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Sierra Lobo, Inc. Earns the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) Award in Just 6 Months

Sierra Lobo, Inc.
Sierra Lobo, Inc.
"We consider our employees to be the bedrock foundation of our strength", said Ed Ollom of the Sierra Lobo Corporate Safety Office in Ohio. "The knowledge, skills and abilities of our workforce are quite unique. We can't just go out and hire people like these." Mr. Ollom's words are backed with action and results at Sierra Lobo, Inc., an aerospace engineering, fabrication and technical services company with corporate headquarters in both Fremont and Milan in Ohio. Sierra Lobo, Inc. is one of seven companies in the state of Ohio to achieve the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) highest safety and health honor for a small business—the SHARP (Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program) Award.

Sierra Lobo, Inc. specializes in cryogenics, propulsion, fabrication, and management and operation of complex aerospace test facilities. In addition to contracts at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Sierra Lobo performs facility operations functions at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Langley Research Center in Virginia, Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, and Ames Research Center in California.

In 2005, Sierra Lobo instituted a program to recognize and reward extra efforts in their safety program. Gift certificates were given for such achievements as: Best Safety Suggestion of the Quarter, Most Safety Suggestions Submitted in the Quarter, and Perfect Annual Attendance by Safety Working Groups. It was made clear that working safely and complying with procedures was expected of everyone and was not rewarded. Many improvements were made, however the company wanted more. Sierra Lobo wanted to ensure that it was providing its employees with the safest work environment possible so they sought assistance through the Ohio On-Site Consultation Program and applied for SHARP.

Sierra Lobo achieving SHARP status was especially noteworthy for two reasons. First, there are some very significant hazardous operations at Sierra Lobo, and not all of the known hazards have corresponding OSHA standards for guidance. Some common cryogenic testing results in temperatures of nearly minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit which is just a few degrees "warmer" than absolute zero. There are additional hazards to include high voltage and high pressure systems required to support test activities. And second, at the SHARP Award ceremony, OSHA On-Site Consultant Dave Roll pointed out that it normally takes 18 months to three years to earn SHARP status. Sierra Lobo was able to earn the award in just 6 months with only minimal improvements required—a rare and exceptional achievement.

There is more to SHARP than a flag and a title; there are tangible benefits and results to having effective safety and health management systems. For each of the past 3 years, 2005 through 2007, Sierra Lobo's Days Away, Restricted, and/or Transfer (DART) Rate was 0.0—a perfect score. The Total Recordable Case Rate was 0.0 for 2005, 3.1 for 2006 and 0.0 for 2007. And despite a raising Experience Modifier Rate, Sierra Lobo paid out no workers' comp claims in 2007. More recently, Sierra Lobo, Inc. celebrated a very special milestone achieved by very few—500 days without an OSHA recordable incident.

Safety and health efforts beyond OSHA compliance, including an ambitious "Home Safety" training program and wellness publications were noted during the SHARP evaluation process. "Our goal is to make safety about more than just complying with OSHA regulations," stated Mr. Ollom. "We clearly understand the positive ‘Return on Investment' of our safety program activities. Our integrated Safety and Human Resources effort to address employee risks both on and off the job is a testament to management's commitment, and the participation and contributions of our employees are clear indications of employee involvement." Safety committee member Marty Roth summed up the reason for Sierra Lobo's success when he said, "Safety is everyone's responsibility here".