NGK understood safety had to be a priority as it increased its production. Shown here is a series of spark plug offerings from NGK.

NGK Spark Plugs (USA), Inc. (NGK) of Sissonville, West Virginia, is a spark plug and oxygen sensor manufacturing company that designs and sells spark plugs, oxygen sensors, and other related products to various automotive manufacturers worldwide.

The company’s customer list includes the big hitters in the auto industry like Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, and Honda.

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In addition to the Sissonville location, NGK has distribution facilities in Irvine, CA, and Chicago.

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Over two decades ago, the company started to increase its customer base and in turn its production demand.

When NGK anticipated the need to hire additional personnel, management recognized the importance of having a robust safety and health program.

NGK first heard about the services provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after a member of its management team shared their experiences with OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program through a previous employer in Kentucky. From there, NGK contacted the West Virginia Division of Labor (WVDoL) Safety Section, to request an occupational safety hazard assessment of their campus.

OSHA On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country and in several 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 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.

After Assessment
NGK saw OSHA’s initial assessment as the foundation for the development of its training programs and operational controls.

During the consultation visits to NGK, the consultants discovered a majority of NGK equipment arrived from Japan without machine guards. Subsequent consultation visits combined with NGK’s growth led to the company focusing on details of various workplace safety procedures, drills, safety committee, ergonomic corrections, incident reporting/investigations, and suggestion boxes.

From 1995 to 2010, WVDoL consultants continued to assist NGK with identification and correction of hazards, such as hazard communication and deficiencies in hearing conservation programs.

In addition to identifying and assisting NGK with fixing hazards, WVDoL consultants encouraged NGK to take its safety and health program to the next level and establish an effective safety management system.

The change with the most impact involved machine guarding. The consultants informed NGK guards need to be installed to prevent injuries.

NGK notified the Japanese engineering team – the team took the suggestion to heart and made the guards a standard for all machines globally. The results of this initiative were a better safety and health culture and greater employee and management involvement and commitment. 

“Participation in the On-site Consultation Program has challenged our personnel to strive for perfection,” said Larry Carpenter, NGK safety administrator. “WVDoL has helped our facility tremendously by establishing the foundation for the development of a comprehensive safety and health program that dates back to the startup of operations in West Virginia. NGK appreciates the guidance that has been provided by the WVDOL over the years and recommend the services to other companies that are seeking solutions to improve their safety performance.” 

NGK first qualified for OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) in 2010. The company has continued its participation in this program.

In 2016, the company earned its SHARP renewal. The impact of NGK’s SHARP participation was demonstrated by the reduction in their injury and illness rates.

In 2013, NGK Spark Plugs’ Total Recordable Case (TRC) rate was 0.82, and their Days Away from Work, Job Restriction or Transfer (DART) rate was 0.82. In comparison, BLS reports the national average for their industry in 2013 was 3.20 (TRC) and 1.90 (DART). In 2014, their TRC was 1.21, and their DART was 1.01. In comparison, BLS reports the national average for their industry in 2014 was 3.50 (TRC) and 1.90 (DART). In 2015, their TRC was 1.51, and their DART was 1.32. In comparison, BLS reports the national average for their industry in 2015 was 3.50 (TRC) and 2.10 (DART).

“Although accidents, injuries, and near misses continue to occur, we have witnessed a vast reduction in severity by raising everyone’s safety awareness, investigating to determine root causes, implementing appropriate counter-measures, and conducting training,” Carpenter said. “As a result, our facility continues to operate below industry standard for total recordable case and days away, restriction, and transfer rates, making NGK a safe establishment for their employees, contractors, and visitors.”

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