At L.E. Myers and Sturgeon Electric, Employees are the Backbone of Our VPP Success

November 13, 2014

Driven by determination, teamwork, and a steadfast commitment to safety, two MYR Group Inc. (MYR Group) subsidiaries are proud to announce their continuation of STAR status in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Mobile Workforce Demonstration for Construction for 2014.

The L.E. Myers Co. (L.E. Myers) Chattanooga District and two divisions of the Sturgeon Electric Company, Inc. (Sturgeon Electric) Colorado District – Commercial and Industrial/Transportation (C&I) and Transmission and Distribution (T&D) – have successfully maintained STAR status, the agency’s highest VPP recognition level for workplace safety and health.

The VPP, a cooperative partnership between OSHA, management and labor, recognizes sites that have distinguished themselves with a level of safety and health excellence that surpasses industry rules and compliance standards.

In 2008, the two MYR Group districts were the first to be selected by OSHA to participate in the VPP Mobile Workforce Demonstration Project.

“VPP was originally designed for fixed locations,” explained MYR Group Regional Safety Manager, C&I, Chuck Soderquist. “OSHA didn’t know if they could apply the VPP process to sites that had a mobile workforce.”

No one at L.E. Myers or Sturgeon Electric knew what to expect from the first audit, which was “nerve racking,” said Soderquist. OSHA evaluation teams conducted multi-stepped reviews of the sites, spending several days examining records, logs and inspection histories, performing walk-throughs to determine hazards and precautions, and interviewing management, staff and employees.

Once the initial 2008 evaluations were complete, the districts achieved STAR status and have maintained that prestigious standing ever since.

Having passed OSHA’s rigorous follow-up audits, L.E. Myers Chattanooga District, which includes work performed for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), received its VPP STAR recertification in 2010 and again in 2014.


Paul Simmons, manager of TVA’s Sequoya Nuclear Plant – where the L.E. Myers team has worked for three years without a single first-aid or recordable injury – praised the team for its “strong commitment to safety … further demonstrated by its partnership with OSHA.”

Paul Simmons, manager of TVA’s Sequoya Nuclear Plant – where the L.E. Myers team has worked for three years without a single first-aid or recordable injury – praised the team for its “strong commitment to safety … further demonstrated by its partnership with OSHA.”

Sturgeon Electric’s VPP STAR status was recertified in 2010 and again last month after OSHA found “excellent hazard reporting systems; a well-evolved safety culture that includes stop-work authority; good training and apprenticeship programs; strong commitment and leadership from the unions and the company; community involvement, and the involvement of employees in the selection of safety equipment.”

“Communication is a huge part of what makes up our VPP,” said Sturgeon Electric Project Manager Kelly Zink. “I think that we do a good job from the top down of communicating what’s important to us and also it starts from Day One through orientation with our field employees, making sure they know what’s important.VPP-11C


L.E. Myers Chattanooga District Manager Reed Adcock also believes in the power of clear, consistent communication. He implemented a text safety message process to communicate safety information on a real-time basis with all field management. A weekly email highlights accomplishments, concerns, alerts and safety topics for sharing with crews.

Maintaining VPP STAR status was an important goal, but the teams had set their sights even higher – to work every day with zero injuries.

“A big hurdle to overcome is the mindset that accidents are just going to happen, that it’s just a part of our line of work or the construction environment,” said L.E. Myers Vice President Ed Horne. “We must actually believe we can prevent injuries by following good safety practice. The key to that is to have every employee engaged in the effort, and to truly believe that they can work without injury.”


VPP-3C“Like any sports team that has the Super Bowl or World Series as the ultimate goal, the only way to get there is winning one game at a time,” said MYR Group Southeast Regional Safety Manager Donnie Cook. “So we focused on completing one task at a time, one day at a time, and doing it without injury. Every teammate had to be on board and committed to make it happen.”

“It takes an overall effort,” agreed Sturgeon Electric General Foreman Monty Brooks. “It’s everyone being involved, from Safety to Management and all through the ranks, from the job superintendent to the workers out in the field, and even beyond that – projecting ourselves and our beliefs to the others that work around us.”

Sturgeon Electric Project Superintendent Erik Smith called the VPP program “a secondary aspect of what Sturgeon Electric safety culture ultimately is.”

“It’s a branding we have for sending guys home safe every night, back to their families,” said Smith.

“Each employee going home safe is more than just words; it is our commitment to our employees, and to the customers we serve,” said Cook. “Our involvement in the VPP has played an important role in taking safety forward and reaching shared goals for employee safety.”

“A good safety culture takes 100 percent commitment from everyone involved,” added Sturgeon Electric Regional Vice President, T&D, Mark Sterkel. “It not only makes good business sense but must be personal as well. We have achieved VPP status because we have worked diligently to develop, maintain and improve our culture so that every one of our employees goes home safe and sound to their families at the end of every shift.”


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