Flame Engineering: More than a Decade of Safety and Health Performance Improvement

Company: Flame Engineering, Inc.

Location: La Crosse, Kansas

Employees: 29 full-time workers

Flame Engineering Employees La Crosse, KS
Flame Engineering Employees La Crosse, KS
Success Brief:

Flame Engineering, Inc. (Flame) worked with the Kansas On-site Consultation Program in order to improve its safety and health management program. As a result of its efforts, Flame improved its safety and health management program and received Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) recognition in May 2000. In December 2010, the company celebrated nine and a half years of no loss time accidents. In addition, Flame reduced its workman's compensation insurance premiums and saved an estimated $50,000 since 2000. The company attributes its improved safety and health performance with enhancing employee morale and enabling it to expand its business nationally and internationally.

Company Description:

Flame Engineering, Inc. (Flame) manufactures fabricated metal products used in the LP propane gas industry (NAICS 33299), including hand held liquid and vapor torches, agricultural flamers, patio lights, roofing torches and dryers, and other equipment used primarily for agricultural and industrial applications. The company is located in La Crosse, Kansas and employs 29 full-time workers. The Pivonka family started the business in the 1950's by designing a propane torch for burning weeds and brush on its family farm in Kansas. Since that time, Flame Engineering has expanded into national and international markets.

The Situation:

In the mid 1990s, Flame's Safety and Health Team noticed a trend of increasing minor accidents and rising Experience Modifier Rate (EMR). Some of the hazards at Flame's worksite included use of punch presses, cut-off saws, shears and iron works. Flame recognized the need to improve its safety and health performance and began to work on improving its safety and health programs.

As part of Flame's efforts to identify ways to improve the company's safety and health performance, Jason Pivonka, Vice President of Flame Engineering, Inc. attended a session at the Kansas Safety and Health Conference in 1996 where he learned about OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program. After the Conference, Mr. Pivonka contacted the Kansas On-Site Consultation Program for a free, confidential on-site visit to assist the company in detecting potential hazards.

The Solution:

The Kansas On-Site Consultation Program's safety consultant conducted an initial visit which focused on machine guarding hazards at the facility on May 1, 1997. The consultation visit report identified equipment that posed a serious hazard due to lack of proper guarding. A Kansas On-site Consultation Program expert on machine guarding assisted Flame with the installation of proper guarding systems and other Kansas On-site Consultation Program consultants helped Flame establish a system to periodically and regularly inspect all of the equipment. As a result of the visit, Flame was better able to identify and correct safety hazards.

Over the next several years, Flame requested additional consultation visits to address other safety and health issues. As a result, the Kansas On-site Consultation Program visited the facility several more times and provided further assistance to make Flame's safety and health programs a success. In addition, as part of its efforts to improve safety and health performance, Flame identified the need to benchmark it safety and health program and used the SHARP criteria outline as a guide to start making the safety and health improvements to its existing safety and health systems As Flame worked to successfully implement the safety and health program requirements for SHARP, the company decided to pursue recognition in the Program. As a result of working with the Kansas Consultation Program to improve the company's safety and health management program, Flame was approved for SHARP participation on October 23, 2000.

Employee participation in safety and health programs at the workplace is an asset for the company. Flame focuses each year on continuous improvements to its safety and health program including identifying ways to get employees more actively involved. Mr. Pivonka stated, "Our goal is to involve employees in the company's safety implementation." According to Linda Miller, Flame Safety Committee Chairperson, employees at Flame participate in workplace safety with management to support, to motivate each other, and to engage in a safety culture daily.

Since the site's approval to SHARP, the Flame's employees have suggested to the Safety Committee various ideas to continuously improve the site's safety and health program many of which have been implemented. For example, in 2003 Flame began holding a forklift rodeo to increase employee involvement and make the forklift re-certification process for the drivers fun and effective. Ms. Miller noted, "The entire plant and the safety consultants from the insurance company get involved." Also, in 2009 supervisors suggested that Mini Safety Meetings should be held in each department to compliment the activities of the site's Safety Committee. Issues that are raised at the bi-weekly Mini Safety Meetings conducted by department supervisors are shared during the company's quarterly Safety Committee meetings with employees. Linda Miller, Flame Safety Committee Chairperson stated, "First and foremost, Flame wants to be sure our employees have a safe working environment and at the end of the day they go home to their families with no injuries."

In October 2010 Kansas On-site Consultation conducted a comprehensive on-site review of Flame for its continued approval to SHARP. Based on this evaluation, Flame's SHARP certification was renewed in December 2010.

The Impact:

During the company's ten years of participating in SHARP, Flame has seen a reduction in its EMR. As of November 2010, the site had an EMR of .79, a decline from the 2009 EMR of .81. In addition, Flame's Days Away, Restricted and Transferred (DART) rate and Total Recordable Case Rate (TRCR) have declined during its participation SHARP. The site's DART rate and TRCR rate were 3.5 and 6.9 respectively in 2004 and have declined to a DART rate of 0 and TRCR rate of 3.7 in 2009. The Bureau of Labor Statistics national industry averages for DART and TRCR for NAICS 33299 were 3.10 and 7.20 respectively in 2008.

In 2010, Flame experience only one recordable injury which was a minor laceration. On December 31, 2010, Flame reached nine and a half years without a loss time accident. Because of this safe performance record, the company has received reduced insurance premium rates, saving the company more than $50,000 since 2000.

"Reduction in the EMR and in accidents at Flame Engineering has not only made it a safer environment for employees, but has also reduced the company's Workers Compensation premium," said Jason Pivonka.

One of Flame's goals for 2011 is to have no employee injured while at work. The Safety Committee will be meeting in January 2011 to review programs, training requirements and various other ideas to continuously improve the site's safety program. Mr. Pivonka notes, "We still face safety challenges, but the entire company remains inspired and united by the common purpose: caring for the safety and health of its employees."


Mr. Jason Pivonka, Vice President, Flame Engineering, Inc.