Case Study

Recognizing Small Businesses That Demonstrate a Commitment to Health and Safety

Published: April 12, 2003

A meaningful reward is a great motivator in a great many arenas, including the practice of safety compliance.

The Safety, Health, Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), a federal safety compliance program administered by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), is proving the truth of this principle.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) program is designed to assist - and reward - Georgia's small businesses in high-hazard industries with exemplary safety records. SHARP is only a few years old, but the idea is already paying off for some companies.

SHARP focuses on small businesses that have already demonstrated a commitment to health and safety. Safety audits conducted by GTRI personnel give these businesses the opportunity to strengthen their safety records and then become certified in SHARP, says Gayle Fratto, GTRI manager of safety engineering. Certification means more than just a pat on the back: SHARP-certified businesses are exempt from regularly programmed safety programs for the period of certification. 

The program is aimed at small- and medium-sized businesses - those with no more than 500 employees - that may not have the resources to implement a large-scale safety program.

Companies seeking SHARP certification must also meet other criteria for acceptance into the program. They must have: a safety management program in place; an incident rate below the national average; on-site safety audits by GTRI personnel; and removal of any hazards that auditors find. Also, companies must agree to inform GTRI if they make any major facility or operational changes that may introduce new hazards.

In Georgia, five companies are seeking SHARP status - including Atlanta-based Phoenix Stamping, a metal-stamping company that makes connectors for the material-handling business. With only 50 employees, a strong commitment to safety and a desire for improvement, Phoenix was an excellent match for the program, Fratto says.

"We've always wanted to be as proactive as possible," says Phoenix safety director Brandyn Chapman, explaining the company's decision to seek SHARP status. Investing in the program made good business sense for the 4-year-old company.

In the past year, the company has done a lot of work to meet OSHA's expectations, Chapman says. Phoenix developed a database to track maintenance, and workers established accounting systems for plant operations. And the company received buy-in from its employees - an important step, he adds.

Evaluating Phoenix's commitment to meet SHARP requirements, Fratto says: "They worked really hard and spent a lot of money in the past year to make this happen." Fratto speaks with admiration about businesses, such as Phoenix, that have the foresight to undertake an effort like this. Implementation of a high-quality safety program reaps many economic rewards for businesses, including reduced injuries, improved productivity and reduced worker compensation costs, he explains.

But to businesses like Phoenix, another reward is just as great - providing for employees. A sound safety program is an additional way of showing concern for your employees, Chapman says. "We believe that you take care of the people who take care of you," he adds.