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TF dam celebrates safety milestone

NorthWestern Energy's Thompson Falls dam was honored last week for maintaining VPP Star status.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) honors employers who have implemented safety and health management systems and maintain below average injury rates with the Volunteer Protection Program (VPP). According to OSHA's website, star certification recognizes "employers and employees who demonstrate exemplary achievement in the prevention and control of occupational safety and health hazards and the development, implementation and continuous improvement of their safety and health management system."

NorthWestern officials, including CEO Brian Bird, and community members gathered to celebrate the achievement last week at the new Power Park pavilion in Thompson Falls.

"NorthWestern Energy is 59% carbon free, and it's primarily because of our hydro fleet," Bird stated as he congratulated the Thompson Falls employees on the safety milestone. The Thompson Falls dam has not had a lost time accident in over 36 years, Bird explained. Jeremy Butcher, the company's hydro supervisor, said the VPP star certification is the highest level of merit and that it includes intense physical and safety program audits each time a facility is awarded the honor. He noted that this is the third time the Thompson Falls dam has received the star certification. "Each year the site needs to set goals and work to achieve them. OSHA recognizes the value of the continuous improvements," Butcher said.

Noel Jacobson is the supervisor at the Thompson Falls dam and commended his staff for their efforts. "This is a voluntary program," he said of VPP. "It's a commitment by management and employees where we all agree to take safety to a higher level." He stressed that the program is voluntary, and each year the staff gets to put forth ideas and agree to goals, then they work with OSHA toward completing the goals. "We have a good, committed crew that takes safety seriously," he added. Jacobson recognized dam employees James Daugherty, Bill Beckman, Dan Schletz and Michael Mercer and said that as of the ceremony last Wednesday, it had been 13,665 days since the dam had a lost time accident.

Along with employees, family members and community members, Rep. Paul Fielder, Sen. Bob Brown and Public Service Commissioner Jennifer Fielder also attended the ceremony last Wednesday. About 50 people attended the celebration.


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