Occupational Hazards' 2000 Champions of Safety

Ron Hayes and Hazleton Pumps combine unconventional methods and old-fashioned hard work to advance workplace safety.

Advocates of workplace safety can come from unexpected places. Take Occupational Hazards' 2000 Champions of Safety, for example.

The two winners, Ron Hayes of The FIGHT Project and Hazleton Pumps, are perfect examples of how environmental, health and safety professionals are not the only ones who champion the cause of safety.

Hayes had little interest in or knowledge of workplace safety issues until his son, 19-year-old Patrick, died in 1993 in a grain bin accident. That tragedy led the Fairhope, Ala., man on a crusade to find out why his son died and what could be done to prevent a similar tragedy.

For the first 44 years of his life, Hayes led a normal life as an X-ray technician at a local hospital. Then Pat's death turned the world of Hayes and his family, including wife Dot and three other children, upside down.

Hayes formed The FIGHT Project to help other grieving families fight through governmental red tape to get answers about their loved ones' deaths. His crusade has drawn attention from media around the country.

"Dot and I were private people," Hayes said. "I'd never been in a newspaper before. I just worked every day and took care of my family."

Hayes was willing to give up his private life because families who have suffered from similar tragedies needed a voice. "Somebody had to blaze that trail and make the hard decision," he said. "We had to make a path for these other families."

The story of Hazleton Pumps may not have as much human drama, but the company's impact on worker safety at the Hazleton, Pa., plant has been dramatic.

Employees tossed out an environmental, health and safety program focused only on compliance and wrote their own EHS program from the ground up. The workers only had a basic understanding of safety, but that did not stop them from developing a program that has resulted in a significant drop in injuries and illnesses.

"Prior to the new safety program, safety wasn't part of their job," said Nancy Sisock, the safety coordinator. "Employees were given time off of the floor to implement the safety program. They became our specialists."

The icing on the cake came in June when the facility was awarded Voluntary Protection Program Star status, the first iron and steel foundry to earn such an honor.

The 2000 Champions of Safety is Occupational Hazards' sixth-annual awards contest that honors companies, plants or individuals who have made significant achievements in advancing workplace safety and health. It is our hope that the stories about Hayes and Hazleton Pumps on the following pages will encourage our readers to continue the fight to ensure that workers return home safe and sound each day.

Champions of Safety candidates were judged by a panel of Occupational Hazards' editors, who had the difficult task of reviewing and debating the merits of each entry and determining winners among many worthwhile candidates.

The Champions of Safety Contest puts a premium on each entrant's demonstration of improving occupational safety and health performance as opposed to fulfilling rigid criteria.

Factors that support a winning entrant include management leadership and support, scope of training efforts, identification and reduction of hazards, employee involvement, innovative or exemplary programs, progressively lower injury and illness rates, and strategies for continuous improvement.

We encourage you to enter the 2001 Champions of Safety Contest.

Winners will receive a crystal trophy and $1,000.

For more information, call Associate Editor Todd Nighswonger at (216) 931-9540.

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