VPP: All about people

Pam Dickens, Cour

Pam Dickens, Courtney Malveaux and NAGLO President Larry Roberts

The NAGLO participants had an opportunity to hear from a panel about the benefits of OSHA partnerships, specifically the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.

Moderated by Minnesota’s commissioner of labor, Ken Peterson, the panel included Doug Kalinowski, director of OSHA Cooperative and State Programs; Jay Rodstein, HSE Manger for Honeywell International, Pam Dickens, safety manager for Kimberly Clark; and Courtney Malveaux, former commissioner of labor for Virginia.

Malveaux pointed out that the average VPP worksite has a Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) case rate of 52 percent below the average for its industry.

“Go and visit a VPP site,” said Malveaux, and it’s like the air is different. Everybody takes ownership. It isn’t just top down, it’s bottom up.”

Malveaux shared the fact that he was on a tour of a VPP facility in his state, and a worker stopped him and asked him to please hold the rail while doing down the stairs. It was obvious that everyone in the facility cared about safety.

Kalinowski, who heads up OSHA’s Cooperative and State Programs Division, talked about how partnerships have saved lives.

“We currently have one national partnership with electrical transmission and distribution, those are the people that do all the power lines,” said Kalinowski. “At some point in time there were somewhere between 14 and 15 fatalities a year in that industry. Last year there was one.”

He also said fewer injuries and illnesses mean greater profits as workers’ compensation premiums and other costs plummet.

“You know, safety does pay,” he said.

Jay Rodstein, of Honeywell International, added that his company didn’t just have an objective to comply with OSHA’s guidelines, but a goal to exceed them.

“Our CEO has basically ordered us to go out and not just seek the external certifications, but actually implement practices that show we’re doing that,” he said. “The fact that we’re in the VPP program encourages us to come up with the next best thing that we’re going to do.”

For Pam Dickens, safety manager at Kimberly Clark in Kentucky, being a VPP company is all about people.

“If we can’t send people home to their families, we haven’t done our jobs,” she said.

Dickens pointed out that the National Safety Council reported that the average lost-time injury cost a company about $50,000. She said each heavy construction injury or illness equals about 8 or 9 lost workdays, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. She added that work injuries cost Americans more than $181 billion in 2012 alone.

She said safety is something that requires constant attention.

“This is something that is very near and dear to me,” she said. “As a mom, really one of my highlights is being a mom to the 340 people in my mill. Who takes care of people better than their mom? Whenever I start the day, that’s how I address everything in our facility. I don’t allow people to be exposed to things and put at risk.”

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