Harrodsburg plant gets rare OSHA award

October 15, 2003|GARY MOYERS

HARRODSBURG - In a time when many corporations measure success strictly according to profit and loss statements, Modine Manufacturing Co. in Harrodsburg is using a different yardstick.

The plant on Tapp Road is celebrating its selection as a Voluntary Protection Partnership Star site by the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Association, meaning, in short, the plant takes safety seriously.

"It's a huge honor, but safety is an integral part of our business model," said plant manager John Foutch. "The safety of our employees impacts our business in so many ways, and it truly affects the bottom line. Our employees take it seriously."

Just how seriously the employees - and the business - view safety was celebrated today when several federal and state government leaders gathered in Harrodsburg with corporate officers and local dignitaries to honor Modine for its selection as only the ninth Kentucky business to receive the Star award since the program was enacted in 1997.


Expected to attend the noon flag-raising ceremony were Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, state Secretary of Labor Joe Norsworthy, Sen. Dan Kelly, Rep. Jack Coleman and others.

Recipients of the Star award, the highest of three Voluntary Protection Partnership designations, will undergo periodic evaluations by OSHA, but are removed from programmed inspection lists. According to OSHA, VPP participants have an average lost workday incidence rate 52 percent below the average for their respective industries.

Modine has had a 78 percent reduction in recordable incidents over the past two years, ranking it 85 percent below the national average.

The road to the award, according to Foutch, was an arduous one.

"I had no idea that it was as extremely difficult as it has been," he said. "We had an OSHA team of six inspectors come in here this spring, and they literally looked at everything we do. There's no part of the operation they don't examine."

The plant and its 197 employees - three-fourths of whom live in Mercer and Boyle counties, according to Foutch - have compiled an enviable safety record since Modine bought the operation from Signet Systems in 1995.

The 253,000-square-foot plant manufactures heating, ventilation and air conditioning modules for automotive, truck and off-highway vehicles, and boasts as customers John Deere, Peterbilt and International.

One of 30 plants in Modine's corporate structure, the Harrodsburg facility has received four corporate safety awards, each one at a higher level than the previous, prior to receiving the VPP award.

"Modine takes safety seriously at a corporate level," said Foutch. "There is an entire department at our corporate headquarters whose sole responsibility is overseeing employee safety. And the standards to receive a corporate safety award are pretty high."

Foutch said the mindset that led to the VPP award starts with the local employees.

"I've been with this plant for 32 years, and I've seen a complete culture change here with regard to safety," he said. "Every employee realizes how important it is not only for their own safety, but for their workload. It's become a matter of internal pride here."

That internal pride, Foutch said, is the reason the employees are working on a string of more than 400 consecutive days without a loss due to injury or accident, and 359 days without a reportable safety incident.

"Every day is a new record," said Pamela Hoots, human resources manager and one of the people Foutch credits with leading the drive to the VPP award.

As a result of Modine's safety success, several of its safety procedures have been adopted by OSHA into its safety recommendations, and Foutch said word is getting out among local plants.

"We're getting some calls from plant officials in this area asking about our procedures," he said. "I think that's great, and we're happy to share."

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