Minnesota manufacturer invests in safety

When Jones Metal Inc. identified a safety risk in the shipping process, they didn’t delay in finding a solution.

The SFM policyholder, based in Mankato, Minnesota, provides custom sheet metal fabrication services for original equipment manufacturers in industries as varied as agriculture, construction and defense. The family-owned business, which marked 75 years in 2017, employs more than 80 people.

Safety grant funds new equipment

The pallet-wrapping process required two people lifting a roll of shrink wrap and reaching up and around the pallet while it was held up by a forklift. No injuries had occurred, yet the shipping manager recognized the risk of strains, sprains or being struck by a forklift and brought an automated solution to the company’s attention.

Jones Metal applied for a Minnesota OSHA safety grant to help them pay for an automated pallet wrapper that would eliminate the risks and improve their shipping process. The MNOSHA safety grant program awards up to $10,000 in matching funds to “qualifying employers for projects designed to reduce the risk of injury and illness to their workers,” according to the MNOSHA website. The application requires an on-site inspection and written report by a qualified safety professional.

Jones Metal’s Director of Human Resources, Val Bentdahl, called in SFM Loss Prevention Technical Leader Lee Wendel to assist in applying for the grant. Wendel visited their manufacturing facility, observed the pallet-wrapping process and provided a written recommendation for the equipment.

Jones Metal received the matching grant and installed the machine.

The end result: A safer and more efficient process. The step that previously required three workers now takes only a forklift driver, who operates the pallet wrapper with a remote control.

“The machine prevents the possibility of strain injuries and struck-by injuries, plus saves time,” explained Bentdahl. “It wraps the material in a fraction of the time, and it’s much more secure. It eliminates quality issues, and eliminates injuries.”

Focus on training from day one and return-to-work

Since Jones Metal became an SFM policyholder in 2015, it has taken full advantage of SFM’s safety resources. Working in a higher risk industry, Jones Metal is never complacent about injury prevention. Their safety committee proactively recognizes and addresses risks.

“They’re on the leading edge of adopting changes that are safer for their employees,” Wendel said.

They train employees on safety from day one, and experienced workers — their skilled workforce averages 14 years of experience — continue to receive safety training. They leverage the Minnesota Safety Council for specialized training.

They’re on the leading edge of adopting changes that are safer for their employees.

~ Lee Wendel

Most of their safety training takes place through the online learning management system SFM offers free of charge to policyholders, called Vivid Learning Systems.

Vivid offers interactive 20- to 40-minute modules employees take individually, when it fits in their schedule. Topics cover a wide range of occupational health and safety subjects. Jones Metal makes use of online trainings for hearing protection, lockout/tagout and more.

When an injury does occur, Jones Metal supervisors respond quickly. Very few of their claims become lost-time claims because they understand the importance of bringing injured employees back to work as soon as possible. Jones Metal works within any medical restrictions to find transitional jobs for their workers, and they involve themselves with the claims process.

Even with a good loss history and an e-mod that has improved almost 20 percent in the last three years, Jones Metal continues to emphasize injury prevention.

“They’re always striving to do better than they’ve done before and looking for more resources to prevent injuries for their employees,” Wendel said.

Photo courtesy of Jones Metal

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