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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Safety, key for Columbia Flooring

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Arkansas Department of Labor awarded Columbia Flooring in Melbourne the One Million Work Hour Safety Award July 1 in front of a crowd of employees and county officials. Photo by Jody Shackelford
With a crowd of employees and Izard County officials, Arkansas Department of Labor Director James Salkeld presented Columbia Flooring in Melbourne with the One Million Work Hour Safety Award July 1, with a total of 1,052,034 hours worked without a lost-time injury.

"You take 280 of you with saws, grinders and all the other instruments that are out there multiplied by the number of seconds in the day, you can see all the opportunities there are to be hurt and you haven't. You have looked after each other very well. Congratulations to each and every one of you," Director Salkeld said.

The last recorded lost time injury was July 24, 2006, and since that time the company has worked hard to increase safety awareness, Terry Overturf, plant safety coordinator at Columbia Flooring said.

The One Million Work Hour Safety Award was presented to Columbia Flooring July 1 from the Arkansas Department of Labor. Columbia Flooring employs 280 individuals, many of whom attended the ceremony. Photo by Jody Shackelford
"A lost time accident, is an accident that keeps someone from going back to work, either they are hospitalized or the doctor says you need three or four days to recuperate before you can go back to work," Overturf said. "We have gone without one for 708 days now."

Overturf said they are currently seeking the next goal of two million work hours without any lost time injuries but just one will completely reset the clock.

With so many employees and a probability stacked against the issue, Overturf said he likes to think one million hours is not just luck.

"It is a matter of being aware and keeping your mind focused on what you are doing and being observant. We watch out for each other and we watch out for ourselves. We can't do it alone, it takes all of us as a group," Overturf said.

As safety coordinator Overturf oversees all safety aspects and programs of the plant, and says that people learn and practice safety more than they realize.

"Since they were kids, people have had safety training. First, they get it from their parents who say, 'don't touch that, it is hot.' You are just bombarded by safety everyday no matter what you are doing," he said. "It is easy to lose your concentration."

"It is my job to make sure I have my fingers in all those pies to make sure we don't forget anything," he said.

Overturf said that in a plant such as Columbia Flooring with hazards at every corner such as saws, planers, chains, belts and cogs, attention to detail and awareness is of utmost importance in preventing injury.

Overturf said in his job the investigation into why an accident occurred, be it a lost time injury or a small cut, is the worst part of the position because he feels responsible in many ways for the injury.

"To me, it is a personal failure when someone gets hurt. Even if a person gets hurt due to their own actions, such as not keeping their mind on the task they were performing and something occurred or they had a lapse of thought for a moment and got their hand in a place it shouldn't have been and got it smashed or hurt. Although I may not have received an injury, I always feel like, 'where did I fail' or 'what could I have done to keep this from happening? Why didn't I see this?'" he said.

When a person receives an injury, Overturf said the event affects multiple people besides the person hurt.

"A co-worker standing next to you who sees you get caught in that piece of machinery, it is going to affect them. You're never in it alone," he said.

The biggest enemy of safety is distraction, Overturf said. "If you don't keep focused on the task at hand something is bound to happen sooner or later. Cell phones cause a lot of accidents because people are not focused on the task of driving. Lots of people could do it thousands of times, hundreds of hours, millions of phone calls and never anything happen, but it only takes once. It is a matter of staying focused," he said.

Second in the list of adversaries of safety is complacency, he said. "You get used to doing something over and over again and something could change and you just don't see what is there," he said.

Overture said the best place to get safety research, especially in a specific area of the plant, is the employees themselves who work there day in and day out. "They see things that we don't see," he said.

"Perfect example is we had a blind spot in one of the warehouses for the forklift traffic and the pedestrian traffic. One of the employees came up and said, 'you know, if we put one of those dome mirrors right there everyone could see and we won't have any accidents," Overturf said. "We put up mirrors about a week and a half later and we have not had a near miss or an accident since. Your best ideas come from people who are doing the job."

Columbia Flooring employs 280 individuals and according to Izard County Sheriff Tate Lawrence the plant is a vital piece of the local economy.

The plant is on its way towards the next lost-time, injury free, million work hours and with Overturf at the helm of safety, he said he is confident in the employees and their proven ability to stay safe.

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