Reclaimed Water Facility Recognized for Impeccable Safety Record

Woodard & Curran employs a comprehensive health and safety program designed to comply with OSHA standards and be on par with industry best practices. Our employees are expected to adhere to these policies and procedures whenever on the job. However, many go above and beyond the minimum requirements including the crew who operates the University of Connecticut (UConn) Reclaimed Water Facility in the town of Storrs. The facility was recently honored with the George W. Burke, Jr. Award during the annual New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) conference. 

George W. Burke, Jr. worked many years in the field of water pollution control and as staff manager of technical services for the Water Environmental Federation (WEF). He was instrumental in developing WEF’s annual safety survey and producing several safety training aids and promotional packets. The award honors a municipal or industrial wastewater facility for its active and effective safety program. 

Recordable Incident Free from the Beginning

UConn’s Reclaimed Water Facility began operation in June 2013. Its operations team has not had a single OSHA recordable incident since that time. Plant Manager Sean Heatherington, who accepted the award, says, “Safety has always been one of our main priorities. We work very hard every day to prevent incidents.”

Area Manager Robert Scott adds, “The award is appreciated very much and underscores the idea that our safety practice is something we are committed to. It is instilled in the philosophy and mentality of the operators. We don’t take safety for granted. It is easier to take five minutes to talk about what you’re going to do safely as opposed to dealing with extensive ramifications involved if someone were to get hurt.” 

Our comprehensive safety initiatives and precautionary measures are successful and effective in keeping the facility’s personnel and guests safe. The facility has a dedicated safety area as soon as you enter, which serves as a check in point to brief visitors – from tour guests to contractors – on proper procedures and tips to remain safe while within the plant. Clear and frequent communication is key for this team’s safe operations. Every morning, they participate in a safety meeting during which the daily tasks are discussed. On a monthly basis, the team has a three-hour meeting to review operations and dedicate a third of that time to discussing safety measures. The team participates in a SPARKS Tailgate program in which a specific safety topic pertaining to the facility is discussed and reviewed.

Part of the team’s safety success is due to their dedicated involvement in developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and labeling all equipment with lock out/tag out (LOTO) protocol. Each chemical room door displays the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the contained chemical, the room layout, proper safety gear required, and warnings based on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Globally Harmonized System. Having each chemical room door labeled allows personnel, guests, and other contractors to be aware of what is in the room before entering and how to enter safely. 

Color coded warnings are used throughout the facility, especially regarding walking hazards. All wire and piping that extends over an area that pose as a tripping hazard is painted bright yellow. Raised surfaces are painted dark blue to highlight the elevation. Areas that could be wet due to nearby operations are painted gray to alert passersby of a possibly slipping hazard. 

All site-specific safety manuals are in the Control Room of the facility. These are available to anyone who enters the plant and are useful education tools. We encourage staff to identify safety threats and suggest improvements to current procedures to increase safety. This enables our team to think critically, creatively, and responsibly about issues that may improve these systems and decrease associated risks. “Safety is not optional,” says Rob. “One hundred percent compliance is stressed, and less than 100 percent is not acceptable. We have the time to do it, we have the staff to do it. It’s important we take the time to ensure we do the job as well as we can so at the end of the day everyone can go home safe.” 

Showcasing the Facility through Training

The facility is state of the art and something UConn takes pride in. It has become a site for many trainings, including with the university’s dedicated campus fire department. This includes first aid, CPR, electrical, and confined space trainings. Rob says, “We host the classes here to make sure everyone can go, and we don’t fall behind by having to send people out to complete training.”

Safety is not an exception for visitors entering the facility for training. Guests receive personal protective equipment as they check in, including hard hats, vests, and glasses. If replacements are needed or more safety supplies are requested, the company ensures the equipment is provided to maintain the highest safety standards. 

Winning the Burke award is an acknowledgement of the facility’s efforts, but also speaks to our corporate culture. Employees at this facility and company-wide recognize there’s a bigger purpose to safety that goes beyond “because OSHA says so”. This is what compels our employees to embrace the safety program – ultimately, we all have so much to be thankful for and the reason why we work safe on the job is so we can enjoy the things we love outside of work.


Shannon Eyler Vice President Health & Safety

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