TERRE HAUTE —
GE Aviation in Terre Haute has earned the Voluntary Protection Program Merit Certification for implementing safety systems that identify, evaluate, prevent and control occupational hazards to prevent employee injuries and illnesses.
Rick Ruble, commissioner of the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, on Monday presented company officials with a large “VPP” flag and plaque for its work on making safety a workplace standard.
“You are really part of an elite group,” Ruble told a gathering of GE employees.
GE Aviation combined its two plants in Terre Haute under one umbrella in 2012. The company’s plant No. 1, formerly GE Tri-Remanufacturing at 3390 Locust St., was the first star VVP award recipient in Terre Haute in July 2000. Star is the highest designation in the VVP program.
GE Aviation employs 450 workers, with 85 at its plant No. 1 and 365 employees at plant No. 2 at 333 S. Third St. in Terre Haute.
Tom Bradley, site leader for GE Aviation in Terre Haute, said GE plans to invest $1 million in 2014 to increase environmental health and safety at its two Terre Haute plants on items such as fire upgrades, chemical management, dust collection, machine guarding and safety improvements on cranes and hoists.
“I would consider the plant upgrade we are working on now [at plant No. 2] partly environmental health and safety. If you walked through this plant two years ago and walked through it now, it is safer today just because it is brighter, more well-kept and more organized,” Bradley said after the IOSHA presentation.
Bradley said GE Aviation in Terre Haute has had double-digit growth in its production volume in 2013, and that 2014 will be another double-digit growth year.
“Our business is really strong in Terre Haute, which has a bright, bright future. Some of the product lines that we are investing in and growing on are strategic product lines that are going to last 10, 20 and maybe even 30 years, so the technology we are investing in is phenomenal,” Bradley said.
Andy Hayes, GE’s environmental health and safety leader, said 141 employees, about a third of the company’s workforce, were interviewed by the Indiana Department of Labor to obtain the merit status, along with more than 1,100 safety inspections this year.
“We call it ‘find it and fix it,’ where an employee finds an issue, they take care of it on the spot,” Hayes said. “We empower the employees to do that. Our goal was 600 for the year, and we completed 1,057, so we beat our goal like crazy. That is how engaged our employees are in lowering our incident rate.”
Hayes said the company’s 450 employees took a combined 6,500 safety training courses this year. “Our emphasis on training and making sure our employees get the information they need and have the skills is very high. Now we are going to push that to the next level,” Hayes said.
The company has plans to achieve a “star” rating when it is re-evaluated in three years by IOSHA.
Cintas Corp. in Terre Haute last year received the Star VVP award. Cintas last year became the 58th company to achieve that star rating in the state.
GE Aviation this year became the 63rd company in the state to achieve a merit status, said Tim Maley, Indiana’s deputy commissioner of Labor/IOHSA. There are about 2,500 companies nationwide that have achieved the certification.
“This program is a great example of how government and industry can work together for the betterment of employees and people in reducing accidents,” Maley said. “I have often said that IOSHA cannot fine Indiana companies into safety excellence. We just can’t do it. I think our numbers are [such that] we can get to every company in Indiana once every 71 years. That is not very fast. We value these partnerships because we feel this is really a true way to achieve a safer work place in Indiana,” Maley said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.