Zero Mountain, Inc., Stays OSHA SHARP

Company: Zero Mountain - Fort Smith

Location: Fort Smith, Arkansas

Employees: 225

Zero Mountain, Inc.

NAICS Code: 493

Company Description: In 1951, Joseph Rumsey, III, along with George Bazore, Sr., C.A. Stump, and Price Dickson, worked diligently for 4 years to turn a limestone cave in Johnson, Arkansas, into a sub-zero processing and storage vault. In the summer of 1955, Zero Mountain™ opened their doors, becoming one of only four facilities of this type in the country. It was no coincidence that Zero Mountain™ was on the cusp of the largest growth in poultry history with the largest poultry processors in the nation right next door. Seizing these two most opportune advantages allowed Zero Mountain™ the means of becoming a successful, thriving business for the next six decades.

By the early 1990s, two more above-ground facilities located in Lowell, Arkansas, and Russellville, Arkansas, opened their doors. Today, the company offers over 35 million cubic feet of controlled-temperature storage, and it provides transportation logistics, cold-storage warehousing, and dry-storage warehousing services nationwide. Zero Mountain™ freezes, stores, and ships an estimated two billion pounds of frozen food and meat annually for numerous Fortune 500 companies.

The Situation: Zero Mountain™ was prompted to contact the Arkansas Department of Labor (ADOL), Safety Division, OSHA Consultation Division, to help lower their injury, illness, and worker compensation costs. In the early 2000s, the company as a whole was experiencing over 40 worker compensation claims per year. As part of efforts to improve its workplace safety and health awareness and practices, Zero Mountain™ learned about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Safety and Health Recognition Program (SHARP), through attending safety conferences. Management contacted the ADOL Safety Division, OSHA Consultation Division, which helps businesses meet the Federal OSHA health and safety regulations. OSHA's completely voluntary On-site Consultation Program services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. This program offers free, confidential safety and health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country and several territories, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. 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: The first Zero Mountain™ On-site Consultation Program visit to their Fort Smith facility was conducted in 2003. Hazards noted during the consultant's walk-around included insufficient or missing machine guarding; problems with electrical systems; inaccurately labeled chemicals; and inadequate written safety and health policies, procedures, and other documentation. The company implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system, experienced a positive safety culture change, and lowered the injury and illness rates. After several years of working with Arkansas’ On-site Consultation Program, correcting all of the hazards identified by the consultants, worker injuries and illnesses decreased, and Zero Mountain™ became an OSHA SHARP employer. Acceptance into SHARP is an achievement of status that singles out the company among its business peers as a model for worksite safety and health.

The Impact: Their participation in OSHA SHARP for two (2) years led to a decrease of worker compensation premiums from $274,696 to $175,559. This decrease resulted in a lower workers compensation modifier rate, leading to an even further reduction in the Workers Compensation Insurance premium to $99,708. Experience modifiers for 2012, 2013, and 2014 were 0.99, 0.73, and 0.59 respectively. Only $205 was paid out for worker compensation claims between July 1, 2014, and July 1, 2015.

At the Fort Smith facility, the company has worked 12 years with no days away from work losses. For comparison, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the industry average days away from work, job transfer, or restriction rates were 5.4 in 2012, 5.2 in 2013, and 5.2 in 2014 (the most current periods for which these data are available).

Zero Mountain™ maintains a high level safety and health system with a stellar Process Safety Management Program. At present, the company’s headquarters is in Fort Smith and all four (4) facilities are SHARP certified. This company is also very active in the Arkansas Voluntary Protection Program/Safety and Health Recognition Program (VPP/SHARP) Association.

Additional information about the OSHA On-site Consultation Program is available at or 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Sources: Joel Neisler; Safety, Environmental, and Workers Compensation Manager; Zero Mountain, Inc.; Fort Smith, Arkansas