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.