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Elephant Butte Field Division Receives OSHA's STAR Award

In 1996, the employees at the Bureau of Reclamation’s Elephant Butte Field Division (EBFD), located near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, voted to participate in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). In April 1997, the application was sent to OSHA and the die was cast. The application was based on the City of Scottsdale, Arizona’s application. At this time, OSHA had no federal sites applying for VPP. After months of indecision, in 1998, OSHA let federal sites become eligible for VPP. The application was sent back to the division to reflect the federal site application guidelines.

photo: Elephant Butte Staff rasining VPP STAR site flag

In May of 1998, the revised application was sent back to OSHA and was accepted. After the OSHA team evaluated the EBFD site, the division became a VPP MERIT site in June 1999. A MERIT site has three years to achieve the merit goals and become a STAR site. In October of 2002, the division was evaluated and had the MERIT status extended because of being so close to STAR status. On August 20, 2003, EBFD was awarded the STAR status by the Department of Labor.

VPP is an employee-driven safety commitment to lessen accidents and keep standards of safety and performance high. VPP is managed by a committee of volunteers from all areas, including management. The committee’s duties are varied and diverse, ranging from the initial application process to getting the yearly safety reviews completed to rewriting safety programs. Combining the guidelines of the VPP with those from Department of the Interior was a long process. The rewards are a lower accident rate and lost time figures, and the knowledge that Elephant Butte Dam and Powerplant is a safer place to work, which is worth all of the time and effort that was, and continues to be, spent. The current Chairman and Secretary are Humberto Lucero and Davonna Stoner-Thomas, espectively.

The average VPP site has a lost day incident rate 52 percent lower than the national average. This is reflected in the much lower accident/incident rate shown by EBFD. At the time of starting the application process, EBFD rates were way above the national average having about five to six recordable accidents each year. The last recordable accident at EBFD was in February 2002, and was a no lost time incident.

Elephant Butte Field Division VPP At A Glance

  • The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) is an employee-driven safety commitment to lessen accidents and keep standards of safety performance high. Dedication from the entire team is necessary to implement this program.
  • VPP is comprised of a committee of volunteers from all areas of the staff. Past Committee Chairman and Secretaries have included Scott Pierson, Mike McAdams, Scot Sanders, Ed Pawl, among others.
  • The committee’s duties are varied and diverse and extend and begin with getting the VPP application completed to reviewing safety programs. Programs such as Confined Space Training, Hazardous Energy, Respiratory Protection, Noise Control, are written to meet the standards put forth by both OSHA and the Department of the Interior.
  • In the beginning, each site is assigned a mentor that will assist in any way possible. Our mentor was the City of Scottsdale, Arizona, with Mr. Paul McKee of the Risk Management Division as our point of contact and Mr. Alex Britain of the Motorola Corporation assisting. The City of Scottsdale supplied us with an application information packet, which the committee used as a guideline. Even though federal installations have different regulations than private corporations, it was still invaluable. Both Mr. McKee and Mr. Britain came to EBFD and conducted a mock inspection which simulated what OSHA had looked for when they inspected them. This showed the EBFD team the areas that needed to be improved upon, and corrected, before the application was submitted and OSHA’s inspectors came. The original application was submitted to OSHA in April 1997 and resubmitted in May 1998 after requested changes were made.
  • EBFD was awarded the 1998 Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation Safety Champion Award for the work accomplished for OSHA’s VPP. The award was presented to Wesley Able, Bill Neeley and Russ Fennema, Albuquerque Area Office Safety Officer, at the Department of the Interior Safety Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 19, 1998.
  • March 18, 2003, Bill Neeley accepted for the EBFD the Department of the Interior’s “Safety Award of Merit” at the DOI safety convention from DOI DASHO J. Michael Trujillo.


Last updated: January 19, 2007