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USG Corporation announced that its plant in Southard, Okla., earned the prestigious Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star award for outstanding safety performance and processes. Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will present the award and a special flag during a ceremony at the plant on September 9.
The Southard plant manufactures SHEETROCK brand gypsum panels and more than 250 gypsum plaster products. The Southard plant started production in 1905, and began manufacturing gypsum panels in 1922 making the Southard plant the company’s oldest continuously operated line. Today, the plant employs approximately 250 people.
The Star is the highest award of OSHA’s VPP. Employees, management and OSHA work together to implement safety and health programs and processes that protect employees more efficiently because they go beyond OSHA regulations. Only 2,000 of more than seven million worksites in the U.S. have achieved VPP Star status. The dedication to safety of the Southard plant employees and management resulting in the Star Award makes them a model for the industry.
“This award belongs to the 250 employees, whose dedication to safety made this recognition possible,” said Bill Weber, Southard plant manager. “This award requires a high level of commitment from the employees and support from the company. USG’s number-one priority is safety. We are very proud of this accomplishment because it validates our commitment to safety excellence.”
To qualify for VPP Star consideration, Southard plant employees focused on hazard recognition, improving housekeeping, engineering controls, training and safe operating procedures during a period of several years. As a result of their efforts, plant employees achieved a high level of sustained safety performance that warranted applying for Star recognition. The qualification audit was conducted by OSHA in September 2008.
An OSHA VPP officer led the audit team, which conducted a series of employee interviews about the plant’s operations, training and safety programs. They also reviewed documentation and reports regarding safety programs at the facility, and conducted a comprehensive inspection, applying OSHA safety standards.
Weber and the Southard plant team emphasized the specific improvements made at the facility during the past few years to ensure the safest working environment possible. In its presentation to the OSHA auditors, the USG team highlighted the tools used to maintain a focus on safety, reviewed training programs and described the plant’s safety team activities.
As a result of the focus on safety, the plant recently celebrated nearly 6 million safe work hours without a lost-time injury. Additionally, the plant’s mill department recently completed more than 33 years without a lost-time injury. In 2008, employees made more than 22,000 tangible contributions to improve the safety program. In addition, the plant has achieved the company’s safety rating for 12 consecutive years.
The Southard plant is also an environmental steward in the community. The plant reclaims quarry land and restores it to its natural landscape and wetland habitat. The plant has also assisted the Oklahoma Nature Conservancy in protecting the habitat of the endangered Black-capped Vireo, a small songbird native to the United States listed as an endangered species since 1987.
USG Corporation is a manufacturer and distributor of high-performance building systems through its United States Gypsum Company, USG Interiors, Inc. and L&W Supply Corporation and other subsidiaries. Headquartered in Chicago, USG's worldwide operations serve the residential and non-residential construction markets, repair and remodel construction markets, and industrial processes. USG's wall, ceiling, flooring and roofing products provide leading-edge building solutions for customers, while L&W Supply center locations efficiently stock and deliver building materials nationwide.