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Illinois Metal Recycler Creates Culture of Safety

Working for You Editor’s note: The “DOL Working for You” series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other blog posts in the series here. For many employees, a safety manager’s harping about rules and procedures may go in one ear and out the other. As a safety consultant for Becker Iron and Metal, an Illinois metal scrap company, Lisa Dunn knew that in order to improve safety she would need to find a way to involve employees in developing a more collaborative safety culture. The company had a total recordable case rate of 2.3 for 2010 − less than the industry average, but with plenty of room for improvement. When owner Dan Becker learned about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's On-Site Consultation Program at a conference, he told Lisa about it, who then immediately requested a consultation to review safety procedures in the plant and look at ways to reduce potential hazards.
In 2014, Becker Iron and Metal achieved a zero injury and illness rate, earning a spot in OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. In 2014, Becker Iron and Metal achieved a zero injury and illness rate, earning a spot in OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.

The initial consult found electrical hazards and insufficient personal protective equipment. The company’s owners took immediate action to address those issues, and also invested in new equipment to reduce exposure to metal fumes. “This is tough industry and we found employees sometimes were reluctant to express concern about their safety and to report near-accidents/incidents that they found might compromise their welfare or that of their co-workers,” Lisa said. “After our initial consultation resulted in immediate safety improvements, the employees felt empowered to work on improving safety and began to make suggestions and work on improvements.” Dunn says OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program not only improved her knowledge of many safety and compliance issues, but also has given her a support system of experts that are only a phone call or email away when she has questions.
Lisa and employee Delfino Uteras discuss safety procedures for the copper cutter. Lisa and employee Delfino Uteras discuss safety procedures for the copper cutter.

After working with the consultants, Becker Iron and Metal decided to take a more proactive approach to occupational safety and health, setting a goal of becoming recognized through OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. SHARP is open to small businesses that are willing and able to meet requirements to ensure a safe workplace. In 2014, the company achieved a zero injury and illness rate and earned SHARP status. “Our employees are very proud of their achievement as a SHARP company and now they come to us with suggestions for improving processes and working safe,” Lisa said. “We are truly a family here and we want all our employees to go home safely each day.” She has also become an advocate for the consultation program, talking it up among safety colleagues: “Why wouldn’t you want to do this? The consultants are experts, it’s free, and they will train you and your staff in how to meet all the requirements.” Learn how OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program can help your business here. Rhonda Burke is a public affairs specialist for the Labor Department in Chicago.

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