McWane, Inc. has dramatically improved its safety record since damming 2003 investigation


By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

EXETER – Waterman Industries announced last month that the company was sold to McWane, Inc., the nation’s largest pipe manufacturing company.

The Sun-Gazette covered the sale in a March 14 article titled, “Waterman Industries acquired by McWane, Inc.” The article also included a brief history of McWane’s questionable safety record, which was the focus of 2003 joint investigative journalism piece between PBS’ Frontline, the New York Times and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) titled “Dangerous Business.” The reports stated that in its relentless pursuit of productivity, McWane often sacrificed worker safety. According to Frontline, “McWane Inc. has amassed more safety violations than their six major competitors combined … nine McWane workers have been killed and at least 4,600 have been injured on the job” between 1995-2002.

Now, 15 years later, McWane is still one of the most profitable manufacturers in the United States and has also started the process to becoming one of the safest. Over the last month, the Sun-Gazette has worked to verify the safety record shared by McWane following the publication of the March 14 article. Since the report of its record turnover and injury rates in the early 2000s, seven of McWane’s foundries were accepted into the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) at the following sites: Amerex in Birmingham, Ala.; Clow Valve in Oskaloosa, Iowa; Manchester Tank in Elkhart, Ind.; McWane Ductile in Coshocton, Ohio; McWane Ductile in Phillipsburg, N.J.; McWane Ductile in Provo, Utah; and Tyler Pipe in Marshfield, Mo. 

OSHA even highlighted Clow Valve Company’s metal casting facility in Iowa as one the success stories of the VPP. OSHA said in 2000 Clow Valve’s injury incident rate was double the national average for gray and ductile iron foundries and the plant had a turnover rate of 89%. The next year, Clow Valve reached out to Iowa’s OSHA On-site Consultation Service and requested that they perform an on-site visit. In 2007, Clow Valve was accepted into the VPP program and by 2010 and had seen its injury incident rate drop to 9.09 and a turnover rate of just 13%. Clow Valve is now an advocate of OSHA cooperative programs such as VPP and mentors other facilities seeking to enter the VPP process. In addition, Clow Valve representatives frequently speak at safety conferences to promote safety.

In a released statement, McWane said it will invest in Waterman’s production facility in Exeter, Calif., to modernize operations with new equipment and best-in-class manufacturing processes to improve productivity, product delivery times, and team member safety. 

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