Union Safety Rep Works to Prevent Injuries

After reading the OSHA citation and company reply from Ashley Furniture in Arcadia, WI; I am reminded how grateful I am to have my job. I am the Union Safety Representative in a unionized food processing plant here in Wisconsin. One of my roles is to investigate every first report of injury and visit with the effected employee. One simple question is always asked: “What could I or the company do differently so that this injury never happens again?” Sometimes the answer is nothing, but most of the time there are suggestions or ideas of how to correct a hazard that may have contributed to the injury. And all management levels from the line tech-manager to upper management and beyond are involved in my investigation process.
If I feel that the company is not doing all it can in correcting a hazard, or the employee does not feel safe, I am given the authority by the company to shut down a line or machine which has the potential hazard. There would then be an immediate meeting with all levels of management until the matter is resolved in a timely manner. Fortunately, this does not happen often because most situations are handled through the escalation process before I have to enforce a shut down.
Our facility has also reduced our incident rate and loss time rate over the last 5 years. But it is important to note that most companies now accommodate employees to stay at work which means it is NOT safer – it is just shifting some numbers. For this reason I believe that the OSHA recordable is a good number because it is constant over a time period.
OSHA inspector, Mark Hysell stated, “It’s unconscionable that employees are disciplined for reaching into moving equipment time and time again and injuries happen on the same pieces of equipment on multiple occasions.” When OSHA gets a complaint or is on site at my plant – I am involved in every step of the process, per our company, to ensure that all sides are presented.
 My suggestions to any company dealing with a potentially hazardous work situation:
 If someone can reach into moving equipment- GUARD IT.
 If you need more E- stops- PUT THEM IN.
 Stop trying to bend the “minor servicing rule ” in LOTO
 WHEN IN DOUBT- LOCK IT OUT.
 Rather than fighting and disagreeing with OSHA- LISTEN TO THEM. I can give you 1,766,000 reasons why!
MIKE VALENTINE, UFCW LOCAL 538 UNION SAFETY REPRESENTATIVE

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