MONROE – North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry will travel to 33 luncheons and banquets giving out safety awards across the state to businesses, counties, cities, towns and manufacturing facilities this year.
Berry, who was first elected as Labor Commissioner in 2000 and is now in her fifth term in office, was in Monroe on May 24 for the Union County Chamber of Commerce Safety Awards Banquet.
She used just one word to describe ATI Specialty Materials of Monroe.
“Incredible,” Berry said.
Incredible indeed as ATI was given a Gold Award for safety for the 42nd consecutive year by the state.
More 200 people attended the awards banquet as ATI and 53 other businesses received Gold, Silver and Million-Hour safety awards from Berry.
ATI, which is a global manufacturer of technically advanced specialty materials and complex components used is various industries, is one of the largest employers in Union County with more than 1,000 workers. ATI’s headquarters is in Pittsburgh, Pa.
To be eligible for a safety award under N.C. Department of Labor rules, companies must have been free of fatal accidents at the site for which the award is given to be eligible.
The Gold criteria are based on a DART rate (days away, restricted, transferred) that is at least 50 percent below the statewide rate for its industry. The rate includes cases of days away from work, restricted activity or job transfer.
The Silver award is based only on cases with days away from work. They are recorded when the worker misses at least one full day of work, not including the day of the injury. The applicant must attain an incidence rate for cases with days away from work that is at least 50 percent below the rate for its industry.
“This whole safety banquet season runs from the end of March to the end of June,” Berry said. “It’s the best time of the year because we get to see all the great folks in North Carolina and see what they need from us at the Department of Labor.
“We have some really good injury-illness rates going and they are some of the lowest in the state’s history. This gives these companies a chance to bring some of their employees to these banquets and have them recognized for the great work they do with their safety committees and their safety programs.’’
Since Berry took office in 2001, North Carolina has seen the injury-illness rate for private industry drop from 4.8 per 100 full-time workers to 2.5 per 100 full-time workers.
“I think everybody has realized that safety and health has so many facets that are very positive for the companies and the employees,” Berry said.
The Safety Awards Banquet is one of the most important celebrations held by the Union County Chamber of Commerce.
“We have been doing the annual safety awards banquet for about 10 years,” President Pat Kahle said. “The reason it is important is because it is a celebration of our companies that are very focused on safety. The most important thing we can do for the workers in our county is to make sure they go back home the same way they left – safe and sound.”