Lakeside Foods gains star status
When it comes to safety, Lakeside Foods in New Richmond is a cut above the rest.
The vegetable canning business was recognized for its employee safety efforts during a special ceremony Thursday, Jan. 10. The ceremony celebrated Lakeside's official designation as a "Star Worksite" by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
According to Mark Hysell, area director with the U.S. Department of Labor-OSHA, the star designation is quite an honor for a business. Only about 2,000 companies in the entire nation have attained the safety achievement, and only 52 of those businesses are in the food processing sector. There are just two companies in Wisconsin with the Star Worksite designation.
"Now, I'm happy to announce, there are three," he told the crowd assembled for the ceremony. "You are one of the best of the best in the entire nation."
Hysell said OSHA standards are the "bare minimum" that companies should strive for. The companies that work toward the "Star Worksite" designation under OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) are the ones that are truly committed to employee safety, he noted.
"The real challenge now is to keep it up," he said.
Dave Yanda, president and CEO of Lakeside Foods, was on hand to congratulate the local plant for its safety designation and strong safety record.
"I'm proud of everybody here," he said. "It took a lot of hard work and dedication to get to this point."
Yanda said employee safety is the top priority for Lakeside, which has 12 plants and distribution centers across Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Mark Enter, general manager of the Lakeside Foods plant in New Richmond, said the company has been moving toward the VPP designation since 2009.
To attain the safety status, Enter said the company had to complete a 30-page application, with about 100 pages of supporting documents, to be considered for the VPP honor. Lakeside also had to review all of its safety efforts and make changes in their procedures when necessary.
OSHA inspectors then conducted a four-day audit, which included interviews with 43 employees and inspections, prior to the designation being awarded.
Enter thanked all of the Lakeside employees for their safety efforts that led to the "Star Worksite" designation.
"Thank you for rising up to the challenge," he said. "Today is about celebrating a milestone."
While Enter said the new designation is exciting, he reminded everyone that keeping the "Star Worksite" status will be important too.
"We want to make sure that our heads don't get so big that we think we're beyond having accidents," he said. "This is not the end. This is just the beginning."
As a "Star Worksite," Lakeside is no longer subject to surprise inspections from OSHA, Enter noted.
At the conclusion of the remarks, Lakeside employees were each presented with a new jacket that touted the new "Star Worksite" designation. A luncheon was also served to employees and community leaders and business people.
OSHA established the VPP effort in 1982. Companies with strong safety and health programs can enter into VPP, partnering with OSHA to identify and eliminate workplace hazards.
The program has three levels of recognition: Star, Merit and Demonstration. Star participants are re-evaluated every three to five years to ensure continuous improvement.