IR #2002-17
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Dean Fryer
Susan Gard
(415) 703-5050

Cal/OSHA congratulates power plant on its exceptional safety record

SAN FRANCISCO - Cal/OSHA, the state's premier occupational safety and health program, recognized Cardinal Cogen this week for achieving 10 years without a lost work time injury.

The fact that companies in the electric, gas and sanitary services industry average five lost workdays per 100 employees each year makes Cardinal Cogen's safety record even more remarkable.

"Cardinal Cogen deserves the highest praise for its achievement," said Suzanne Marria, acting chief of Cal/OSHA. "This is what Cal/OSHA wants to see -- workers going home healthy to their families every night."

Cardinal Cogen, a General Electric-owned power plant located on Stanford University grounds, supplies electricity to the college and surrounding area and is a member of Cal/OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (Cal/VPP). Cal/VPP brings employers, workers and Cal/OSHA consultation staff together to implement safety and health programs at a level of effectiveness rare in industry.

Becoming certified as a Cal/VPP member is not easy -- only 27 California companies have accomplished it. To become certified a company must involve its entire work force in its safety system and meet stringent criteria established by Cal/OSHA's consultation service. Yet Cardinal Cogen is one of five General Electric companies to achieve Cal/VPP Star status in California.

"General Electric's unprecedented level of commitment to worker health and safety represents a benchmark for all California companies. This level of success is only possible through an active collaboration by management and workers at the company," said Marria.

Cal/VPP companies experience benefits beyond safe and healthy employees. They demonstrate better injury and illness rates than others in their industry and, as a result, enjoy lower workers' compensation costs and see an increase in worker productivity

"A lot of people think safety training reduces productivity, but our plant is running 98 percent of the time. At Cardinal our most valued asset is our employees. Over the years our safety culture has shifted from reactive to proactive, and that ties in directly to a safe and productive environment," said Walter Gonzalez, Cardinal Cogen's environmental health and safety manager.

General Electric's partnership with Cal/OSHA began at its Flight Test Operation (FTO) facility in Mojave, which achieved Cal/VPP Star certification in July 1996. The Cardinal Cogen facility was next, becoming certified in July 2000, and other GE operations followed: Garrett Aviation in Los Angeles in January 2001, Vallecitos Nuclear Center in Sunol in March, 2001, and GE Nuclear Energy, San Jose, which achieved certification in August, 2002.

At its facility, Cardinal Cogen produces steam and electricity through a process called cogeneration, the simultaneous production of electricity and heat using a single fuel. The heat produced from electricity generation is captured and utilized to produce steam, which can be used as a heat source for industrial or domestic purposes, or to generate additional electricity. Through cogeneration technology, heat that would otherwise be wasted is harnessed and used.

Cal/VPP companies partner with Cal/OSHA -- whose services are free of charge -- and make a commitment to adhere to a strict occupational safety and health improvement plan prescribed by Cal/OSHA. Their programs are re-evaluated by Cal/OSHA consultation staff every three years. And in return for their commitment, employers are exempted from routine Cal/OSHA compliance inspections. Companies interested in participation in Cal/VPP should contact the Cal/OSHA Consultation Service at (415) 703-5272.

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