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  Happy Birthday VPP!
Alstom Power: A 21-Year Star
by Tom Barnett
The Alstom Power, Inc., Air Preheater Company is the longest continuous Star site in VPP. The company earned Star status in 1982. Alstom Power Inc., Air Preheater Company (APAP) in Wellsville, NY, has the distinction of being the longest continuous Star worksite in VPP. The facility was first approved for Star status in October 1982, when it was known as C-E Air Preheater. Later, the company became ABB Air Preheater before assuming its current name.

Although the name has changed, the company's commitment to safety and health has not. A heavy manufacturing facility, APAP manufactures air preheaters, pulverizers for industrial and utility markets, thermal oxidizers, and the aftermarket parts and components to support these product lines. The facility's 540 employees are involved in machining, welding, painting, assembling, and shipping. They use large lathes, boring mills, and drills in the machining center; and shears, press brakes, plasma arc-cutting tables, bending rolls, and power presses in the prefab area. In addition, they work with materials handling equipment ranging from fork trucks to overhead cranes with lifting capabilities of up to 100 tons.

Before becoming a Star site, APAP tried many different safety incentive programs with little payback in performance. In contrast, during the first 3 years of participation in VPP, the company saw its workers' compensation expenses plummet by hundreds of thousands of dollars. The facility continues to pay workers' compensation costs 70 to 80 percent lower than what it paid before joining VPP 21 years ago. APAP shares those savings directly with the employees through its all-employee gain-sharing program.

This program has become a tremendous factor in helping employees understand that accident expenses come off the bottom line and that the effort to work safely pays off in the long run.

VPP participation increased the company management's active participation in safety and health. The company is committed to mentoring worksites and has discovered how rewarding it is to help other companies improve their safety and health programs and earn VPP approval. In addition, APAP is pleased to help OSHA by providing a VPP Special Government Employee at company expense, including recently sending a company employee to support OSHA's efforts at the World Trade Center recovery site. Participating on VPP evaluation teams has increased the company's appreciation of just how difficult it is to maintain a superior safety and health program and has given APAP pride in its value as an OSHA partner.

Safety was ingrained in APAP's culture long before the company became a VPP Star site. But with the OSHA recognition, and especially the honor of being the longest continuous Star site, has come a level of pride that strengthens our focus on safety and health and our dedication to the principles of VPP. When we communicate our continuing efforts and successes to our workforce and compare our injury and illness rates to the national average, our employees have a visible measuring tool for their hard work and dedication to safety.

Barnett is Manager of Environmental, Health and Safety for ALSTOM Power Inc., Air Preheater Company. He also is an OSHA VPP Special Government Employee and worked alongside OSHA personnel at the World Trade Center recovery site.