Safety no accident: Firm takes proactive approach to preventing injuries

 Employees work on a large acrylic window at Reynolds Polymer Technology in Grand Junction. The company recently earned recognition from the Department of Labor for its participation in a program to reduce injuries and illnesses. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Employees work on a large acrylic window at Reynolds Polymer Technology in Grand Junction. The company recently earned recognition from the Department of Labor for its participation in a program to reduce injuries and illnesses. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Matt Johnson loves nothing more than a green day. That’s what he calls a day in which no safety related incidents are reported at Reynolds Polymer Technology.

It’s no accident nearly all days are green days at the Grand Junction-based company. Rather, it’s the direct result of what Johnson describes as a combination of factors that includes the programs he oversees as safety manager, a proactive approach to identifying and addressing potential hazards and ongoing commitment of employees and management. “Everyone here walks the walk.”

Reynolds Polymer also has received some assistance along the way as a participant in a consultation program offered by the Labor Department. The company recently was recognized for its efforts in earning a certificate of recognition under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.

The most important benefit of a green day is the 100 employees who work at Reynolds Polymer in Grand Junction go home safe and sound, Johnson says. But there are other benefits, he says, among them lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums and health care costs, higher employee morale and productivity and an advantage in recruiting new talent.

Matt Johnson
Matt Johnson

Johnson encourages other businesses to not only promote worksite health and safety, but also consider participating in the  SHARP. “I highly recommend giving this a chance.”

Reynolds Polymer manufactures acrylic and polymer products, including the windows used in aquariums and swimming pools as well as architectural features and scientific applications. Reynolds Polymer supplies half of the windows used in major aquariums around the world. The company has designed and installed such projects as the AquaDom in a Berlin hotel complex that at more than 50-feet tall and 36 feet in diameter is the largest cylindrical aquarium in the world.

Manufacturing processes at the Reynolds Polymer facilities in Grand Junction involve the use of chemicals and massive kilns as well as moving large acrylic panels that can weigh tons. That environment makes safety imperative, Johnson says.

Earning the SHARP certificate constitutes the result of a work that began in 2013, Johnson says. The program offers free on-site inspections and consultations as well as assistance in identifying and addressing hazards and implementing injury and illness prevention programs.

Unlike traditional OSHA inspections in which companies face fines for safety violations, the SHARP offers a more collaborative approach, Johnson says.

Companies voluntarily agree to on-site inspections and work with consultants in a process to identify and correct hazards, implement an injury and illness precention program and ultimately maintain incident rates for injuries below the national averages for their industry sectors, Johnson says.

The consultants which which he’s worked and the process itself are helpful, he says. “They are very helpful. It’s very enlightening. It’s very educational.”

Companies that meet requirements are eligible to apply for interim certification as a SHARP site and then renewals for up to three-year periods, he says.

Reynolds Polymer earned a one-year certification in 2016 and in September was awarded a three-year renewal, Johnson says.

Reynolds Polymer is one of only 43 Colorado companies to be recognized with SHARP certificates and one of just two in Western Colorado. According to the OSHA website, Grand Mesa Radiator in Grand Junction also operates a SHARP site.

While incident rates constitute a lagging indicator of the effects of safety programs, Johnson says he also tracks such leading indicators as participation in training and awareness as well as what might be considered near misses. Identifying what causes near misses and addressing those issues in return reduces minor incidents and ultimately the potential for more serious incidents, he says.

At Reynolds Polymer, efforts to promote safety occur on an ongoing basis and include daily reminders designed to increase hazard awareness and weekly meetings to go over safety topics. That’s not to mention additional meetings, presentations and training courses, Johnson says.

Safety efforts also extend to the work environment at Reynolds Polymer and addressing any areas where slips, trips or falls could occur, he says. Maintaining an orderly and clean environment is crucial, too.

It’s important that employees not only understand the necessity for safety procedures, but also have a role in promoting safety and voicing any concerns. Managers must not only promote safety, but also lead by example, he says.

Scott Sullivan, president of Reynolds Polymer, agrees. “Workplace safety is of utmost importance. We have full commitment to Matt and everything he does.”

Since implementing a safety and health management system, Reynolds Polymer experienced no lost-time incidents in 2016 and no reportable incidents whatsoever in 2015, Johnson says. Through Sept. 22, there had been no reportable incidents in 2017.

That kind of safety record has resulted in lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums and health costs, he says.

Morale goes up because employees realize the company places a priority on their safety and well-being, Johnson says.That contributes in turn to higher employer retention and lower turnover costs. Moreover, it’s easier to recruit new employees.

Given the results and effects, Johnson recommends SHARP to other companies as a way to improve their safety and health programs.

Meanwhile, Johnson plans to continue doing whatever he can to make sure every day is a green day at Reynolds Polymer.