Heavy lifting was par for the course at Curtis McGuires company. His employees knew that. Yet, none of them wore safety belts, back supports or steel-toed shoes.
No wonder McGuires more than 65 workers, who load and unload semi-tractor trailers for Redlegs Lumper Service Inc. in Columbus, were getting injured at a rate of about one every two weeks.
We had a number of injuries as far as hurt backs and things of those nature, says McGuire, who founded the $900,000 company eight years ago. Weve had people drop pallets on their ankle or feet when theyre unloading ... people doing silly things. I dont want to see somebody get hurt. Employees are a precious commodity right now. I dont want to sound like Im just a ruthless businessman, but we need every employee we can get.
Thats why McGuire called safety consultant Jim Wirth of Gates/McDonald last fall to come in here and take a look at what he could do to make his workplace safer.
I had a little fear because I didnt know what would happen, McGuire admits. But I gave him a tour, he made some recommendations, and I said, Yes, I agree with you.
Wirth not only suggested that McGuire make back supports and steel-toed boots mandatory, but that he also start holding regular safety meetings with workers. These monthly meetings cover topics such as:
- Proper lifting techniques.
- How to wear a safety belt.
- Where to go in a building for tornado protection.
We spent some time getting employees to buy in on it, McGuire says of the safety meetings and new equipment, some of which employees are required to purchase as a condition of their employment. But we told them, If youre hurt, you cant work. Its a lot easier for you not to get hurt in the first place.
Already McGuire is seeing a difference.
Were seeing fewer injuries overall, he says. An employee hurt his hand [in early June], but before that, we havent had an injury since last year in the summer or fall.
In addition, McGuires safety precautions have earned his company better workers comp rates.
I was paying close to $40,000 a year and they cut it in more than half after everything was said and done, he boasts. I was just overjoyed.
As for the cost of the inspection, McGuire says that was included as part of his participation in the National Federation of Independent Business-Ohios Gates/McDonald workers comp pool.
It cost me nothing, he says.
McGuire is such a believer in workplace safety now that he made a trip to Washington, D.C., earlier this year to urge the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training to pass legislation providing incentives for business owners like him to hire safety consultants to inspect their workplaces.
U.S. Senate Bill 385 is sponsored by Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming and has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Nancy Byron (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editor of SBN Columbus.