Atlas Die lauded for safety, health

Atlas Tool and Die, an Elkhart employer for 60 years, received certification from the state Wednesday for workplace safety.

Posted on Aug. 9, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — If you’ve recently bought groceries, you’ve probably been exposed to Atlas Die, an Elkhart company recognized Wednesday for an exemplary safety and health record.

Though you won’t see their name on products, Atlas makes tools used extensively in the packaging industry, tools that help cut things like drink carriers, cereal boxes and battery packs, as well as things like labels, gaskets and even electronics.

“What gets produced in this building here actually creates a presence across the country,” said Ken Smott, the company president, outside the company’s headquarters on Middlebury Street.

The company, founded 60 years ago by S. Ray Miller, was recognized Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Labor.

“Atlas is more than 50 percent below the national average with respect to worker illness and injury,” said Michelle Ellison, director of the state’s INSafe program, which awarded Atlas with INSHARP (Indiana Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program) certification.

“Essentially the program is our small-business exemplary safety and health award. It’s a pretty significant achievement,” Ellison said.

There are more than 18,000 worker injuries in the state each year, injuries that require time off work, Ellison said. Those injuries are costly to employees and employers.

“When workers and employers join together to embrace safety and health, we don’t have those,” she said. Each dollar invested by companies in safety and health nets $6 in return benefits, Ellison said. “It’s really and truly a win-win.”

LaRue Petty, manager of the plant on Middlebury Street, said to the plant’s workers, “We did it as a team. It is a team achievement ... you are all to be commended for a job well done.”

Ellison said she’d like the achievement of Atlas to spur other employers to do the same.

Smott said the company’s achievement —after two years working on improving health and safety — shows, “The pioneering spirit here in Elkhart still remains alive and well.” He warned employees to keep working safely. “Complacency is your enemy. You must stay alert to your task at hand” and work on safety for coworkers, too, he said.

Mohammad Azim, the company’s vice president of manufacturing, said the Middlebury Street facility “has led the charge to evaluate our safety policy against a gold standard” at all eight of their facilities.

The second Atlas Elkhart facility, on Lusher Avenue, is in the INSHARP certification process.

Across the company, their facilities — here, in Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Georgia — have a combined total of injury-free days just shy of 20 years, Azim said. “This is a result of our great team working safely every day,” he said.

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