Wednesday, April 13, 2011/lk
Walking the packing line of Duckwall-Pooley Fruit Company brings home just how fast the abundant fruit crop travels on its way to American tables and those overseas.
Yet, while experienced workers' hands keep steady pace with the pears rushing along conveyors, speed isn't the only thing in great supply here.
Safety is actually number one, along with worker health.
At DP, these priorities include, during high season, free sample massages for line workers and regular exercise breaks, sometimes attended by the company president.
These innovative work-place practices, among many others, have gained the attention of some pretty important eyes.
Hood River's own Duckwall-Pooley received a coveted Oregon Governor's Award as an exemplary employer in the field of jobsite occupational health and safety.
Only 16 other industry leaders statewide were honored with similar awards at the 2011 Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference in March.
"We were totally surprised at receiving the nomination and the award," said Kathy Nishimoto, vice president and director of human resources.
"We are actually the first agri-business in Oregon to receive one of these awards," continued Nishimoto. "You know ag is tough; with so many repetitive-motion jobs."
Duckwall-Pooley was nominated by its loss-control consultant, Scott Clark, from SAIF Corporation (workers compensation insurance provider for Oregon).
Awards aside, it isn't recognition that motivates the company to focus on safety and employee health.
"We really work at this (safety). Our driver is making sure employees go home in the same or better condition than when they came to work each day," Nishimoto said.
At the March 9 awards ceremony, 15 DP shift supervisors and department heads accompanied the company president, Fred Duckwall, to the winner's luncheon at the Convention Center in Portland.
According to Clark's nomination letter, the company's commitment to safety "starts with the owner, Fred Duckwall. His involvement with the program is highly visible."
This personal commitment supports ongoing teamwork throughout the company to maintain safe and healthy practices.
"A special emphasis is placed on advanced communication and empowerment training," noted Clark.
The Hood River assemblage jointly took home an impressive glass statuette emblazoned with the governor's honor, which, along with their winning banner, is now displayed proudly in the company offices.
A panel of industry professionals judged the awards, which honor extraordinary contributions to the field of workplace safety and health.
The 2011 awards were presented for exemplary safety performance to employers, employees, safety committees and workplace associations throughout the state.