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Anthony Forest Products Saves Big $$ With Safety Initiative: Learn How You Can Reduce Insurance Premiums
Safety Pays: Anthony Forest Products participates in a federal workplace safety program that improved safety and enabled the company to reduce insurance premiums by about two-thirds.
By Matthew Harrison
Date Posted: 11/1/2007
WASHINGTON, Ga.—In the not so distant past, Anthony Forest Products employees were accustomed to the occasional workplace accident. Not any more.
“You never knew when there would be an incident,” said Tracy Moore, Sorter Lead Person at Anthony’s laminating plant. “Now we expect the opposite, no incidents.”
Anthony Forest Products’ latest SHARP accreditation has increased employee morale and will continue to save the company millions of dollars in insurance premiums.
The Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) is a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) partnership launched to reduce work-related injuries while heightening safety awareness.
During the early 1990’s Anthony Forest Products was paying almost $1 million per year in insurance premiums. After beginning the SHARP certification process in 1998, the company has managed to shave some off their premiums every year. Now, Anthony Forest Products strives to keep premiums below $300,000.
The Washington, Ga. plant is currently home to 68 employees who re-grade finished lumber and glue beams of various sizes for their customers. Last year, the plant produced nearly 36 million board feet of finished material. Naturally, even the slightest injury requiring medical attention can put a dent in production.
For Anthony Forest Products, though, the primary goal was to make its facility as safe for employees as possible.
“We wanted to go above and beyond the current safety program that we had,” said Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator Kelly Olivier for Anthony Forest Products.
Most of the company’s attention concerned improving lockout/tagout procedures, forklift operations, machine guarding, and personal protective equipment use. Anthony Forest Products also focused on upgrading walking and working surfaces to reduce the number of slips and falls.
Of the many updates made by AFP, updating safety procedures for operations within the mill enhanced the overall safety and efficiency of the Washington facility. “We made updates to our written programs,” explained Kim Winfrey, Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator and Office Manager of the Washington plant. She added that developing routine checklists also helped improve daily operations in addition to employee comprehension of safety protocol.
Kelly added that the recent surge of Hispanic immigrants has led to bilingual safety training in addition to the work the company has done to improve its plants. He remarked that the new wave of workers was attracted not only to the timber industry but also the many agricultural businesses in Georgia and Arkansas. Collaboration with OSHA and other businesses involved with the SHARP program allowed AFP to compare and contrast the strengths of its Spanish-language safety training.
“Being a part of SHARP has a snowball effect of only positives for us,” Kim remarked. “The main benefit is that we have a safe workplace for our employees. Of course, the company and its employees are able to benefit by having more efficient daily production, positive employee morale, and reduced costs.”
Another Anthony Forest Products’ safety innovation was the creation of a safety compact disc. “We decided to take our safety program to another level, so we developed our own in-house safety training computer-based CD utilizing our employees at the plant locations,” added Kelly. The CD, which was developed for less than $20,000, can be popped into a nearby computer where employees review potential hazards, safety rules, and proper procedures for their worksites.
Consultations Provide Savings, Reduce Injuries
Working with OSHA consultants was surprisingly easy for Anthony Forest Products. According to Kelly, the company had no qualms working with OSHA because it was eager to improve facility safety and save money.
“There were no difficulties,” said Kelly of working with OSHA representatives. “We wanted to embrace it and make the necessary changes because we knew in the long run that the cost savings were going to be dramatic.
Consultants from Ga. Tech’s Safety and Healthy Consultation Program were pivotal in giving advice for improving safety measures at the Georgia plant. “They were extremely knowledgeable and efficient,” Kim commented.
The consultation team identified noise, confined spaces and guarding as topics of particular scrutiny. “It took us a long time to meet the requirements to get into the SHARP program because of the overall strictness of our Ga. Tech consultation team,” said Kim.
She believes that the consultation team’s diligent attention to detail highlighted issues that the entire company could learn from, not just her location. “We feel very positive that our safety program here at the Georgia facility has raised the bar for our other facilities,” Kim boasted.
Anthony Forest Products staff also mentioned that OSHA and the consultants did very little to interfere with daily operations. “Production ran as usual,” said Tracy.
Kim based the uninterrupted flow of business to the efficiency of the consultants. “Our consultants never affected our daily schedules at all,” she acknowledged. “When they observed an area where a change or an improvement was needed, it was noted and corrections were made in a timely manner.”
The big payoff of SHARP accreditation is already apparent at Anthony Forest Products’ other facilities. One of the ways insurance companies calculate premiums is based on a plant’s Worker’s Compensation Experience Modifier Rate (EMR), which is a workplace incident ratio.
Since its inclusion in the SHARP program, Anthony Forest Products lowered its overall (EMR) from over 1.0 to 0.63. The company has saved approximately $700,000 each year during its past five years of SHARP participation, which totals $3.5 million in savings, simply by increasing plant safety. Upon receipt of its latest SHARP certification, Anthony Forest Products expects savings to increase even more.
Good Planning Leads to Better Morale
Preparing for SHARP accreditation required active involvement from every level of management in addition to active employee participation. “When you are dealing with small business, I don’t think easier and quicker is the way to go,” said Kim, explaining that the overall accreditation process was very time consuming.
“I made osha.gov my favorite website very quickly,” Kim admitted. She also sought advice from other managers and environmental health and safety coordinators about improvements made at other plants. Visiting other accredited plants put future improvements in better perspective, as well.
Equal manager and staff commitment is also credited for Anthony Forest Products’ safety success. The company developed a comprehensive safety award program, encouraging the workforce to identify unsafe working conditions.
Kelly emphasized that the SHARP program helped managers and workers understand the importance of safety as a single, cohesive unit. “The two most important aspects of the program are building relationships and respect because everyone wants to be involved and respected from the bottom to the top,”
“They’re keeping their hands on the pulse,” said Clark Thomas, an OSHA consultant and Program Administrator for the Arkansas Department of Labor who has worked with Anthony Forest Products repeatedly. “They’re willing to work with the SHARP program and use their ideas without any reservations as to implementing them.”
Clark also noted the goodwill fostered between employees and managers at Anthony Forest Products’ plants. He attributed the boost in morale to the company’s efforts to inform its employees about the consultations, as well as general safety knowledge.
“Employees and employers are more considerate of each other and communicate with each other better,” agreed Tracy. “Accidents tend to bog people down,” he said, “because employees spend too much time dwelling on the causes as opposed to the solutions.”
“Everybody looks out for each other more now than before,” said Henry Thornton, a shipper at the Washington facility.
Now that Anthony Forest Products is 100% SHARP certified, employees are confident they can leave the worksite unscathed.
And the healthier Tracy and Henry are, the more they can enjoy hunting, fishing, and a little rest and relaxation with family.