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Horizons Unlimited Re-certified As OSHA VPP Star Site

By Staff | Apr 17, 2008

Recently, Horizons Unlimited in Emmetsburg was re-certified as a Voluntary Protection Plan (VPP) Star Site by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This designation means that Horizons has exceeded the limits set by OSHA for consideration as a safe and healthy workplace.

Horizons has been a VPP site since 1998, however it is the only facility of its kind that is a VPP Star Site in the United States. There are just 34 VPP sites in Iowa.

“I have 31 years of experience in this field and am very proud and honored to work with the people who made this happen–the employees of Horizons Unlimited and the individuals we serve,” said Ed Hannigan, Horizons Unlimited CEO. “I am very proud that Horizons Unlimited has been re-certified as a VPP Star Site. This is the highest honor that OSHA awards. Horizons Unlimited is the only facility of its type in the nation to obtain this award. It really puts Palo Alto County on the map.”

A pair of OSHA inspectors conducted the three-day audit which was completed on Oct. 31, 2007, with an exit interview. While the inspectors were in Emmetsburg for the audit, Horizons invited several area businesses to visit with the inspection team about the requirements for becoming a VPP Star Site.

Preparation for the audit was initiated by Deb Hughes, Residential Director at Horizons Unlimited, with all staff contributing to the effort. All supervisors in the work shop, pre-voc area, Creative Stitches, Supported Employment, bookkeeping area, and Redemption Center worked diligently to have their area in compliance with all OSHA standards. VPP requires all staff to be involved in safety.

Criteria to become and remain a VPP Star Site include 19 elements that must be applied and followed. Each year Horizons prepares and sends a report to OSHA’s Consultation Department describing how they meet those 19 requirements which include any changes made in Horizon’s policies and procedures that will improve the safety and health of all staff and clients. The VPP requires that all staff be involved in safety.

OSHA Consultation and OSHA Enforcement are two separate entities. The Consultation Department offers suggestions for improvement, and if something is out of compliance they require it to be remedied or they will inform the Enforcement Department of the non-compliant issue. OSHA Consultation must be invited to come–they do not arrive unannounced.

This latest inspection by OSHA found nothing out of compliance with OSHA standards. Indeed, OSHA Consultation commented on some of the “Best Practices” they observed, including the fact that all mandatory trainings are video taped which allows staff who need to make up the mandatory training to receive the same information that was originally presented.

Horizons Unlimited’s VPP Star Site accreditation is good for another five years. After five years, Horizons will be required to pass another inspection at that time to remain a VPP Star Site. OSHA Consultation is a free service to any company that wishes to utilize their knowledge; they also provide free training.

Hannigan stated, “Receiving this re-certification award helps Horizons Unlimited meet our mission statement: ‘Pursuing a Better Quality of Life for People.’ It demonstrates that we want nothing but the best for the individuals we serve.”