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VPP Programs Unique Component of Comprehensive Safety Program Dramatically Reduces Injuries at Utility Contractors Inc. (UCI): 2008 Comes to a Close with No Recordable or Lost Time Accidents


Background:

Established in 1950, Wichita-based Utility Contractors, Inc. (UCI) is a family-owned, general contracting company that specializes in the areas of heavy and industrial construction.

UCIs commitment to safety and health is apparent through its Behavioral Health Program, which targets all of its employees whether working in the construction field or within the National Headquarters building. The organization recognizes that all sites pose different hazards to employee safety and health, and thus tailors each job worksite to target potential injuries and illnesses. As of 2007, UCI received Star recognition from OSHAs premier recognition Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). Attaining VPP status is official acknowledgment of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary safety and health management systems (SHMS). With over eight million worksites in the United States, less than .008 percent receives VPP recognition.

Success Impact:

Starting the Day Off Right: Stretching at 7:30 AM is Key to Keeping all Employees Injury-Free

Since the introduction of UCIs Behavior Health Program just over 10 years ago, the organization has seen injuries and illness drop to an almost nonexistent state. Management believes that much of that reduction has to do with the incorporation of morning stretches into the workforces everyday routine. Critics, internal and external alike, have approached UCI with questions about their methodology. UCI President Chuck Grier recalls, "Even people in our company told us we were nuts and that injuries are an inherent part of this business. We didn't think that was necessarily the case."

With nearly 40 years in the construction industry, Mr. Grier has seen his fair share of injuries, illnesses, and deaths occur on-the-job. It was not until the mid-1990s that it really hit home when a worker was electrocuted as his crane touched an overhead power line. "We had just had a meeting on electrical safety," Grier recalled. Talking about safety and health is not enough. Meeting about safety and health is not enough. There has to be action, a change in the culture of safety and health in the workplace. UCI has found that Management Commitment and Employee Involvement (a key element in establishing an effective SHMS) has proven to be priceless. Management is looking out for employees, and employees are becoming acutely aware of how to identify unsafe work practices. This has been a key factor of instilling the morning stretch practice.

The stretching program was established in 2001. UCI had reduced its total accidents from 22 in 1997 to 10 in 1999, but could not seem to get below 10 accidents per year prior to 2002. Grier and UCIs Safety Director, Larry Schmitz, reviewed the trends and found all but one of those injuries had been muscular-skeletal in nature and occurred before 10 AM. "Guys were jumping out of the trucks, slapping on a tool belt that could weigh as much as 40 pounds and going to work," Grier said. "It wasn't hard to figure out what was happening." Upon being injured, workers would typically begin a physical therapy regimen at Wichitas NovaCare. UCI approached NovaCare and requested that a stretching program be designed to help reduce muscular-skeletal injuries. Since the implementation of the stretching program, UCI recorded just 16 injuries for the years 2002-2008.

Injury and Illness Rates Reveal UCIs Daily Commitment to Excellent Safety and Health Practices Flawless Days Away, Restricted and Transfer (DART) and Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR)

UCIs safety program works and is evident by their excellent safety record. Combined with ongoing training and an outstanding performance record, UCI is proud to remain a leader in its field. The table below presents UCIs three-year DART rate and TCIR as they worked towards attaining VPP recognition.

Injury/Illness Data:
 
  DART TCIR
Year 1: 2004 0 0
Year 2: 2005 0 0
Year 3: 2006 0 0
BLS Industry National Average (2005) 3.0 5.0

UCI received VPP status in May 2007. The year of 2008 was no different, as the company completed the entire 12 months with no recordable or lost time accidents.

Origin: Region VII, Kansas City Regional Office

Entered VPP: May 2007

Industry and NAICS and SIC Codes: Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction (NAICS Code 2379, SIC Code 1629)

Employees: 145

Employers: 1

Source and Date: Matt Gaines, VPP Manager, Region VII Kansas City Regional Office (February 2009)