ERT At Optimus Steel
“At the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security.”- Jodi Rell
Safety and security of our employees at the Optimus Steel Mill is always at the fore front of our minds. The ERT is the team in place to prepare, respond, and resolve to emergency safety events.
What is the ERT at OSM Steel you may ask?
The ERT team is comprised of volunteers who are specifically trained to respond to a wide variety of emergencies that can arise.
These team members are trained in Forklift, Man-lift, Confined Space, Technical Rescue, CPR/AED/First Aid, Incipient Fire Fighting and Environmental Response. These specialty skills enable the team to response and resolve many different concerns and safety events that happen within the mill.
In many events, time is of the essence and having the ERT team on site ensures that we can respond much faster than calling first responder teams. Thus making the site and our employees much safer and closer to aid in the event of an incident happening.
“Over the years the team has been provided training that keeps our knowledge and skills current and relevant. I take great pride in that I have the ability to rescue someone if the situation arises. The Emergency Response Team is a rewarding experience that I have personally enjoyed. I look forward to future training and improving as a member of the team.” Said team member Oscar Vazquez.
Currently we have around 19 active members of the ERT. In additional to those current members we have around 5 to 6 new members that have expressed interest.
Several managers are constantly available to support the team in their various areas of expertise. The members are on shift with their regular crews and serve all areas of the mill as needed.
How does having the ERT on site impact the daily life at the mill?
The team members are most experienced with the equipment and the environments that may be encountered in the course of an unexpected emergency situation. They bring an invaluable amount of knowledge and experience to the table when precious moments are most important.
It’s important for us to understand the day to day goals of the ERT in keeping our employees safe, but also to understand the long term goals and effect the team can have at the mill.
In the short term, we would like to make sure that we procure the best training services for our members. We have a dedicated group that is tasked with being the best at everything we do. We want a world class team in keeping with our vision of striving for perfection in all that we do.
In the long term, we would like to expand the team to include around 40 active members. We would like to expand our training facilities onsite to include some additional training structures and equipment to better mirror some actual areas in our facility that may require rescues. We always desire our employees to be empowered to be great. We see nothing but great things in the future from this team.
“#SafetyMatters! This is important to remember not only in the work place, but in the real world as well. Our Emergency Response Team is equipped to handle real world issues in real time, with confidence and exceptional professionalism. We stand guard to response whenever the need arises.” ERT member Frank Relford said proudly.
If you or someone you know wants to be a part of the Optimus Steel Family and possibly on the ERT team, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via our website, LinkedIn, or Facebook for more information on applying!
World Class and…
“World Class and bad @##”, was one of the ways a customer described our recent open house. We were excited to have a group of customers and vendors visit our mill to see how we are returning our mill to its preeminence in steel making in North America. Optimus teammates worked for weeks to get ready while making sure we produced quality wire rods, on time, every hour of every day. It is a constant strive for perfection.
Other comments included, “Thank-you again for hosting us in Houston and at your Beaumont Mill … I enjoyed the event and the opportunity to chat with your management team … You have a great team at Optimus and your drive for perfection is very apparent.”
We had the opportunity to take many smaller groups thru the mill to see our day to day operations.
“Thank you very much for hosting me in Houston and Beaumont the past two days, which was first class all the way. It was great to meet some of the ownership group and left a very favorable impression of our future partnership with Optimus. The mill tour guides were top notch; the speaker was fun and relevant; … I felt very appreciated as a customer”, said a valued partner after his tour.
Breathing new life into the mill and investing in the future of Optimus Steel has been at the forefront of our minds from the start of this venture and to have our customers and partners recognize it will continue to drive us. We were proud to showcase all the changes and improvements Optimus Steel has brought to the Beaumont Mill since purchasing it.
“Gentlemen, thank you for the excellent hospitality you extended. I can tell that Optimus has been a breath of fresh air for the plant and we wish you the best success” another customer wrote.
After the mill tours and presentations were concluded the team at Optimus Steel and our guests were able to enjoy a lunch to connect with several employees.
“Optimus Team, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for having me down to your open house. You achieved a “World Class” experience for those that attended, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the mill and your team. The takeaway that spoke loudest to me was the re-energized attitude of all your teammates. They appeared to prefer to care about the organization that they represent, and your management team has been successful in providing them support, investment, listening, and caring that they desired. Due to this I truly believe they will accomplish greatness that will exceed your expectations. Keep up the good work and I look forward to being involved in your growth.”
Another very important step in this journey is the Holiday Open House this Saturday. It will be an opportunity for our employees to show their families where they work and contribute to our success. We are expecting over three hundred employees and family members! We want to thank all the attendees and the many employees that made this a success. We know the Holiday Open House will be as good or better!
To educate everyone on the dangers of fires within homes and business across the country, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) recognizes October as Fire Prevention Month. Nation wide initiative has been made to bring safety measures and practices to the forefront. The NFPA released several helpful tips and guides for both home and business practices to help keep everyone we care about safe.
The motto of the NFPA Fire Prevention month is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. A fire can happen anywhere.”
In 1922, when the National Fire Protection Association named the second week in October Fire Prevention Week in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Today, we celebrate Fire Prevention Week and Month by raising awareness and educating families, students and communities across the United States. Fire departments go around to schools and communities to talk to kids and teach them about fire safety and what to do to keep your home safe and what to do in case of a fire.
At Optimus Steel, we wanted to keep Fire Prevention Month at the top of our minds both in the mill and in the homes of all our employees. Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Ed Goettl commented on the steps that Optimus Steel has taken this month to ensure safety was at the forefront of discussions.
“Our safety walks this month included the following:
· Evacuation routes and emergency response equipment including fire extinguishers and eye wash.
· Housekeeping is a leading cause of fires, so this was be a big focus. The mill looks great!
· Discuss emergency action plans with all our employees.
· Drills for local emergency responses”
Creating an emergency plan within the mill and at home is a preventative factor that can play a huge role in the loss that occurs when a fire or natural disasters happens. According to the NFPA, less than 50% of homes have an escape plan in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide. In addition to that another alarming statistic that the NFPA has reported is that in 2016 there were 352,00 home fires and of 60% of the deaths that occurred in the home fires happened where there were no smoke detectors.
“We want it to raise awareness, so employees create evacuation plans for their homes, make sure their smoke detectors have fresh batteries, and get their children to know what actions to take should something unfortunate occur. We want all employees safe at work and at home.” Said Goettl.
We hope our focus on Fire Prevention Month helped our employees both within the mill and at home to be better prepared for all types of fire, carbine dioxide, or natural disasters that can happen. Please try to discuss and plan for emergencies in your home. Nothing is more devastating than the loss of a loved one in a fire. Remember EDITH (Exit Drills In The Home) for anyone with children. If you think you are good, go set off your smoke alarm at 10 pm tonight and see what your children do.
At Optimus Steel, we take pride in participating in various events that strengthen our internal culture and give back to the local community. Our team will be taking part in a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society called Relay for Life. Across more than 20 countries, Relay for Life will facilitate more than 5,000 events to support the continued fight against many types of cancer. The events are held at campus universities, across local communities, and via virtual fundraising platforms bridging the cap with supporters and survivors. The funds raised are used to improve cancer survival, decrease the incidence of cancer, and improve the quality of life for cancer patients and those who care for them.
A survivor’s lap at a Relay for Life event in Texas
In October of 1985, the American Cancer society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (the creator of many cancer fighting drugs) partnered to establish October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Annually, there is a campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer risks, the value of screening, and early detection. The campaign helps to highlight treatment options available to women and men who are diagnosed with one of the many forms of breast cancer.
White House Illuminated pink in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2017
Breast cancer touches the life of 1 in 8 women in the US, and we want to continue to take part in spreading the critical information on detection and prevention. We do also want to show support to those that are actively fighting, and to recognize, support, and celebrate the survivors.
We want to share an amazing personal story of fighting this disease from one of our Optimus Steel team members. Karen McBride Toohey found out in 2003, after self- detection of a lump, that she had cancer. She was devastated by the fact that something was going on in her body that she had no control over. She sought out a second opinion and headed to MD Anderson Treatment Center in Houston, Texas. Karen described her treatment and time there as phenomenal.
Karen has a family history of breast cancer and had lost an aunt to the disease. Gripped with the devastating truth, Karen proceeded with treatment and faced the fear of losing her hair. She knew she had to make the best of a pretty painful situation. She glammed up with large earrings, cute caps, and changing hair color to keep her spirits high and push herself to keep fighting.
Karen expresses how fortunate she was to have her mother and the rest of her family as a support system with her through this journey. She knows her faith in God carried her through the experience. She strongly encourages everyone to understand the importance for men and women to get checked out and receive annual exams. Karen is a warrior and is currently a fifteen-and-a-half-year survivor!
This month we celebrate Karen McBride Toohey. We are thankful for her courage and willingness to give back by pushing others to care for themselves and be diligent in regular self-checks. Karen thank you for encouraging us all in ways you may not even realize.
When building and creating any company you must create and execute a mission. To drive that mission forward you must have committed and engaged teammates who not only have the necessary skills but also have a passion to achieve the mission every day.
“We know that always striving for perfection is a challenging goal. However, we believe that in that journey we will always be improving, delivering on our promises today and looking for ways to get better tomorrow.” Said Optimus Steel’s CEO Jim Kerkvliet.
Optimus Steel declares its mission is to outperform the steel industry in safety, value, quality, and innovation. This will be done in compliance with the values of Honesty, Responsibility, Excellence, Passion, and Teamwork, committed to fulfilling applicable regulations and laws for safety, quality, and the environment.
The values of Optimus Steel are on display by the employees and the leadership team. The leadership team has committed to providing the necessary resources to promote health, safety, high quality products, and environmental sustainability.
Embodying the core values is essential to joining the Optimus Steel team:
Honesty – Communicating and promoting safety with integrity. Acting ethically and challenging behaviors that go against the core values of the company.
Responsibility – Committing ourselves to our business in a way where everyone will benefit. Assuming the consequences of our actions. Understanding your duties and doing the best possible.
Excellence – Focusing on the continued improvement of the company, using our intuition, creativity, and perseverance. Overcome obstacles to meet goals. Proposing creative ideas or solutions to problems, challenges, and opportunities.
Passion – Giving our maximum effort for our company and taking pride in being a part of Optimus Steel. Persevere in the face of daily challenges and always searching for solutions.
Teamwork – Collaborating effectively and constructively with others for the achievement of common goals. Sharing the processes from other areas. Supporting and motivating coworkers to be better and more effective every day. Service before self.
Our Mill, Our Company!
Optimus Steel employees are responsible for building the culture of accountability where safety and well-being of our team is paramount, our products meet 100% of accepted requirements, and the environment is protected. All these responsibilities are carried out with the commitment of continuous improvement, giving our maximum effort and taking pride being part of the Optimus Steel team.
Community is defined as “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and/or goals.” That is exactly the type of environment Optimus Steel is working to create. Optimus Steel has invested in a safe and efficient environment while striving to foster a sense of family and community with all employees.
Optimus Steel has also invested in offering a wide variety of community building programs and projects for the community of employees and the surrounding community as well.
This month Optimus Steel hosted a Stuffed Animal Drive to support the Buckner House. The Buckner House is in Beaumont and all donations will strongly benefit the children in this community.
“Buckner works to protect some of the most vulnerable children in our society. Children come into our care because of abuse, neglect or drugs in the home, and they are unsure of what their future holds. One of the ways we soften the transition is by giving them the comfort of a stuffed animal. Often these stuffed animals are something they keep with them into adulthood.”
On October 6th, Optimus Steel took part in the Gift of Life Julie Richardson Procter 5k Color Run. The run takes place in downtown Beaumont. The color run benefits those fighting breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers in southeast Texas. Sign up to join us at the HR office!
“Since 1994, the Gift of Life Program has helped extend the lives of more than 275 medically underserved women and men by providing free mammograms and prostate cancer screenings. In addition to the critical health care services, the organization also offers Southeast Texans extensive educational outreach programming that focuses on cancer awareness and prevention.”
Optimus Steel is also involved in sponsoring the Senior Engineering Project at Lamar University. Two Optimus Steel employees will be sharing the $5,000 sponsorship for their projects. John Ingram and Jed Andresio are the two lucky recipients of this special sponsorship!
Optimus Indoor Soccer Night was created and has been hosted throughout the month of September. The Beaumont Indoor Soccer Complex has been the setting for many team fun-filled nights. The unique mix between life-long players and new players looking to have fun with their co-workers has made for a great season so far. Next up will be will be the Optimus Basketball team! We will share updates for that season and locations as soon as possible.
In addition to all these amazing initiatives by Optimus Steel, we hosted Employee Appreciation Week last week. Even though it was a rainy day, that didn’t stop us from showing our employees what they mean to us.
To be a part of the community is always an important part of owning a business, but to create an internal community to support the values of the company is vital to its success. Optimus Steel is truly invested in being involved in both the local community and its internal community. Honesty, Responsibility, Excellence, Passion, and Teamwork are inscribed on the sign in front of Optimus Steel, but those traits are truly embodied by its employees. We are thankful for all our employees and can’t wait to continue to grow our internal community.
Life at Optimus Steel can be unpredictable and exciting every single day. Nobody knows that better than longtime employee Jack D. Huffman. He is the Environmental Specialist Coordinator. In this article, we want to highlight the work Jack and his department does, but more importantly we want to make everyone aware of the legacy he has created, a legacy that will continue after his well-deserved retirement in October of this year. Huffman has dedicated 43 years of his life to the mill, in fact, he is employee number 001 and proudly shares this fact in addition to carrying his employee tag every day. Jack started his career as an hourly employee running the onsite water treatment plant. He was responsible for the treatment and discharge of all the water at the plant. After working at the water treatment plant, Jack became responsible for the water treatment program managing all the potable and process water including working with the City of Beaumont, the Sabine River Authority and contractors to make sure the plant always had good quality water. When Jack became a salary exempt employee, he took on many more environmental responsibilities, such as waste and air compliance, spill response, special environmental projects, and wildlife protection.
“Environmental is everything, it is a lot like safety, everyone is responsible”, said Huffman. Huffman explained how important constant and consistent training is to that responsibility. He further explained how he must be tough, but fair. This is done with the utmost effort to ensure employees, the nearby Neches River and surrounding wildlife are kept as safe and unaffected as possible.
Huffman said, “It is important to hold everyone accountable to the same standard, even if it means shutting down production.”
“By the book” is the way Huffman works with employees even if that means the “book” of new regulations are regularly being changed. He is responsible for helping the Environmental Department constantly update their strategies and techniques to ensure these new regulations are complied with. Huffman attributes his longevity with the mill to this ever-changing “book” of regulations and his commitment to ensuring the environment is protected.
To maintain the wastewater and stormwater the environmental department runs more than 11,000 analysis a year which include checking metal, oil grease, and PH levels of the water twice a week. All the tests and regulations are only part of the job though, Huffman informs us. His job also includes removing snakes and other critters from offices, equipment, and other areas of the mill, then releasing them back into a safe environment.
Huffman fondly recalls a time where he had to herd a 5ft long female alligator that was resting in the middle of the road. He states he helped move her back into her environment with nothing but a PVC pipe to guide her. “You know what an alligator that size wants to do after taking a couple of steps? She wants to lay back down and rest!” he said laughing.
Another time, it was a group of cats that had decided to make the mill their new home. The amazing employees of Optimus Steel stepped up and showed how they not only have a strong work ethic but also hearts of gold. A few employees adopted the cats and kittens into their own homes.
There are many more stories just like these that show the true commitment Optimus Steel and its employees have to preserving and enriching the environment, with all of them supporting the vision of “Striving for Perfection in Everything We Do”, but none more than Jack Huffman. Thank you Jack for your service, your commitment to the team and the environment and the legacy you are leaving us!
As consumers, business owners, employees, builders, and environmentally aware people we must push ourselves to ask, “How does this impact me?”. In the steel industry, there are often hidden values and economic advantages that we may not have considered or realized. Understanding how steel impacts everything from the car you drive to the fence around your yard to the farming equipment that was used to harvest the food you eat every day, can truly show you how invested we are as a society in the steel industry.
Steel in the form of ferrous scrap is the most recycled material in the United States and worldwide. In 2016 alone, the U.S Geological Survey estimated 65 million metric tons of iron and steel scrap were processed in America. Ferrous scrap refers to recycled steel that comes from many sources with the largest being used automobiles. That means each time a car you own is processed due to accident or age or defect, you are directly taking part in the world’s largest recycling supply chain.
The metallurgical properties within steel allow it to be recycled many times without compromising its quality. Virtually every steel item purchased is therefore recycled in some capacity. Steel.org reported that 90% of appliances are recycled in North American processing plants each year. Recycling this steel contributes to saving the energy needed to create steel from raw materials. This equates to enough energy to power 18 million homes.
On average new vehicles purchased today contain about 60% steel, most of which is recycled. However, today’s steel differs from the steel of 50+ years ago. According to Worldsteel.org, steel is now up to 30% stronger and more dent resistant while still being about 25% lighter. So, every new car on the road now is a more recycled product than in the last 50+ years due to the American Steel Industry’s initiative in recycling. Just one recycled car produces enough recycled steel to produce more than 4 steel utility poles.
50% of the world’s steel is used within the housing industry according to the WorldSteel.org. While being an optimal recycled and sustainable product to use within a home, it also has many long-term effects that benefit homeowners. Steel frames within the house produce a safety feature in earthquake and fire disasters. It also combats termites within the home. This saves homeowners time, money, and peace of mind when it comes to the integrity and value of their home.
Steel is also imperative in the food industry. When opening the pantry at your own home, you will likely see many canned food items. Due to the amazing innovation of steel within cans for food items they do not need to be refrigerated. This prevents food waste and cuts down on energy used to preserve the food within a refrigerator.
The steel advances mentioned earlier in this article noted the new version of steel that is on the market today and its stronger and lighter benefits. This directly correlates to the savings it can have for builders, particularly of large projects like bridges. In addition, many builders are creating safer ways for steel foundations to absorb shocks and movement from climate change and earthquakes. In the long-term, it will help create safer structures for all that use them.
Many that work within the steel industry feel a great sense of pride in what they do, and now knowing just how much of an impact they have on the daily lives of American’s, I think you can understand why. Next time you open a canned food item, get in your car, turn on a household appliance, drive on a bridge, or see a house being built, just remember these are just a few of the ways the steel industry is involved in supporting our lives as we know them.
On a Texas Day in August, employees of Optimus Steel arrive at work in perfect 70-degree weather while the sun rises.
Electrical and mechanical maintenance supervisors gather for the daily safety inspections. This is an essential part of the work day at the Beaumont Mill before employees step up to their nearly 3,000-degree furnace to turn scrap metal into high quality steel wire rods.
The process of steel making includes hundreds of people and thousands of steps. From trucks, rail cars and barges getting unloaded, to melting, refining and rolling, to products being shipped out again. All of these things happen here, and safety is the most important part of the process.
The Safety Manager at Optimus Steel, Matt Hammer, says the safety program has been developed over years of operations and technical advancements in the field.
Hammer said the daily safety walks ahead of production meetings, audits and inspections are integral to holding themselves to the perfect standards.
“We hold weekly safety meetings with every member of our leadership team to discuss success and opportunities,” Hammer said. “We have a strong and resourceful Joint Health and Safety Committee to ensure all voices are heard and to ensure hourly participation in the safety program.”
It’s a priority of Optimus’ to make sure every new addition to the company will be able contribute to these safety measures. Optimus Steel goes one step further by spending thousands of dollars on fresh fruit during the summer, installing state of the art cooling stations, offering cooling vests as well as other industry standard heat reduction tools.
While company-wide safety processes are important, it is also critical that every individual is given the opportunity to take the best care of themselves possible.
Here are a few safety rules to live by:
- All injuries and work-related illness can and must be prevented.
- Management is responsible and accountable for safety and health performance.
- Employee engagement and training is essential.
- Working safely is a condition of employment.
- Excellence in safety and health supports excellent business results.
- Safety and health must be integrated in all business-management processes.
It is vitally important to account for the summer heat. Here are other tips to avoid heat related illnesses:
- Do not drink energy drinks.
- Avoid other drinks with a lot of sugar and caffeine.
- Eat light lunches and snacks.
- Pace yourself and take breaks if needed.
- Listen to your body.
- Alternate water and electrolyte replacement drinks.