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Oregon OSHA - 350 Winter Street NE Room 430 - Salem, Oregon 97301-3882
For Immediate Release
October 28, 2004
Contact for more Information:
Kevin Weeks, Public Information Officer, 503-947-7428

Eugene Water & Electric Board recognized for workplace safety

(Eugene) The Department of Consumer and Business Services, Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) welcomes Eugene Water & Electric Board to Oregon OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).


SHARP is a recognition program that provides an incentive and road map for Oregon employers to work with their employees to find and correct hazards, to develop and implement effective safety-and-health programs, to continuously improve, and become self-sufficient in managing occupational safety-and-health issues. Currently 86 employers in Oregon participate in the safety-and-health recognition program.


"The real benefit for us is the reduction in the number and severity of injuries," says Doug Caven, Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) safety coordinator. "Our employees benefit from improvements, and they know safety concerns they raise are being addressed." The three-year average for the number of injuries where a day of work was lost or restricted at EWEB is 27 percent lower than the state average for power generation utilities.


"We rely on public utility workers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in any type of weather," says Peter De Luca, administrator of Oregon OSHA. "EWEB shows other Oregon employers that you can make workplace safety improvements, provide a safer place to work, and make a positive statement on the bottom line even in a demanding occupation."


Ergonomic improvements have proved successful for EWEB. An example is the use of motorized tools, including valve wrenches, which automate many tasks that previously led to injuries. "Turning a water distribution valve by hand several hundred times a day can be hard on shoulders," says Caven. "By using a motorized wrench the worker can get their job done without placing their body at risk." With tools also come process improvements, such as a policy requirement that accidents must be investigated and conclusions reported within fifteen days following the incident.


Projected savings for EWEB this year on workers' compensation system costs are expected to approach $100,000, and the lost-time injury rate for EWEB has been reduced 66 percent during the past five years. EWEB employs 450 people providing commercial and residential services to 82,000 electric and 47,000 water customers in Lane County.


Membership in SHARP does not restrict Oregon OSHA regulatory enforcement for workplace safety at work sites, and employees retain all workplace safety and health rights contained in the Oregon Safe Employment Act. Oregon employers who have been in business for more than one year are eligible to apply for SHARP regardless of size or type of business.


Oregon OSHA is committed to partnering with employers and workers to keep Oregon's injury rates low, and workers' compensation costs under control. One of the best things an employer can do to prevent injuries is to properly train employees. Oregon OSHA offers free training, free safety and health consultations, and education and training materials from the OR-OSHA Resource Center. Keep your employees and workplaces safe through a commitment to training, education and elimination of hazards. More information and resources are available on Oregon OSHA's Web site, www.orosha.org


For additional information about the SHARP program, contact Mark Hurliman with Oregon OSHA at (503) 947-7437.