By: RK Mechanical
After the recent OSHA VPP audit on November 14th, RK was thrilled to be recommended for the OSHA VPP Star, OSHA’s highest award for world-class safety and health! During the three day audit, conducted by two OSHA auditors and a special government employee from Raytheon, 35 different employees were interviewed and after the evaluations were complete, RK received the a recommendation for the designation that less than 0.03% of companies in the entire nation receive. That means that only 62 contracting companies in the U.S. and three in Colorado are designated with this esteemed rating!
So, what does this mean?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes the value of co-operative efforts by employers, employees, and government agencies to reduce hazards and strengthen worker protection. Created in 1982, The Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) recognize employers and employees who have established effective safety and health management programs. The VPP program has been particularly successful in increasing safety in many different industries, including construction, poultry processing, petrochemical plants, tree nurseries, nursing homes, federal laboratories, and even “mom and pop” operations.
The OSHA audit itself, a two-phased, on-site evaluation, is highly complex and painstakingly done. In the first phase, OSHA’s team reviews the applicant’s corporate, division or business unit policies and procedures, including a review of safety and health management programs, document review and assessment of the management commitment to safety and health, and to VPP itself.
The intense road to Star status was been an intense one that took a while. “Shortly after achieving our OSHA VPP Star Mobile Work Force accreditation for the field, we asked the shop employees if they wanted to achieve this for the shops as well. The resounding response was yes,” said JP Kennel, Operations Manager for the Xanthia facility. “We began preparation, but along the way, we found that many of the things we already did were [already in place to satisfy] the OSHA VPP Star requirements. We still had to make numerous tweaks to our processes and procedures, though, and we learned a lot about ourselves [in the process]. Stepping back and critically looking at ourselves [allowed us to see] that we were lacking in mitigating possible hazards to our employees. These were the areas we focused on, making great strides in providing a safer and healthier work environment.”
Lindsay Kalis, QSE Systems Manager and main OSHA contact for RK, was the one behind the implementation of the safety management system, and was responsible for everything from application to scheduling while the OSHA team was on-site.
Kalis elaborated on what the audit consisted of while the OSHA team was at RK. “There are two types of VPP certification – Mobile Workforce and Worksite. This audit was for the Xanthia location (the Worksite designation) and Henderson will have theirs next.” Kalis explained that the application for the Xanthia audit was originally submitted in January 2013, but it took a year and a half to get the audit done.
Typically, it takes three months for the application to go through, but in light of the government shutdown and budget restrictions, it took much longer than was originally expected. Along with Kalis, Tom Alvarez, RK’s Manager of Safety, was also instrumental in assisting the OSHA auditors find all of the information they needed.
The second phase is dedicated to reviewing one or more worksites in order to verify that the safety and health management programs are actually functioning outside of the home office, which will take place when the Henderson site is audited.
The Star designation is specifically designed for “exemplary worksites that have implemented comprehensive, successful safety and health management systems; and achieved illness/injury rates below their industry’s national average”. “Our recommendation for the Star Level clearly demonstrates our commitment to the safety of all our team and the passion we have with regard to being a World Class company,” said Ian Welsh, Vice President of Corporate Development.
Not only is this a great boon for the company, but it also helps to enrich the lives of RK workers on a personal level as well. JP Kennel said it best. “Safety and health has to be a part of what we do every day. In order for that to happen, the rules and regulations have to be backed from the officer level on down. That way, the employee truly knows they have the power to communicate when they see an unsafe situation, but more importantly, they know that the company truly cares about them and their family.”