Safety – Wharton

Procedures & Administration

Achieving elevated safety awareness standards through an employee-developed hazard recognition course

T H Wharton Generating Station

NRG Energy 

 Challenge. “Safety First” is virtually every organization’s given top priority and goal. NRG Energy and T H Wharton employees share this top priority. However, maintaining a constant, high level of safety awareness is challenging as focus often diminishes over time, regardless of the numerous safety programs employed.

   The trends of T H Wharton safety audits and inspections highlighted several issues that were continually being identified. One example was labeling of secondary containers. Audit teams found that employees transferring chemicals into a secondary container were either attaching incorrect information to the container or not attaching proper identification at all.

   In order to correct this issue and improve employee awareness, Roger W McConnell, plant manager, suggested increasing employee engagement in safety by having multiple examples of both correctly and incorrectly labeled containers and having a competition where employees would identify the errors. This worked very well both in substantially decreasing incorrectly labeled containers and winning positive feedback from employees.

   Success in hand, McConnell suggested the creation of a larger employee safety immersion project where groups of employees could walk through process a hazard recognition course and identify staged safety issues.

Solution.This OSHA VPP Star site upped the ante on safety by challenging its employees to develop a program to increase safety awareness through hazard recognition. Acknowledging that safety starts with employee involvement and a good hazard recognition foundation, the TH Wharton plant manager and the site safety coordinator led a core leadership team to design a hazard recognition course and competitive program at the plant’s retired Unit 2.

   Designating the course, “Hogan’s Alley,” the subcommittee populated it with the issues identified by safety audits and inspection findings. The intent was to create an area that personnel could walk safely through and view hazards while not being directly exposed to any of the dangers it illustrated.

   The hazard recognition course is staged with hazards throughout the unit, from the basement to the control room and turbine deck (photos). Employees traverse the course and identify the hazards along the way. At the end of the course, employees review the hazards key and are graded on their level of hazard recognition. Top finishers win a lunch date with the plant manager.

   Originally we had 79 separate hazards, but by the end of the initial testing, employees had identified 89 additional items that were not included in the original hazard list. With the new hazards identified we were ready to have all plant personnel compete.

  Results. This “out-of-the-box”, unconventional, and non-classroom training program increases employee involvement, sharpens hazard recognition acumen, provides the foundation for other plant safety programs, and helps maintain the plant’s excellent safety standards and targets. Hogan’s Alley and its success have been shared and adopted throughout the company.

   Other regional plants have sent teams to the site, and some have developed their own hazard recognition courses. Our employees are now more proactive and the quality of safety concerns has seen a marked improvement. Employees also come away from the training with a greater understanding of hazards.

   Currently, T H Wharton and its sister plant are sending employees proficient in hazard recognition to a cross-town plant’s new course for a friendly “Top Gun” competition. Additionally, Hogan’s Alley has also been shared and recognized at OSHA VPP conferences.

   Personnel at T H Wharton encourage employees at other plants to set up a program like this at your facility. You don’t need an abandoned unit to accomplish this process. Any open area, or even a conference room, can be barricaded off to fashion a course. Finally, if you decide to institute a Hogan’s Alley, please ensure your employees are properly protected from the hazards you put in place. This small step is of the utmost importance.