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Lost-Time-Free Since 1989

October 29, 2010

Nebraska Panhandle Elevator Has One of the Best Safety Records in U.S.

Reposted with permission from Grain Journal, written by editor, Ed Zdrojewski.

OMAHA, NE –The last time there was a lost-time injury at The Scoular Company’s grain elevator outside of Sidney, NE (308-254-7871), the elder George Bush was president, and he hadn’t yet invaded Kuwait in the first Gulf War.

The plaque on the wall noting the facility’s 2009 Safety Award from the Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) notes that the Sidney elevator has gone 21 consecutive years without a lost-time injury recorded in its annual OSHA 300 log. That’s a total of 228,870 cumulative hours through Dec. 31,2009. The facility is working on its 22nd year without a lost-time injury.

That puts the 1.9-million-bushel elevator in a three-way tie for fifth place in the GEAPS safety program, in terms of the number of consecutive years without a lost-time accident. Scoular shares the fifth-place slot with Cargill’s river terminal in Albany, NY, and Bunge North America’s river terminal in Newport, AR.

In addition to the GEAPS Safety Award Program, the Sidney elevator also has been in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) since 2003, says General Manager Kevin Farner.

Under the SHARP program, employers complete an OSHA on-site consultation visit. Those who meet the safety and health criteria set by the agency are recognized for their exemplary safety and health management systems and are exempt from programmed inspections during the SHARP certification period.

Farner joined the company early in 2008, after managing grain operations for M&M Cooperative in nearby Yuma, CO. Already, however, he is a member of Scoular’s corporate safety committee.

Three Points Made Every Day

“Safety is something your entire group has to buy into,” he says. “We emphasize three things every day. First, get the job done. Second, do it safely. Third, go home healthy to your families.”

Safety is especially important at the elevator’s isolated location, about 10 miles northwest of Sidney in the Nebraska Panhandle. When the elevator was built in 1988, the site was chosen for its location on the Sidney & Lowe Glover Group short line, connecting to both the east-west Union Pacific and north-south Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads.

Companywide, day to day safety direction is determined by Gary Kearn, corporate safety director based in Salina, KS. “We have minimum requirements to meet at every location, and we work closely with our insurance carriers and with OSHA to make sure we’re in compliance,” Kearn says. In turn, Kearn reports to Tom DiGiorgio, vice president of loss control and asset management at corporate headquarters in Omaha, NE.

Working together, the company has developed an extensive training program that starts with managers. “I just went to a 2-1/2-day ‘train the trainer’ program put on by Nationwide Insurance, our carrier,” Farner says.

In turn, the elevator’s seven fulltime employees take part in daily and monthly safety meetings. At the daily “tailgate meeting” every morning, the crew goes over the tasks for the day and safety rules to be followed. For monthly meetings, Farner selects from a checklist of 30 to 45 topics the company wants covered for the year. The list includes topics such as the facility Emergency Action Plan, confined space entry, fall protection, and the huge variety of OSHA regulations.

“To tell the truth, most of my safety training time is spent training our part-time and temporary employees,” Farner says. “Most of them don’t come from a grain operations background.”

Making It Routine

The facility doesn’t have an incentive program for workers other than the daily reminder to go home healthy. There are strict rules, however, about safe work practices including the use of personal protective equipment such as hardhats and gloves when working outside.

He adds that his crew is lucky to have an elevator that offers relatively few built-in hazards. “We don’t have a lot of tunnels and confined spaces, and with an all-steel facility, most of our grain-handling equipment is located outside. There are only seven bins.”

That said, fall protection remains a major emphasis at Sidney. The facility includes a trackside Fall Protection Systems, a trolley-type fall protection system running the length of two covered hopper cars. Elevated surfaces such as catwalks have rails and guarding that meet or exceed OSHA standards.

Finally, Farner says, the company provides annual hearing tests and respirator fit tests for employees.