L-1620 Blacksmiths help set safety record

L-1620 members finish a safety meeting. L. to r., Chris Butcher, Chad Stout, Pres. Bill Bailey, Rec. Sec. Roger Jonas, Chuck Frontz, Donald Stein, committeeman Marc Bogenschutz, Doug Greenway, Caleb Carpenter, and Darwin Harshman.

Forge goes one million hours without lost-time accident

ABOUT 140 BOILERMAKERS working as blacksmiths for Portland Forge in Portland, Ind., joined other union workers and management employees at the facility to celebrate a remarkable milestone last November — one million man-hours without a lost-time accident.

The forge company uses industrial-size hammers, upsetters, and other equipment to shape metal for various products needed by industries like mining, transportation, oil, and gas. Because employees work with heavy machinery and near intense heat (typically reaching 2,400 degrees F.), the potential for serious injury is always present.

L-1620 President Bill Bailey, a 34-year member, said the company has long had a safety program, but in recent years safety has received a stronger emphasis. “We used to have a safety meeting once a month, but now each department meets weekly. We also have a safety committee, and members are encouraged to report safety issues,” he said.

Bailey added that new employees are especially vulnerable to potential injuries, so they are paired with experienced workers. “Over the last six months, the company has hired a lot of new employees, and we’re all working 50-58 hours a week. The equipment we work around is not very forgiving, but we’re doing a good job training new people,” he said. “It’s a good feeling [to reach the safety milestone]. “I hope it continues.”

The most recent safety milestone follows another impressive record reached by Portland Forge workers in 2009, when they went 50 straight weeks without a lost-time accident.

Mike Landess, L-1620 secretary-treasurer, stressed that training classes and a plant walk-around inspection provided by Director of Health and Safety Services Mark Garrett have elevated safety awareness while enhancing knowledge about safety issues.

Local 1620, a forging and shop lodge, was chartered in 1941.