By Aaron Corvin
Diamond Fruit Growers Inc. has served a variety of agricultural markets for more than 100 years, becoming one of the largest shippers of fresh pears in North America.
The farmer-owned cooperative's journey to business success is replete with accomplishments in sustaining family farmers and managing warehouse operations that handle and ship high-quality pears.
Yet the company, headquartered in the Hood River Valley, also moves forward on another trek that it sees as fundamental to its current and future success: continuously cultivating a safe place to work.
The company created the mantra "Safety is no accident: The journey to zero." It forms the core philosophy of the company's safety committee.
To say it is working would be an understatement. For example, the company received the 2017 Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference Safety Committee Award.
Indeed, the company understands that keeping people safe on the job amounts to staring complacency in the eye and overcoming it – during every safety committee meeting and during every work day.
"Employee safety at Diamond Fruit doesn't just occur by accident, but rather through strategic and measurable planning that is constantly monitored and communicated," said Mike Moore, human resources/safety coordinator for the company. "The safety of our employees is also a journey, where the destination is zero employee accidents."
A strong safety committee is a critical component of building a culture of safety. It's a sounding board for identifying hazards. It's a place for employees and managers to work together to fix those hazards.
If you are an employer in Oregon, your business must have a safety committee or hold safety meetings – unless you are the sole owner and the only employee of a corporation.
General industry and construction employers must follow the safety committee and meeting requirements under Oregon OSHA's rules for those industries.
Oregon OSHA's most violated agriculture rules include no safety committees or safety meetings. In 2016, for all industries, rules about safety committees or safety meetings were the No. 2 most-cited standards during Oregon OSHA inspections. Documentation of safety committee meetings was No. 4.
Diamond Fruit Growers exemplifies the benefits of developing and maintaining an active and effective safety committee.
Its accomplishments are as plentiful as the crops grown by the cooperative's growers. They include:
For Moore, safety is a personal value. He measures success, he said, when employees are "able to return home at the end of their shift in the same physical condition as when they reported to work."
Summer through fall will be a very busy time for Diamond Fruit's growers, Moore said, as they harvest and deliver crops to the warehouse.
And safety stands foremost in Moore's mind.
"Then, the work begins for us at the warehouse level," he said, describing the 104-year-old cooperative's process. "Communication with and observing employees in action, as well as providing and using personal protective equipment, will be critical components to employee safety."
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