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For Portus Stevedoring, Safety Culture 'Improves Dramatically' After Earning SHARP Award

Portus Stevedoring, LLC., recently earned its first SHARP award. The Jacksonville-based longshore and terminal operator employs 88 workers and provides stevedoring and marine cargo services to shipping lines that service many parts of the world. The company is currently Florida’s only longshore business to achieve SHARP status.

Keith Brown (left) of USF SafetyFlorida presents OSHA's SHARP award to Chris May (right) of Portus Stevedoring, LLC. The company received its first SHARP award in June 2012.

Portus contacted USF SafetyFlorida in March to glean an outsider’s perspective on how it had improved its own safety and health management system. Furthermore, it sought validation of its commitment to safety by seeking to achieve OSHA’s SHARP certification.

Keith Brown, a safety and health consultant with USF SafetyFlorida, assisted Portus with its initial on-site consultation. While a machine guarding hazard was identified during the walk-through, it was immediately abated. Brown also offered employees training on personal protective equipment.

Gus Cagigas, safety manager of Portus, says he admires Brown’s professionalism and expert knowledge. “Keith always turns things into a teachable moment. If you’re not sure about a certain issue or standard, Keith will explain it, providing you with specific information as written in the (OSHA) standards,” he says.

Cagigas also adds that even though safety is an ongoing effort for them, it doesn’t mean the effort is perfect. “In several areas, we had never had an injury, however, that doesn’t mean that you’re doing everything right. It could just mean you’re lucky.”

Since working with USF SafetyFlorida, Portus has noticed a company-wide improvement in pride when it comes to safety. Employees and management work together now to ensure everyone works smarter and safer so the company remains hazard-free. In fact, some of the previous fall hazards that were on-site, if left uncorrected, may have resulted in a serious injury to someone.

The numbers prove the value of correcting hazards: In 2010, Portus earned a Days Away, Restricted or Transferred rate of 9.87. Fast-forward a year later and that same number plummeted to 1.3. “Our entire safety culture has become more focused and has improved dramatically,” says Cagigas. He also adds that workers’ compensation premiums have declined five percent over a two-year period, an important cost-savings.

OSHA’s SHARP award is given to small businesses like Portus with less than 500 employees that demonstrate exemplary workplace safety and health practices. USF SafetyFlorida recommends employers to OSHA that meet SHARP criteria. To qualify, the employer must request an on-site consultation, involve employees in workplace safety and health, correct any hazards identified during the consultation process, and maintain an injury and illness rate lower than its industry average. To learn more about the SHARP program or to request an on-site consultation, visit www.usfsafetyflorida.com.