by Bryan Smith
Two area businesses have earned high honors from a government agency for their clean safety records.
Citizens Memorial Health Care Facility received a "Merit" rating and the Kraft USA facility in Springfield earned a "Star" rating from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Citizens Memorial, located in Bolivar, is the only nursing home in the nation to receive the Merit rating.
In order for Citizens Memorial Health Care to earn this distinction, it had to enroll in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program. The program allows businesses to work with the federal agency to meet the safety requirements established by the government.
Once a business feels it has met those requirements, it contacts OSHA, which does an evaluation of the work site, finds things that need to be changed and recognizes the business as a Merit site.
The business then has two years to complete any necessary changes, which include updating equipment or having employees go through additional training. If they do so within the allotted time, they earn the Star designation.
Once a business has earned the rating, OSHA re-evaluates the business every three years to make sure the site continues to meet the program criteria.
According to Les Reynolds, executive director of Safety Council of the Ozarks, Citizens Memorial has a few changes to make before it is a Star.
"When they have completed everything, they will receive that Star award," Reynolds said.
"It's a real plus for Citizens Memorial that they have sought to do what was necessary to achieve this award," Reynolds added. "Missouri should be proud of them."
Citizens Memorial will be honored July 9 by Charles Jeffress, who serves as the U.S. Department of Labor's assistant secretary for occupational safety and health.
Jeffress will arrive in town the day before the presentation for an evening program and reception held by the Safety Council of the Ozarks.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. July 8 at Bass Pro Shops.
The meeting will include a reception for officials, dinner and a two-hour program by Jeffress.
"We've asked the secretary to give us an update in OSHA and what's ahead," Reynolds said. "There's some new things coming along."
Reynolds said he believes this is the first time Jeffress has been to the area.
"It's nice to know the secretary is willing to come here and spend some time with us to let us know what is going on," Reynolds said.
The public is invited to attend the event, but must register with the Safety Council. There is a $30 fee.
Kraft was honored June 21 for its participation in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program.
The recognition included a lunch for the employees and guests of the plant.
Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt and Greene County Presiding Commissioner David Coonrod were on hand for the ceremony.
Plant Manager Joseph B. Lewis said the employees were responsible for earning the status.
"Working safely and watching out for your fellow team members is standard operating procedure at our plant," Lewis said in a Kraft press release. "When I came to Springfield as plant manager in 1996, the safety focus was immediately evident. We're very proud to be recognized as a Star site."
The Springfield facility is the third Kraft site in the state of Missouri to be recognized with Star status.
"Our associates' commitment to a safe work environment is also part of the plant's commitment to being a good neighbor here in Springfield," said James Atkinson, vice president of operations for Kraft's South/Great Lakes Area. "Kraft-Springfield associates have set an outstanding example for the rest of the Kraft organization."
In order to earn the Star rating, Kraft has had to put in several years of work, Reynolds said.
"It's so hard and so time-consuming to do this," Reynolds said. "It's taken a lot of their time, energy and costs. It speaks well for the organization."
Kraft joins a number of Springfield businesses in earning the Star rating, including Springfield ReManufacturing Corporation and Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation.
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