Small Business Spotlight: Safex

Kitty McConnell French

The secret to workplace safety isn't technical, it's personal. Dianne Grote Adams makes sure to put people first with every service her company, Safex, performs for its clients.

“If you talk to any health and safety person, they went into the business because they like people, they care about people and they want to help,” says Adams, whose company provides an array of safety services to a variety of industries.

“Help in this case means: How do I keep people at work safe and healthy so they can go home at the end of the day?” she adds.

Workplace injuries cost employers almost $1 billion every week, and that's just the direct workers' compensation costs, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The indirect costs—replacement employee training, lost productivity, accident investigation and corrective measure implementation—can cost employers three to 10 times the direct costs, says Adams.

“That's a lot of savings a company can realize when they get an effective program in place,” she says.

Sometimes, a company's first call to Safex comes when they have a safety problem—what the Safex team would call an opportunity for improvement. Safex certified professionals show up on construction sites or at manufacturing facilities on short notice to conduct industrial hygiene assessments and air quality testing or to place contractors in unstaffed safety positions.

The best workplace safety plans are comprehensive, not reactive. Safex employee trainings and all-inclusive safety-support packages keep workers safe and employers OSHA-compliant. Safex offers robust online and in-person education sessions to keep employees and managers up-to-date with the latest regulations and industry-specific refreshers.

Thanks to increased education and outreach by OSHA and the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation over the last 15 years, companies are more proactive about employee safety than they've ever been, says Adams. “It's not incident-driven anymore, it's more about improving their business practices and realizing that they need some outside assistance in the health and safety arena.”

Safex instructors let their personalities shine during interactive training sessions. It's a tactic that wins over customers—mainly because it's effective.

“We work hard at engaging the participants in small group work or hands-on activities or games that are intended to teach something,” says Adams. She and her trainers elicit on-the-job stories from participants so they gain a practical understanding of how safety guidelines apply to their work. It's more memorable for employees to learn the value of regulations by applying them to their own experiences—especially if the lesson can be taught with a bit of humor.

“We're not afraid to laugh,” says Adams. “It can be a very serious business, but you can also have fun while you're learning about it.”

Employees who are involved in keeping themselves, their colleagues and their workplaces safe are more engaged in their work overall, according to Adams. In addition to a reduction in injuries, employees who take ownership of their safety are likely to demonstrate improved quality and productivity.

Adams, who began her career in environmental health and occupational safety working with Abbott/Ross Laboratories, ChemLawn and as an Ohio OSHA consultant, absolutely loves training employees in workplace safety.

“Most people would agree that health and safety can be a very dry subject,” Adams says with a laugh. “We try to use our upbeat personalities to deliver the content, so it's not delivered as dry material.”

Safex serves a range of industries, from manufacturers to construction firms to colleges and universities. Their clients include: Westerville's Otterbein University, where Safex provided guidance on laboratory safety and waste management; Whirlpool, for whom Safex provided rapid industrial hygiene sampling; and the Knowlton Development Corporation, a contract consumer goods manufacturer that depends on Safex for a number of services.

Jeff Keller is KDC's environmental safety manager in the company's New Albany facility. He's been working with Safex since the 1990s.

“Everybody I've ever dealt with at Safex has been extremely knowledgeable about what they do and they don't oversell,” says Keller. He trusts Adams and her certified staff to point him towards the best solution to any given safety problem. He appreciates being able to pick up the phone and seek guidance from Adams or her staff.

“I've called them spur of the moment to get air quality monitoring, to make sure our employees are breathing the right air,” says Keller. When KDC needs temporary safety contractors to fill gaps in safety positions for a few hours, Keller turns to Safex. “I've never had to wait.”

Kitty McConnell French is a freelance writer.

140 N. Otterbein Ave., Westerville 43081

About: Partners with employers to provide safe, healthy work environments for employees with customized safety training, safety programs for businesses, workplace hazard assessments, air quality testing, site safety monitoring for construction projects and safety packages across a range of industries.

Owner & President: Dianne Grote Adams

Founded: 1992

FTE Employees: 21

2016 revenue: $2.6 million