WOLF CREEK, MT – The U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA has certified NorthWestern Energy’s Holter Hydroelectric Plant in Wolf Creek as a “Star” under the VPP. This is the highest level of recognition for workplace safety and health excellence under the agency’s Voluntary Protection Program. OSHA has approved Holter Hydroelectric Plant as a VPP program participant since June 2008. In total, NorthWestern Energy has four sites participating in VPP nationwide.
OSHA announced the recognition as part of Holter Hydroelectric’s recertification in the VPP program, which is now in its 40th year. The “Star” designation recognizes employers and employees who demonstrate exemplary achievement in the prevention and control of workplace safety and health hazards, as well as the development, implementation, and continuous improvement of their safety and health management systems.
“NorthWestern Energy continues to exhibit a significant commitment to employee safety and health performance,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous. She quoted this as a great example of safety accomplishments with the teamwork of OSHA, employers, employees, and their union.
The Safety Culture and Good Practices
OSHA praised Holter Dam’s proactive approaches to safety and health, including daily meetings on potential workplace hazards and safety controls.
Other good practices are regular community outreach by employees supporting their emergency preparedness plans. The outreach includes annual tabletop and rotating mock drills at Holter and neighboring dams. It brings together emergency responders, state road and bridge authorities, news media, the National Weather Service, and other stakeholders.
“We conduct annual outreach to 100 people ensuring the readiness in the event of a major worker or public safety threatening issues. Regular exercise programs are conducted with partners, the nearby dams, responders, and major players,” said NorthWestern Energy Operations and Maintenance Superintendent Jeremy Butcher.
In addition, employees at Holter Dam are regularly trained and equipped to perform lifesaving first aid. Last but not least, the company also ensures law enforcement, fire departments, and contractors are familiar with the access points to expedite emergency responses.
In summary, having a positive safety culture within an organization promotes more than safety. It is vital for a successful and effective health and safety program. According to OSHA, developing a strong safety culture has a significant impact on accident reduction of any process. Learn more about building and maintaining a positive safety culture and formulating robust safety training solutions with industry subject matter experts.
OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP)
The VPP recognizes employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies implementing effective safety and health management systems. In addition to maintaining injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries. In VPP, management, labor, and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. These are achieved through a system focused on hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, management commitment, and worker involvement.
Employers must apply to participate in VPP and undergo a rigorous onsite evaluation by a professional safety and health team. Learn more about VPP, the qualifications for application, and the policies and procedures manual.
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