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Deployment of a Comprehensive SMS and Star VPP Certification

A large coal fired electrical power generation facility, contacted CoreAdvantage seeking assistance with a safety improvement process designed to provide OSHA Star VPP certification. The site is owned by a consortium of 6 corporations and is operated by a single large publicly traded company. The station consists of four units that generate a total of 2,094 Megawatts. This makes the facility the 2nd largest coal-fired project in the Western United States. Employees are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Teamsters.


Deploying a Comprehensive SMS, Building a Strong Safety Culture & VPP Certification

The current facility operator began operating the facility in 1999. Prior to this time, the site had experienced poor safety performance to include a fatality, significant non fatal accidents and significant OSHA enforcement activities. While supportative of a safety improvement process and VPP certification, the credibility of site leadership and the safety program was suspect in the eyes of the unions and employees. The site had been working on VPP during the prior 18 months. While improvements were made, significant frustration existed stemming from confusion on what was needed and the slow rate of change.


4 Step Intervention: Benchmarking, SMS Implementation, Leadership KPI’s, Re-benchmarking & Certification

The following obstacles needed to be overcome:

  • Lack of knowledge of what safety excellence and VPP would require
  • Lack of trust between management, unions and employees
  • Low faith in the current safety processes
  • Missing safety processes and weak safety leadership

To address these issues our intervention was structured into 4 phases.

Phase 1 consisted of facilitating an assessment and VPP benchmarking working with leadership from management, unions and EHS staff. The SafePath VPP Benchmarking tool was used for this effort. By involving members from the leadership teams it educated key staff on VPP and safety excellence and created the buy-in for accepting the gaps identified and the change needed.

Phase 2 involved using the same leadership group for the creation and improvement of the specific safety policies and processes identified in the gap analysis. The SafePath VPP Master Control Plan was used to provide a structure and became the permanent repository and central portal of access for all safety related policies and procedures.

Phase 3 involved the rollout roll out of all procedures and policies. The SafePath VPP Master Control Plan provided employee access and visibility for improvements. During this time period it was recognized that a tool was needed to align the management team around the VPP processes and to also increase management’s visible safety leadership. A series of leading indicators designed to increase managements’ visible support and involvement in safety were defined and implemented. A SafePath Performance-based leading indicator dashboard was used to provide a tool to management to manage the process and to provide the visibility needed.

Phase 4 consisted of a re-benchmarking, a corporate internal certification, VPP application and the OSHA VPP Certification visit.

Summary of Tools Used

SafePath VPP Benchmarking Tool – used for initial gap analysis & final benchmarking

SafePath – used to guide SMS development & provides a centralized web portal to all safety & VPP policies and procedures for all employees access

SafePath – used to manage to and display key leadership KPI’s


STAR VPP Certification in under 18 months

In 18 months the site deployed an effective comprehensive safety management system, developed a high level of visible leadership for safety and as a result strong employee involvement and ownership for VPP and the related safety processes. Bottom line a safety culture was created that is “World Class”. The site was certified by OSHA at the Star level in August 2007.

Lessons Applied

Clarity, Collaboration & Leadership

Several key things occurred that contributed to this success. First the site created a leadership team consisting of members of management, union and EHS to champion the effort. This solidified a partnership that is a hallmark of the VPP process.

Second, by involving the leadership group from the initial gap analysis to the VPP certification created the buy-in needed and made the process “real”.

Third, the SafePath technology tools provided a structured and efficient process for the safety improvement process thus drastically shortening the time required.