Still a Star!

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

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AHOSKIE – Every day is a safety day at Roanoke Cooperative.

North Carolina Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson (right) presents the Carolina Star award to Marshall Cherry, President and CEO of Roanoke Cooperative. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

In 2015, the local company dove headfirst into a program aimed at occupational health and safety. That effort earned Roanoke Cooperative’s designation as a Carolina Star site by the North Carolina Department of Labor. The Carolina Star Program is designed to recognize employers and employees who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates that meet the criteria for participation. The “Star” status recognizes businesses that are self-sufficient in their ability to control hazards at the worksite.

Roanoke is the only electrical cooperative, one of 26 statewide, who has gained Carolina Star status. The program requires its sites to obtain recertification, which Roanoke Cooperative has successfully completed, now on two occasions (2018 and 2023).

On Monday, Josh Dobson, the North Carolina Commissioner of Labor, came to Roanoke Cooperative to officially congratulate the company for successfully maintaining its Carolina Star status.

“There are organizations that have safety as part of their culture, but it’s not their culture,” Dobson said in a training classroom at Roanoke Cooperative. “What I mean by that is they’ll show token support or do it as a necessary nuisance, but very few make a total sold-out commitment to workplace safety and health.

“We have 149 Carolina Star sites out of 200,000 eligible businesses and organizations across our great state,” Dobson noted. “That tells you two things: one, we [Dept. of Labor] just don’t hand them out, you have to earn it, you have to make a total commitment to safety and health; and the other thing is there are some that don’t take safety and health as seriously as Roanoke Cooperative does.

“Kudos to you all for making that commitment,” Dobson continued. “Congratulations for making health and safety your culture. You guys follow the rules and regulations. You work together to keep your employees, your member-owners safe, and your community safe.”

Dobson stressed the fact that North Carolina is attracting more and more businesses.

“That’s not by accident,” he said. “These companies want to know what our state’s workplace safety record is like and I tell them about companies such as Roanoke Cooperative. That’s a selling point for our state. Congratulations to you for not only earning Carolina Star status, but for sustaining that recognition year after year after year.”

Marshall Cherry, President and CEO of Roanoke Cooperative, accepted the recertification award.

“Our recertification in the Carolina Star program truly is a testament to the dedication and hard work of every individual in this organization,” Cherry said. “I thank each of you for your unwavering commitment to safety. Together we have created a workplace that prioritizes the wellbeing of every employee here.”

Cherry thanked Commissioner Dobson for personally coming to Ahoskie to see firsthand the emphasis that Roanoke Cooperative places on health and safety.

“His presence is a testament to the significance of this accomplishment,” Cherry observed. “Our commitment to safety is ongoing. It is a responsibility that we all share and it’s crucial that we continue to uphold the high standards set by the Carolina Star program. Let us continue to be a beacon of safety and health, not only within these walls, but also in the broader community.”

Dobson was accompanied on Monday by Carlene Harris, Safety/Star Program Consultant with the NC Department of Labor.

Glenn Brown serves as the Environmental, Health & Safety Manager at Roanoke Cooperative.

“Achieving recertification in the Carolina Star program speaks highly of our team-driven program here at Roanoke Cooperative,” Brown said. “We continue to grow our program through our partnership with the Department of Labor and networking with other Carolina Star sites.

“I’ve been here for five years, but what these men and women here do on an everyday basis in regards to their safety and protecting the safety of others still astonishes me,” Brown stressed.

Brown praised the Roanoke Cooperative’s management team and its Board of Directors for their wholehearted support of the health and safety programs at the business. Managers, he said, participate in job site observations as well as monthly safety training sessions.

“Our technicians in the field face different environments every day….different terrain, weather, obstacles, there’s a multitude of hazards that they deal with, day in and day out,” Brown noted.

In an effort to keep the focus on safety, Roanoke Cooperative engages its employees through different means. Brown said there is an annual Safety Slogan Contest. The winning slogan is placed on a large banner that is signed by all employees.

There’s also the “Speak Up” program, one where employees are encouraged to point out health or safety concerns within the business. Roanoke Cooperative also celebrates June as Safety Month.

Additionally, technicians are trained in pole top and bucket truck rescues. Employees also receive training, and gain certification, in administering first aid, CPR and AED.

Risk assessments at job sites, hazardous equipment training, close inspection of all equipment, and adhering to OSHA regulations are other ways that Roanoke Cooperative promotes safety.

The company also has an Injury and Illness Review Board.

As part of Monday’s celebratory event, Roanoke Cooperative technicians used the company’s Electrical Hazards Trailer to further promote how safety is paramount.

That trailer, Brown said, goes out into the local community where it demonstrates electrical power safety with schools, fire departments, and member-owners of the Cooperative. Those demonstrations also feature the safety clothing worn by Roanoke Cooperative technicians.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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