-(left to right) Chauncey Reed, Zochem’s production manager, and Jimmy Kight, Zochem’s plant manager hold the 2021 award plaque from Governor Bill Lee.

Zochem Production Manager Chauncey Reed (left) and Plant Manager Jimmy Kight show the 2021 award the company received from the state for its safety record.

Dickson-based Zochem, LLC, a manufacturer of zinc oxide, received a 2021 Governor’s Award of Excellence for Workplace Safety and Health this month for the fourth time.

Zochem received the award in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

Zochem was one of seven safety award winners this year. The company received an awards letter, a plaque from Gov. Bill Lee and their commemorative photos with Wendy Fisher, Assistant Commissioner of The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Zochem has approximately 43 hourly employees. Its 172,000 square-foot facility at 600 Printwood Dr. in Dickson is the former location of Wabash Aluminum, which went out of business in 2008, and was vacant until 2013 when Zochem purchased it.

Jimmy Kight, Zochem’s plant manager since 2013, said that to win the award, the company has to have at least 100,000 incident-free man hours in a rolling year. Zochem has had 101,365 incident-free hours.

“The Governor’s Award of Excellence recognizes Tennessee employers and employees who meet a required number of hours without workplace injuries serious enough to cause an employee to miss a day of work or restrict normal job activities. The number of hours is based on the size of the company,” Chris Cannon of TOSHA said in a news release.

Kight said that safety takes precedence even over productivity, which he said sets Zochem apart from other companies whose safety records are less than stellar.

“We decided we’d not only be the best zinc oxide manufacturer, but the best in safety. We instill a desire for safety with our employees. We don’t just say it, we actually live it,” Kight said.

Some of the company’s safety measures include: safety meetings before every shift; periodic audits by the company’s safety committee; monthly safety meetings (which includes the walkthrough of the safety committee); and the company purchasing personal protective equipment for each employee. The safety committee includes a member from each company department — logistics, quality, maintenance, production and management.

Kight said that Dickson County Mayor Bob Rial and City Engineer Darrell James have attended some of Zochem’s safety meetings. He said the chamber of commerce has referred some guest speakers for the safety meetings.

Chauncey Reed, Zochem’s production manager, credited the employees on the floor as the main reason the company has maintained its safety record.

“Safety importance is driven from the top down,” said Reed, who has worked for the company for seven years.

Reed said that supervisors will even test the employees by walking around the facility without safety jackets, just to see if the employees call them out on it.

“We get the eye to know what’s right and what’s wrong. Make sure we set the example,” Reed said.