Superior Safety Performance with Asbestos Project 

Superior Safety Performance with Asbestos Project 
U.S. Environmental protection agency Libby, mt

By: Paul Opem

CDM Smith has a vigorous safety program and a firm attitude when it comes to safety and its em­ploy­ees. The CDM Smith Libby, Montana Field Office was inducted into the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s (OSHA) Vol­un­tary Pro­tec­tion Program (VPP) for its work with the wide-spread asbestos con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in Libby. This recog­ni­tion is reserved for those or­ga­ni­za­tions who demon­strate ex­em­plary achieve­ment in the pre­ven­tion and control of oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health hazards and in the de­vel­op­ment, im­ple­men­ta­tion and con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment of their safety and health man­age­ment system. 

Creating Safety Aware­ness

CDM Smith sup­ported the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) emer­gency response services and Su­per­fund processes in Libby with a number of key ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing asbestos removal over­sight, com­mu­nity in­volve­ment/re­cruit­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal sampling, design, property in­spec­tion and ad­min­is­tra­tive support. This project included working with large equip­ment, ma­neu­ver­ing through tight spaces and crawl spaces, facing various weather climate changes as well as pro­tect­ing them­selves from the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. It was im­per­a­tive from the very be­gin­ning that em­ploy­ees prac­ticed safe be­hav­iors, par­tic­i­pated in nec­es­sary safety train­ings and were com­mit­ted to ac­com­plish­ing this job safely.


Im­ple­ment­ing Safe Be­hav­iors

Several elements of our safety, quality, and project man­age­ment system were singled out by OSHA as being best-in-class. These included pre-task planning, activity hazard analysis, use of an in­spec­tion tracking system, sampling and analysis plans, and employee par­tic­i­pa­tion. It was noted by OSHA that our em­ploy­ees’ level of safety en­gage­ment and per­cep­tion of the company and its man­age­ment was among the highest they’ve seen. As a result, the team achieved more than 500,000 man hours without a lost time injury.

Rec­og­niz­ing a Safety Culture

The VPP ac­cep­tance was the result of an 18-month effort to im­ple­ment a program that met the ex­ten­sive VPP re­quire­ments. Major mile­stones included com­plet­ing a gap analysis to de­ter­mine VPP readi­ness, sub­mit­ting a com­pre­hen­sive 200+ page ap­pli­ca­tion packet, and un­der­go­ing a suc­cess­ful two-day onsite program audit, con­ducted by three senior OSHA rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which included:

  • In­ter­views with em­ploy­ees;
  • Reviews of program doc­u­ments; and
  • Ob­ser­va­tion of site ac­tiv­i­ties.

Only 0.03 percent of com­pa­nies are accepted into the VPP, and this recog­ni­tion helps dif­fer­en­ti­ate CDM Smith’s safety program as best-in-class for current and po­ten­tial clients.


Paul Opem is a health and safety (H&S) pro­fes­sional with more than fifteen years of ex­pe­ri­ence at CDM Smith, focusing on de­vel­op­ment of oc­cu­pa­tional H&S programs. He im­ple­ments our cor­po­rate and site-specific H&S programs designed to protect workers, the public, and the en­vi­ron­ment. He manages safety programs and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of H&S programs designed to attain Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion (OSHA) Vol­un­tary Pro­tec­tion Program (VPP) status.