November 17, 2021

Safest 70 Star: Southland Group

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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.

Southland Group, located in Zwolle, Louisiana, is a timber management company and supplier for paper mills, plywood plants, and sawmills across the state. Founded by Garrett Walsh Jr. in 1985, Southland Group is a multi-faceted operation consisting of WD Chips, a subsidiary led by President and co-owner Ricky Day, that provides custom chipping, wood storage, and handling; Walsh Timber, a provider of timber management, timber harvesting, marketing, and procurement services; and Walsh Industries, a logging services leader in Louisiana led by President Allen Rials, a co-owner of Southland, who brings more than 30 years of experience in harvesting to the company. Southland Group, and each of its entities, have experienced tremendous success in the timber industry, and that success started with the decision to prioritize safety.

“Proactive safety controls and improved workplace designs have been continually implemented to create a safe working facility. The result of their efforts and cooperation is less than two claims per year for the last 24 years,” says Damian Simoneaux, LWCC Safety Services Manager. “This is a phenomenal accomplishment for the size and industry type of Southland Group. Their commitment to safety and a better workplace is evident as they have been anine-time recipient of the Safest 70 Award.”

Workplace safety is a constant at Southland Group. Each safety initiative is developed to protect the most important parts of the organization: its employees. The extensive safety measures are key as the workplace risks consist of everything from flying objects and heights to snakes and feral hogs. Some of the routine safety initiatives include: monthly safety meetings as a team, daily safety reminders, sharing near misses, PPE supplies and requirements, equipment checklists, defensive driving training, OSHA-required first aid and CPR training, and an automated external defibrillator (AED) at every site.

“One of the most valuable safety resources we have are the safety training videos provided by LWCC,” says Garrett Walsh III who is responsible for coordinating all safety functions and training. “With the variety of safety issues that affect our company, having access to these resources is vital to ensuring the safety of our employees.”

“Employees are empowered to halt an unsafe operation, purchase safety equipment as needed, and do whatever it takes to protect fellow employees and stakeholders,” says Dave Cupp, President of Walsh Timber. “It helps to develop the group into a team and instill a responsibility to look out for each other.” 

Headquartered in Sabine Parish, Southland Group reaches out from its hub in central Louisiana to do more for its communities, touching the lives of locals in DeSoto, Vernon, Beauregard, Natchitoches, Red River, Allen, Winn, Grant, and Rapides Parishes. The company is proud of its efforts to provide a safe workplace and good jobs for local citizens, but also shows additional support by volunteering and providing funding to schools, churches, and other nonprofits.

“He[Walsh] returned back home to Sabine Parish where he has shown dedication to the community by growing his business and providing jobs for central Louisiana,” says Paula Weems of Pace Insurance, Southland Group’s insurance provider.

Southland Group demonstrates what it means to be Louisiana Loyal through its actions in the community and on the job site. LWCC is proud to recognize their achievements in both business and safety. As a Safest 70 Award recipient, it is clear that Southland Group is not only an outstanding policyholder, but a business that places employee and workplace safety above all else. 

“As CFO, it’s comforting to know we have a work comp partner that is engaged, cares about our business and employees, and is focused on our state,” says Rob Salter ,CFO of Southland Group. “From the safety representatives to the claims managers, the quality and responsiveness of LWCC is unmatched. The fact that a large chunk of our annual premiums are distributed as a dividend is the icing on the cake.”

Lessons learned from this LWCC Safest 70 Star:

  • If an employee sees something, say something and do something. 
  • Require personal protective equipment (PPE) such as boots and safety belts on every job.
  • To ensure a fast response to anurgent health emergency, have AEDs installed at all sites.
  • Make sure that safety trainingemphasizes three points of contact.
  • Identify any potentially dangerous steps or inadequate lighting inany particular point of a building. 
  • Have another “set of eyes” from outside the company guide andidentify hazards that might go unnoticed on-site in a typical day-to-day.

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