AHOSKIE – Safety is important within the workplace and businesses with successful track records to protect their workers are to be commended.
For Roanoke Electric Cooperative (REC), both aforementioned facts surfaced here Monday afternoon.
The N.C. Department of Labor recognized REC as a participant in the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). State Labor officials praised REC staff, administrators and its board of directors for their ongoing commitment to safety and health by presenting the company with a certificate and the SHARP flag during a ceremony held at the company’s facility located just west of Ahoskie.
The Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program recognizes small to mid-size employers that have developed and maintained effective safety and health programs.
Presenting REC with the SHARP Award was Allen McNeely, Deputy Commissioner and Director of the OSHA Division of the NC Department of Labor, filling in for his boss, State Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry who was unable to attend due to illness.
“You invited OSHA to you; a lot of businesses don’t do that,” McNeely said. “We offer a lot; the consultation is important, if not more important than the enforcement side (of OSHA). The more you understand about what we cite if we find a problem, the more you can get it fixed.”
McNeely said of the nearly 260,000 businesses and industries in North Carolina, Roanoke Electric was among the elite, as evident by being only one of 148 earning SHARP recognition.
“And what a way to celebrate, earning this award on your 75th anniversary in business,” McNeely added. “One constant through the years is Roanoke Electric Cooperative’s commitment to safety. I was impressed by your outreach into the communities you serve and how often the safety message reaches into meetings of your employees. Safety only works when your employees, general contractors and subcontractors all know and practice what is right in the workplace….how to look out for one another and take care of one another…..you are your brother’s keeper.
“If you see a problem, you should speak up; anytime you see an accident waiting to occur, speak up….this keeps people from having accidents and getting hurt,” McNeely said. “Your inclusion into this safety recognition honor you’re receiving today speaks volumes about your commitment and dedication to the safety of your workforce.”
McNeely said North Carolina’s injury/illness rates are at a historic low, noting last year those numbers were 2.9 injuries/illnesses per 100 workers.
“We seen a drop of over 45 percent in those numbers over the past 12 years,” McNeely noted. “You are making a difference here that reflects on statewide safety. I congratulate you on a job well done and encourage you to continue your message of safety.”
Curtis Wynn, President and CEO of Roanoke Electric, listed four components of a successful health and safety program.
“Number one is leadership, involvement and commitment; we have that through a strong Board of Directors,” Wynn said. “Our leadership believes in the commitment we have to safety. They are committed to the safety and well-being of our employees and have provided the resources necessary to ensure that safety.
“The second component is engagement at all levels,” he continued. “We have a Safety Committee here; this committee represents a cross function of the different departments here, thus engaging our employees at all levels. That means suggestions from all levels comes back to management on how we can improve our safety program.
“The next component is data driven strategy development. Data is something we’ve really picked up on, studying it very closely as we believe we can’t improve our program without data. You have to have something to measure against, and that’s what the data gives us.
“The last component is to have strategy execution. We believe that not only is the data important, but a strategy needs to be in place to move that data forward and have top-notch results,” Wynn concluded.
As far as the “watchdog” group – OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) – who often sends an element of fear into businesses, Wynn saw them in a different light.
“For those with the misnomer that you should be afraid of OHSA and they’re the bad guys, I’m here to tell you that’s not the case,” Wynn stressed. “We’re good friends with them because they have the same interest that we have in making sure that every person that comes to work gets to go home to their family at the end of the day.
“We’re excited here at Roanoke Electric to be recognized for our safety and health program and my hat goes off to all employees for making this happen; we could not have accomplished this without each and every one of you,” Wynn stated.
Billy Joe Yates, Chairman of the REC Safety Committee, thanked the board of directors, Wynn, the management staff and all REC employees for their continuing commitment to safety, which led to the co-op being honored by the state.
“I realize that without each employee’s commitment to a safe working environment, this award would not be possible,” Yates remarked. “I personally thank each employee for making this award possible. I also thank our OSHA consultants, Eric Smith and Mark Taylor, for their assistance and expertise in providing the guidance in improving our safety program here at Roanoke Electric. They gave us some great ideas. I feel we’re on the right track because our employees are engaged in our safety program.”
Smith was on hand to commend REC for their efforts.
“I’ve been working with Roanoke Electric with their safety and health program over the past three years and I’ve had the pleasure to watch it grow,” Smith said. “You can’t have the management commitment without the employee accountability and involvement. This company, I’m proud to say, has both. Ya’ll are a great company to work with.”