Rick Ruble tried to explain just want it meant to earn a Voluntary Protection Program Award.
Ruble, the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor, came to Shelbyville to bestow the honor on Toray Resin Company, 821 W. Mausoleum Road.
“How many people here call the Internal Revenue Service and ask them to come audit your taxes?” Ruble asked the gathering of staff, family and dignitaries in attendance. “How many people would call OSHA and say come inspect my workplace? But that’s exactly what you did. You called OSHA ... we don’t force ourselves in the door. You called us and said we’re interested in this ... let’s talk.”
That was five years ago. A proud company, Toray was told it was not ready upon first inspection and that caught Toray president and CEO Dennis Godwin off guard.
“We worked pretty hard for two years, invited OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) in and we weren’t as good as we thought we were,” said Godwin. “It’s typical ... you are used to looking at it everyday with the same set of eyes ... everything looks perfect to you. Everything looks in place.
“(OSHA) came in, looked quickly and said we weren’t ready ... and we were probably two to three years before we would be ready. Some of that required capital investment and some dollars. So we put some dollars and resources into it and five years later, here we are.”
The VPP award signifies the best in workplace safety and health. Toray Resin Company became the first Shelby County business to achieve the feat. It is the third Toray company in Indiana to earn the rating and Toray in Shelbyville joins a national club that has less than 2,200 members.
“When I looked at the OSHA website, I noticed there were about 90 industries in the state of Indiana that have this certification,” said Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun, who was asked to address those in attendance. “As I was told again today, Toray is the first in Shelby County and I think that is something to be very proud of.
“What really impressed me about that is it’s a voluntary program. It’s not something required. It’s something the corporate culture had determined to do on their own for the safety of the people who work here and the benefit of the team. Quite honestly, we all get caught up in our own daily operations and we find out we can get by or we can do a good job and not have to take that extra step. Toray decided to take that extra step.”
The VPP award process included a rigorous inspection of the facility and interviews with more than 85 percent of the staff.
“It’s a testament to the employees’ persistence and diligence in safety,” said Godwin, who described the award as the pinnacle of recognition in the safety world. “We used to talk a lot about top down but this process has been a lot more about bottom up. We’ve given the employees the ownership and this shows you what the employees can do when you give them that ownership and the accountability and the autonomy to go get things done.”