October 3, 2022

LWCC Safest 70 Star: James Machine Works

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LWCC’s Safest 70 Awards celebrate policyholders who share our commitment to workplace safety. Our Safest 70 Stars go above and beyond in their safety efforts and lead the way in employee health and wellness. For information about the Safest 70 Award program, click here

Hardy Monroe James started his small automotive machine shop in Monroe, Louisiana in 1927 after retiring as a machinist from the United States Navy. With three employees and a commitment to quality work and customer satisfaction, H.M. James began to plant the seeds of what would eventually grow into a 140,000-square-foot fabrication plant, a workforce of over 140 employees, and nine field crews working across the Gulf South and several other states.

Today, James Machine Works (JMW) is led by Mr. James’ granddaughter, Susan Weaver, and provides design, fabrication, and installation of pressure vessels used throughout the chemical industry, refineries, and the pulp and paper industry. It’s a woman-owned, woman-led company in a male-dominated industry, and it’s making significant changes on more than just one front.

In an industry known for safety hazards like elevated heights, exposure to weather, working in confined spaces, and routinely handling materials weighing hundreds or thousands of pounds, JMW has an exceptional reputation for safety.

“To James Machine Works, safety is a top priority,” notes their long-time agent, Jerry Thomas of Thomas & Farr Insurance Agency. “They spend an enormous amount of time and money implementing their safety program. They have a full-time Safety Director with employees under him making sure all aspects of their program are followed.”

It all started back in 2006 when leadership recognized a dire lack of safety focus within the organization. To turn it around, they hired freelance safety consultant Butch Mason as their full-time, in-house Safety Director. It is this fateful decision and Butch’s dedication and skill that the company credits today for instilling a true culture of safety that reaches every corner of its workforce.

“JMW foremen correct safety infractions while they supervise their employees,” says  Susan. “Managers and QC personnel address issues they see when walking through the shops or on the job site. Current Safety Director Paul Tilmon and Safety Coordinator Jeff Weaver do walk-throughs of shops, visit job sites, assist with safety-related questions, and perform safety audits.”

In addition to their in-house efforts, JMW relies on the other resources available to them. As an LWCC policyholder, they have utilized services offered by their Safety Services Representative Greg Smith. With his aid, they have implemented a successful company vehicle policy that has reduced both speed and distracted driving. They also credit their long-standing LWCC partnership as a regular source of sound safety advice and a trusted resource for many of their safety and workers’ compensation-related questions.

“LWCC has helped JMW become a safer place to work,” Susan notes. “They are always available to answer questions and give guidance to keep our employees safe.”

As a result of its ever-evolving safety practices, JMW has been the recipient of many awards and accolades. They were among the earliest Louisiana-based companies to be included in OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) and are a seven-time Safest 70 Award recipient. Still, even with such high levels of praise for safety, the company’s true goal is to create a better world for those around them.  

As an employer, they experience very low levels of turnover by treating their employees with respect, helping them through tough times, and rewarding them for their efforts. As a member of the Monroe community, they support local organizations like churches, schools, local sports teams, humane societies, and local chapters of the Salvation Army and American Red Cross. From their perspective, it’s simply the right thing to do.

“We all live here,” says Susan. “We want the place we live to be inviting, nice, and to encourage other people to want to live here. When places like our schools, churches, and local businesses are strong and inviting, the community tends to grow. Everybody wins!”

Lessons learned from this LWCC Safest 70 Star:
  • Create a culture of safety and get everyone involved
  • Utilize multiple resources to help implement the most effective safety initiatives
  • Perform regular walk-throughs, job site inspections, and safety audits
  • Bettering your community is a win for all
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