Michigan Sugar, BCTGM and MIOSHA Sign Partnership for Workplace Safety and Health

Contact: LARA Communications 517-373-9280
Agency: Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

May 21, 2008 - Michigan Sugar Company; the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth (DLEG); the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA); and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) Locals 259-G, 260-G, 261-G, 262-G, and 263-G; signed a formal partnership today to improve worker safety and health at Michigan Sugar Company facilities.

The leadership of MIOSHA, Michigan Sugar Company, and the BCTGM are committed to providing Michigan Sugar employees with a safe and healthy workplace and each party will demonstrate leadership, responsibility and accountability in furthering worker safety and health at all levels.  The agreement was signed by officials from each of the partners at the Bay City headquarters.

"We are very pleased today to sign this formal partnership, which says we will all work together to make worker safety the number one priority at every Michigan Sugar facility," said MIOSHA Director Doug Kalinowski.  "This proactive agreement provides a dynamic approach where everyone is focused on creating work environments that foster worker protections."

The purpose of the partnership is to reduce worker injuries and illnesses at Michigan Sugar locations by building a relationship based on mutual respect and trust that channels the resources and talents of all the parties to anticipate, evaluate and control the safety and health hazards in Michigan Sugar facilities.

"Michigan Sugar Company is committed to the safety and well being of our employees," said Jim Ruhlman VP of Administration.  "We look forward to working collaboratively with our union leadership and our state agencies in bringing our health and safety programs to the next level."

"After the company approached the factory unions about being a partner in the MIOSHA agreement, there were many questions.  But after meetings with MIOSHA representatives and amongst the Locals, we have decided to proceed with cautious optimism," said Barry Broeckaert, President Local 262-G and Inter-Factory Chairman.

Sharing safety and health information between all partners is a key component of the agreement, and will help identify emerging issues in the food processing industry.  This agreement represents a new strategy that will emphasize proactive measures to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.  During the implementation period, MIOSHA will use both consultation and compliance staff.

The partners agree to target the reduction of the MIOSHA log summary data at each location through the use of a proactive health and safety approach and a non-adversarial relationship that maximizes the strengths and resources of all parties.  Michigan Sugar has had a formal safety and health program employing safety and health professionals for more than 20 years, which includes all elements of applicable MIOSHA standards.

Employees bring valuable skills and perspectives to the development stage of a partnership and their participation is essential. Employee and union involvement in the day-to-day implementation of worksite safety and health management systems and other partnership activities is required.

Following are key short-term goals of the partnership:

  1. Continue to use safety self inspections as the primary auditing tool.
  2. Develop a comprehensive group of audits for targeted areas.
  3. Develop a program to ensure that hearing protection is being used as required.
  4. Determine and implement an ergonomic program for all sugar packing operations.
  5. Identify and categorize all electrical circuits under the Arc Flash Standard.
  6. Conduct a complete inventory update of all chemicals used in the company.

MIOSHA inspections to investigate employee complaints, serious injuries or fatalities, and national or state emphasis programs are not precluded by this agreement.  Michigan Sugar worksites selected for general schedule inspections from the MIOSHA inspection targeting list will receive a focused inspection.

The focused inspections will include an evaluation of the 11 inspection protocols listed in the agreement.  The protocols address hazards specific to the food processing industry that are most likely to cause serious injuries.  They include ergonomics, energy control lockout/tagout, confined space entry and rescue, hearing conservation, machine/equipment guarding, personal protective equipment (PPE), chemical safety training (hazard communication), powered industrial trucks, fall protection, electrical safety, and emergency preparedness (EAP).

Michigan Sugar Company was formed in 1906 when six independent, single factory, sugarbeet companies merged.  In 2002, Michigan Sugar became a cooperative, owned by approximately 1,250 sugarbeet growers.  On October 1, 2004, the Monitor Sugarbeet Growers and their Bay City factory joined the Michigan Sugar Cooperative.  Beginning with the 2004 crop, this single, grower-owned cooperative processed all sugar produced in the state of Michigan.

Today, Michigan Sugar has four operating factories (Bay City, Caro, Croswell, and Sebewaing) in Michigan and three warehouse terminals located in Michigan and Ohio, employing 450 year-round and 1,200 seasonal workers.  Michigan Sugar Company is the fourth largest beet sugar processor in the United States , annually producing nearly one billion pounds of sugar under the Pioneer and Big Chief brand names, and generating over $300 million in direct economic activity.

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union represents more than 100,000 working men and women in the U.S. and Canada.  Safe working conditions are a major priority for the BCTGM.  The BCTGM is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

Read more Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth press releases.