Suterra LLC Graduates from the Oregon OSHA Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program
Company: Suterra LLC
Location: Bend, Oregon
NAICS Code: 325320
(Left to right) Cory Stengel (Oregon OSHA health consultant); Amber Hofer (Suterra plant safety manager); Randy Nice (Oregon OSHA safety consultant); Aman Khapoya (Suterra vice president of global operations); Kevin Kilroy (Oregon OSHA field consultation
You do not make advances in the safety and health of your employees by settling for good enough. To say Suterra LLC understands this would be an understatement.
The Bend, Oregon-based company – a leading provider of bio-rational products for crop protection and pest control – wanted to make sure their already robust health and safety programs were covering all the bases. So Suterra teamed up with Oregon OSHA Consultation Services by entering the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) in August 2012. Five years later, Suterra proudly flies the flag of a SHARP graduate. It is an accomplishment that not only translates to a safer and healthier workplace but also positions Suterra to attract new talent as it grows.
The OSHA 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 Oregon OSHA Consultation Services, 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. SHARP
Cory Stengel, a health consultant for Oregon OSHA, and Randy Nice, a safety consultant for Oregon OSHA, helped Suterra make improvements on several fronts, including fall protection, chemical exposure monitoring, safe pesticide application practices, and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety. When Suterra began their SHARP journey, their Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) rate was 1.5. Their current DART rate is 0.87. For context, the average DART rate for Suterra's industry in Oregon is 2.1.
Suterra's effort to continuously improve was multi-faceted, with increased involvement of the company's safety committee and continued commitment to the safety and health process by top managers. "Quality control and safety are hand in hand there," Stengel said. "Having one excel means the other one is going to excel. They hire people who understand that from day one."
With 70 employees at the Bend facility, Suterra sells their environmentally friendly pest control products internationally, helping growers reduce their use of traditional insecticides. "Oregon OSHA SHARP helped Suterra take a fresh look at their policies and processes, and reinforced the company's ongoing efforts to improve safety," according to Aman Khapoya, vice president of global operations for Suterra.
The recognition that comes with being a SHARP company also serves as a valuable tool to recruit new employees. "As our business grows, and we compete for new talent, we hope candidates see our achievements under the SHARP and realize that we are truly committed to the health and safety of our team," Khapoya said. "The candidates for whom that safety commitment is important are precisely the ones we want – and the ones we will need to make Suterra even better."
Suterra's facility includes multiple buildings for manufacturing, laboratories, administration, and material storage. The company's operation produces pheromone products that cause mating disruption in adult pests.
While Suterra was already exceeding minimum safety rules in many cases when they began the SHARP process, Oregon OSHA helped identify and correct hazards and bolster their health and safety programs. For example, Oregon OSHA found exposures to fall hazards on certain areas of roofs that workers needed to access in order to perform maintenance duties. Suterra quickly abated the hazards by installing additional guardrails.
Then, there was Suterra's considerable amount of work repairing stainless steel equipment. This repair work involves welding, which gives off toxic fumes. Suterra already had protective measures in place, including local exhaust ventilation, but the company needed data to know whether those measures were sufficient. Likewise, Suterra was eager to test whether exposure controls were working in their laboratory process, which uses different types of solvents. Oregon OSHA went to work. "We helped identify the potential hazards and monitored the levels of exposure," Stengel said. The hazard sampling results showed Suterra's controls were working – there was no cause for concern.
Above and beyond
Oregon OSHA also helped Suterra fortify their safety program for the use of ATVs. When visiting farms and orchards, Suterra field representatives drive ATVs to different locations to help growers set up and use Suterra's products.
While Suterra maintains programs on the safe handling of ATVs, Oregon OSHA noted that the company also needed to require drivers to wear helmets. "We pointed out that the manufacturer requires a helmet, and that OSHA enforces that requirement," Stengel said.
Suterra wasted no time in adding safeguards and incorporating Oregon OSHA guidance. "Even with the items they were missing," Stengel said, "it did not take them long to not only comply but to go above and beyond what we were asking."
Suterra took other steps to improve their safety and health systems, including implementing a comprehensive ergonomics program, revamping a training system for new employees, and installing additional fire safety measures in their facilities.
"The safety committee," Stengel said, "was involved the whole way."
For Khapoya, the SHARP process highlighted the benefits of an effective partnership between a public agency and a private company. "Some companies try to minimize interaction with regulatory agencies because they fear exposing gaps in compliance," he said. "Unfortunately, that compliance-oriented view also denies them the knowledge and support these agencies can offer."
The best approach is to develop relationships with regulatory agency professionals, Khapoya said, which enables companies to fully understand rules and to achieve their intent. "Based on our work together," he said, "we know our partners at Oregon OSHA are eager to offer advice and support if we have questions while tackling a new situation."
To locate the OSHA On-Site Consultation program nearest you, call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit www.osha.gov/consultation.
Source: Aaron Corvin, Aaron Corvin, Public Information Officer, Oregon OSHA
Aman Khapoya, Vice President, Global Operations, Suterra