Edwards Wood Products, Inc. Protects Workers While Lowering Their EMR with the North Carolina On-site Consultation

Company: Edwards Wood Products, Inc.

Location: Marshville, North Carolina

John Bogner (NC Project Mgr.), Jeff Edwards (CEO), Lynne Greene (Director Admin. Services), David Poole (Safety Consult.), Scott Hammond (Health Consult.) Howard Walters (Consult. Supervisor)
John Bogner (NC Project Mgr.), Jeff Edwards (CEO), Lynne Greene (Director Admin. Services), David Poole (Safety Consult.), Scott Hammond (Health Consult.) Howard Walters (Consult. Supervisor)
Industry: NAICS 321900, Other Wood Product Manufacturing
Success Brief:

Edwards Wood Products, Inc. (EWPI) Marshville, North Carolina, began working with the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL), Consultative Services Bureau, in 1995 to strengthen the company's safety and health management system. On October 5, 2003, EWPI's Marshville plant became the first small business performing work in the wood industry in North Carolina to be recognized in the OSHA On-site Consultation Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). SHARP recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. Acceptance of a worksite into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that singles out a worksite among business peers as a model for worksite safety and health.

Company Description:

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.

The Situation:

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.

The Solution:

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.

EWPI continuously uses engineering and administrative controls to eliminate and reduce hazards and to improve their safety and health management system. Some of EWPI's improvements included redesigning the dust collection system around the pole mill and making changes to the facility's vibrating conveyer system. In 2000, EWPI requested a second consultation visit from the NCDOL.

After walking through the Marshville plant, the NCDOL safety consultant suggested that EWPI consider attempting to qualify for SHARP. Greene discussed this suggestion with EWPI's CEO and co-owner, Jeff Edwards, and explained that he wanted to raise the bar of the company's health and safety management system. Edwards replied, "Raise it as high as it will go, and never let up." EWPI's Marshville plant was recognized as SHARP in 2003.

The Impact:

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.


Jeff Edwards, CEO and co-owner, Edwards Wood Products, Inc.
J. Lynn Greene, Director, Administrative Services and Safety Director, Edwards Wood Products, Inc.