BY RICH JONES
ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR
More than 450 John Deere Power Products employees gathered in a high-spirited celebration on Friday as the company received the coveted Volunteer STAR Re-Certification for safety.
John Deere is one of only 37 companies in Tennessee to be certified by the Tennessee Division of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, usually referred to by its acronym, TOSHA.
STAR stands for Safety Through Accountability and Recognition, and the program is operated by TOSHA, which is part of the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.
"Thank you for making this one of the safest plants in the state," said Factory Manager Jeff Hollett.
"The employees in this room earned this award," Hollett said at a festive lunch served for employees and guests in connection with the honor.
John Deere was singled out for being 80 percent below the national average for recordable injuries, said Steven D. Hawkins, Administrator of TOSHA, who came from Nashville to make the presentation at the plant off Hal Henard Road.
While the event was cheery, Hawkins turned briefly to the serious nature of the safety award's purpose in a speech to employees.
"TOSHA has investigated 29 workplace fatalities this year in Tennessee," he said.
"The chances are infinitely low that [a fatality] is going to happen at this plant," he said. "And that's why this [celebration] is important."
The Administrator of TOSHA went on to tell the employees that they represented the other side of the safety coin -- the celebration of success in safety.
"You're 80 percent lower in accident injury" than the national average, he said.
'SOMETHING TO CONSIDER'
Still, Hawkins cautioned, "Just remember it's not just what happens to you if you're injured in a workplace accident -- it's everybody else in your family, too.
"I've got two daughters in college. They count on me for cash!" Hawkins said laughingly.
"Seriously," he said, "we all need that money. People are counting on everyone in this room, whether it's to screw in a light bulb for your mother or make banana pudding for people that love you.
"I implore you to focus on the little things for safety, and do them every time.
"That's the other side of this coin, and that's why we're doing this.
"Try to look out for each other," Hawkins said. "The hero is someone who comes over and points something out."
NO NEWCOMER TO STAR
This is not the first time that the local John Deere plant has won the Volunteer STAR certification.
The company first received the award in 2003, and has been re-certified in 2006 and now in 2012.
TOSHA conducts re-certification audits every three-to-five years, said company spokeswoman Darla Bowman.
John Deere was not fully audited between 2006 and early 2012 because the company had been doing so well on the safety front, Bowman said.
During the awards portion of the program, Hawkins presented the STAR plaque to Hollett, who came to the local John Deere plant in September 2011 from the company's facility in Horicon, Wisc.
The factory manager in turn called key employees to the stage for the presentation of the TOSHA flag that will hang proudly inside the plant for the next three to five years.
SONG AND DANCE
A lively video entitled "Step Up," starring singer Natalie Brown, of Nashville, was shown as employees jumped to their feet to dance and sing along.
Then Brown herself, of Nashville, came to the stage for a high-energy singing performance.
She is a recent graduate of Belmont University in Nashville, pursuing a music career with an emphasis on Christian music.
All employees were presented with $25 Walmart gift cards during the event.
ABOUT JOHN DEERE
The local plant manufactures the popular 100 Series John Deere lawn tractors sold in stores including Lowe's and Home Depot.
The 100 Series has been named a Consumer Reports "Best Buy" for the past nine years, Hollett said.