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Z Project Awards for Innovative Safety and Health Practices
OSHA’s Area Office in Peoria, Illinois is working with local companies on a customer service activity called the "Z Project." The Z Project is designed to encourage employers to eliminate workplace safety and health hazards. The Z Project also looks to recognize effective and innovative methods to control hazards.

The first annual Z Project conference was held in Decatur, Illinois on May 1, 2003. Prior to the conference, participants sent in information to the Peoria OSHA Office on the number of hazards they had eliminated or controlled, and the effectiveness of the control methods, and provided specific information on controls they felt were worthy of recognition in one of four selected categories. At the 2003 conference, all of the information was shared with the participants and awards were presented in four categories: the Lifesaver award, Alveoli Protection, the Pluto award, and the Area Director's Choice.
The Lifesaver Award was presented for a control that could have saved a life. The award was presented to Arkay Plastics Illinois, located in Paris, Illinois. Their employees were exposed to a fall hazard when climbing approximately 15 to 20 feet off the ground to reach resin hoppers and loaders for color change operations and cleaning purposes. The hoppers were adjacent to their injection molding machines, making the situation more dangerous. The company purchased and installed elevated guardrailed/toeboarded platforms that reached the hoppers themselves, thus protecting the employees from a falling hazard. These uniquely engineered platforms can swing out of the way when not in use. Life Saver Award
Life Saver Award
The Alveoli Protection Award was presented for a control that improves air quality. This award went to P.J. Hoerr Construction Company of Peoria, Illinois. A construction worker cutting concrete block on a job site was using a 12-inch Stihl saw with a water sprayer and 4-foot hose. He became frustrated with his lack of mobility because of the length of hose, disconnected it and continued to cut, thus exposing himself to silica dust. The safety director went to the hardware store, purchased additional hose and fittings for about $5, which extended the mobility of the worker about 10 feet. His quick thinking got the employee to accept the engineering control. The employee and nearby workers were no longer exposed to significant levels of silica and particulate. Alveoli Protection Award
Alveoli Protection Award
The Pluto Award was presented for the concept or control that was the most unusual or innovative. The award went to Mel-O-Cream Donuts International, Inc. of Springfield, Illinois. To manage safety and health issues, the Human Resources Manager developed a database system that allowed for the identification of hazards throughout the workplace and ensured employee involvement. He challenged the employees to find 1 or 2 hazards and to suggest 3 fixes for each hazard. The system assisted in prioritizing safety and health hazards and managing the implementation of controls. As a matter of fact, his employees became so involved in the project that he said that over 100 hazards were identified and eliminated at their facility! His presentation of the database system was very popular at the conference – when he said he would share it, he got the business cards of almost everyone present. Pluto Award
Pluto Award
The Area Director's Choice Award was presented to Advance Filtration Systems, Inc. of Champaign, Illinois. Workers at this facility assemble filters in cylindrical tubes and inspect those assemblies. The workers were exposed to musculoskeletal disorders from manually handling the pieces. The company introduced robots on the tube setting machine, which moved the elements of the assembly from the pallets, rotated the elements, and set them on a conveyor to the tube setting machine. The new process greatly decreased the need to handle the product and decreased the potential risks associated with musculoskeletal disorders. As an added bonus, the new process also increased the quality of the product! Z-Project Award of 2002
Z-Project Award of 2002

The feedback from the conference attendees was very positive. They want the Z Project to be continued and more widely publicized. The attendees were impressed that the Z Project challenged employers to be proactive on workplace safety and health issues, and to encourage employers to include their workers in the process.

For more information, please contact Brian Bothast, Compliance Assistance Specialist in OSHA’s Area Office in Peoria, Illinois, at Brian Bothast.