Vestas marks safety milestone; rebuts chemical allegations

By Kevin Denke
Posted 11/24/10

      Vestas Blades Brighton Nacelles plant hit another milestone recently, and it was good news for the employees and company alike. Celebrating during an employee meeting …

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Vestas marks safety milestone; rebuts chemical allegations

Posted

      Vestas Blades Brighton Nacelles plant hit another milestone recently, and it was good news for the employees and company alike. Celebrating during an employee meeting Thursday, Vestas People and Culture manager Gary Held announced passing 250,000 man-hours without a single missed time employee injury, significant in light of the 300-plus employees who work in the facility daily. On the day of the meeting, some 258 days had passed since the last incident, a running record for the manufacturing facility open since February.


    Held highlighted the Veteran’s Day assembly by singling out 38 veterans who work there for recognition, a presentation and a free lunch on the company, before announcing that Vestas would again pick up the tab for all employee benefits again in 2011.
    Held discussed the company’s surprise and dismay following the release of an article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. (Vestas using potentially harmful chemicals, Oct 17.)
    “They were extremely stunned by the news,” Held said, of the factory management in Windsor. “The person who wrote the article, despite being invited into meet with them on numerous occasions, declined to do so.”
    According to Held, there were eight employees suffering allergic reactions to epoxy resins used within the factory. Eight of those employees successfully moved to different jobs within the plant that allowed them to minimize their exposure to the resin and continue working.
    “The other two, unfortunately, wherever they moved them to, they still had that allergy. The physicians they worked with determined that they were so allergic, there were not any positions within that factory they could work in without being allergic.”  Held said, noting that the Windsor facility had no outside plant positions to move the workers to.
    “On top of that, the article mentioned that these team members were released because after they determined they were allergic, that there was some sort of lack of effort to actively accommodate two very good team members,” Held said. “But the unfortunate part of all of this was they were unable to work in that factory.”
    Held also disagreed with the article’s assertion that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations were related to the epoxy resin issues.
    “There were a couple of OSHA citations, but they had nothing to do at all with the resin issue,” Held said. “In fact, Blades did everything in the epoxy manufacturers recommendation for handling this, as well as OSHA’s recommendation and requirements.”
    The meeting comes at a time when just about everything is looking up for the wind turbine giant, with orders rolling in daily. “Last year, G.E. and Siemens got the predominance of orders, and we were shut out,” Held said after the meeting, noting that the recession had a tremendous impact on the wind industry in general. “This year, to date, we have secured 50 percent of the orders in the States, and 32 percent globally.”
    The uptick necessitated the hiring of 25 temporary staffers to aid in production, fully benefited positions that may go permanent if the orders continue.
    “The reason why we have (temps) is because we are going to have some spikes next year in production because of our volumes,” Held said. “What we don’t want to do is become someone who hires a bunch of people and lays them off. We want to preserve our core workforce.”



 

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