DPR Construction partners with OSHA and Georgia Tech on Strategic Safety Program

Ga Tech Safety consultants

OSHA’s Safe + Sound is a year-round campaign to encourage every workplace to have a safety and health program. Safe + Sound Week is a nationwide event held each August that recognizes the successes of workplace health and safety programs and offers information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe.

Partnership in Action

So it only seems timely to recognize the OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP) between the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) Group at Georgia Tech and DPR Construction. The OSPP provides opportunities for OSHA to partner with employers, and are unique agreements designed to encourage, assist, and recognize partner efforts to eliminate serious hazards and enhance workplace safety and health practices. OSHA Strategic Partnerships establish specific goals, strategies, and performance measures to improve worker safety and health.

“I’ve been with OSHA for over 23 years, and we have the most partnerships in Region 4 compared to the rest of the United States. We work with really great companies that are committed to safety and form lasting partnerships that promote continued safety and health company wide,” stated Robin Cathey Bennett, OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialist.

DPR and Georgia Tech have worked together with OSHA on multiple projects for their safety management programs. Recently our safety consultants have been assisting DPR with a 990 square foot construction project for a manufacturing plant in Georgia.

To date, the Georgia Tech 21(d) Consultation Program has:

  • Conducted three safety walk throughs to assess all aspects of the site
  • Assessed noise levels and monitoring in different areas of the construction site
  • Conducted three industrial hygiene surveys where consultants collected data on air contaminants, noise, and heat stress
  • Provided guidance to subcontractors on the roles and responsibilities for multiemployer worksites
  • Collected data through heat and heart rate monitoring with Slate safety armbands worn by workers during their shift
  • Examined how heat effects injury rates and ergonomics
  • Evaluated confined space hazards
  • Observed temporary workers and provided necessary safety trainings

“The group at Georgia Tech has been a wonderful partner for us. I have them on speed dial. They are always willing to answer the call and help us in a timely manner. You don’t find many partners like that,” said Kris White, DPR Safety Director.

By working with SHES, DPR has:

  • Eliminated 9 serious hazards and three other than serious hazards at the job site
  • Trained 30 employees on safety and health processes for a construction site
  • Provided 6 comprehensive reports to DPR with safety recommendations in the areas they monitored and captured data on for each individual visit.
  • Addressed the following OSHA emphasis programs during the visits: temporary workers, falls, commercial construction, and heat stress prevention.

“I am really proud of this partnership and our work with this program,” stated Jenny Houlroyd, manager, Occupational Health Services at Georgia Tech. “We really believe in the program and just received an OSCAR Award from OSHA for our continued commitment to construction partnerships.”

Successful safety and health programs are proactive and identify hazards before they cause injury or illness. The Georgia Tech 21(d) Consultation is a confidential program that can help evaluate your company’s current plan, or even get your program started should you not have one.

Improving safety and health programs have many components from management commitment to continuing education. Check out some of our stories and resources that recognize our safety successes, and don’t forget to participate in Safe + Sound Week so you can share your company’s commitment to safety and health!

Wasted at Work: Tips for reducing fatigue and injury in the workplace

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).

Man at work who is tired

Fatigue is often an unnoticed factor affecting the workplace. Its mental impact is comparable to that of alcohol, with 21 hours of sleep deprivation equating to a blood alcohol content sufficient to fail a breathalyzer test. However, identifying the effects of fatigue can be challenging, as they are not always apparent from an external perspective. Fatigue can lead to diminished concentration, attention, memory, irritability, and other detrimental effects. Over time, this can result in boredom, a lack of fulfillment, and decreased productivity. In high-risk industries, fatigue can pose life-threatening risks. So, how can we address these negative impacts of fatigue effectively?

System-Level Focus

One approach is to focus on the system that gives rise to fatigue-inducing conditions. Research on workplace safety has revealed that 85% of workplace errors are caused by systemic factors rather than individual workers themselves. As Philip Greison, Vice President of PROSAFE Solutions, says, “When [workers] are fatigue-drunk, we don’t just tolerate it. We actually create the system that causes it.” Especially considering high turnover rates and the considerable resources required to attempt to change the mindset of each individual worker, it becomes evident that allocating resources towards changing the system is the most effective approach. For example, many companies follow the Department of Transportation’s 14-hour maximum for drivers and apply it to their own workplaces. However, if workers are working 14-hour shifts, do they really have enough time to commute home, take care of personal and familial responsibilities, eat, clean, and still be able to get a good night’s sleep? Addressing this concern, a Florida-based company implemented a change by giving employees a 7% blanket pay raise while reducing working hours. Six months later, they gave an additional 3% pay raise. These changes resulted in increased productivity, higher morale, improved worker retention, and enhanced profits. Avoiding long shifts, ensuring adequate rest and recovery time between shifts, and incorporating regular breaks during shifts are effective system-level changes that employers can make to mitigate fatigue.

Embracing Automation

Introducing automation is an intriguing approach for workplaces and another solution to help combat and reduce fatigue. However, it is crucial to evaluate existing processes thoroughly, identify hazards, and involve employees in the design before implementing automation. Otherwise, you may be “automating a bad process and producing bad results faster and more efficiently,” Paul Todd, leader of Georgia Tech’s Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) team, says. The phrase “dull, dirty, and dangerous” describes tasks that may be prime candidates for automation because it would reduce risk and allow employees to focus their skills on more fulfilling tasks that require human talents. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that automation extends beyond the traditional perception of large, hazardous machinery often associated with car manufacturing facilities. There is a wide range of automation technology, including smaller-scale equipment that can be effectively and safely implemented in various workplace settings. By evaluating processes that contribute to fatigue and experimenting with changes, especially at the system level, employers can effectively manage the effects of fatigue and foster a more satisfying and sustainable workplace.

Mitigating the negative impacts of workplace fatigue requires addressing systemic factors rather than solely focusing on individual employees. By implementing system-level changes, such as avoiding long shifts, allowing sufficient rest time, and considering automation where applicable, organizations can create a more fulfilling and sustainable work environment.

Watch our webinar

Tips for Reducing Fatigue and Injury in the Workplace, to hear directly from Georgia Tech experts on how organizations can help their workers stay mentally and physically engaged while on the job.

Grenzebach: Putting Safety First

You Tube image from Grenzebach video

Customer Profile

Grenzebach is a privately owned, family-run company based in Germany, with 1,600 employees worldwide and 100 employees at its Newnan, Georgia, facility. Primarily a material handling manufacturer, Grenzebach produces large conveying systems for the glass industry and for James Hardie, makers of exterior siding products. The company also produces solar glass and manufactures electric automated guided vehicles for use in moving materials from place to place inside distribution facilities.


Prior to 2012, Grenzebach’s Newnan plant was experiencing too many recordable injuries, said Ken Pinkerton, head of facilities, quality, safety, and environmental at the Newnan location. From 2009 through 2013, the company averaged five recordable injuries per year, and one year the company had 10. Despite a long-time commitment to creating a safe and healthy workplace, leaders realized they needed to do something to bring those numbers down.

The place to start was with Georgia Tech’s Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) program, a part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, and the state’s on-site consultant for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The on-site consultation program provides small business owners with no-cost advisory services to address hazards and improve workplace safety and health without fear of citations or penalties. Pinkerton has a long relationship with Georgia Tech, including receiving his Industrial, Health, and Safety Certification through Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).


In 2012, Grenzebach began working with SHES to pursue OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) certification. SHARP recognizes small businesses that operate exemplary safety and health programs. To qualify for SHARP, Grenzebach — and all businesses — must:

  • Request comprehensive consultation visits in safety and health that include a hazard identification survey;
  • Involve employees in the consultation process;
  • Correct all hazards identified by the consultant;
  • Implement and maintain health and safety programs as specified by OSHA;
  • Maintain days away, restricted, or transferred (DART) rates and total recordable case (TRC) rates below the national industry average;
  • Agree to notify the state consultant prior to making changes to working conditions in a facility.

Achieving SHARP status confers a number of benefits on a business. SHARP certified companies provide protection to workers through the development and implementation of best safety and health practices; create a culture that values health and safety; build a reputation for safety within their industry; save money; and are granted an exemption from OSHA programmed inspections for up to two years and subsequent renewal for up to three years.

“The real benefits to SHARP,” said Paul Schlumper, director of the SHES program, “are the improvements that a company makes in its safety and health management system to help provide a better work environment for employees. Another really big benefit is the prestige. A company can advertise the fact that they’re serious about safety and health. I think that means something to their customers and their employees.”


SHARP has been so successful for the company that Grenzebach has renewed its certification each year since 2012.

“What the SHARP certification allowed us to do is open our eyes to some of the different hazards that we took for granted every day,” Pinkerton said. And noticing those hazards has led to drastic decreases in recordable incidents for the facility.

“Since 2014, the number of recordable incidents has dropped 85%, and we are now significantly below the industry average,” Pinkerton said. “We’ve had a few milestones where we have gone a year without a recordable injury, 365 days. In fact, we recently met that goal again. But we had never gone a complete calendar year without one, until 2020.”

To achieve those stellar results, Grenzebach listened to the suggestions of the SHES team, including a safety committee that meets monthly, and implemented processes that include a focus on cleanliness. “If you don’t have a clean environment, you’re not going to have a safe environment,” Pinkerton said.

SHES helped Grenzebach empower workers to correct any hazards that they see. “If you see that broken pallet on the floor, instead of walking over it, our employees now pick it up and put it in the designated place. It removes that hazard from existence,” Pinkerton said.

Achieving SHARP certification does not mean that SHES is no longer involved. In fact, that is often just the beginning of a collaboration with a company.

“The relationship we’ve built with Georgia Tech and SHES over this process has been very beneficial,” Pinkerton said. “If I have any type of question that has to do with OSHA, or has to do with safety in general, they are able to help me. They will go above and beyond. If I have an employee concerned about the air quality or noise level in the plant, they’ll do an air quality check or a noise level check anytime I call and ask them to do it. And they provide those free of charge.”

That relationship delivers a level of security that dealing with OSHA may not bring.

“If I see changes coming in OSHA, I can contact the SHES group to get information,” Pinkerton said. “They’re my liaison to OSHA. I don’t have to contact OSHA to get an answer to a question. I can contact Georgia Tech and get that same answer, and not feel the anxiety that a person may feel contacting OSHA.”

The commitment to safety has worked its way through the entire organization, Pinkerton said.

“The people on the floor see that we legitimately care about their safety,” he said. “It’s not how fast can you make a product and get it out the door. The main thing is safety. How safely can you make that product? The atmosphere has completely changed when it comes to safety. That’s what you want. You’re trying to build a safety culture in your facility, and not have employees do something because I tell them to do it. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

“The SHES group is as loyal to me as I am to them. When it comes to the safety of people in the workforce, they take their jobs very seriously. I tell people all the time about SHARP and that they should become SHARP certified. The main thing that I would say about Georgia Tech and their consultation program is that they care. They don’t come in just trying to find something wrong. They come in and try to find ways for us to improve.” – Ken Pinkerton, head of facilities, quality, safety, and environmental at Grenzebach in Newnan, Georgia

Refrigerated Vehicle Specialists Deliver Safety

Note: Emerald Transportation Solutions signed a waiver of the confidentiality clause (1908.6(h)(2)) for the OSHA 21(d) Consultation program, allowing this story about the company’s work with the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) program in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute to be published.

Man working on a van with safety equipment

Watch the video here.

Customer Profile

Emerald Transportation Solutions is a privately owned, end-to-end provider of refrigerated vans and trucks. Headquartered in Fayetteville, Georgia, with a manufacturing facility in Griffin, Georgia, the company has been around since 2013 and has 65 employees.


After growing steadily from 2013 through 2019, Emerald found its business skyrocketing during the pandemic, as more and more people had groceries — and other necessities — delivered to their homes, causing an increase in the need for last-mile delivery vehicles that move products from a transportation hub to homes or businesses.

Working to meet this increased demand, Emerald outgrew its space in four buildings and two surface lots in Fayetteville and moved to a single large facility in Griffin that would allow for a streamlined assembly process under one roof. To better manage the health and safety of employees in the new facility, Emerald brought in the Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) team to survey the facility and the company’s health and safety practices and make recommendations.

SHES consultants looked at elements of Emerald’s overall safety and health management system, asking questions such as:

  • How does the company anticipate and detect hazards?
  • How does the company prevent hazards and plan for and control hazards?

Issues that were uncovered during the inspections included electrical safety, fall protection, compressed gas cylinder safety, and clearing exit routes — issues that are common in manufacturing facilities.

The health team performed contaminant and noise-level monitoring. These were found to be within guidelines. They also examined Emerald’s hazard communication program, and other health and safety documentation.


The results of Emerald Transportation Solutions and SHES working together have been to create a safer workplace for all employees by:

  • Correcting electrical hazards, including open junction boxes
  • Adding restraints to keep employees from falling off ladders, trucks, and more
  • Adding an emergency action plan
  • Making Safety Data Sheets accessible
  • Holding monthly safety meetings
  • Tracking and documenting training
  • Adding an environmental health and safety manager

“There are a lot of things that the SHES group pointed out as deficiencies that we’ve turned around and put into place to make the plant safer for our employees. We couldn’t have done all of that without SHES.” — Wes Funsch, chief operating officer, Emerald Transportation Solutions

Taking Care of Your Employees in the Hybrid Era

This is a guest post from our partner Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) featuring our Director of Georgia Tech’s OSHA Training Institute, Hilarie Warren.

two safety professionals talking

Why organizations across the globe will need to adapt and build processes that serve the needs of their people

Globally, workplaces, regardless of industry, are facing a momentous shift. While the pandemic was a catalyst for professionals to reexamine their relationship with work, it has also resulted in structural changes to employee expectations, in what is being referred to as the hybrid paradox.

While choosing how, when, and where work happens is still a top priority for talent recruitment and retention, employers are also now facing mounting pressures to support the physical, psychological, and social health of their workforces.

In the age of Covid-19, we have become acutely aware of the need to protect employees from illness and the benefit of having a comprehensive safety and health culture in place. But how can organizations now balance employees’ safety concerns. with the need for flexibility in the return to on-site work, while supporting mental health, human connection, and overall worker well-being?

As the director of Georgia Tech’s OSHA Training Institute, Hilarie Warren is familiar with emerging workplace challenges, particularly those relating to the pandemic such as psychological safety and communicable disease transmission. In response to the emerging hybrid workforce, she shares her perspective on the healthy work and workforce, and what it means for the entire safety and health profession – and beyond.

See her take on the most pressing issues below.

As workforces begin to return to work, many are adopting a hybrid approach to working. How can organizations strike a balance between maintaining a safe workplace while protecting an employee’s individual well-being and psychological security?

The “future of work” is THE phrase of 2022. The dynamic changes we have all experienced in the workplace and in our personal lives feel continuous and uncertain – daily, there is new input to integrate into decision making – and it’s exhausting. It’s no surprise that multiple recent studies report companies worldwide are struggling with expectation misalignment, increased stress and anxiety, and how to implement equitable, effective strategies that meet the needs of their diverse workforce. The concept of a “safe workplace” has expanded beyond preventing a deadly fall, hearing loss, or even following OSHA regulations – it’s about feeling valued, heard, and knowing your mental health and well-being are prioritized too.

Even in the years prior to COVID, occupational safety and health professionals were working to understand and measure the impact that certain working conditions and arrangements had on workers and their well-being (including physical, psychological, and social outcomes). The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Total Worker Health program is an approach that integrates work-related protections (in policy and practices) together with health promotion efforts to “advance worker well-being.” This holistic approach to enhancing worker well-being is applicable for small to large employers, and there are published questionnaires to help you get started. It’s important that organizations recognize the need for continued flexibility and adaptability when it comes to working out a framework for the next steps – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. Some companies and industry sectors never stopped having essential employees on the frontline; whereas others have been remote for over two years. Both scenarios – and all those in between – have impacted employees’ psychological security. Working to actively understand the challenges faced by all tiers of your organization, which may include acknowledging that many hourly, low-wage, minority, and entry-level workers were – and still are – at the highest risk for negative physical and psychological outcomes, will help find an approach that can meet all employee needs.

How does keeping employees safe on the job pay off in health, wellness, retention, and attainment of workers?

Safety and health programs are not meant to be written and stored on a shelf in a dusty corner. They are meant to be reassessed, reviewed, and improved as an integral part of your business strategy. Organizations who are willing to engage in conversation around these topics, foster transparency, ask hard questions, and take action to find and provide feedback contributes to employee wellness and retention. For example, before considering the resumption of in-person classes for our program in 2021, our instructors and staff talked at length about concerns and challenges, investigated cleaning and personal protective equipment protocols, and created policies around room capacities. We worked with facilities management to ensure adequate ventilation and air filtration measures were in place for classrooms, and put options in place to ensure instructors and students alike could move to a remote or alternative option if they ended up having to quarantine or became ill. These efforts were as much about physical health as they were about mental well-being. When an employee can trust that decisions are being made to protect their safety – and the safety and well-being of their families by proxy – stress is reduced and job satisfaction improves.

A recent Pew Research Center survey conducted by those studying the ongoing Great Resignation identified that while low pay and limited advancement opportunities are significant contributors to people leaving the workforce, another primary cited factor is feeling disrespected or devalued at work. I would put employee safety and well-being squarely into that category. When people are anxious to come to work – whether it’s fear of COVID or fear of workplace violence or any number of hazards – they are going to experience higher stress and decreased performance. They are not going to bring their best selves to the job, and that can have far-reaching ramifications. Add in fear of retaliation, potentially lost wages, and lack of access to PTO or those in alternative work arrangements – if organizations are not addressing these critical safety, health, and wellness concerns I would argue they are at risk for talent retention and recruitment. People want to work for organizations that value and respect their contributions and perspectives, and if they don’t experience that feeling, they might look elsewhere.

When it comes to health and safety, many organizations often operate reactively. When is the best time to implement new safety measures within your organization?

The sooner, the better. I encourage organizations to start with the conversation first, inclusive of stakeholders from every level: management, supervisors, people leaders, operations, and the front line – and review potential risks, severity outcomes, and available resources for control strategies. Consult with an occupational/environmental safety and health professional if you don’t have one on staff; these individuals can help organizations identify where and how to start to achieve the identified goals. The best outcomes are when the measures implemented have buy-in from all affected parties; giving employees an opportunity to be part of the decision-making process is a key component we look for when assisting companies with safety and health strategies. Those are the measures that have longevity and high employee adherence – and prevent the “fizzle out” that can occur with reactionary action.

Looking into the future, employers must reframe how they think about workplace safety, health, and wellness. When companies jump into implementing new safety measures reactively, sometimes there are unintended outcomes. For example, in the early days of COVID, we saw companies start using large quantities of new chemicals to disinfect or clean workplaces, often without appropriate employee training on the application or understanding the hazards of breathing in the airborne chemicals or getting them on the skin. To act preventively, give priority to those measures that can improve working conditions – including both physical and psychological wellbeing. Measures should be part of the daily, weekly, and monthly conversation and goals, with follow-up assignments and accountability. Without full championing and investment from the top level of the organization, new safety and health initiatives can wither and fade away – until the next crisis arrives.

The Georgia Tech OSHA Training Institute Education Center offers safety and health courses in more than 20 topics throughout Region IV, an area covering Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. For more information about how you can build immediately applicable skills, address the needs of your employer, and stay current with OSHA guidelines, visit our safety and health training page.