How to Handle a Break Up with OSHA

Kelli Heflin of Southwest Generation told stories of withdrawing from VPP and how her company got back on track.

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Day two of VPPPA 31 saw a morning session kicked off by Kelli Heflin, a corporate safety coordinator for Southwest Generation, a Denver-based energy company. She told stories of voluntarily leaving the VPP in order to be eligible for re-entry a year later and how, although that may be embarrassing, it was better than having OSHA remove the company and forcing it to wait three years before getting the chance to enter again.

Heflin said that the safety systems in place before the withdrawal were simply not effective, and that she could see the writing on the wall. It's never easy to make the decision to withdrawal from VPP, and the employees were predictably shocked and sad to hear the news. They supported the goal to re-submit a year later and move forward.

Which trends started to emerge that created this problem? According to Heflin, no disciplinary system was in place, middle management didn't support the VPP initiatives, and employee involvement started to slip due to lack of accountability.

Although motivated to re-submit her company's status with the VPP, Heflin soon left to join Southwest Generation; she took along the lessons she had learned. Now, she says that self-evaluation is key to success in safety, as well as being able to gain meaningful improvement via measurable goals.

In the end, Heflin emphasized how important it is for everyone in an organization to help keep workers safe, not just the safety department.

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