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State: Iowa
   
Company: Clow Valve Company Metal Casting Facility
   
Employees: 115
   
Success Brief: Clow Valve metal casting facility's commitment to safety, participation in On-site Consultation, and long term relationship with the Iowa OSHA results in achieving VPP Star.


The Situation:

Clow Valve Company, a subsidiary of McWane, Inc., operates a machine shop and metal casting facility in Oskaloosa, Iowa that manufactures fire hydrants and water valves. Clow Valve's metal casting facility produces gray iron, ductile iron, and brass castings for valves and hydrants.

Although Clow Valve's commitment to safety has spanned well over two decades, they weren't achieving the safety results they desired. Even with written safety programs, training, machine guards, lockout/tagout programs, and other safety initiatives, Clow Valve was experiencing incident rates above the national average for its industry. For example, in 2000, Clow Valve's Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) was 40.29 while the national average for gray and ductile iron foundries was 21.70.

As part of their initial efforts to improve their safety and health performance, Clow Valve's management team contacted Iowa's OSHA On-site Consultation Service and requested that they perform an on-site visit. The OSHA On-site Consultation Program is a free and confidential service that small and medium-sized businesses may use to improve their safety and health performance. The program is largely funded by OSHA and delivered by state agencies. In Iowa, the program is administered by the Iowa Department of Labor's Division of Occupational Safety.

The Solution:

The following timeline highlights some of the key developments in Clow Valve's efforts to improve its workplace safety performance, including initially working with Iowa On-site Consultation and continued communication with the Iowa OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) staff.

2001: Representatives from Iowa On-site Consultation visited Clow Valve to conduct a comprehensive industrial hygiene and safety review. The representatives identified 19 safety concerns and 21 industrial hygiene issues that Clow Valve abated within the agreed timeframe. Some corrective actions involved significant capital expenditures, including a redesign of a downdraft booth and washing facilities for a lead break room, electrical wiring upgrades, additional ventilation systems for pollution control and enhanced machine guarding.

2002: A Clow Valve team visited Exide Battery and AY McDonald sites in Iowa, at the recommendation of Shashi Patel, Iowa OSHA's VPP Team Leader, to evaluate lead programs and pollution control techniques. To improve its lead program, Clow Valve renovated its lunchroom, locker room, and ventilation systems. As a result of Clow Valve's improvements, Shashi Patel now recommends that other facilities with lead control issues visit Clow Valve's facility.

2003: The OSHA 30-hour General Industry Outreach Training Program training was given to the management team. All hourly employees received the OSHA 10-hour General Industry Outreach Training Program training (2003-2005).

2004:
  • Clow Valve held a two-day training session on establishing an effective joint labor management safety committee.
  • Iowa On-site Consultation brought in a medical intern to tour Clow Valve’s metal casting facility and interview staff in cooperation with University of Iowa Hospitals.
2005: 
  • Clow Valve’s Joint Safety Committee, co-chaired by the metal casting facility manager and an hourly employee, established seven subcommittees with responsibilities for incident investigation, emergency response, confined space, lockout/tagout, machine guarding, wellness, and ergonomics. These subcommittees gave more employees an opportunity to become involved in safety. Instead of simply complying with company policies, employees were now helping to create and maintain safety programs.
  • Clow Valve management and hourly employees attended a VPP Application Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Clow Valve overhauled its safety programs to incorporate core VPP elements.
2006: 
  • Clow Valve representatives visited four VPP sites in Iowa, recommended by Iowa OSHA's VPP Team Leader, to provide benchmarking ideas and mentoring opportunities. Iowa has an OSHA-approved state program, so Iowa OSHA administers VPP in the state and conducts the VPP reviews.
  • Management and hourly employees held a VPP Kickoff meeting at the Metal Casting Facility.
2007:
  • Iowa OSHA's VPP team conducted a nine-day VPP onsite audit.
  • Clow Valve’s metal casting facility achieved VPP Merit status from Iowa OSHA.
  • VPP Merit celebration and flag raising ceremony was held with presentations from the Iowa Labor Commissioner, Iowa OSHA staff, and Clow Valve employees and management.
2008: Clow Valve's metal casting facility hosted a visit from federal OSHA representatives to assist OSHA in drafting proposed ergonomic guidelines for the foundry industry. The OSHA team met with Clow Valve’s Ergonomic Committee and toured the facility to review ergonomic enhancements implemented at the facility.

2009:
  • Iowa OSHA's VPP team returned to conduct a VPP onsite audit.
  • Clow Valve’s metal casting facility achieved VPP Star status from Iowa OSHA.
  • Clow Valve held a VPP Star celebration banquet for all employees. Speakers included the Iowa Labor Commissioner, representatives from Iowa OSHA, representatives from the Region VII Voluntary Protection Program Participants' Association (VPPPA), and Clow Valve employees and management.
The Impact:

According to Sam Fay, Group Safety & Health Compliance Director with McWane, Inc., Clow Valve's work with On-site Consultation and participation in the Iowa VPP has resulted in improved workplace safety and health performance and other benefits for the company. For example:
  • Clow Valve’s metal casting facility reduced its incident rates to below the industry’s national average. As of December 31, 2010, its TRIR was 9.09 TRIR and its DART rate was 5.78.
  • Employee turnover rates fell from 89% in 2000 to 13% as of December 31, 2010.
  • The facility's management and hourly employees have open communication and a sense of transparency.
  • Clow Valve's employees are engaged and have taken ownership of safety.
  • Even during the recent tough economic times, Clow Valve has maintained its commitment to safety and health because it’s a part of the company's culture.
Clow Valve has become an advocate of OSHA cooperative programs such as VPP and mentors other facilities seeking to enter the VPP process. In addition, Clow Valve representatives frequently speak at safety conferences to promote safety and VPP, including the Iowa Governor’s Safety Conference in 2009 and the Region VII VPPPA Conference in 2010. Clow Valve's presentation teams consist of both management and hourly employees.

According to Sam Fay, Clow Valve has become an employer of choice in the local community in part because of its commitment to workplace safety and health. "As foundries are closing or leaving the United States at an accelerated rate," said Fay, "Clow Valve is proud to be an example of a metal casting facility that provides a safe, viable career for American workers."    

Source:
Sam Fay, Group Safety & Health Compliance Director, McWane Inc., Oskaloosa, IA (February 2011).

Developed through the OSHA and American Foundry Society Alliance.