R.C. Bigelow Tea's Boise Facility Maintains Strong Safety Record and Is Renewed for SHARP

Company: R.C. Bigelow Tea, Inc.

Location: Boise, Idaho

Employees: 60 (320 Corporate-wide)

R.C. Bigelow Tea, Inc.
R.C. Bigelow Tea Inc.
NAICS Code: 31192, Coffee and Tea Manufacturing
Success Brief:

The R.C. Bigelow, Inc., facility in Boise, Idaho, began working with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) On-site Consultation Program in 2002. The company was accepted into OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) in 2005, and has continually maintained its status as a SHARP site.

Company Description:

R.C. Bigelow ("Bigelow") is a family-owned company headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut that produces and markets blended teas. The company was founded in 1945 by Ruth Campbell Bigelow, who started her company based on the "Constant Comment" blended tea, which remains popular today. Ruth's son David and wife Eunice are now Co-CEOs for the company. Cindi Bigelow, Ruth's granddaughter, has been the company president since 2005. The R.C. Bigelow facility in Boise, Idaho is one of 2 bagging, packaging and distribution facilities, and employs approximately 63 workers.

The Situation:

Before 2002, about three or four recordable injuries occurred each year at the Boise facility. The company knew they needed to improve and reduce these rates, so management identified worker safety and health as a focus for continuous improvement efforts.

The Solution:

While researching workplace safety, Don Scantling, Bigelow's former Human Resources and Safety Manager, learned about the OSHA On-site Consultation Safety and Health Program services available to local employers. This program offers free and confidential safety and health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all U.S. states and some territories. Under the program, 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. Funded by a grant from the Department of Labor, along with some state matching funds, Idaho's Occupational Safety and Health Consultation Program is administered by Boise State University (BSU). Scantling made the call to Boise State to start a dialogue.

The Impact:

During the initial visit on March 22, 2002, BSU On-site Consultation safety professionals identified hazards involving inadequate documentation on personal protective equipment respirator fit tests, management of electrical cords, labeling of secondary containers, and storage of flammable materials. In addition to correcting deficiencies the consultant identified, Bigelow used its team approach to instill ownership of safety practices and principles at all levels of the organization. With assistance from BSU consultants, Bigelow was able to reduce injury and illness rates below the national average as compared to companies operating in the coffee and tea manufacturing industry. Bigelow reported a Total Recordable Case Rate (TRC) of 2.20 in 2002. By 2005, this rate dropped to 1.25, and the Days Away, Restricted, and Transfer Rate (DART) dropped from 2.20 (reported in 2002) to zero. For comparison, the industry average TRC rate was 5.3, and average DART was 3.2. Bigelow's dedication to protecting workers was rewarded in 2005 when they were accepted into OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). SHARP recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. Acceptance of a company into SHARP is an achievement of status that singles out the company among its business peers as a model for worksite safety and health.

Since 2005, Bigelow's Boise facility has kept the number of injuries and illnesses below the national average and continued to earned SHARP recognition. In fact, for two years - 2006 and 2008 - Bigelow had no recordable injuries. On July 27, 2013, Bigelow's efforts to maintain a safe and healthful workplace were recognized once again as their SHARP status was renewed.

Bigelow is always finding new ways to maintain a focus on safety. For the past several years, the "Safety, It's All About Me!" program, has proved very successful in promoting a culture of safety. With this program, laminated cards are placed at each work center throughout the facility and employees are encouraged to fill them out and submit them. The cards instruct employees to scan the area for the potential for hazards, identify what could cause a slip, trip, or fall in that area, respond to a series of questions regarding machine guarding and other worksite-related safety concerns, and identify possible improvements. This program was observed in action in July when the company was recertified for SHARP and several employees showed up at the ceremony with their "Safety" forms to be turned in. According to Mark Bolander, Human Resources and Safety Manager for Bigelow, "Safety, It's All About Me!" and similar programs that Bigelow uses, are incentive programs that reward safety participation; none of their programs are based on incident reporting or injury rates. The forms filled out by employees count toward the safety participation goals, which ultimately is reflected in quarterly bonuses.

Mr. Bolander contends that "addressing workplace safety and health challenges requires ongoing commitment and focus. As an extension of SHARP efforts over the years, several engineering controls not only reduced the risk of injuries but also proved cost effective and increased productivity. For example, recycling used, broken, and damaged pallets eliminated debris, reduced hand injuries from slivers and loose nails, and improved general housekeeping in the plant. Having consistent pallet weight also had the unexpected benefit of reducing the potential for back and muscle strains. Sanitation teams make regularly scheduled mid-shift cleaning passes to eliminate slip, trip, and fall hazards. Pallet positioners were installed to reduce the potential for back and muscle strains associated with lifting bulk tea bags to be dumped into feed hoppers. Installing two robot palletizers reduced potential repetitive motion injuries and allowed Bigelow to redistribute employees and support the production process in other areas."

"Engaging the workers is fundamental to the success of any workplace safety and health improvement effort," Bolander continued. "People who perform a job function many years can easily get bored, lose focus, or become complacent. Changes to past practices may be resisted. Long service brings valuable experience, but it can also engender the belief that expertise enables taking chances because 'I know what I'm doing'."

"To get facility-wide participation," said Bolander, "in-house safety involvement opportunities, such as the "Safety, It's All About Me!" campaign, were created. Today, having workers who feel ownership and do not hesitate to identify areas where they have safety concerns, coupled with a management team that takes proactive steps to identify hazards before accidents happen, has resulted in a strong safety culture." "Working with the On-site Consultation Program gave us a second set of eyes; it helped everyone take a fresh look and gain a new perspective on our daily activities," said Don Scantling. "At Bigelow, the effort needed to become a SHARP site, and the pride of maintaining an exemplary injury and illness prevention program, helped move workplace safety and health from a continual improvement initiative to a way of life."


Mark Bolander, Human Resources and Safety Manager, R.C. Bigelow Tea, Inc., Boise, Idaho