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Newton plant reaches safety landmark

Published: Monday, July 15, 2013 12:02 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, July 15, 2013 12:25 p.m. CST

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The Renewable Energy Group’s plant in Newton has gone four years without a lost time accident and one year without a recordable accident.

“I think we could safely say we’d put our safety standards and culture up against anybody’s,” REG General Manager Bruce Lutes said.

On Wednesday, Plant Manager Phil Abels and Lutes held a luncheon to celebrate the occasion.

“It’s a huge landmark for our industry, or any industry, for us to go four years without a lost time accident,” Abels said.

The biodiesel plant officials said they take the safety of their workers seriously and that safety concerns are woven into the fabric of the culture at REG. No matter what, Lutes knows that the landmark for the company comes down to the everyday decisions of the plant leaders and other plants employees.

“Production doesn’t come before it, quality doesn’t come before it. Safety’s the first thing we talk about every day,” Lutes said.

Lutes and Abel both said that there’s no hiding the record and that the way the plant records injuries is regulated by OSHA.

“If people come to work and they don’t feel safe, oh my gosh,” Abels said. “I can’t even tell you how bad it is, even from a moral standpoint, but from a business standpoint, if they’re worried about getting hurt, they’re not going to do their job.”

When asked if their strict philosophy on safety hurts efficiency, both officials said that having injuries on the job is more inefficient than providing a safe working environment.

“It always matters,” Lutes said. “It may take an extra 20 minutes to do something the safe way versus the quick way; however, over the long haul, it’s more efficient because it only takes that one time when somebody gets hurt, and they go down, and they not only have an injury but the cost of that is unimaginable. You can’t put a price on what that does to the other employees when they find out that somebody was hurt.”

Abels said that it’s not just about the dollars they would have to pay out in worker compensation, but about the overall morale of the plant that can lower efficiency.

“If you’re doing things the right way, it’s not only safe,” Abels said, “it is more efficient.”