Safety Communication Helps Gate Precast Company Earn First SHARP Award
When a safety and health management system succeeds for a company at one of its worksites, it is not uncommon for it to be rolled out company-wide. Gate Precast Company experienced this with its Jacksonville plant, embracing a more robust safety and health culture that earned it a SHARP award in 2009. Today, three other plants are SHARP certified: a Tennessee precast facility that earned its SHARP in 2010, in addition to a precast plant in Winchester, Kentucky, and another in Kissimmee, Florida, that received their SHARPs in April 2011.
Gate's upper management committed itself to safety and wellness, so much so that the company adapted its core values. Safety is now measured equally with quality and productivity. Instead of how fast, how good or how much, the company takes a close look at how safely it operates. And this isn't just talk. In 2011, the company increased the Kissimmee plant's safety and health budget by 35 percent, a move many companies would question in today's tighter economic climate.
Last year when management suggested Kissimmee aspire for OSHA's SHARP program, USF SafetyFlorida consultant Pat Stark conducted a thorough on-site safety analysis. Stark was joined by Luis Pieretti, PhD, an industrial hygienist with USF SafetyFlorida, to conduct a health analysis. "Pat and Luis were very helpful and put safety in such a way that we could understand it," says Mike Parker, steel shop and safety manager.
Prior to earning SHARP, a challenge the Kissimmee site faced was employee knowledge about safety regulations and standards. The plant worked hard to educate its employees by communicating more openly about safety. Safety meetings are now held daily instead of weekly. Morning toolbox talks are more focused, discussing specific situations such as near-misses or incidents from the previous day. Monthly safety luncheons and safety bingos motivate employees to keep safety top of mind. Combined, Parker says, these efforts have established a mindset where everyone takes a shared responsibility to safety. "Employees are committed to watching each other's back to ensure we all go home in good shape at the end of the day."
The safety efforts are working. In two years, Kissimmee has seen its Total Recordable Case (TRC) and Days-Away-Restricted or Transferred (DART) rates drop from 7.8 to .5. Furthermore, workers' compensation claims have dropped by 29 percent. Parker acknowledges these are nice by-products that boost the company's bottom line, yet the biggest benefit is how employees know they work in a safe location, which helps employee retention and overall morale. "We take care of one another. We're all responsible for safety in this location, and we depend on each other to go home in good shape at the end of the day. We always wanted to be safe, but what USF SafetyFlorida does makes it possible."