Innovance Inc. Achieves SHARP Status with Assistance of Minnesota OSHA Workplace Safety Consultation

Company: Innovance, Inc.

Location: Albert Lea, Minnesota

Employees: 113

  • 32999, Misc.Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
  • 333111, Farm Machine & Equipment Manufacturing
  • 333518, Metalworking Machinery Manufacturing
Lou-Rich Hayward Division Celebrates SHARP
Lou-Rich Hayward Division Celebrates SHARP
(Left to right) Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Ken Peterson, LaVern Schroeder, John Habana, Rod Sorenson, Darin Nelson, Brian Brandt, Greg Grove, Galen Berg, Dave Overland, Tom Jacobs

Company description

The company began business in 1972 as a tool and die repair shop, at what is now the Lou-Rich – Hayward Division. At this location, the company’s 52 employees currently finish prototype manufacturing of process and package equipment for the food industry. The Lou-Rich Assembly Plant, which opened in 2006, has 14 employees and performs a range of assembly work, to include assembly of machinery where the components are made off-site, testing, and shipping to final customers. ALMCO Inc., which was acquired in 2004 has 47 employees that manufacture industrial machinery used to deburr, wash, clean, and polish metal finishing parts. Innovance Inc. was established in 2004 as the holding company that owns all Lou-Rich and ALMCO facilities.

The situation

In 2004, Innovance Inc. began to understand the company’s safety and health program was not up to par with state and federal standards. It enlisted a long-time tool and die maker from within the company to be the new full-time Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) coordinator. Shortly thereafter, the EHS coordinator attended a seminar where one of the Minnesota OSHA (MNOSHA) Workplace Safety Consultation (WSC) representatives explained WSC’s services. WSC provides consultation services, upon request, to help employers prevent injuries and illnesses through several employer-assistance programs. Innovance Inc. had very little knowledge of safety and health regulations beforehand and did not have much lined up in terms of safety and health programs.

The company understood that asking WSC for assistance, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), On-site Consultation Program, was a great starting point that would lead to overall safety and health improvements and eventually reduce its number of preventable injuries. OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country and in several territories, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. 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.

The solution

A MNOSHA consultant completed a hazard survey at the Lou-Rich – Hayward Division in 2004. This is the location where the company felt it would see the greatest impact, and it is the facility where a majority of its worker injuries were occurring. The WSC consultant identified multiple programmatic issues and physical hazards. The employer and the consultant discussed the potential impact these hazards could have on the workforce, established goals for improvement, and agreed to a common abatement schedule. The knowledge gained during this initial visit was transferred to the other locations where site-specific goals were set.

To assist the newly appointed EHS coordinator, a safety committee, composed of employees from all levels of the organization and management representatives, was established. Goals were identified, and a culture where employees are open and honest about the safety and health issues they face began to develop. “The most challenging aspects in building a companywide safety culture were making sure the employees feel comfortable reporting hazards, making safety suggestions, and participating in hazard recognition,” said EHS coordinator LaVern Schroeder.

In addition to the safety committee, the employer offered incentives for participation in a near-miss/safety suggestion reporting program; provided hazard recognition training annually; and documented noncompliance issues, assigned corrective actions, and completed follow-up studies. Other efforts included a monthly inspection program where different employees participated, a root-cause analysis program, and a change analysis and preventive maintenance program. Moreover, the employer partnered with outside agencies, such as the local fire department and an insurance company, to perform inspections of the facility. They also hosted an annual corporate safety committee meeting where the safety and health management system was critiqued and improvements were designed.

The impact

With these programs and improvements in place, the employer was able to achieve the Minnesota Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (MNSHARP) status at each of the three locations. The Lou-Rich Assembly Plant achieved MNSHARP status in August 2014, the Lou-Rich Hayward Division achieved MNSHARP status in November 2015, and ALMCO, Inc., achieved MNSHARP status in April 2016. OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) recognizes small business employers who have used OSHA On-site Consultation Program services and operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program. Acceptance of worksites into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that distinguishes a company amongst its business peers as a model for workplace safety and health.

“Achievement of MNSHARP status validates the work we put in and the overall investment in our employees. Working with WSC has helped us stay accountable, has been a great learning tool, shows employees we are serious about safety and health, and shows employees we care about their wellbeing. A positive culture is a must for an organization to succeed in safety and health excellence,” said Schroeder.

With only 37 current MNSHARP worksites in Minnesota, Innovance is part of a group that makes up less than 1 percent of all Minnesota businesses. Ken Peterson, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, stated that “Innovance has shown great leadership, providing both the time and the resources needed to reach this MNSHARP goal. When safety is a company’s top priority, its overall costs go down and productivity goes up. Best of all, fewer people go home with serious injuries.”

Additional information about OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program and other small business resources is available at or 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Source: LaVern Schroeder, Environmental Safety and Health Coordinator, Innovance, Inc.