After developing an innovative process for manufacturing sidewall panels for recreational vehicles and motor homes, Dicor called in the expertise of INSafe, a division of the Indiana Department of Labor, Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA), to evaluate their new process and improve the overall safety and health management program. Based on the results of the INSafe comprehensive safety and health hazard assessment, Dicor implemented several equipment alterations, changed some processes, and enhanced worker training. To address the latest improvements, training manuals for safety and health were updated. While this particular operation is not yet in full production, the effort has already yielded benefits relative to such Workers Compensation issues as injuries and lost time accidents.
This company has initiated a variety of new assembly and manufacturing operations, creating the need for additional expertise in the area of worker health and safety. Current industry practice in the manufacturing of sidewall panels for recreational vehicles and motor homes requires spraying fiberglass on a substrate. Fiberglass is composed of millions of tiny strands of glass. Exposure to resins, fiberglass dust, and other particulates involved in this process can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, stomach, and skin.
Many people are sensitive to fiberglass, so Dicor looked for a better, safer method. In 2010, Dicor built a continuously manufactured, computer-controlled, wide-panel composite production facility. Using a combination of existing and new technologies, the company can produce composite panels in a range of thicknesses, with widths up to 10 feet, and with a varying degree of mechanical properties depending on the needs of the customer.
According to Gregg Fore, Dicor President, Dicor emphasized protecting their workers' safety and health when the company designed this new product and production process. Dicor wanted to confirm that these new processes did not endanger their workers and to identify areas for improvement. "Even though we designed our equipment and processes to maximize employee safety, we were confident that involving INSafe early in the process would help us establish the very best possible work environment for our employees," said Mr. Fore.
In addition to previously having hired outside consultants, Dicor had requested and received several Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) On-site Consultation Program visits through INSafe. The OSHA On-site Consultation Program offers free, confidential services to small and medium-sized businesses and is available to employers in all U.S. states and several territories. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, advise on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. INSafe is a division of the Indiana Department of Labor, Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA). As a result of its positive experience, the company believed that INSafe would provide valuable assistance in ensuring worker safety and health at the facility.
Dicor requested INSafe to do a comprehensive safety visit of the worksite. After this initial visit, Dicor requested a second visit to address industrial hygiene issues including determining whether the solvents, resins, and other chemicals used in the plant were safe for workers. INSafe reviewed the chemicals used at the facility, type and effectiveness of the ventilation, and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.
During the industrial hygiene survey, workers wore monitors that detected the types and levels of chemicals they were exposed to over short and long periods. Although the findings showed that worker exposure levels were well below exposure limits defined in applicable standards, INSafe recommended enhancements to their PPE program. Dicor implemented INSafe's recommendations.
Since involving INSafe in its efforts, Dicor has continued to work to effectively implement processes and procedures that promote workplace safety throughout its operations. The company believes strongly that the implementation of its injury and illness prevention program and focus on including safety considerations into processes when designing new products and training has benefited the organization. According to Mr. Fore, these steps not only have resulted in improved worker safety and morale, but also have led to financial savings due to reduced lost time accidents, absenteeism, and employee injuries.
"Paying attention to the health and safety of employees is one of the basic responsibilities of employers, and few companies have the internal know-how to effectively implement and update health and safety efforts,"stated Fore. "That is why INSafe is such a valuable tool, using up-to-date knowledge to assist Indiana employers in doing their jobs better and providing for safer and healthier workplaces," he added.
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