Local 9-288 President Wins Safety Award

Health and safety is Billy Edington’s passion.

For 28 years the USW Local 9-288 president has trained and mentored thousands of people and made significant contributions to local, regional, national and international health and safety. He also writes safety curriculum, investigates incidents, and conducts safety audits and inspections.

“I don’t want to see anyone get hurt or killed,” he said, when asked what motivated him to become a health and safety activist.

An instrumentation technician, Edington said he has always worked for nuclear contractors who participated in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). He also has worked with the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center for more than 15 years.

USW District 9 Director Daniel Flippo acknowledged Edington’s commitment to health and safety: “His work ethic, attention to detail and desire to spread the knowledge of safety and health is a benefit to all who receive his instruction and guidance.”

Edington’s extensive work with VPP and the TMC also caught the attention of his employer, UCOR, in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The cleanup contractor’s VPP health and safety coordinator, Michelle Keever, nominated him for a national safety award.

In July, the 2019 Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association (VPPPA) announced Edington had won, and at the end of August, he will travel to New Orleans to accept the VPPPA Safety and Health Outreach Award at the National VPPPA Safety & Health Conference.

“While much of Billy’s dedication to safety can be seen through the legacy of his safety and health training efforts, he ultimately demonstrates the traits of an exemplary safety leader through his everyday actions and words. He is a deliberate and effective communicator who actively cares for the health and safety of others,” Keever wrote in the award application.

UCOR is the prime cleanup contractor at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) East Tennessee Technology Park (former K-25 site).

“Billy has been a strong leader in our union when it comes to health and safety issues,” said retired International Vice President Carol Landry. “We are very proud of his work over the years. It is nice to see him get this recognition.”       

Safety Audit

Last March, Edington participated as a Special Government Employee (SGE) in the evaluation of the Sherwin-Williams Company’s Atlanta Distribution Center in Buford, Ga., to determine if it should be re-certified for VPP Star status. It was his first time conducting a VPP audit.

“I asked a lot of questions and tried to participate as much as I could,” he said. “I went in there with a student’s attitude.”

His dedication and hard work impressed the OSHA administrator overseeing the project, who noted his performance in a letter to UCOR’s president and project manager.

Enacting USW Systems of Safety

Though Edington is involved in VPP through his employer, he understands and applies the USW’s Systems of Safety to his work as a trainer for the USW’s Tony Mazzocchi Center (TMC).

“I like the USW’s philosophy on the Systems of Safety because you identify the failed systems instead of blaming somebody. That way, you fix the problem in the first place instead of disciplining somebody who has been exposed to the hazard,” he said.

Edington has served as a TMC trainer for more than 15 years, spending much time selecting, mentoring, coaching and training USW worker-trainers. He is also a key member of the TMC curriculum development team.

Through National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) grants and the support of the USW and UCOR, he conducts health and safety training at DOE sites around the country and at other industrial sites throughout USW District 9.

He also applies his teaching skills as a TMC Specialized Emergency Response Trainer (SERT), traveling to natural and manmade disaster areas to show people how to use health and safety techniques during recovery activity.

Preparing Next Generation

Since 2016, Edington has been conducting OSHA 10-hour General Industry and 40-hour HAZWOPER outreach classes at east Tennessee high schools and vocational schools through a NIEHS grant in cooperation with the USW and UCOR.

Last year, he said he trained about 400 students to prepare a new generation of environmental cleanup workers. “With high school students, I tell them war stories, my experience, and it really opens their eyes,” he said.

In early March 2019, Edington taught the OSHA General Industry class to a group of students from the Tennessee School for the Deaf. He said the class required two oral interpreters—one to translate his southern accent to the New York interpreter, who signed to the students.

“These students were very enthusiastic about the training, which made it easier for me to do my job,” he said. “All of them got a big kick out of the chemical protection clothing and personal respirator.

“Having that OSHA certification will add to their resume, and help them go into any general industry work environment.”

Edington said the best part of teaching is the “interaction with people. I learn as much from them as they learn from me. If I can save one person from getting hurt, it’s all worth it.”

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