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DOE recertifies UCOR’s safety culture with VPP Star status

OAK RIDGE, TN – For the second time, UCOR — an AECOM-led partnership with Jacobs — has achieved the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Star status through the DOE Voluntary Protection Program, or VPP. DOE awards this highest level of VPP recognition to contractors that demonstrate safety excellence through employee involvement in outstanding safety and health programs.

On Wednesday, October 16, Jay Mullis, manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, presented the award and the VPP Star flag to UCOR President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Rueter. The presentation took place at a gathering of all 1,800 UCOR workers who celebrated both this award and the close of a highly successful fiscal year 2019.

DOE presents award to UCOR
Jay Mullis, manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, presents the award and the VPP Star flag to UCOR President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Rueter; image submitted

The Star designation was originally awarded to UCOR in 2015. The 2019 recertification includes all of UCOR’s work at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Y-12 National Security Complex. The award resulted from an extensive review of UCOR’s safety and health programs by a DOE assessment team in June 2019. The team affirmed the company’s excellent performance in specific criteria under five overarching elements: senior management’s commitment to an integrated safety management system; employee involvement in the safety and health program; ongoing worksite analysis; hazard prevention and control; and safety and health training.

UCOR places safety at the heart of its work and has built a safety-conscious work culture. The company’s top value insists that workers “make safety a prerequisite to all work.” Rueter said that employees throughout the organization embrace this value and participate fully in the culture.

“Without this level of commitment by our employees, the Star status wouldn’t be possible,” Rueter said. “They make decisions and take actions each day to ensure their safety and the safety of their team members. We have a ‘stop work’ policy that allows workers at any level to call for a halt to work if they see something that would create an unsafe environment. They do it. They keep each other safe.”

UCOR is DOE’s leading environmental cleanup partner. Since August 2011, UCOR has worked to reduce environmental risk by cleaning up legacy facilities from the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, allowing DOE to repurpose the land and buildings for use as a multi-use industrial park, national park, and conservation area. The company is also cleaning up contaminated facilities that are no longer in use at ORNL and Y-12, reducing environmental risk and helping the DOE Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration to continue their missions.

Published November 6, 2019

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