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James Machine Works wanted to build safety culture and proved it by earning a SHARP designation. Here the JMW team shows off its SHARP flag at its Monroe, Louisiana facility.

Family-owned James Machine Works, LLC (JMW), has been serving the petrochemical, pulp and paper, and energy industries since 1927, and it was striving to become a much safer organization, but officials knew they needed help.

Monroe, LA-based JMW does it all, ranging from engineering to design, procurement, fabrication, transportation, and erection/installation and repair of custom storage tanks and pressure vessels.

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Starting with three employees in 1927, over three generations JMW has grown to over 160 full-time employees, a 120,000-square-foot fabrication plant, in-house quality control department, in-house safety department, in-house engineering and design, mobile cranes and equipment, and 10 field crews.

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Working in this high-hazard industry, a JMW worker’s typical tasks involves cutting, forming, and joining heavy gauge metal to manufacture tanks.

That kind of work can offer safety challenges and JMW’s owners and management committed to providing a healthful work environment for all employees.

It is JMW’s policy to manage and conduct operations and business in a manner that offers maximum protection to every employee and any other person that may be affected by the company’s operations and business.

Improve Safety Culture
“As a company, we realized that we needed to improve our safety culture, gear it toward a personal safety responsibility culture, and improve training,” said Robert (Butch) Mason, JMW Safety Director. “We also wanted to get an outside view of our safety program and improve. Improving the company’s workplace safety and health posture would enable us to be more competitive in bidding projects.”

As part of efforts to continuously improve its workplace safety and health awareness and practices, management contacted the Louisiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Consultation Program, a unit of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration of the Louisiana Workforce Commission, which helps businesses meet the Federal OSHA health and safety regulations. OSHA’s completely voluntary On-Site Consultation Program services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. This program offers free, confidential safety and health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country and several territories, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. 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.

The initial JWM On-Site Consultation Program visit was conducted in 2014. Hazards noted during the consultant’s walk-around included insufficient or missing machine guarding and problems with electrical systems, such as an unlabeled switch in an electric panel and a missing electrical box cover.

As a result of the investigation, the company corrected all of the hazards the consultant found and continued to work with the Louisiana consultants to improve its workplace safety processes and polices.

Complete Safety Buy In
To get JMW employees more involved in their own safety, the company started an Employee Safety Council, includes people from all levels of the organization. The full-time Safety Department developed a comprehensive safety program that includes intensive employee training, open communication, and individual accountability. Worker safety and health needs at all levels of the organization were evaluated and addressed, ranging from getting worker buy in, to developing or updating policies and procedures, training and education, preventive maintenance, and to housekeeping/safety audits.

Today, corrective action/preventive action processes, near accident reporting mechanisms, job hazard analyses, and refresher training are just some of the tools that routinely contribute to the company’s safety culture.

These workplace safety efforts resulted in increased employee involvement, better training, and improved safety culture. Workers and managers have learned to recognize hazards and implement cost-effective abatements.

“It has allowed us to build a valuable working relationship, and we are able to ask questions and receive suggestions from the Louisiana consultants,” Mason said.

On December 31, 2014, JMW became a Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) participant by OSHA. The company’s renewal application to continue participating in this program ended up approved January 6, 2016. SHARP recognizes small business employers who have used OSHA On-Site Consultation Program services and operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program. Acceptance of worksites into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that distinguishes a company amongst its business peers as a model for workplace safety and health.

To be accepted into SHARP, a company’s injuries and illnesses rates must be below the national average for their industry. JMW’s Total Recordable Case (TRC) from 2012 to 2016 are well below the industry average with 2.51 in 2012 compared to the industry average of 6.8; 0 on 2013 compared to 6.5; 1.5 in 2014 compared to 5.1; 1.06 in 2015 compared to 5.6, and 0.55 in 2016 compared to 3.9.

In addition, the Days Away from Work, Job Transfer and Restriction (DART) rates with the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2012 through 2016 showed JMW coming in well below with a 1.51 DART in 2012 compared to an industry average of 3.5; a 0 DART in 2013 compared to a 3.3; a .51 in 2014 compared to a 2.8; 0.53. in 2015 compared to 2.9, and a 0 DART in 2016 compared to 1.7.

There are only 17 SHARP-qualified companies in the state of Louisiana and only 1 in northeast Louisiana – James Machine Works.

“Being a SHARP company has helped us have a safer, more healthful work environment; save on workers compensation premiums and claims; and win projects with bigger clients,” said Mason.

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