‘STAR’ studded day for HC companies

Published 8:52 am Monday, February 16, 2009

COFIELD – For one Hertford County based business, it another “star” was added to their successful company…while for another a new “star” was born.

Nucor Steel of Hertford County and the Metal Tech (based in Murfreesboro) team working at Nucor were honored Tuesday for their high standards of safety by the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL).

North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry was on hand to personally present Nucor and Metal Tech officials with their STAR certification.

For Nucor, it was a recertification of the same award they earned in 2007. The Metal Tech team working at Nucor earned this safety award for the first time.

STAR site designation is the most prestigious award given by NCDOL. STAR sites are workplaces with comprehensive and successful safety and health programs, making them leaders in employee protection.

“We strive each and every day at the Department of Labor to have all workers across our great state to be able to work within safe environments,” Commissioner Berry said to a large crowd of workers and guests gathered inside Nucor’s gym and physical fitness room. “We want each worker across the state to kiss their families goodbye in the morning and again when they arrive home from work at day’s end.”

Berry praised the Nucor and Metal Tech employees for their dedication to workplace safety.

“You live and breathe safety each day on your jobs,” she noted. “I respect what you do each and every day, that to produce a quality product and maintain the machinery that performs that work and do it all within a safe environment.”

Because of such efforts from the two Hertford County businesses as well as of other companies throughout the state, Berry said worker’s compensation insurance is scheduled to drop by 4.4 percent as of April 1. She said that will save North Carolina businesses $65.5 million a year.

The two local men standing at the forefront of safety within the workplace are Bob McCracken, Vice President and General Manager of Hertford County Nucor, and Ray Felton, owner of Metal Tech.

“It’s been our vision here since we first broke ground in 1999 to create a world-class plate mill with a focus on creating a safety culture thru awareness, follow-up, prevention and personal responsibility,” McCracken said. “We are proud of our past record of safety, but to reach new heights we must continue to stay focused on safety.”

Hertford County Nucor’s safety record is worthy of mention – 525 consecutive days (1.2 million man hours) without a recordable lost-time case. The local industry also has a run of nine consecutive years of earning its parent company’s President’s Award for safety and is on a six-year streak of capturing the DOL’s Gold Award for safety.

Felton said building high standards of safety within an industrial setting isn’t accomplished in just one day, and neither is the follow-up training to maintain those lofty goals.

“It’s been a journey for us, to clean-up our company and organize it into a safety-conscience business,” Felton noted. “We continually train and equip our employees for safety. Accidents and the suffering they bring is why we strive for safety in the workplace.”

Felton said the STAR recognition wasn’t about him, or was it only about McCracken at Nucor.

“Bob and I are just the ones who guide the train; you need to congratulate those who will now proudly wear the NC STAR logo on their work shirts,” Felton said.

Both Felton and McCracken thanked DOL officials for their guidance in helping to promote safety within their respective businesses.

One worker from each company, those on the “front lines” each day, applauded the efforts of their employers and DOL to maintain such high standards of safety.

“We have developed a great relationship with NCDOL,” said Tim Curle, a Millwright with Metal Tech. “We have a safety committee and safety teams. We regularly inspect the equipment and the tools we use, all of which lets us work safely on the job.”

“At Nucor, safety isn’t just a word, it’s a way of life,” said Nucor EAF Technician Max Hoggard. “We continue to seek new ways to address safety. No one takes any shortcuts here when it comes to working in a safe environment.”

Congratulations were also offered by a high-ranking Nucor official, John Ferriola, the company’s Chief Operating Officer.

“There’s nothing more important than safety and this award proves to me that all 405 team members of Hertford County Nucor believe in safety,” Ferriola said. “Safety is part of the culture here; it’s a way of life. I congratulate you on this accomplishment.”

In recognition of the NCDOL award, both companies were given a NC STAR flag to fly at their facilities.