Somerville Fabricators, Inc. is a full-service fabricator of carbon and stainless structural steel that serves the Mid-West and Mid-Atlantic States, plus Canada.
Headquartered in Mineral Wells, West Virginia, this 51-year-old family-owned company prides itself in establishing and maintaining a personal relationship with customers and staff. “Somerville’s motto is ‘Where Quality is Our Character’ because the customers’ absolute satisfaction must always be our ultimate goal,” said Peggy Somerville, vice president at Somerville Fabricators.
In 2011, the company initiated a search to gain safety knowledge, better protect employees, and improve the company’s safety program.
As a small business, finding resources that would address all of those needs proved difficult. As Somerville began her search for programs that could help the company, she came across the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), On-Site Consultation Program website.
OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program offers no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small and medium-sized businesses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-Site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies, such as the West Virginia Division of Labor, OSHA Consultation, or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs.
During the February 8, 2014, initial consultation visit and some follow-up visits, the West Virginia consultants identified the following hazards:
• A nameplate or marking for a powered industrial truck was not in place or legible
• A hand or power tool or equipment used by an employee was not maintained in a safe condition
• A synthetic web sling was not immediately removed from service when inspection found a snag, puncture, or tear
During the hazard correction process, Somerville Fabricators implemented several methods to increase safety.
These methods included work practice controls, such as establishing a mandatory regular training and inspection schedule and conducting daily, weekly, monthly, and annual inspections. In addition, the company created a safety team, composed of people from all levels of the organization, which regularly reports the findings of these inspections to management. Together, management and the safety team create a plan of action to make the necessary changes for compliance.
“Our safety program became a machine driven by employee participation,” Somerville said. “It went from management creating and dictating policies to a partnership complete with two-way communication between employees and management. Our employees truly embraced a culture of safety in the workplace and are always ready with suggestions and participation, not only on the safety committee, but also by sharing ad hoc observations and recommending improvements.”
She did find, though, change was not easy.
“Throughout the company, we faced many challenges at all levels,” Somerville said. “We identified a need for education, training, and accountability.” Management received additional training and education. Employee safety training needs (from new hires through seasoned professionals) were also addressed. Implementing increased accountability and involvement meant new responsibilities. The employees have embraced these changes in partnership with management, and continued to work toward the company’s safety goals.
With each challenge faced, Somerville was confident in the fact she would have accurate information in a timely manner to move forward with this important program. As a small business owner, having the resources from the West Virginia Division of Labor, OSHA Consultation, made all the difference in having a successful workplace safety and health program.
These efforts were rewarded when the company was initially accepted into the OSHA Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) on May 16, 2016, and the company’s SHARP participation was renewed on August 14, 2017. This program recognizes small business employers who have used OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program services and operate an exemplary safety and health program. Acceptance of a worksite into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that singles the company out among its business peers as a model for worksite safety and health.
To earn the OSHA SHARP designation, companies must have injury and illness rates below the national average. Improving adherence to OSHA safety standards and updating company safety policies and procedures positively affected Somerville Fabricators’ injury and illness rates. In 2013, the year before the first West Virginia DOL/OSHA consultation visit, Somerville Fabricators experienced one recordable injury and illness.
After working with West Virginia DOL OSHA, there were zero recordable injuries from 2014 (the year of the first consultation visit) to 2017. For North American Industry Classification System code 331513, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the national industry average Total Recordable Case Rate (TRC) was 8.1, and the national average Days Away from Work, Job Transfer and Restriction (DART) rate was 4.4 from 2014 through 2017.
Lowering these injury and illness rates helped to reduce the cost of Workers’ Compensation Claims from $1,000 in 2014 to $386 in 2017. Their workers’ compensation premium rates dropped from $30,000 in 2014 to $15,000 in 2017.
“Being a partner with the OSHA Consultation Program through the West Virginia Division of Labor, OSHA Consultation, has really helped to bring our employees closer together,” Somerville said. “Each employee recognizes the importance that we place on safety and truly wants to be a part of making that happen. In the process of making that happen, all of our employees have joined forces and become more of a team. In addition, we were able to obtain contracts from many new customers, in part due to our SHARP recognition.”