STSC Springboards Hughes to Heritage Center Heights with UCOR

Jimmy Hughes counts safety credentials among his most valuable achievements

September 6, 2022

When Jimmy Hughes first came on board with United Cleanup Oak Ridge LLC (UCOR) a little more than a decade ago, he didn’t have the same level of experience as his colleagues.

As an hourly laborer for the cleanup contracting company, he desired something more. To grow professionally, to gain respect, to have a voice. He needed a way to prove himself.

It didn’t take him long to notice the high value UCOR placed on safety certification and to understand how it could help him achieve his goals. The Safety Trained Supervisor Construction (STSC) certification from BCSP was his ticket to a seat at the table.

The STSC is designed to benefit employees with safety responsibilities throughout an organization, from leadership to workers in the field, by providing knowledge to assist in areas such as hazard monitoring, compliance, and training.

“UCOR’s Culture of Caring set the stage for the discussion that certifications have weight and power,” Hughes said. “This made me a leader amongst my peers and gave me the opportunity to have more meaningful conversations and influence some decisions and work activities that otherwise, being at that time the youngest individual on the work crew, I might have been overlooked or seen as inexperienced. But knowing that I held that certification came along with the recognition of a sense of a knowledge and influence.”

Hughes’ safety career took off from there. No longer an hourly laborer, he has since grown into various management positions. In 2019, UCOR selected him for its Rising Senior Leaders program.

And he has sought further safety certifications along the way, achieving the Associate Safety Professional (ASP) certification and ultimately the Certified Safety Professional (CSP).

Two years ago, Hughes became Deputy Health and Safety Manager for UCOR’s efforts at the Heritage Center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It’s no small task helping to lead environmental remediation efforts at a site that was utilized in the development of materials for the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II.

His crews are dedicated to safely moving large amounts of soil contaminated by from the wartime production. A typical day starts with a 6 a.m. meeting to discuss the work for the day.

“Then, it’s my job to give them the right resources, as far as the technical and the skill-based set from a safety and health profession, to match that up with the risk and hazards associated with those planned scopes of work,” he said.

Hughes isn’t the only one at UCOR whose career has benefitted from certification. The company is a BCSP Diamond Level sponsor – the highest level – counting more than 250 BCSP credentials among its employees.

It’s part of an overall safety culture that has drawn much acclaim. UCOR has earned the Voluntary Protection Program Star of Excellence from the United States Department of Energy, signifying its injury/illness rate is 75% lower than industry average. Additionally, UCOR has been named one of America’s Safest Companies by EHS Today.

“Working for a company that puts safety as their number one and overriding priority has got to be one of the best feelings that an individual can have, even if you’re not in the safety profession,” Hughes said.

“(Certification) gives everyone the ability to voice a concern or raise a complaint or handle issues that may in another industry be seen as outside of their area of expertise. It gives them that ability to create a circle of influence and create change. Then, ultimately accomplish the goal of safe execution of work, and what that generally leads to is safe execution of work under budget and ahead of schedule.”

Hughes’ drive to improve himself, coupled with his company’s value on safety, has led him a long way in a short time. It all started with his decision to pursue the STSC.

Today he counts his safety certifications among his most valuable achievements because of the commitment they reflect.

“When I think about BCSP certifications and how they make me feel, without exaggeration, there are some things in my life that are pinnacles,” Hughes said. “One is completing my master’s degree and working full time. The other is raising a family. Then, third are those BCSP certifications and credentials because in the safety profession, in my personal opinion, that’s what separates a safety person from a safety professional.”