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Small Business Update

Turning the Tables at Point-Five Windows

A company-wide commitment to safety and health reduced injuries dramatically and earned the company entrée into OSHA's prestigious SHARP program.

by Donna Miles

It's reminiscent of a Las Vegas casino when Gordon Hannaford, surrounded by 60 to 70 employees at Point-Five Windows, stands behind a long wooden table covered with stacks of silver coins. But at these special ceremonies at the Fort Collins, Colo., company, everyone walks away a winner-including the house.

Hannaford presents a one-troy- ounce coin worth about $9 to each employee to symbolize something that was once almost unheard of at Point-Five Windows: an injury-free month for all of its employees.

Employees at Point-Five Windows in Fort Collins, Colo., gather around Gordon Hannaford, standing, right, to receive a silver coin.

These days, however, injury-free months have become the norm at Point-Five, a manufacturing company that specializes in high-end custom wood windows and doors made with exotic woods, copper, and hand-burnished finishes and patinas. Frequently, Point-Five goes 90 consecutive days without a workplace injury, and commemorates that milestone by presenting two silver coins to each employee.

That means that Hannaford and Point-Five's two other owners, Dave and Ann Lundahl, give away a lot of silver coins-more than 2,500 since they started the program in September 1999-and they hope the number keeps climbing. As they see it, they've hit the jackpot with a program that gets their workers excited about workplace safety, keeps them focused on working together as a team to prevent injuries, and saves the company as much as $60,000 a year in workers' compensation premiums.

"It's amazing how much excitement there is about the coins," said Hannaford. "People have really bought into the program and they look forward to getting their coins each month.

"Best of all, it's generated a lot of awareness about safety and a lot of cooperation. You'll overhear someone say something like, ‘Hey, let me help you carry that door. I don't want you to mess up my coin this month,'" Hannaford said. "It's all said in fun," but in reality, it reflects a company-wide culture that's committed to preventing workplace injuries."

Point-Five's safety culture runs from the owners and management all the way to the production floor. Employees take turns serving on a risk assessment and incident review safety committee that meets monthly to review incidents, "near misses," and hazards. The company holds a plant-wide safety award meeting each month, and its eight departments meet at least bimonthly to discuss safety issues unique to the department.

The company owners encourage workers to identify unsafe work practices and reward them for doing so-regardless of who's being corrected. Chief Executive Officer Lundahl established the "CEO Wave-Off Award" after a worker noticed him starting to use a piece of equipment without using the appropriate personal protective equipment and offered Lundahl his own PPE. Rather than chastise him, Lundahl made the worker the first recipient of the CEO Wave-Off Award. A big poster on Point-Five's production floor recognizes the worker and serves as a constant reminder that everyone at the company is responsible for safety and health-and that no one is exempt.

safety discussion

Lee Smith, right, a consultant with the Colorado Onsite Consultation Project, discusses safety and health programs at Point-Five Windows with Doug Wichlacz, vice president of operations and chief operating officer.

Safety was not always a deeply embedded part of the culture at Point-Five. Lee Smith, senior health and safety consultant for the Colorado Onsite Consultation Project, remembers back to 1996, when he said Point-Five "had the highest LWDII (Lost Workday Injury and Illness) rate I'd ever seen" - 51.1 per 100 employees. Point-Five was paying dearly for its high injury and illness rate in workers' compensation premiums, medical costs, and lost productivity. Morale was slipping among its skilled craftsmen. OSHA targeted Point-Five on its list of companies with particularly high injury and illness rates.

Hannaford knew something had to change but didn't know where to start, so he contacted the Colorado Onsite Consultation Project for help. During their first visit to the facility, Smith said the consultation team identified "close to 50 hazards" – from unguarded equipment to overhead storage areas with no railings to frayed electrical cords.
They prioritized the hazards, beginning with the most dangerous, and gave Hannaford and other Point-Five workers the information they needed to bring the facility up to OSHA standards. Eliminating hazards at Point-Five was a long, slow process that involved continuous interaction with consultants at the Colorado Onsite Consultation Project.

"Working with the onsite consultation people was a great experience," said Hannaford. "The people we worked with were always super-cooperative. They'd come out, point out problems, and steer us in the right direction so we could fix them."
The company introduced model programs in machine guarding, respiratory protection, hazard communication, hearing conservation, emergency action drills, housekeeping, and personal protective equipment. Point-Five purchased new hydraulic lifts to reduce strains and sprains when lifting heavy window units. It provided custom-molded hearing protection for all employees. To keep employee's exposures to air contaminants below the permissible exposure limits, the company introduced engineering controls with custom spray booths for patina and stain application, as well as an enclosed blasting booth for copper cladding.

Within three years of its first OSHA consultation, the company not only exceeded OSHA standards; it also met the criteria for special recognition from the agency. In 2000, Point-Five Windows became the 18th company in Colorado and the third in Fort Collins to qualify for OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. The program, better known as "SHARP," recognizes companies with exemplary safety and health programs that go beyond OSHA's minimal standards. Point-Five Windows recently received its third consecutive SHARP certification.

By that time, the company's LWDII rate had dropped dramatically from 51.1 to 1.69 per 100 employees.

"Our people take a lot of pride in the turnaround we've had at Point-Five Windows, and in the fact that they work for a company that cares about safety," said Hannaford. "If you want to be the best company out there, then it's not enough to have good wages, benefits, and profitability. You have to have a good safety program in place and make sure that you have a safe company.

"Safety is an essential variable," Hannaford said, "and as our experience shows, it's a win-win for everybody." JSHQ

SHARP OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program provides incentives and support to small employers who develop, implement, and continuously improve effective safety and health programs
at their worksites.

The program recognizes employers who receive a comprehensive safety and health consultation visit, correct all workplace safety and health hazards, and adopt effective safety and health management systems. Participants also agree to request future consultative visits if major changes in working conditions or processes occur that may introduce new hazards. Employers meeting these program requirements may be exempt from general scheduled OSHA inspections (not complaint or accident investigation inspections) for one year initially, or two years after renewal.

More information about SHARP is posted on the OSHA website at www.osha.gov under Consultation.