Acushnet Company's Titleist Ball Plant III in New Bedford, Mass., has earned membership in the prestigious "Star" Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) of the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

"This award spotlights Acushnet Company's continued outstanding job of safety and health management at its worksites," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "Our review of this plant's safety and health management programs found them to be consistent with the high quality of VPP programs. In addition, the plant's illness and injury rates remain below the industry average."

The plant, which manufactures ProV1 and ProV1x model Titleist golf balls, employs 726 workers. It joins an elite corps of about 1,370 workplaces nationwide, including four other Acushnet Company worksites, which have earned VPP recognition. The "Star" designation came after an OSHA team's thorough on-site review of the plant's application, safety and health programs, interviews with employees and a complete tour of the worksite.

The Titleist III plant has several areas of excellence that may serve as models for other employers. These include programs to encourage employee involvement in the company's safety and health program and reward employees for displaying Safety First behaviors, actively participating in safety inspections and attending safety training. The company has also developed several state of the art engineering controls to reduce dust and noise exposure during the manufacturing process.

This plant becomes the company's latest to earn "Star" status. In October 2003, Titleist Ball Plant II in North Dartmouth became the 1,000th "Star" worksite in the nation. In May 1996, Titleist Ball Plant I was named as the first VPP Star Site recipient in the sporting goods industry. Titleist Custom Golf Ball Operations located in New Bedford, and Acushnet Company Packaging Center in Fairhaven, also earned VPP Star Site status in 1998 and 2003, respectively.

OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs offer employers an opportunity to move beyond traditional safety programs by recognizing participants that successfully incorporate comprehensive safety and health programs into their total management systems. VPP companies achieve average injury rates 50 percent lower than other companies in their industry. The VPP programs are open to deserving employers in any industry.

Requirements for application to VPP include a high degree of management support and employee involvement; a high-quality worksite hazard analysis; prevention and control programs, and comprehensive safety and health training for all employees. Each of these elements must be effective, in place and in operation for at least one year before a company can apply to join the program.