“We are accustomed to contact with OSHA at Saybrook,” says Michial Autry, Manager, Environment, Health, and Safety at Mohawk at its Saybrook, Ohio converting and distribution center. “And that’s not because we have so many injuries or near miss events,” he quickly explains, “it’s because we’re an OSHA VPP Star site. We are in contact with OSHA a great deal as a result of that, and we view those interactions as positive and necessary,” Michial says.

Michial explained this philosophy when we sat down with him to uncover how Mohawk has built a best-in-class safety culture over the years.

Mohawk is no ordinary company, and its safety program is not “ordinary” either; in fact, its award-winning safety program has achieved outstanding results, and the Saybrook center specifically has been an OSHA VPP Star site since 2003.

With more than 600 employees, Mohawk is a 4th-generation family-owned paper manufacturing company based out of New York. Its purpose: make print more beautiful, effective, and memorable.

Although our conversation first focused on how to always stay prepared for a visit from OSHA, keep reading to learn about actionable strategies Michial shared that will help you foster an outstanding, best-in-class safety program, just like Mohawk has done.

1. Make Being ‘OSHA Ready’ a Keystone of Your Culture

the business of safety

Mohawk strives to set industry-leading standards for safe operations. That’s part of why they are known throughout the paper manufacturing industry for their commitment to safety and operational excellence.

A key part of that is always being OSHA ready, but “not because of any high ideal or mandate, it simply is the right thing to do,” says Michial. “Look over any business and [there might be] 10,000 rules, regulations and guidelines that govern what that business does. Coloring inside the lines, 100% of the time, is a Herculean feat. The business of safety does not occur behind a desk or workstation, it occurs on the floor and in between the ears of the people performing the job,” says Michial.

In other words, it’s about continuous improvement and strategically empowering your people as much as possible to promote a positive, proactive safety culture, says Michial. Being OSHA ready is a mindset that’s a part of that overall philosophy. “The important thing is making certain that conditions and behaviors do not lead us on a path to injury,” Michial adds.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Another key lesson from Michial is that employees at Mohawk (and that includes him!) aren’t afraid to ask questions from a learning posture. This also just sets the standards high and it helps drive accountability, in a positive sense. “Our leadership team asks lots of questions and probably demands more of us than any regulatory agency would ever ask. For that I am thankful. We do these things because it is the right thing to do, and to do otherwise is foolish,” explains Michial.

That mentality may involve asking questions to other Mohawk colleagues, and it can even be extended to interactions with OSHA reps and partners and other stakeholders, too.

Imagine you filed information, but the FROI information didn’t tell the entire story, so clarification was needed. For example, if a location suffered a hand injury, the early report may have used the term amputation. The injury may have been medically classified as a degloving. Under 1904.39, the location would not record that event as amputation.

“In this example, even if it is extreme, I am in the corner of—if it doesn’t make sense, make sure you ask. The worst that can happen is, we learn something,” says Michial. Having a culture where workers feel safe enough to ask questions (no matter who they are interacting with) really depends on a strong foundation of trust, he says.

3. Make Sure Your Workers Know How to Greet an OSHA Rep

Mohawk has fostered a culture with deep care and respect for team members, partners, and customers. That care and respect is extended to OSHA reps, too, if they make a visit. That’s why team members know they should be cordial, polite, and positive during all interactions with OHSA reps. “Most companies have visitors, vendors, prospective customers on site all of the time, why should this be any different?” says Michial.

Just so they are prepared, Mohawk has simple training on this process. That includes verifying the rep’s identification, being polite, and notifying the manager.

“We seat them in the conference room and get them a bottle of water and let them know that we will have someone with them shortly,” adds Michial.

A key part of this “always ready” state is really about having records organized and supervisors knowing where they are, though, says Michial, which iReportSource helps to do. “Even if they may not have access, it is a good thing to know,” he explains. That may include being ready to show:

  • Information about the facility, including number of employees/workers
  • Names of managers/supervisors in charge
  • Contact information for those parties
  • Up-to-date injury and illness logs

being organized improves your safety culture4. Know that Being Organized Will Improve Your Culture 

When it comes to all things safety—including OSHA compliance and being prepared for a visit from OSHA—best-in-class organizations like Mohawk strive to be as organized as possible.

So what might that include? Here are 3 things, at minimum you want to have organized:

  • All your safety documents, up to date, in one place. This means workers have access to the most current procedures and the most up-to-dates documents they need.
  • All your OSHA-required information, in one destination. A tool like iReportSource gives you that instantly, in an OSHA friendly format, available on-demand, whenever you need it.
  • Real-time incident and claim reporting details in one place. “If OSHA has a clarification question, that question is addressed with documentation. This is where a tool such as iReportSource is fantastic – no need to search files, download the PDF of attachments and boom you have the evidence you were looking for,” explains Michial.

“Previously, I was drowning in paper and chasing all the follow ups, I just knew something was going to fall through the floorboards. We are a paper company and I love paper. Our company says, ‘What will you make today?’, and paper is the perfect medium for making things and producing things, but it is terrible for recordkeeping and keeping up with who requires training and who is trained on what,” explains Michial. “iReportSource fills that gap and is a tool that evolves as our business evolves.”

Use a Manufacturing App to Improve Safety at Your Manufacturing Site

Do you have your workers’ comp, leading indicators, safety and other general liability and insurance reports easily accessible and available to you, on-demand? Ensure you’re ready when OSHA arrives, but also be organized no matter what, with the help of iReportSource.

Managing safety with paper, email, or excel is a thing of the past. Learn more about how iReportSource can save your manufacturing facility time, money, and more.