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Recognizing Mo's Safest Workplaces

>>AMY SUSAN: Hi.  I’m Amy Susan, Director of Communications for the Missouri Department of Labor.  On this week’s edition of Labor Talk, a podcast where experts discuss workplace issues that affect your life, we’re here in Mount Vernon, Missouri, to introduce our newest SHARP member, Positronic Industries, and we’re joined on the show with Daniel Stark.  He’s the Program Manager with On-Site Consultation within the Department of Labor, as well as John Gentry.  He is the President of Positronic Industries.  And we’re here to talk about what it takes to become safety SHARP.  So Daniel’s going to take us on an on-site consultation inspection, but first we’re going to talk about what it takes to be SHARP and what do you do on an on-site consultation visit?

>>DANIEL STARK: With the consultation program, basically we’re interested in conducting an OSHA-type mock inspection, and what we want to do is do a consultation very similar to what OSHA would do if they were to do a compliance inspection.  And this basically entails sitting down with the employer, having an open conference, looking at site-specific written programs, then doing a walk-through and then having a closing conference at the end.

>>SUSAN: Tell us about some of the common concerns that you see when you conduct some of these inspections.

>>STARK: We commonly see electrical.  That seems to be a common thing that we found.  Electrical hazards, bad extension cords, ground pin missing on extension cords, improper use of extension cords.  We’ve also seen a lot of mislabeling of containers.  There’s certain requirements as far as labeling of containers and I think those two things are two of the most common things we found.

>>SUSAN: And all these could be easy remedied, correct?

>>STARK: Absolutely.  Absolutely.  You need to just throw--throw away a bad extension cord.  I mean, you can pull out a magic--or a permanent marker and label that container right there.

>>SUSAN: Okay.  How do participants benefit from this program?

>>STARK: Overall I, you know, our goal is to make the workplace safer or help the employer make the workplace safer.  That’s our first responsibility and our first goal, basically with the program.  Second is to help them achieve OSHA compliance.  And then finally help them develop a good safety and health management program.

>>SUSAN: Big picture, why should an employer pursue SHARP?

>>STARK: What they want to do is decrease in injuries and illnesses at their facility, have an impact on their injuries and illnesses.  That will in turn help them reduce their worker’s comp premiums because less injuries are being reported to worker’s compensation.

>>SUSAN: And it saves lives, as you were saying.

>>STARK: And it saves lives, absolutely.

>>SUSAN: Most importantly.  All right.  John, now I’m going to talk to you a little bit about what your business does.  Can you tell us what you guys make here and how many people you employ?

>>JOHN GENTRY: We manufacture electronic connectors.  And here in Mount Vernon we employ currently 91 people.  In Southwest Missouri we have about thir--435 employees.  And in our three locations we jointly manufacture the electronic connectors that we sell in North America and around the world.

>>SUSAN: Wow.  So when you say connectors, explain to other people who don’t necessarily know that that means or how do in every day life people use connectors?

>>GENTRY: Well, the way I like to explain it is a few years ago when you owned a computer, your personal computer, then you had your printer sitting next to it.  There’d be a big, bulky cable which would connect that computer to the printer.  On the ends of those--on the ends of that cable would be these great big connectors.  That’s an example of a connector, which we make very similar to.  That’s not necessarily the industry that we serve, but that’s an example of an electronic connector.  The industries we serve are more aerospace, aero--aircraft, defense, military, satellites, telecom, datacom, hospital equipment, a little higher end than something that you’d find in a home.

>>SUSAN: Wow.  So you are connecting those various entities and industries by creating the connectors here in Missouri?

>>GENTRY: That’s right.

>>SUSAN: eat.  So tell us why Positronic pursued SHARP?

>>GENTRY: We believe there are a lot of benefits to being SHARP certified and so we decided to do it.

>>SUSAN: Okay.  Explain some of those benefits that you guys are now seeing by participating in this program.

>>GENTRY: We’ve always tried to run a clean operation, which would include safety.  And while we--we pay attention to all the--the issues guarding electrical safety, we decided that maybe we can take it one step further.  So while we may have an--an operation that looks safe, we wanted our employees to feel safe and be safe and understand safety.  So one of the components of the SHARP certification is more education and more involvement with employees on safety, which leads us to have safety committees and things like that.

>>SUSAN: Thanks.  And speaking of employees, what do you think it says to them because they’re now SHARP?

>>GENTRY: Well, we always like to empower our employees and I think that since there’s more involvement with our employees, they’ll--it’s--they’ll be more engaged, they have a say.  If they think that something can be done better they now have a voice in order to do that.  You’re gonna spend some money to make the workplace a little safer, but if--if my employees are healthier and safer they’ll be at work, they’ll be more productive, so I think in the end they’ll be better employees and it’ll actually save us money, not cost us money.  And I would like to take that message to other companies, too.

>>SUSAN: And I’m sure you agree with that, Daniel, as well?

>>STARK: Absolutely.  Absolutely.

>>SUSAN: Well, thank you both for coming on the show today and for having us out here.  If you all have any questions or concerns visit labor.mo.gov, click on News and Notices and then click on Labor Talk Podcasts.