Chemung Advocacy, Resources and Care (ARC), Elmira, New York, was established by parents interested in providing support services for their developmentally disabled children. In 2012, Chemung ARC's Southern Tier Industries (STI) facility earned renewal of its recognition in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). SHARP recognizes small business employers who operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program. Acceptance of a worksite into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that singles a worksite out among its business peers as a model for worksite safety and health. Chemung ARC/STI has been a member of SHARP since 2003, when they initially worked with consultants representing OSHA's On-site Consultation program in the State of New York, but requested additional assistance from the program in 2011 to keep worker injury rates low.
Chemung ARC/STI provides its customers with distribution, warehouse space, and a variety of packaging and assembly products and services. These services include: automated polybagging and polywrapping; kit packaging and parts assembly; drill and tapping; machine shop production; and bar coding. Chemung ARC/STI employs 210 workers (99 staff members and 111 individuals with developmental disabilities). This multifaceted vocational enterprise is dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities develop vocational skills and good work habits, increase their independence, and become productive and contributing members of the community. Chemung ARC/STI's ultimate goal is to have participants from their vocational program working independently for employers within the community.
"We have always had a desire to improve our safety performance," stated Chemung ARC/STI Executive Director, Michael A. Doherty, PhD. Chemung ARC/STI contacted the NYSDOL, Division of Safety and Health (DOSH), and requested a consultation visit from OSHA's On-site Consultation Program, administered by NYSDOL. This program offers free and confidential safety and health advice to small and medium-sized businesses. In this program, which is available in all U.S. states and territories, consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. During their initial consultation visit to Chemung ARC/STI, the DOSH consultant identified machine guarding, hazard communication, and worker training hazards that needed to be addressed.
All of the hazards identified by the DOSH consultant were corrected. Engineering controls, such as guards and shields on machinery, were installed. To address worker training and improve the hazard communication system, individuals with disabilities participated in workplace safety training and designed pictorial material safety data sheets. "The key to creating a safe workplace is including everyone in our safety and health processes and procedures," said Dr. Doherty.
Early in the development of Chemung ARC/STI's safety programs, senior management allocated time and resources to create a corporate-wide safety management position and to establish a safety committee that included staff members as well as individuals with disabilities. Safety performance elements were incorporated into the job descriptions of managers, and supervisors were trained in accident investigation, return to work policies, wellness programs, and even informed hiring procedures. "Individuals with disabilities play a major role in the hiring and training of new staff," stated Kevin Wolfe, Facility and Safety Services Director.
By using job safety analysis surveys, combining behavioral safety techniques, and providing real-time feedback, Chemung ARC/STI was able to identify and provide corrective actions to enhance their safety and health management system. Examples of how to complete various jobs properly are videotaped and used to model tasks for others who are acquiring new skills. Chemung ARC/STI incorporated a safety and health program assessment worksheet to track worker knowledge and identify new opportunities for improving the safety culture.
Kevin Wolfe stated, "Everyone at Chemung ARC/STI is encouraged to participate in Chemung ARC/STI's annual "Salute to Safety" celebration, and to remain active in promoting safety by attending bi-weekly safety meetings where accidents and near misses are reviewed.
After numerous years of reporting relatively low injury cases, Chemung ARC/STI had experienced a spike in recordable injuries in 2010. Chemung ARC/STI's Days Away, Restricted and Transferred (DART) had risen to 6.0 in 2010, exceeding national industry average DART rate of 2.8 reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). To address this increase, Chemung ARC/STI worked with the On-site Consultation Project in Binghamton to identify hazards and develop a workplace safety and health action plan. By 2011, the company's DART rate had dropped to 2.0, representing 58% of the average rate reported by the BLS for the vocational rehabilitation services industry. In addition, the organization's Total Recordable Case (TRC) rates dropped from 4.0 in 2009, to 1.0 in 2011. By comparison, the industry average that year was 6.2.
The rise in the DART rate had had a direct impact on the company's workers compensation costs. The reduction in recordable injuries also affected these costs. Chemung ARC/STI's 0.54 experience modifier rate (EMR) for 2011 represented a significant decline from the company's high in 2009 of 1.95. Accordingly, workers compensation premiums also declined from $98,400 in 2010 to $86,100 in 2011.
"Reducing job-related injuries and illnesses not only makes Chemung ARC/STI a safer environment," noted Mr. Kevin Wolfe, "it also has a straight line impact on available resources. In 2012 alone, $12,300 saved in workers compensation premiums were returned to critical services."
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