Pro dealer–specific safety tips will soon be only a mouse click away. As part of its participation in OSHA's Alliance educational program, the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) will be coordinating a page on OSHA's Web site devoted to tips on how to improve lumberyard safety.

OSHA initiated the Alliance program last year to further its outreach, compliance, and enforcement objectives by enabling organizations committed to workplace safety and health to collaborate with OSHA to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace.

NLBMDA signed on in July 2003, and its initial goal is to provide members with a safety and health page on OSHA's Web site with information on forklift operation, record keeping, and safe lifting. This page could include interactive “e-tools” that walk dealers through best practices, says NLBMDA's director of regulatory and industry affairs, T.J. Cantwell. “This is an opportunity to provide another resource to members and the industry, and to work with OSHA to make sure the information we're providing is in compliance,” he says.

Alliance is the latest business-friendly approach to compliance that has become OSHA's modus operandi under John Henshaw, who left a career in the chemicals business to become OSHA's administrator in August 2001.OSHA isn't funding Alliance, but Henshaw noted that, with 170 companies and associations in the program, there's plenty of existing safety material its partners can draw upon. NLBMDA, in fact, is contemplating a link on its page to ergonomic information on the American Furniture Manufacturers Association's site, “so that we're not reinventing the wheel,” says Gregg Speed, safety director for Maine's Hancock Lumber. Speed and Cantwell serve on NLBMDA's Alliance implementation team with Gary Raven, Builders FirstSource's vice president of environmental, safety and health; and John Smith, risk manager for Foxworth-Galbraith, who brought Alliance to the association's attention. “As a business, it makes more sense to work with a regulatory agency instead of against it,” explained Smith. While he conceded that pro dealers are never keen on joining hands with the government, “the [material OSHA] has been putting out about how safety adds value to a business is something they can relate to.”

Henshaw and Cantwell hope that Alliance will help break down the “fear factor” pro dealers sometimes harbor about compliance, safety, and its costs. At the very least, Alliance should heighten awareness about safety in an industry whose track record in this area has gotten better in recent years. OSHA data show that incidence rates for nonfatal injuries and illnesses at retail lumberyards and building centers stood at 8.4 per 100 full-time workers in 2002, versus 10.7 in 1998. Builders FirstSource's injury claims fell 27 percent over the last two years, says Raven. Foxworth-Galbraith, with 70 yards and 3,000 employees, had 200 recordable injuries in 2003, compared to 350 in 2000 with fewer associates, says Smith.

With programs like Alliance and participation from industry organizations, more lumberyards should continue feeling the same improvements. —John Caulfield is a contributing editor to PROSALES.