Lakeshore Sand: what's behind its winning safety performance

Mar 20, 2013

Lakeshore Sand: what's behind its winning safety performanceIn late 2012, the Canadian Foundry Association presented Fairmount Minerals' Lakeshore Sand operation in Hamilton, ON, with its annual CFA/WSPS Health and Safety Award, Certificate of Recognition. The processing and packaging operation has achieved 13 years without a single lost-time injury.

HSO Network News spoke with Bob Van Wyngaarden, the general manager, for insights on how Lakeshore Sand sustains its health and safety performance. “Our approach isn’t complicated,” Van Wyngaarden said, “but it is thorough.”

About the operation

Lakeshore Sand annually imports 140,000 tons of lake sand from a Fairmount mine in Michigan and 15,000 tons of bunker sand from Ohio. Once on site, operators dry, screen and ship the sand in bulk loads or bags to customers according to their specifications. Historically, the core business has been supplying sand to foundries, which use the sand to produce castings. This is changing, says Van Wyngaarden. Lakeshore Sand's client list increasingly includes non-foundry customers who use the sand for many purposes, such as manufacturing fibreglass and grouting, making bricks, and lining golf course bunkers.

In addition to Van Wyngaarden, the operation has five employees: three operators, one administrative assistant, and one sales person.

Key hazards

Among the primary potential hazards for operations such as Lakeshore Sand are exposure to machines, tools and equipment. Depending on the operation and its health and safety program, this could place workers in contact with

  • lifting devices, such as front-end loaders and lift trucks
  • moving parts, such as conveyor belts, bucket elevators, and oscillating screens.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), resulting from repetitive motion, forceful physical handling, excessive reach, static postures, etc. are another potential hazard for sand processing operations and their office staff.

How Lakeshore Sand keeps its workers safe

Ask Van Wyngaarden this, and in the ensuing conversation you can check off an entire must-have list, from demonstrated corporate commitment to a responsive, involved workforce.

But what stands out is a long-established health and safety culture that is reinforced every day. “It’s a way of life based on a simple premise,” says Van Wyngaarden. “Our CEO has said many times, ‘We want all our employees to go home safely.’”

But Van Wyngaarden knows that showing employees the company cares is just the start. “You have to demonstrate your commitment, set expectations for everyone, and get their commitment in return.”

Putting corporate commitment into practice means

  • having a solid health and safety policy and program in place
  • ensuring everyone understands and follows through on their health and safety responsibilities
  • maintaining engineering controls to eliminate or reduce exposure to hazardous materials
  • keeping hazard assessments up to date
  • ensuring employees have a full understanding of all workplace hazards and how to control them, including proper machine guarding, lockout, maintenance, housekeeping
  • providing rigorous, ongoing hazard training
  • conducting regular environmental and health assessments.

One of Lakeshore Sand's greatest strengths is a stable workforce. Among the three equipment operators, the person with the least seniority already has 18 years experience. Van Wyngaarden himself has been with the operation for more than 20 years. Such stable working relationships result in shared values, and a deep personal commitment to protecting your fellow workers.

The potential downside: complacency. Van Wyngaarden prevents complacency by conducting

  • monthly safety awareness meetings. “It's not like in the old days when a five-minute safety talk might have been considered sufficient. Typically, our meetings last an hour. Employees help determine the topic, and with Fairmount’s help I source videos and other resources beforehand. Topics could be on whatever we think is timely: machine guarding, preventing musculoskeletal disorders, safe lifting, electrical hazards, proper lockout, working in cold weather…”
  • frequent, impromptu tailgate talks. Van Wyngaarden often bases these talks on recent incidents, whether it’s an incident that Fairmount's corporate health and safety director has shared with all Fairmount operations, or an item in the newspaper. “We discuss what went wrong, how we could prevent a similar incident, and how to remain aware of what’s going on around you.”
  • one-on-one conversations during regular walk-throughs. “These aren't planned. If I need to speak to someone, I’ll just work something about safety into the conversation.”

“The point is to stay vigilant,” says Van Wyngaarden. “Your workplace can have a first-rate policy and program in place, but if safety isn't integrated into what you’re doing every day, then your people are at risk.”

How WSPS can help

Partners in Prevention Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show, taking place April 30-May 1 in Mississauga, brings a world of learning opportunities and resources to you. Here’s a sampling of offerings:

  • 13 professional development courses, such as
    • Conducting Office Ergonomics Assessments
    • Inspecting & Maintaining Steel Storage Racks
    • Is Your Occupational Health and Safety Training Program Up to Standard
    • Measurement and Evaluation in OHS Managed Systems
  • 60+ conference sessions, including these core health and safety topics:
    • Electrical Safety for Non Electrical Workers
    • Falls Prevention
    • Leading a Safety Culture Change
    • MSD Forum - Benchmarking MSD Hazards in Ontario Workplaces
    • Noise: A Practical Investigative Approach
    • Orienting New Workers - Approaches for Successful Onboarding
    • Your Workforce is Changing: Keep Productivity Up and Injuries Down
  • a trade show with 400+ exhibit booths representing North America’s leading health and safety product and service suppliers.

Find out more today. The early bird registration deadline is April 2.