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Nucor Corporation's Philosophy of Making Safety #1 Priority Contributes to Increased Number of Facilities Receiving VPP Recognition

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Nucor Corporation's Philosophy of Making Safety #1 Priority Contributes to Increased Number of Facilities Receiving VPP Recognition

Nucor Decatur (2009)

Nucor Decatur (2009)


With approximately 200 operating facilities, Nucor Corporation is the largest manufacturer of steel products in North America - producing more than 26 million tons of steel into thousands of applications in 2008 alone. Nucor believes in the philosophy that a company's success is built on treating team members well which starts with the assurance that every team member goes home safely to their families every day.

The company also believes that being safe on the job is smart business because great safety records tend to correlate with improved quality, productivity, and morale - as well as decreased costs. Every Nucor division has a safety coordinator and twice a year these safety coordinators hold a meeting to share information, best practices, new trends, and/or take training. Each division also has a variety of safety committees comprised of team members from different Nucor departments who also meet on a consistent basis to discuss current safety and health issues.

To demonstrate the importance of this philosophy, Nucor created its annual President's Safety Award which is presented each year to the divisions that are 67 percent below the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) national average for this industry. Despite the strict criteria, it is typical for at least 50 percent of Nucor's divisions to win this award each year.

The emphasis on making safety its #1 priority has led five Nucor divisions to attain approval to participate in the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), OSHA's premier recognition program. These participants are located in Norfolk, NE (May 2007); Seattle, WA (September 2007); Tuscaloosa, AL (April 2009); Marion, OH (July 2009); and Decatur, AL (September 2009). The following Nucor divisions have submitted their VPP applications, received their onsite evaluations, and are currently awaiting approval status: Crawfordsville, IN (March 2009); Jewett, TX (July 2009); and Hickman, AR (August 2009). In addition, three Nucor divisions are participants in the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), a recognition program administered by the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation: Nucor Building Systems, Nucor Steel, and Nucor Cold Finish. And finally, the Nucor Steel Hertford County division attained Carolina STAR status in the Carolina Safety Program, administered by the North Carolina Department of Labor.

Success Impact
Case Study: Nucor Decatur

Located in north-Alabama, the Nucor Decatur facility recycles scrap metal to produce steel coils. Originally owned by Trico, the steel mill was acquired by Nucor Corporation in 2002. In 2004, the Cold Mill was acquired to allow full cold-rolled processing; in 2008, a state of the art galvanizing facility was constructed to complete the processing capabilities. The facility utilizes full-time mechanical, piping, electrical, heating ventilation and air conditioning, janitorial, security and waste handling services which operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day with rotating shifts. The management team at Nucor Decatur - aware of other Nucor divisions attaining VPP status or submitting applications to the program - made a verbal and written commitment that their own facility would strengthen their safety and health management system and seek VPP recognition. The team felt confident that the safety at Nucor Decatur was good - but they wanted it to be great and recognized by OSHA as one of the best. Nucor Decatur began preparing to apply to the VPP during the early summer of 2008. Nucor Decatur received its VPP onsite evaluation in April 2009 and is hoping to be recognized by OSHA as a new VPP Star participant in the near future.

The Evolution of Safety at Nucor Decatur - VPP Application Process is Ultimate Team Building Exercise

When the Decatur division first started the process of applying to VPP, their goal was to be recognized as a VPP participant and fly the VPP Star flag, but what actually happened was an evolution of safety. VPP sparked a process of improvement that turned into the ultimate "team building exercise". One of the team members commented, "Before VPP, I thought we were good at safety - but we were really just ok!"

Nucor Decatur's VPP application process first began by organizing a plant-wide "VPP team" comprised of a diverse group of team members that included management, maintenance, operators, office personnel, and contractors. In addition to this large group, 15 "specialized safety teams" were also organized for the purpose of improving the facility's current safety and health management system. Each safety team was given a specific objective but little instruction on how to accomplish it. Due to the freedom and flexibility allowed, each team came up with solutions to problems that resulted from discovering their own path to VPP. This freedom also helped the teams to sustain confidence and build momentum, and excitement was in the air as the date of the VPP onsite evaluation approached. This evolution of safety continued to increase as each team member sincerely believed in what they were doing and had the management commitment and support to complete their objectives.

The Decatur team asked Charlie Morecraft, a safety motivational speaker, "How do you make a safety program great?" He replied, "That's simple, you must make it personal." Therefore, during the VPP onsite evaluation, the team did just that - made it personal. The pride and excitement of the team members were clearly evident during the onsite evaluation. Many became emotional during their safety presentations which was not something previously scripted - it was simply a part of the facility's safety evolution.

When everyone involved believes in the cause, it becomes part of who they are. When the OSHA onsite evaluation team suggested that the facility's signage be raised to make fire extinguishers more visible, the team built and installed new signs in just hours. Nucor Decatur facility's three year Total Case Incidence Rate (TCIR) and Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred (DART) rate for the period 2006-2008 were 0.8 and 0.5, respectively - resulting in a TCIR 83 percent below and a DART rate 80 percent below the 2007 BLS national average for this industry.

"Did we go overboard with the presentations and preparation for VPP? You are darn right we did! VPP is all about 'above and beyond' and that is where you get your return. It's not just about flying the flag - it's giving the team a vision, a goal, and the means for attacking it. This was the ultimate team building exercise for us - 700 team members - focused on one objective. It was truly an 'evolution of safety' for Decatur - in that we thought we were good. We want to be great. The journey is not over. We will continually improve our safety and health management system. The goal is still zero and we truly believe that we must improve each and every day to get there." VPP Nucor Decatur Safety Team

Nucor Decatur was approved by OSHA as a VPP New Star participant in September 2009.

Origin: Region IV, Trinity, Alabama

Entered VPP: September 2009

Industry Description (NAICS Code): Iron and Steel Mills (331111)

Employees: 800 team members (700 team members + 100 contractor team members)

Sources (Date): George Stephenson, Safety Facilitator, on behalf of VPP Nucor Decatur Safety Team / August 2009 (story updated September 2009)

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