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Colstrip Power Plant Named One of the Safest Workplaces in Montana and Nation


The Colstrip power plant, one of the largest power plants west of the Mississippi River and operated by PPL Montana, received a top federal safety award for its outstanding health and safety programs during a ceremony Tuesday (10/9) at the plant.

Representatives from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration awarded Colstrip and its 365 employees “Star” certification in the agency’s Voluntary Protection Program. The program recognizes companies that go beyond compliance to protect worker health and safety. The Star certification is the highest safety recognition given within the program.

Colstrip is one of five sites in the state to hold the Star designation, according to OSHA. PPL Montana, which holds three of those five designations, is the only private company in the state to have Star certifications.

“PPL Montana employees here and across our state share a mindset that the health and safety of employees come first,” said Brad Spencer, PPL Montana’s vice president and chief operating officer.

“We set a high standard for safety and operational excellence and foster employee-led programs that protect our greatest asset — our people,” he said. “Through hard work and teamwork among management, labor and OSHA, and a genuine caring for each other’s welfare, the people here at Colstrip have created a safe workplace.”

Members of Colstrip’s labor unions played an important role in achieving the OSHA certification.

“I’m very proud of our membership in this most important milestone in Colstrip’s history,” said Pat Nees, business manager and financial secretary for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1638, which represents 250 employees at Colstrip. “It shows what can happen when true solidarity is practiced not only by our union brothers and sisters but also by all of those involved in this journey.”

In addition to the IBEW, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 190, which represents about 10 warehouse workers and tool room attendants at the plant, participates in the VPP program.

VPP participant sites generally experience 60 percent fewer lost-workday injuries than average sites of similar size in their industries. About 1,800 of the more than 7 million sites that OSHA monitors nationwide have achieved VPP recognition.

“When you look at leaders in employee safety and health, PPL Montana serves as an example for all industries in this state,” said Greg Baxter, OSHA regional administrator in Denver. “Some of the very best VPP applications are produced by PPL, and Colstrip was certainly no exception.

“Colstrip is among the safest power plants in the country, because employees are actively involved in reducing hazards and preventing accidents,” Baxter said.

Colstrip began its VPP process in December and is the third power plant operated by PPL Montana to achieve Star status. The Corette power plant in Billings received its VPP Star in 2005, becoming the first industrial site in the state to earn the distinction. Kerr Dam near Polson received its VPP Star certification last year.

OSHA evaluates the following components of a safety and health program to determine if a facility is worthy of VPP Star status: management leadership, employee involvement, work-site analysis, training, and hazard prevention and control.

An OSHA team re-evaluates VPP Star sites every three to five years for recertification. To be recertified, sites must continue to show improvement in their safety and health programs.

About 120 miles east of Billings, the Colstrip plant operates four coal-fired generating units capable of producing a total of 2,094 megawatts of electricity. PPL’s share in the plant’s generating capacity is 529 megawatts.

Units 1 and 2 began commercial operation in 1975 and 1976, and Units 3 and 4 started in 1984 and 1986. Units 1 and 2 each have about 307 megawatts of generating capacity; PPL has 50 percent ownership of each.

Units 3 and 4 each have about 740 megawatts of generating capacity; PPL has 30 percent ownership in Unit 3 and no ownership in Unit 4.


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