How has Victaulic accomplished Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star Certification in our Forks manufacturing plant? Preparation, standardization and employee engagement have all played a critical role in our VPP Star success. We sat down with Zach Jerrold, Victaulic’s Global Environmental Health and Safety Manager, to learn more about how companies can achieve and build upon VPP Star success.
How can Companies achieve VPP Star Success?
When forging a path for your VPP Star success, you should first review what the VPP program implies and why it’s so important. VPP is a program established through OSHA that promotes worksite-based safety and health. VPP certified sites go above and beyond in terms of safety, including hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, management commitment and worker involvement.
Read on to learn about the story of Victaulic’s journey to VPP Star success and commitment to global safety excellence.
Victaulic’s VPP Star Success
After hearing about the VPP Star Certification process in conferences and through safety industry professionals, Victaulic became interested in the VPP program and began preparing for auditing. Victaulic met with a VPP auditor to discuss the criteria for VPP Star success. The auditor provided an unofficial checklist of criteria that VPP Star Certified sites need to meet – and there were a lot of boxes to check. There were 350 total line items. Although we were already committed to safety, achieving the standards for VPP Star success would take employee engagement and thought diversity.
For input and action-item assistance, Victaulic brought together employees in departments including Human Resources, Engineering and Environmental Health and Safety, and employees in a variety of roles. These employees were split into teams, which mapped areas of improvement and achieved the necessary tasks to obtain VPP Star success.
So, what happened when the VPP auditor came to Victaulic? After months of preparation and strategic changes to our facility, our Environmental Health and Safety team was shocked by the audit results. “Our first time around, we were only approved for VPP Merit Certification,” Jerrold said. “While that’s still an exclusive ranking, we knew that our safety program was industry-leading, and we had to persist.” So, rather than waiting several years for the recertification audit, Victaulic reconvened their safety teams, made improvements and requested another chance within the year – achieving VPP Star Certification in 2016.
Read on to learn how Victaulic maintains and builds upon the foundation of our VPP Star success.
Victaulic Builds on VPP Star Success
Outward Facing with Inward Impact
One of the most impactful aspects of gaining VPP Star success is the direct impact on customer perception of Victaulic. “When worksites are unsafe, there are big risks for sustaining production,” Jerrold said. “If a company has poor environmental or safety practices, it can get shut down or have a serious accident that could halt production. Our sites are safe, which shows our customers that our manufacturing and production practices are sustainable and will not be impacted by adverse risk.”
While VPP Star success can be viewed as an outward-facing achievement, Jerrold believes that it makes a big impact on employees as well. Since employees were engaged in the process of achieving VPP Star success, they take a level of pride in the accomplishment and in their work. “People also feel more connected to a company that prioritizes ensuring the safety of the workplace.”
Standards for Excellence
While VPP Star Certification is a U.S.-based program, Victaulic applies our safety criteria across the board in all of our global facilities. “If there’s a best practice at one location, we take it to all the other jobsites,” said Jerrold. “Whether it’s our facilities in China, in Mexico, or in Poland, Victaulic operates to the same standards across the globe, and it makes a difference for our employees.”
Jerrold reflected upon the impact of standardized safety with a story from Victaulic’s facility in Chihuahua, Mexico. The conditions within the facility are hot, and can be uncomfortable. PPE is heavy and exacerbates the heat, but employees expressed sincere gratitude that the equipment was even supplied. “In some other local facilities, I see workers barefoot and shirtless while on the job,” Jerrold said. “Even though it is not necessarily legally required, we follow best practices to keep our employees safe, no matter where they are.”
Every Victaulic foundry and manufacturing facility goes through the same standardized audit annually. Facilities across the globe are held to the same criteria as our VPP Star Certified sites. “Some of the qualifications are based on regulatory concerns, but the majority involves Victaulic best practices,” said Jerrold. While our international facilities cannot technically achieve VPP Star success, Victaulic’s journey to safety excellence does not stop in the U.S. and is implemented equally across the globe.
Jerrold believes that VPP Star success is just the first step in our journey to safety excellence. “One of the things the auditors look for is a company-wide safety culture. They don’t want to see just the safety professionals enforcing programs; they want to see employees taking matters into their own hands,” Jerrold said. This type of employee engagement, which was critical for achieving VPP Star Certification, is also the foundation for employee participation in other safety programs like Behavior Based Safety (BBS).
Thank you for joining Victaulic for National Safety Awareness Month! If you want to learn more, be sure to check out all our secrets from the month: Safety Secrets 1: Workplace Safety Basics, Safety Secrets 2: Driving Purposeful Change, and Safety Secrets 3: How Are Waste Elimination and Safety Connected?
William D’Amico, Director – Environmental Health & Safety