More than 50 people from across Lincoln County converged on the senior center on the Gaston College campus to be honored for safety on the job.
It was the annual safety awards banquet.
Lincolnton-based Actavis received a gold award for three consecutive years of safety and a plaque for achieving a goal of 1,105,859 accident free hours.
Actavis human resources assistant Elaine Childs accepted both awards for the company.
â€œThe company worked very hard to achieve this,â€ said Childs. â€œItâ€™s the employees. They are very safety oriented. Thereâ€™s a very strong team environment at Actavis regarding safety.â€
On average, the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) awards 100 companies each year for achieving a million-plus hours of safety.
â€œItâ€™s rare to go that many man hours without a lost time accident,â€ said NCDOL commissioner Cherie Berry. â€œIt says that Actavis has an outstanding safety program where everyone working there takes ownership in safety.â€
More than 12 companies were honored with safety awards, including Cochrane Furniture, Mohican Mills and Steele Rubber Products.
Two City of Lincolnton departments, the administrative office and utilities department, were recognized for safety. The utilities department won a first year silver award, while the administrative office was recognized for the seventh consecutive year in a row.
Berry said that during 2007, more than 2,000 awards are given statewide as part of the DOLâ€™s safety awards program.
â€œNorth Carolina is third in workplace safety behind New York and Louisiana,â€ said Berry. â€œThe ranking is determined by the injury and illness rate per 100 full-time workers.â€
As each year passes, the state gets safer.
Berry said that the number of fatalities in the workplace has decreased by four between 2005 and 2006. There were 68 workplace fatalities in 2005 and 64 in 2006.
â€œWeâ€™ve been on a downward trend, but even one is unacceptable,â€ said Berry. â€œWeâ€™re working on it.â€
Berry praised the businesses and industries that were honored at the Thursday night awards ceremony.
She said it was a â€œgreat giftâ€ of safety that business owners and managers can give to employees.
â€œBy giving the gift of safety, youâ€™re allowing your employees to earn to their highest potential,â€ said Berry. â€œThat guarantees our freedom because your employees donâ€™t have to depend on anyone else.â€
Berry added more people than ever are working in North Carolina — 4.5 million people — in part because of workplace safety.
â€œSafety also ensures company profitability,â€ said Berry. â€œBusiness in North Carolina is doing very well.â€
Berry said one of the major challenges to workplace safety is the influx of people from other countries. She cited the example that more than 90 percent of all construction workers speak English as a second language.
She touted the NCDOL program called â€œMobile 1,â€ which is a recreational vehicle classroom that travels all over the state to provide customized training programs to job site needs.
The training provided is done in both English and Spanish.
â€œWe need to be able to provide training for these people so they can be able to work safely,â€ said Berry. â€œMany of these people canâ€™t even read their own language.â€
North Carolina is the only state in the nation to have such a service.
Berry also touted apprenticeship programs and specifically mentioned Blum.
â€œI call the apprenticeship programs across the state the other four year degree,â€ said Berry, adding there are more than 900 apprenticeship programs. â€œWhen the person gets a journeymanâ€™s certificate, it means more to them than a college degree.â€
NCDOL safety awards coordinator LaFonda Mauldin said the criteria for silver and gold awards are different.
â€œThe number of lost workday cases are the determining factor if a company wins a silver award,â€ said Mauldin. â€œThe number of lost workday and restricted workday cases, meantime, are used as criteria to determine a gold award.â€ East Lincolnâ€™s cabinetry maker Blum was the other silver one year award winner.
Steel Rubber Products plant manager John Dancoff said safety more than policy and procedure, itâ€™s a mindset.
â€œItâ€™s more psychological than people think,â€ said Dancoff. â€œIf employees think theyâ€™re safe where they work, then theyâ€™ll work safely.â€
The Lincolnton/Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce was also honored for 21 years of co-sponsoring the event with NCDOL. This yearâ€™s safety awards banquet was co-sponsored by the NCDOL and Staffmasters.
by Jon Mayhew