NLBMDA presented the 2007 National Industry Leader in Safety Award to Sanford and Hawley Inc. in Unionville, Conn., and Curtis Lumber Co. in Plattsburgh, N.Y. NLBMDA talked to John Dubrowin, human resources director for Sanford and Hawley, and Paul Raino, Northern Division safety specialist at Curtis, about their companies.

NLBMDA: How is your company different in the way you take safety precautions?

Dubrowin: All employees receive training on elements of our safety program that apply to their positions. They get copies of relevant policies and procedures to read and sign, and they get annual refresher training. New employees get a minimum four-hour safety and health orientation training and site-specific training, and employees on specialized tasks receive additional training before starting work. We bring in industry experts to speak to employees and hold monthly reminder sessions, and maintain training records for all employees.

We thoroughly investigate accidents, near misses, and injuries so we can initiate appropriate action to prevent any future, similar event. We encourage employees to report near misses as well as any need for additional education.

Raino: The key to our success is employee involvement and ownership in the safety program. True, management provides strong, visible support, but managers could preach safety until they were blue in the face and it still might not work. The ultimate goal is to give employees control of the program. At our Plattsburgh location, there are seven safety team members, only one of whom is a supervisor. This committee makes binding decisions that impact the budget.

NLBMDA: What drives your company's commitment to safety?

Dubrowin: About 20 years ago, one of our employees was injured while using a saw. While the employee recovered, it was a serious injury and an incident that left fellow employees and the company owners traumatized. The injury, along with other claims, also led the company's workers' compensation carrier to threaten to drop coverage if the company could not reduce its claim rate.

We knew of the OSHA Consultation program, but initially feared bringing in OSHA. Instead, we implemented stricter safety procedures, started more training, and began an incentive program to reward safe work practices. While this led to some improvement, we felt we were still vulnerable based on limited in-house safety and health expertise. When we learned of an unscheduled OSHA inspection at another lumberyard, we decided it was time to pick up the phone and invite OSHA to our yard.

Our participation in OSHA's voluntary compliance program increased our commitment to safety and eventually led to a SHARP designation for three of our facilities with it pending at our fourth. [The Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) recognizes employers that operate an exemplary safety and health management system.]

Raino: First, we are committed because of our sense of responsibility for the welfare of the employee and his or her family, who rely on that paycheck. Our second reason is from capitalistic self interest. If we have to pay big insurance and health care bills for injuries, it takes away from our profits. Because we are a profit-sharing company, it's in everyone's best interest to minimize the costs of injuries and lost time.

NLBMDA: Why do you think your company is a leader in safety?

Dubrowin: Because of our commitment to safety. We have an active safety committee that meets regularly. Employees, committee members, managers, or the company's owners can raise items, which are kept on the open-item agenda until they're actioned and closed. We also have an open-door policy that gives all employees access to owners and managers, so they can communicate concerns.

Raino: We take a positive approach to being safe. We reward people for doing the right thing; we also insist on personal accountability and discipline for those few who refuse to do the right thing ? for themselves or for their co-workers. We have been changing our safety culture at this site for almost five years. It has not been easy, but the employees are coming to believe that management is truly committed.

OSHA Task Force

NLBMDA is reconvening an OSHA Task Force to renew our OSHA Alliance partnership and provide updated compliance assistance resources to building material dealers. To volunteer, contact Frank Moore at or 800.634.8645.