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Practical ways to improve safety, reduce workers' compensation.

Foundry safety officials share their philosophies on how to create a better, safer work environment - with reduced insurance costs.

Improving foundry safety is an issue that's received a lot of attention lately, and justly so.

OSHA recently reported that all manufacturing averaged 12.7 injuries per 100 workers in 1991. Comparing that number with the 14.1 and 31.3 incidents reported per 100 workers in nonferrous and ferrous foundries, respectively, it's evident that foundry officials have their work cut out for them.

Safety and workers' compensation (WC) costs go hand in hand, so it isn't surprising that foundries consistently spend three to four times more on WC insurance for the average industrial employee. As reported by AFS, foundries paid $1503 per worker in 1991. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that across the entire manufacturing industry, employers only spent $384 per worker in 1991.

The average foundry spent $31,000 in 1991 on medical bills, lost time payment and legal fees alone, according to Perry Campbell, Foundry Insurance Agency.

Jack Avril, G.A. Avril Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, recently said, "People are what make you a success - and are the hardest thing to work with."

Every dollar saved in WC costs goes right to the bottom line. If foundries reduce accidents over a number of years, they can have their WC premiums, which average $80,000, modified by as much as 25%.

Education Is Key

Experts agree that education is the first step to improving safety. Management officials must make a commitment to let workers know safety is a serious issue. Through awareness, many injuries can be avoided.

Ken Kephart, safety & health coordinator, Stahl Specialty Co., Kingsville, Missouri, said education has been a primary factor in Stahl's success. "We bring in workers and describe the type of motions and conditions that promote cumulative trauma disorders and ways to avoid it." Kephart also said Stahl gives workers stretching exercises to do on their own, noting that formal exercise programs didn't work in his foundry.

Stahl uses an in-house ergonomic committee of engineers, management and employees, which looks into every issue that workers bring up. "We get a lot of good ideas and discover some problems we didn't know existed," Kephart said.

Shirley Boettcher, human resources/environmental manager, Durametal Corp., Tulatin, Oregon, found favorable results from formal exercise sessions in her foundry. Led by the foreman, everyone exercises before the shift.

"We've been doing it for a year and the guys like it," she said. "They say it makes them more alert, makes the job easier and makes them think clearer in the morning."

Jerry Berryhill, safety manager at GH Hensley, Industries, Inc., Dallas, Texas, said doing simple things like having safety officials walk through the foundry on all shifts can make quite an impact. GH also had success promoting safety through "civic" programs that rewarded teams for safety and attendance. They also initiated awareness programs, with gimmick items costing $1-2.

Their programs included: * "Go home healthy - be safe." Workers

received nail clippers that read

"cut out accidents." * RAT Patrol. Playing off the Army motif,

RAT stands for "Rule Out Accidents

Today." They gave out dogtags

to work teams without injuries. Then,

they sponsored door prize type drawings

with the numbers on the tags. * Safety Always a Winner. This scratch-off

game similar to state lottery game

pieces awards prizes for safety.

Equipment Counts

Providing workers with simple things such as padded floors, lift tables and other equipment has a profound effect on reducing injuries in the long run.

Kephart said the biggest improvement his firm made was installing lift-assistance devices such as articulating arms, hoists and leveling tables. Stahl tries to adjust the height to each worker. The company also has implemented balances, manipulators and pneumatic lifting devices, which reduced back and upper arm injuries.

Recently, Stahl began handing out proflex wrist supports at early signs of wrist problems. "You hear conflicting reports of these things," Kephart said, "and I don't know if it's a placebo or if it's helping medically, but our people tell us they're getting along great."

Dianne Miller, environmental/safety specialist, Stainless Foundry & Engineering, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said installing a personal protective equipment policy provided the best results for improved safety.

"We looked at every job and consulted AFS, and then wrote a policy for each job and the requirements for respirators, hearing, masks, safety goggles, shoes and metatarsal guards," she said.

Because workers previously ran safety programs, the new program was protested at first, she said, but workers eventually accepted the plan. Since implementing the program, the foundly reduced back and eye injuries by 50%.

"We also replaced broken-down chairs that were taped together, and bought new cranes and hoists," Miller said. "A new hoist costs $10,000, but the average back injury costs $50,000."

Berryhill said GH focused on upgrading ergonomics. "The employee has influence when we make changes," he said. "When the employee has a say, they're interested."

The firm also started giving out lifting belts on worker request. "They're not proven to help and I think they're 90% psychological, but our employees wanted them," Berryhill said. "It shows we listen and respond to their needs."

Light-Duty Work

Boettcher said the best thing Durametal did to reduce WC was getting injured workers back to work, even "if it's bringing them in and having them count marbles."

She said if injured employees can't sit home and watch TV, they want to get back to work. Durametal finds light-duty work for any situation.

"They tend to feel better more quickly, since they don't want to sit and do jobs they really don't want to do," she said. "This cuts costs, and our workers realize that the cheaper our insurance, the more money they'll make."

Berryhill added: "We have an aggressive light-duty program - that's where many companies miss the boat. There is light-duty work in every organization that someone could easily pass on."

Incentive Programs

A number of incentive-type programs are being used successfully. Boettcher said Durametal employees who haven't had an injury for the year receive a $250 savings bond at the annual banquet. Perfect attendance is also rewarded. After one year, employees get a $500 bond, after two years $1000, and another $100 for every year after that. She noted that the foundry only pays half of that amount for the bond.

Tammy Dirksen, human resources manager at Fresno Valves & Castings, Selma, California, also noted these award programs have been effective.

For each 13-week quarter, the foundry starts with $50 in the bank for every employee. For each absence and work-related injury, Fresno subtracts money and puts it in a pool. At the end of the quarter, all workers with no injuries and fewer than three absences are awarded a part of the pool money. Then, the names of workers with perfect attendance are entered in a drawing.

"We have 200 employees, and 17 had perfect attendance over a year," Dirksen said. "The winner of our drawing was a 20-year worker, who won a trip to Alaska for him and his wife."

She also noted that Fresno sponsors team award programs. The team with the best attendance/injury-free record for each quarter wins a catered lunch.

"In the first year, it reduced absences by 31% and injuries by 20%," Dirksen said. "The following year, it reduced absences by an additional 18% and injuries by another 10%.

"You have to invest a little money up front, but you really save a lot."

Video Reenactments

Berryhill, who said his foundry received an immediate return of 85% in WC premiums in one year, found another method to cut these costs.

Because of frivolous claims "where the employee isn't hurt and just wants the weekly benefit check," GH Hensley reenacts injuries on videotape.

"We won some cases through the |judicial process,' by proving that some of the accidents could not have possibly happened," Berryhill said. "In the past, they just filled out the forms and that was the end of it."

He noted one instance where a worker claimed he hurt his back lifting a specific casting. Later, as they prepared to make the video, officials asked the worker to identify the casting, and it was discovered that the casting hadn't even been poured that day.

Four cases were disallowed through video reenactments, Berryhill said. When possible, the plaintiff is asked to participate in planning the video.

He also said they don't lose contact with employees after they file. "We'll visit them at their home," he said. "Not only does it show that we care about their health, but also that if the case is frivolous, we'll be watching them."

Boettcher said Durametal recently changed its time cards to discourage frivolous claims. At the bottom of each time card, every employee must check off either "I did not get injured today" or "I did get injured today: Explain ..." before leaving. This technique, she said, informs management of every injury, while keeping workers from claiming injuries that weren't documented.

A New Approach: INTAT's

|Preferred Doctor' Program

Mike Walker, environmental health and safety manager, INTAT Precision, Inc., Rushville, Indiana, has taken a new approach to sending workers to the doctor.

He screens physicians and networks with insurance companies for references. "We're pro-industry, and we want to do whatever is needed to get our employees back to their jobs as quick possible," Walker said.

After research, he picks three or four doctors that best fit the foundry's needs.

"Most doctors are approachable," Walker said. "They'll work with you. I agree to send every one of my employees to certain doctors, and get their trust. They are happy to work with you because it gives them more business."

Walker also requires each doctor in his program to visit INTAT foundries within five months. "They have to see what else is involved, 100 decibels and 103-degree heat," he said. "The physical part of the job is only 50%."

After selecting the physician, Walker videotapes every job in the foundry and gives videos to the doctors to view.

"If they know the content of all available jobs, doctors are more creative in returning the workers to you," he said. "Unless the doctor prescribes bed rest, there's something in the foundry we can find for them to do. We can accommodate them by having them sitting down or elevating their legs - I just need to know."

In two years, INTAT's WC decreased 65%. And over the last three years, it was reduced by 3%.

Using this "preferred doctor" program, Walker also said, "If one of my workers needs to see an optometrist, my doctor is going to get out of bed and meet us at the office. Otherwise, you send a worker to an emergency room, where he'd just be referred to a specialist and would have to wait till the next morning. This way, you eliminate the middle man."

Noting that workers are sent to the best doctors, he said, "You pay more initially, but they won't visit them as often. Doctors offer discounts and, in many cases, they'll do follow-ups for free. They want to make sure their work is OK."

Kephart stressed the importance of getting employees to a doctor at initial symptoms. "At a certain point, surgery may be the only option, if any," he said. "Through therapy, rest and the right medication, maybe we can reverse it so there'll be no surgery or major time off."
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Health, Safety & Environmental Issues Facing Foundries; includes related article on INTAT Precision Inc.'s employee health program
Author:Lessiter, Michael J.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:Preparing to survive an OSHA inspection: paying attention to what inspectors are looking for could lead to an OSHA visit without citations - and a...
Next Article:Bismuth as an additive in free-machining brasses.

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