Signs reminding employees to wear protective goggles and keep safety on their mind hang around every corner in Monsanto Co.'s Posilac plant on Lovers Lane.
Fire extinguishers, exits and cleaning kits are clearly marked, and hard hats and lab coats are standard attire.
This is all part of an organized effort by management and employees to create a safe working environment, and that effort culminated in the chemical plant being certified as one of the safest workplaces in the country.
The facility received the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program Star certification on Friday, nearly three years after the facility opened.
"I know when I hear about your plant, I don't have to worry about safety and health," Terry Harrison, deputy regional administrator for OSHA, said Friday to employees gathered at a presentation luncheon.
VPP Star certification is OSHA's highest safety rating. Only about 1,100 of the nation's more than 7 million workplaces have qualified.
To earn VPP Star status, companies must report fewer accidents and lost work days than the average for the industry, exhibit a commitment by management and employees to actively correct problems and monitor the facility's safety, perform regular self-inspections to identify hazards, and take action to correct and prevent hazardous situations.
Monsanto is the area's sixth plant to earn VPP Star certification. Two others, John Deere and Garrett Aviation, are working toward theirs.
"For a town the size of Augusta, that's a very good number to have," OSHA spokesman Bill Grimes said.
"That's probably about the same number Atlanta has."
The VPP program started with chemical companies in Texas that were looking for ways to reduce the costs associated with lost-work-time accidents.
Mr. Grimes said the average lost-work-time accident costs a company about $30,000. VPP sites typically have 54 percent fewer of those accidents, and in 2000, they saved more than $152 million.
"This is about making sure you know you're going home in the same condition you came in," said George McGowan, Monsanto's plant manager.
Reach James Gallagher at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Playing it Safe
Augusta is home to several of the nation's safest manufacturing and chemical plants.