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Wil Fischer receives SHARP recognition

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by Ann Bucy

SBJ Contributing Writer

Wil Fischer Distributing is looking SHARP.

The Springfield-based beer and ale distributor was certified in September by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as one of only 24 businesses in the state to meet Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program criteria, according to Lane Pratt, Wil Fischer's general manager of administration.

SHARP is designed to provide incentives and support to smaller, high-hazard employers to develop, implement and continuously improve effective safety and health programs at their worksites, according to program information from the OSHA Web site.

SHARP recognizes employers that have demonstrated exemplary achievements in workplace safety and health by: receiving a comprehensive safety and health consultation visit through OSHA's on-site consultation program; correcting all workplace safety and health hazards; adopting and implementing effective safety and health management systems; and agreeing to request further consultative visits if major changes in working conditions or processes occur which may introduce new hazards.

OSHA's on-site consultation program is a voluntary program targeted to smaller businesses. The program is completely separate from the OSHA inspection effort: No citations are issued or penalties proposed based on a consultation, and the process is completely confidential, according to OSHA.

The employer's obligation is to correct any serious job safety and health hazards uncovered during the consultation in a timely manner.

Employers who meet the specific SHARP requirements may be exempted from OSHA programmed inspections for a period of one year.

Pratt said Wil Fischer met the high standards of SHARP through safety education, information and employee incentives.

Signage informs employees about safety and reminds them to take necessary precautions. For example, signs posted around the warehouse reading "Smart Knees Create Smart Backs," reminds employees of proper lifting techniques.

The administration has also come up with a way to reward the employees for working safe.

"We have a quarterly work comp drawing," Pratt said. "The employees are split up into seven teams. When a team name is drawn, and they've had no claims filed, they split $1,000 between them."

Individual employees can also win between $50 and $100 for driving safe and working safe in the warehouse.

"It is a nice way to recognize our employees for the work they've done and for their suggestions," Pratt said,

"OSHA is convinced that effective management is the key to reducing the number and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses," said Dr. Jeff Gower, president of Wil Fischer. His company's method was to identify existing and potential hazards, "then prevent and control those hazards."

He said the result is a workplace environment that "ensures employee well-being and safety every day in every way. When you're committed to excellence in business, being committed to the well-being of everyone at work is just a part of one's philosophy of doing business."

Pratt said the company began a revised approach to safety and health issues about eight years ago.

To maintain its pro-safety measures, Fred Seaman, the head of Seaman Safety Services, reviews the safety program monthly by attending meetings, observing work place procedures and verifying the company's records and documentation.

"Fred and Jim Morris of Gallagher-Morris Insurors have also helped us improve our work comp modification," Gower said.

He added that excellence and safety are a winning combination.

"The bottom line is you protect your workers, cut business expenses and enhance profitability while you improve employee morale. That's good sound business ... period," he said.

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