The General Electric Company's (GE) Network Reliability Products and Services Meter Plant in Somersworth, N.H., has been recertified for an additional three-year membership in the prestigious "Star" Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The Somersworth plant's "Star" renewal came after an OSHA team's on-site review of its safety and health programs, interviews with employees and a complete tour of the worksite. It first achieved "Star" status in April 1998 and received its first renewal in December 2001.

"We're pleased that the Somersworth plant, through the ongoing joint efforts of its employees and management, will continue in the VPP," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's regional administrator for New England. "Our review found its safety and health management system continue to be consistent with the high quality expected of VPP participants and its illness and injury rates remain below the industry average."

The plant employs 214 employees and manufactures electrical meters and transformers. It is one of 1,600 worksites in 270 industries nationwide in the VPP. Other GE "Star" worksites in New Hampshire are the GE Transformer Plant in Somersworth, GE Aircraft Engines in Hooksett and GE Gypsum in Newington.

The VPP recognizes worksites committed to effective employee protection beyond the requirements of OSHA standards and encourages cooperative relationships among labor, management, unions and government. Through it, employers and employees have experienced significant decreases in fatalities, injuries and illnesses; associated cost reductions including lowered workers' compensation expenses; positive changes in company culture and attitudes toward safety and health; and average injury rates 50 percent lower than other companies in their industry. The VPP is open to deserving employers in any industry.

Requirements 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.