10/19/08 — Health Department receives top state safety honor

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Health Department receives top state safety honor

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 19, 2008 2:00 AM

The Wayne County Health Department has become the state's first Health Department to receive the Public Sector Star award, introduced by OSHA and the state's Department of Labor.

The Carolina Star Program was designed to recognize and promote effective safety and health management. The Public Sector Star award recognizes state agencies and local governments for leadership and success in providing a safe and healthy work environment.

The process by which winners are determined is comprehensive -- including a 26-page application and several inspection visits to scrutinize buildings and grounds, maintenance logs, worker conditions and conduct employee interviews.

The award was presented Wednesday, following the regular Board of Health meeting. On hand were state Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry as well as state and local officials.

Karen Creech, a medical laboratory technician, was facilitator for the project, which took two and one-half years to prepare.

"It's a very comprehensive program, where we partner with OSHA to increase our safety and health culture here," Ms. Creech said. "It was a long process. We had to go through and look at every program that we had and every policy that we had and how that led to our safety culture."

In addition to the public recognition, the Health Department received a flag that will be flown outside the county office building on Ash Street.

There is also another perk that comes with the award, Ms. Creech said.

"We will be taken off OSHA's inspection list for three years," she said, "because they know that we're working the program to be a safer county."

Creating a safe working environment reduces employees' sick time and absenteeism, she said.

"They estimated $140,000 a year you save by making your staff more aware and more safety conscious," she said.

While she may have inherited the leadership role from other employees who have since retired and changed jobs, Ms. Creech credited Health Department staff with earning the state recognition.

"I could not have done it without my team members. It was a collaborative effort with a lot of people involved -- they came together so well."

Health Director James Roosen also acknowledged the efforts of the department's safety committee.

"I appreciate their tenacity in accomplishing this important goal," he said Thursday.