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Founded in 1969 in Marshville, North Carolina, EWPI is one of the largest manufacturers of wooden pallets in the southeast. In addition to pallets, this family-owned business produces furniture grade hardwood lumber and byproducts, such as chips, sawdust, and bark. Today, the Marshville Plant remains EWPI’s headquarters, and the company has expanded to include plants in Laurinburg and Liberty, North Carolina.
According to Chief Executive Officer and co-owner Jeff Edwards, EWPI has always considered safety important due to the dangerous nature of the company's industry. For many years, EWPI implemented elements of a workplace safety and health program gradually, leaving the company without a comprehensive workplace safety and health management system. EWPI knew it needed to improve its safety and health performance with the implementation of a comprehensive safety and health management system and contacted the NCDOL Consultative Services Bureau.
In 1994, EWPI hired Human Resources and Safety Director, J. Lynn Greene. One of Greene’s initial assignments was to develop a first class safety and health program. While seeking safety and health professional assistance from outside experts, Greene reviewed the OSHA website and learned about OSHA's On-site Consultation Program. This federally funded program offers free and confidential services to small and medium-sized businesses and is available to employers in all U.S. states and several territories. EWPI decided to take advantage of the OSHA On-site Consultation Program. Greene contacted the NCDOL Consultative Services Bureau to get help with designing and implementing a comprehensive safety and health management system.
In 1995, a consultant from the NCDOL Consultative Services Bureau conducted a comprehensive safety and health visit of the facility. After the evaluation, EWPI corrected all of the hazards that the consultant identified, starting with installing machine guards and railings, increasing mandatory use of personal protective equipment, fixing electrical problems, and initiating efforts to improve the enforcement of safety policies. After this visit, EWPI continued to develop a comprehensive safety and health management system.
Since 1995 when EWPI began working with NCDOL, the company has dramatically improved its safety and health culture. Development of a Hazard Assessment Program and a Safety and Health Committee has helped enhance overall safety awareness. For example, recently, the Safety and Health Committee detected a potential hazard, recommended changes to management, and resolved the problem while Greene was out of town for a week. When Greene returned, he was pleased to see that the safety and health management system was working.
Further evidence of a proactive safety and health management system is reflected in EWPI’s reduced injury, incidence, and frequency rates. When EWPI entered the NCDOL SHARP in 2003, nine workplace injuries and illnesses occurred. Their Total Recordable Cases (TRC) rate was 2.5 and the Days Away, Restrictions, and Transfers (DART) rate was 1.8 as compared to the 2003 Bureau of Labor Statistics industry’s average TRC of 5.2 and DART of 8.1. Over time, the company has continued to maintain its injury, incidence, and frequency rates well below the BLS industry average. In 2010, six workplace injuries and illnesses occurred, their TRC rate was 2.2, and their DART rate was 2.2. In 2011, eight workplace injuries and illnesses occurred, their TRC rate was 2.7, and their DART rate was 1.4. The BLS 2010 industry average TCR was 12.0 and DART was 3.6.
EWPI discovered that improvements involving workplace safety and health have financial rewards too. The company has experienced a significant reduction in Workers Compensation premiums and claims. Early on, the NCDOL Consultative Service Bureau Chief shared with Greene that an experience modification rate (EMR) of less than 1 saves money on these premiums. When EWPI entered SHARP in 2003, their EMR was 1.2. The company’s EMRs lowered to 0.98 in 2008, 1.0 in 2009, and 0.89 in 2010.
Reduction in injuries, incidences, and frequency rates and the resulting savings have enabled the company to turn cost saving measures into equipment purchases, improve the workplace environment, and hire more workers. “We could not have put 35 new people to work if we did not have a strong safety and health management system helping the bottom line profit and loss statements,” Greene said.
Wanting to obtain recognition for its commitment to worker safety and health, the company also achieved SHARP status for other facilities as well. In 2003, NCDOL recognized EWPI’s plant in Laurinburg, North Carolina, as SHARP, and in 2004, the Liberty, North Carolina, plant was also recognized as a SHARP site. Moving forward, EWPI’s plants have consistently been reapproved. The Marshville and Liberty plants look forward to their 10th year of renewal as SHARP sites in 2013.