Lack of Safety 'Sacrifices Everything'

A top-notch safety program is based on proven methods, and is followed up by regular safety checks of each employees' jobsite practices.

Employees of R.F. Knox Company, Inc. strictly adhere to the highest sheet metal industry safety standards. All employees are required to maintain their certifications for equipment used in precision sheet metal fabrication and installation, and continue to meet and/or exceed OSHA requirements. R. F. Knox fabricators are exposed to risk each day they’re on the job, so the best practices in safety must always be followed.

R. F. Knox Company, Inc. is a leading sheet metal contractor located in Metro Atlanta. It operates three divisions: HVAC, Industrial, and Architectural Specialty Metals. It’s served the Southeastern U.S. since 1914.

"Safety is paramount on a jobsite, and it's up to the leaders of the company to develop a stellar safety program that properly trains each employee," says Jack Knox, president. "We've dedicated numerous resources to safety, and will continue to focus on safety enhancements. We enjoy delivering a quality product, but if we don't have a strong safety program, we sacrifice everything."

R.F. Knox holds an EMR rating of .64 which means that, R. F. Knox has a 36% better accident record than similar operations in Georgia. This rating has been achieved through the implementation of an efficient system for enforcing safety regulations. That system includes regular reviews of standard policies and procedures for the company by a safety committee. The committee then confirms that all employees are compliant. Of key importance is that personal protective equipment must be worn at all times in the shop and field by every employee.

The Jobsite as Meeting Place
At each jobsite, weekly "Toolbox Talk" meetings are mandated by each supervisor. The company publishes a 12-month calendar of weekly topics that will be covered each week. These meetings are supplemented by daily pre-task meetings. Annually, the company jobsite Safety Manual is revised to ensure that the most current OSHA standards are represented. Jobsite training and training at the headquarter office has resulted in over 200 employee certifications above and beyond SMANCA standards.

"Investing in training courses is very costly but it's the only option. We demand the best of our employees and want them to have every resource necessary at their fingertips", says Laura Jardin, safety committee leader.

Safety Resources Abound
R.F. Knox has used OSHA standards and the resources provided by Sheet Metal Air Conditioning National Association (SMACNA) to develop its safety program. To communicate to employees better, R. F. Knox also publishes monthly safety newsletters that bring attention to national issues, beyond what employees encounter on the jobsite. This allows each employee to be well-rounded and familiar with local and national issues.

Safety Award Campaign
To kick off 2010, R. F. Knox issued a new Safety Award Campaign. It awards cash if the company's EMR and incident rates are projected to decrease for following year. Awards are available on a tiered level, through a drawing to employees who remain injury free, incident free, and without any lost work hours. This campaign has been an eye-opening experience for all employees, and has contributed to a reduction in the company's recordable incident rate.

As a result, R. F. Knox is outperforming competitors across the state of Georgia. Its "Indemnity Claims per Million Dollars of Payroll" rate is 0.296, versus the average for similar contractors in GA of 0.823. This means that R. F. Knox is outperforming competitors by 65%. The R. F. Knox "Total Incurred Costs per 100 Dollars of Payroll" rate is $0.55 versus the average for similar contractors in GA of $8.80. In this category R. F. Knox outperforms competitors by 94%.

Keith Watkins, project manager and Safety Committee member, says the key is in the training, and in getting everyone to believe that safety can and must be addressed at all times.

"We believe in being safe, and not just because the company demands it. Having seen and heard of many accidents, we're always looking for ways to train and protect ourselves and those we work with. At times, others feel we're going to the extreme. But we're in the business of producing a quality product and protecting every life," Watkins says.

Sammy Melton is safety director and general superintendent, R.F. Knox Company, Atlanta, GA. He can be reached at 770/434-7401.

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