News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 14, 2012

Safety first: Terre Haute company honored with rare safety award

TERRE HAUTE — A Terre Haute company is a new “star” in the eyes of the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Lori Torres, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor, Tuesday presented Cintas Corp. in Terre Haute with a Star VPP (Voluntary Protection Program) award, the highest level for the program, during a recognition luncheon at The Ohio Building.

“This is a big day for Cintas. This is pretty rare air that you are breathing,” Torres told employees and corporate representatives of Cintas, along with Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett.

There are only 2,343 companies nationwide with a Star VPP status. Cintas became the 58th company in Indiana to achieve the recognition and the second business in Terre Haute.

GE Tri-Remanufacturing at 3390 Locust St. was the first Star VPP award recipient in Terre Haute in July 2000.

IOSHA’s VPP program was created in 1982. Business participants develop and implement safety systems that identify, evaluate, prevent and control occupational hazards to prevent employee injuries and illnesses. As a result, the average VPP worksite has a lost workday incidence rate more than 50 percent below the average within its industry.

In return, companies are removed from IOSHA’s programmed inspection lists while they maintain the VPP status. Companies are re-evaluated every three to five years to remain in the program.

“This program relies on dedicated and motivated management that is willing to give the support, the money, the resources and a very energetic person to motivate the employees,” Torres said.

However, it also takes a very engaged and motivated workforce to make the program work, Torres added.

Torres said IOSHA has a team of safety and health experts that conduct a rigorous onsite evaluation and “are experts at seeing through any sense of, ‘This isn’t really real, we are just doing this for our audit,’” Torres said.

Cintas workforce is fully engaged in the safety program, Torres said, evident by Cintas being accident-free for the past two years. Terre Haute is the seventh rental Cintas site to earn the VPP status.

The Terre Haute site provides full-service uniform rentals and provides facility services such as cleaning supplies and safety mats. Cintas serves companies such as Thyssen-Krupp Presta, Sony DADC, Advics Manufacturing, Baesler’s Market and the Tribune-Star Publishing Co.

Torres said the most frequent occupational fatality in Indiana is from transportation. “It is straight up highway motor vehicle accidents,” Torres said, accounting for a third of fatalities.

Quentin Williams, former branch manager at Terre Haute and now general manager at St. Louis who helped the Terre Haute site obtain the VPP status, said some safety changes include additional handles and hand grips in service vehicles as well as simply backing in all vehicles at the company’s parking lot.

“If you look at our Cintas location, every car will be backed in. The [statistics] say that when you back out a vehicle, you have [a greater chance of having] an accident,” Williams said.

Williams said engaged employees are the key to the program. “It is about safety best-practice ideas. We have our partners [Cintas name for employees] turn in monthly best practices that they see. If they walk by something and say they have an idea for that, we look at it and determine how can we implement that,” Williams said. “Then the partners are engaged because they are part of the process. They see their idea being implemented.”

Cintas Service Manager Sarah Grahek also attended the event.

The company, which employs about 40 workers, was presented with a plaque and flag, which the company raised Tuesday outside its facility at 5150 E. Margaret Drive on Terre Haute’s east side.

 

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