. It also requires cooperation in all safety and health matters, not only between management, supervisors, and workers but also between each person and their fellow workers."

Three of the VonRoll facilities have earned SHARP recognition:

  • VonRoll, Schenectady, New York. VonRoll - Schenectady facility earned their first SHARP award on September 1, 2009, followed by its renewal on August 13, 2013. Participating in this program has improved the worksite's safety and health environment and enabled the company to experience injury and illnesses rates considerably below their industry averages. Their Workers Compensation experience modifier decreased from 0.81 to 0.71, saving the company over $200,000 in Workers Compensation Insurance costs.
  • VonRoll Austral, Douglasville, Georgia. On September 17, 2010, the VonRoll Austral Plant in Douglasville, Georgia, received OSHA SHARP recognition. After applying to participate in OSHA's SHARP in January 2010, Douglasville Plant employees and consultants from the Georgia Tech Research Institute - OSHA worked together, conducting voluntary safety and health assessments of the Douglasville Plant and VonRoll Americas Safety Management Systems. The company implemented engineering and operational improvements, along with safety and health management systems changes and was able to decrease the injury rate by 90 percent. "Improved working safely not only protects our colleagues but also increases their productivity, while decreasing the plant's insurance costs," said Roberts. The facility lowered its Days Away from Work, Restricted Work Activity, or Job Transfer Rate from 11.7 to zero in 4 years. "We congratulate our colleagues in Douglasville for achieving the SHARP recognition," said Browning. "It proves their good collaboration as a team and their willingness to continuously improve working conditions and safety in the workplace."
  • VonRoll - Cleveland, Ohio. As of January 29, 2014, the VonRoll - Cleveland facility is the 29th small business employer in the state of Ohio to be accepted into SHARP. Out of over 250,000 small businesses in Ohio, this accomplishment puts VonRoll in the 0.0116 percentile. Working with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, OSHA On-site Consultation Program, the Cleveland facility lowered its DART rate from 11.6 to zero in 3 years. The SHARP award and flag presentation ceremony for the VonRoll - Cleveland is scheduled for June 4, 2014.

The Connecticut and New Jersey facilities are in the planning stages of requesting an On-site Consultation Program visit.

"Having met and/or worked closely with Onsite Consultation Program representatives in five states," said Browning, "I would recommend that any small business owner take advantage of this valuable, free, and confidential service."