Prudential Phoenix Plant Gains VPP ‘Star’ Status
Prudential Overall Supply’s Phoenix plant recently announced that it has earned Voluntary Protection Plan (VPP) ‘Star’ Status – a first for that company.
The process of certifying Prudential’s Phoenix facility with VPP Star status began over two years ago. Achieving this milestone took the combined efforts of the corporate office, local managers, representatives from the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH), and most importantly, the 77 employees who work for Prudential in Phoenix. “We realized we had a problem when we looked at the attendance and injuries,” said Prudential President Tom Watts. “We want to send people home in the same condition they came to work.”
Achieving VPP certification requires a rigorous, detailed process. It takes applications, inspections, extensive employee training and the implementation of new safety features and procedures. But the team at Prudential was determined to succeed. And after more than two years of dedicated effort, the Phoenix plant earned ‘Star’ status.
The June 20 announcement of VPP success wouldn’t have happened without the support, participation and determination of each staff member in Phoenix. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the employees,” said Aaron Elberson, safety coordinator for Prudential.
When Prudential hires new employees, they go through a year’s worth of training, Elberson said. After they develop the necessary skills and self-assurance, they pass their knowledge to new employees. This program builds confidence and improves employee relationships. The employees have been very proactive in the VPP-certification process, he added. It’s been the employees who continue to set up and attend biweekly meetings of the group, Changing Habits and Making People Safe (CHAMPS), as well as the five subcommittees that focus on different areas of the workforce. Together, they locate workplace hazards and find ways to improve overall safety.
And Prudential has made changes, Elberson says. For example, in the Phoenix plant, we saw:
- Yellow cautionary tape marks on obtrusive poles
- Markings on floors to warn people to keep back
- Red floor-to-ceiling poles to mark all fire extinguishers
- Anti-fatigue mats in areas where employees stand for extended periods
- Metal guards separating employees from large pieces of machinery
- Colorful posters that remind employees about the importance of safety throughout the facility
Just as important, employees have undergone new training sessions, which have taught them more about the workplace hazards and how to mitigate them. This initiative has had an impact - employees remarked that they now consistently analyze situations and determine how to address potential risks, even in their personal lives.
While no one can deny the hard work by both the local management as well as corporate headquarters, the Phoenix staff have driven the VPP process. Watts commended them, noting that, “As a corporation, we appreciate the recognition we’re receiving today, but really all of it goes to the employees who work in the Phoenix plant. Without them, we wouldn’t have this great accomplishment.”
Even before the VPP process began, Prudential’s Phoenix facility had a lower-than-average Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR), and the employees and managers worked together as a team. Two years later, after applying new safety programs, educating employees on how to improve safety and limiting general workplace hazards, the facility is now 70% below the industry average.
Along with health and safety benefits, the newly awarded VPP status has boosted morale and given the entire company a sense of pride. But it’s only a first step. Now that they’ve received this VPP for Phoenix, Elberson indicated that they now are ready to do it again at another location, because, as Watts remarked, “Getting VPP-certified was the right thing to do.” Plant manager Mark Rasmussen added, “Our safety journey doesn’t stop here. This is just the beginning.”