CHIPPEWA FALLS — Area business and industry will be able to obtain a higher level of training on Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) compliance issues because of new agreement that names Chippewa Valley Technical College as a host site for the National Safety Education Center (NSEC). CVTC will now offer OSHA-recognized training courses through their association with NSEC.
The agreement, in partnership with the Northern Illinois University College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, which is the location of the NSEC offices, was announced Thursday, Feb. 8 at the start of the annual Safety Day, hosted by CVTC’s Business and Industry (B&I) Services division.
“This designation is extremely selective,” said Roxann Vanderwyst, B&I Services director. “The partnership decision was based on CVTC’s high quality training and technical abilities as well as the distance from other host sites for NSEC.”
“The agreement will allow regional businesses to obtain the OSHA training without traveling hundreds of miles,” said Jon Leenhouts, CVTC B&I safety trainer.
The announcement was welcome news to the approximately 60 local business and industry leaders who attended the fifth annual Safety Day, held at CVTC’s Chippewa Falls campus, as OSHA compliance and workplace safety in general are very much on their minds. Participants attended workshop sessions on topics like risk analysis, fall protection, drug testing, welding safety, electrical safety, ergonomics, active threats and OSHA standards.
One of the morning sessions consisted of a panel discussion on management safety priorities and the challenges of establishing a proactive safety culture. Taking part were Nancy Haldeman of Bush Brothers Beans in Augusta, Scott Rud of Mason Companies of Chippewa Falls, Kate Carlson of Phillips Medisize in Menomonie and Sonja Leenhouts of Kerry Ingredients in Owen.
While each of the companies has different workplace safety issues, the four panelists agreed that the key to having a positive workplace safety culture is support from all participants from upper-level management down.
“The biggest challenge implementing anything is getting buy-in, whether it be from management of a union,” Rud said. “And effective communication is the key to getting buy-in.”
Haldeman noted that at Bush’s safety awareness in an expectation for management. “Our managers in their performance reviews have a safety component. It’s tied to their performance expectations.” Only about half of the 13 people attending the session indicated a similar requirement at their companies.
Sonja Leenhouts said safety awareness becomes most challenging when the plant gets extremely busy, which sounded familiar to Rud. “Safety has to be the first thing they think about, instead of ‘production is king.’”
The panelists also agreed that safety managers cannot do their jobs from behind a desk. “You have to get out on the floor and interact with people,” Rud said.
“We have regular safety walks,” Carlson said. “We simply ask them, ‘How are you doing? Is there anything safety-related we need to address?’ ”
“The visibility is such a huge piece,” Sonja Leenhouts said. “When people see that you make the effort, it goes a long way.”
Haldeman described how Bush’s makes safety an effort that involves workers at every level. “We have various safety teams for certain competencies, like fall protection or electrical safety.”
The panelists also spoke of the importance of good safety data to show areas of concern and track improvements.
“We track our injuries because we want to know where they are coming from, and they are typical for manufacturing – some cuts and sprains,” Carlson said.
Rud noted that such data, and how it affects workman’s compensation costs, can be a big help in getting upper management to buy-in to safety programs, which are sometimes looked at as something that incurs costs without bringing revenue in. “We can put a dollar amount on a back injury,” Rud said.