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The Fort Knox wastewater treatment facility now is in distinguished company.
The plant, operated by Veolia Water, has been accepted into the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Partnership Star Program, which is one of the highest site safety recognitions in the country, said Justin Metz, the plant’s operations supervisor.
Employers and workers in both the private sector and federal agencies can be accepted into the program if they create and promote effective safety and health management programs and have injury and illness rates below the Bureau of Labor Statistics average for their particular industry, according to OSHA.
Metz said acceptance into the program creates a long-term partnership that requires companies to keep standards in place. According to OSHA, companies within the VPP work with the administration to “cooperatively and proactively” reduce and avoid fatalities, injuries and illness by focusing on a gamut of factors: hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, management commitment and worker involvement.
Metz said the facility applied for the recognition because it wants the best safety programs possible considering much of the work performed is dangerous.
The application resulted in an extensive three-and-a-half-year critique that involved multiple site visits and inspections from OSHA officials, who would provide recommendations and coach the staff on needed changes while referencing best business practices. OSHA performed a culture analysis by interviewing the 16 staff members at the plant while examining every aspect of its written policies regarding health and safety. Metz said inspectors also required documented evidence of training programs.
Before the process even begins, OSHA renders a preliminary assessment to ascertain if a company is eligible for the program, Metz said.
Some suggestions reinforced sound safety policies and reminded the facility to tighten its controls. For example, Metz said there were areas where the plant used chains to rope off openings between hard rails as a protective measure, but OSHA suggested the chains be replaced with rails.
“Chains are an inadequate form of guarding,” he said.
To hold its status in the program, the plant will be re-evaluated every three to five years, according to OSHA. Metz said the facility will receive visits from OSHA each year to make sure everything is running properly.
Officials said Veolia’s partnership with Hardin County Water District No. 1 was crucial in gaining the recognition.
Jim Bruce, general manager of the water district, said Veolia’s efforts to protect customers and workers is commendable.
“This is a very difficult award to achieve,” Bruce said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.