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NWPCA Develops Workplace Safety Alliance with U.S. Government
Cooperative Effort Seeks to Develop Guidelines to Improve Employee Safeguards

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 8/1/2004

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has targeted wood pallet companies for years because the industry has been known for sometimes having dangerous manufacturing environments and high incident rates. Hoping to improve government/industry communication and reduce workplace injuries, a new public/private alliance has emerged this summer. The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA), OSHA, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are joining forces to form this Alliance which will focus on ergonomics, powered industrial trucks, and use of pallet assembly/disassembly equipment.

            "We believe that by joining the knowledge and experience of OSHA, NIOSH and NWPCA, we create a fresh new perspective for examining health and safety concerns in the solid wood packaging industry," said Bruce Scholnick, NWPCA President and CEO. "Through this Alliance, we hope to devise practical guidelines that will enhance employee safeguards."

            NIOSH is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. According to NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard, the Alliance will "offer many new opportunities to move the results of NIOSH research into safety and health practice. The results of those efforts will inform and enrich our future research."

            OSHA’s Alliance with NWPCA and NIOSH focuses on ergonomics and reducing and preventing exposure to hazards associated with the use of powered industrial trucks, and pallet assembly and disassembly equipment in the workplace. The Alliance partners have agreed to develop and implement training and education programs on equipment safety focusing on accident prevention, including amputations. NWPCA will also prepare job safety modules with OSHA and NIOSH input for the safe use of pallet dismantling equipment commonly used in the industry.

            OSHA and NIOSH will cross train personnel in NWPCA’s best practices or effective approaches, as jointly determined by the groups. OSHA, NWPCA and NIOSH plan to develop and disseminate case studies illustrating the business value of safety and health and will also strive to raise the awareness of others to workplace safety and health concerns.

            In the past, OSHA has targeted wood pallet and container businesses as one industry known to have high rates of workplace health and safety risks. And while the Alliance does not shield the industry from being scrutinized by the government, it will provide a forum for the public and private sector to work together. The purpose of the Alliance is strictly educational in nature. It will have no standard setting authority. LeeAnne Jillings of OSHA said that the enforcement aspect of the agency is completely separate from the alliance program. But she added that the Alliance will be a vehicle to bring better understanding of the perspectives and challenges facing all sides. Thus, if there exists a problem of irregular enforcement or various regions interpreting laws in different ways, the Alliance can effectively communicate those concerns to OSHA.

            The Alliance is the second of its kind involving both OSHA and NIOSH. The members will meet at least quarterly to discuss concerns, establish priorities and work toward the development of a collaborative educational program. The first meeting should take place this summer.

            Bruce said, "The Alliance means nothing if people don’t utilize the materials that are out there." He encouraged the industry to become aware of the dangers of workplace risks and to take advantage of the new programs offered by the NWPCA.

            The formation of the Alliance is part of the NWPCA’s new program to address workplace safety and health issues. The NWPCA has recognized the need to educate the industry about best practices and develop solutions for reducing incident rates thereby lowering insurance costs. Over the past year, the NWPCA has teamed up with Adele Abrams, a Certified Master Safety Professional and attorney specializing in safety and health law, to develop the industry’s first comprehensive plant safety and health program. It includes the following: industry specific safety and health manual, one hour of consultation on safety or legal issues with Adele Abrams, and discounted rates on extensive consultations. The manual will include all proper safety precautions and requirements demanded by OSHA for the industry. Participants will receive timely, regular updates as changes are made in workplace safety regulations. The new program is offered for an annual fee of $250, which is only a fraction of the cost for one OSHA citation, according to the NWPCA.

            Reducing workplace dangers is not only the right thing to do, it is a sound business decision. Looking to correct possible workplace hazards and institute sound practices, it protects your workers, reduces liability exposure and can significantly lower your insurance rates. Loss time resulting from a workplace accident can impact your operation and reduce worker morale. Nobody wants to work in an unsafe environment. And no business owner wants to pay OSHA fines. Being proactive is the best decision when it comes to workplace safety. For more information, visit www.palletcentral.com or call 703/519-6104.


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