Employment Traditions' Safety Tradition

September 7, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Employment Traditions works to keep employees safe and to lower worker’s compensation payments for businesses.

Safety Director Mac McLemore said the professional employer organization visits each client to assess the potential for hazards in the workplace, and then gives the client a report and recommendations of how to fix any problems or potential problems they may have found.

“We eliminate a hazard that has the possibility of causing a workplace injury,” he said. “If we can eliminate that from the get-go, we do not have to expose one of our employees to suffering a workplace injury at a later date.”

Eliminating a hazard could range anywhere from replacing a piece of equipment to retraining one or several employees.

McLemore said the assessments help to determine if there is a hazard and why the situation is or could be hazardous. Employment Traditions tracks three occurrences when injuries are involved: near misses, medical claims only and lost work claims. A near miss is when an employee has a small cut or bruise that was probably accidental rather than due to a hazardous situation.

“It’s something most likely that is the employee’s doing, not the piece of equipment,” he said. When there are several instances of near misses, McLemore said the situation is then re-examined.

When an employee receives treatment, such as sutures, but does not miss a full day of work, it is called “medical claim only.” Lost workday claims are when an injury prevents the individual from returning to work and requires worker’s compensation.

McLemore said the employer receives a report of what can be done to resolve hazardous situations before the next visit, which occurs quarterly. He said he is unsure what a penalty would be for not complying with the recommendations, because in five years, no employers have ignored the recommendations.

“We have never had a client that refused to make those corrections,” he said. “Our employers want a safe work environment.”

McLemore said the results from starting the safety department in 2000 can be seen by comparing 2002 and 2003 workplace statistics. McLemore said that overall their employers showed an 86.4 percent reduction in lost work days, a 32.5 percent decrease in workplace accidents, and 94.33 percent fewer worker’s compensation payouts.

Two of their employers were recognized in April of this year for their dedication to safety and eliminating hazardous situations. Meppelink Woods Inc. and Arnt Asphalt Sealing Inc. were honored as employers of the year and awarded the Montgomery Star Excellence in Safety Award from Employment Traditions.

“We see that they believe in safety; they put safety first,” McLemore said.

The companies were chosen because they conduct safety training, did not have a workplace accident in 2004, have taken steps to remove safety hazards, are in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and operate with their safety considerations on par with their other operations.

McLemore created the Employment Traditions Co-employers Annual Montgomery Safety Awards in 2004. The awards, which are co-sponsored by the Campbell Group, are named for Patrick Montgomery, president and owner of Employment Traditions.

The safety department of Employment Traditions helps employers to recognize and remedy hazardous work conditions.

“A lot of our clients don’t have the time or they don’t have the expertise, and this is where the safety department comes into play for them,” McLemore said.

When the safety department makes recommendations to the companies, McLemore said they are followed.

“They just move the safety program to the max,” McLemore said. “They believe that they have to have a safe environment for their employees.”

McLemore said he learned a lesson about employee safety from the late Harv Meppelink, the founder and former owner of Meppelink Woods, who was honored at the award ceremony. Harv Meppelink died in 2003; his son Curt is the plant manager.

Harv Meppelink held safety above quality and quantity, McLemore said.

“If you don’t treat your employees like family and send them home tonight the same way they came to you, you don’t have a safety climate, you don’t have a company.” McLemore said, a lesson he learned from Harv Meppelink. “I was able to pick up some knowledge from the man.”

To help ensure safety, the company, which has 12 employees and manufactures curved plywood, has an open-door policy for safety suggestions and a weekly meeting where safety issues are discussed.

Arnt Asphalt Sealing Vice President Phil Ameling said he owes his company’s safety success to safety programs with the help of Employment Traditions — and also luck.

“It’s a combination of trying to reach that goal but you still have to be lucky,” Ameling said. “We have good people that work for us that help us to make sure everybody is working in a safe manner.”

Being an asphalt company, Ameling said there are hazards every day at the workplace.

“Everything that we do is a potentially hazardous condition,” he said.

Ameling said Arnt Safety Director Sonny Brewer and McLemore worked together to develop a safety program for the company.

“It’s certainly a big help,” Ameling said of working with Employment Traditions.

Employment Traditions also honored 97 other companies with awards in three different categories: no lost work time according to the OSHA, no recordable injuries on the federal OSHA log, and reduction in incident rate. There were 202 awards given out.

McLemore said the awards, which were based on the 2004 year, are a way to show progress and what the companies have accomplished. It is also a networking experience.

“It gives us all a better insight on what we’re doing,” McLemore said.    

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