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Edwards Wood Products Continues Strong Safety Commitment with SHARP Participation

01 December 2015

By Chaille Brindley, Pallet Enterprise

One of the largest pallet manufacturing and hardwood sawmill facilities in the South also is among the safest thanks to a strong safety commitment by Edwards Wood Products. The Liberty, North Carolina facility was the first sawmill in the state of North Carolina to achieve certification in the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).

The program recognizes companies for a strong commitment to safety and health of their employees and also offers a number of benefits to the certified companies. SHARP is designed for small to mid-size businesses in high hazard industries, such as pallets and forest products.

To qualify for the program, injury and illness rates for the site must be below the national average for the industry, and the state department of labor must complete a safety and health assessment of the workplace.

 When the Liberty facility was recently recognized, again, for its participation in the program, North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry commented, “I congratulate everyone at Edwards Wood Products for continuing your successful SHARP status. It takes every single person in this facility, regardless of the job you do, to maintain SHARP status. This award belongs to all of you.”

Lynn Greene, Director Administrative Services/Safety for Edwards Wood Products, outlined a number of keys to achieve SHARP certification and make a safety program work. He explained that it all starts with commitment throughout the organization. He said, “The most important thing at Edwards with our safety program is support from our top management. That starts with Jeff Edwards from the first SHARP certification. His comment was, ‘Raise the bar to the highest level when it comes to safety and keep it there and never let up.’”

If your top owners and managers don’t support the program, it will never work. Workers on the production line must see a commitment from front-line managers to the CEO.

Secondly, a company must involve as many workers as possible. Greene said, “We strive to maintain zero accidents and along with that is to work toward getting all employees involved in the safety program.”

From safety committees to empowering entry level workers to identify safety hazards, Edwards Wood Products works to involve all levels of its workforce. Greene stated that if an employee writes down a recommendation, he/she sees our commitment when suggestions are implemented.  The company stresses practicing safe procedures at all times, thinking before you act, taking corrective action and everyone participating in the safety process.

Edwards Wood Products, established in 1969, is one of the largest manufacturers of pallets and grade hardwood lumber in the southeast, manufacturing more than 120,000 pallets and 3,000,000 board feet of grade hardwood lumber per week. Edwards operates five corporate divisions in three locations—a timber company to buy land, harvest and replant trees; sawmills, chip mills and manufacturing facilities for pallet and lumber production; as well as a transportation company.

 All Edwards’ locations participate in SHARP. Greene added, “Safety and health training is vital here at Edwards, and we work hard to do just that from the first day of orientation for a new worker, throughout their entire career here.”

 Greene also said, “It’s not easy to achieve SHARP certification. It requires an ongoing commitment. But it is well worth the effort.”

 One appeal of SHARP certification is that participating companies that meet all the eligibility requirements are exempt from programmed OSHA inspections for 2 or 3 years.  The program is free and comes with safety consultation and advice from experts. Also a better safety record may result in lower insurance rates as wells as overall worker productivity.

Getting SHARP certification is not easy. Companies in the program must provide an annual assessment to OSHA and hold to the highest standards. This covers hazard anticipation and detection, safety inspections, safety committees, hazard prevention controls, updated job hazard analysis done by each department, and corrective measures when necessary. Sometimes companies must improve recordkeeping or safety training and monitoring. Other times companies must institute engineering controls to reduce the likelihood of an accident.

SHARP has helped Edwards improve lockout/tagout practices, machinery guarding and fall prevention throughout the years. As Jeff Edwards, the owner of Edwards Wood Products, is fond of saying, “Nothing we do is so important that it can’t be done safely…We believe all accidents are preventable.”

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