Safety Star of the Quarter

Jay Walter Hocutt

Construction Heavy Equipment Program Manager
United Cleanup Oak Ridge (UCOR), Oak Ridge, TN

How did you get involved in safety?

I have always been cautious when it comes to my actions. As a teenager, my grandfather always told me to weigh the consequences of my actions and how they would affect others. Joining the ARMY out of high school (1976-1989), I attained rank quickly and often found myself responsible for older soldiers. It was my job to train them for combat and return them home safely to their families. As a a multi-unit franchise restaurant owner (1992-2004), my employees were my greatest asset. Keeping them safe and healthy was a successful business strategy. I was tasked to become a safety professional while employed by a small business drilling company (2004-2015) looking to obtain contracts with DOE and DOD. I started by obtaining my STS, then OHST, ASP and finally my CSP. After 11 years with the drilling company, I left for a company providing remediation and sampling (2015-present) for DOE contracts in Oak Ridge and Savana River. During that time, an opportunity to become the Construction Heavy Equipment Program Manager at UCOR presented itself (2018). At the time there was no program, and the company was experiencing dropped loads and overloading instance with forklifts. I developed a construction heavy equipment program which provides safety guidance for Forklifts, Telehandlers, Earth Moving Equipment, and Mobile Elevating Work Platforms.

What is your most recent safety related work accomplishment or something you’re proud of?

I am very proud to serve as a SGE. I have participated in four VPPPA recertification evaluations. Two were private sector and two were DOD military installations. Not only did I gain valuable insight on how to improve our own safety culture, I was also able to identify overlooked hazards that the sites were able to correct or implement new policies. I will also be supporting a DOE/VPPP evaluation team in the near future. I am also proud of our construction heavy equipment program which has kept our personnel safe over the past 5 years with no personnel injuries; as a result of heavy equipment operations. This is especially significant when you consider we perform over 24,000 lifts with forklifts every year and average 17 days per month of excavation activities.

What has been your favorite aspect of the VPPPA/how has your company benefitted from VPPPA membership?

I am a service-oriented individual and I always want to help. There is no task too small or large that I won’t tackle. I enjoy sharing ideas and helping others improve their safety culture. I like giving presentations and helping wherever I can. This includes stuffing bags, singing the national anthem, or participating in group discussion with people I have never met. Participation in VPPPA can have a major impact on the national safety culture.

What is one of the biggest challenges you and/or your company currently face when it comes to safety at the workplace?

Changing behavior is the biggest challenge we face. We have a great culture and we are continuing to improve. But as always, there are a small few who require additional motivation and leadership. It is this challenge that drives me to be a part of VPP and our local safety improvement teams. You can effect change if you don’t participate.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in safety?

Training, Training, Training. Obtaining certifications is the way to go, especially if your degree is not safety related or you don’t have one. In my career I have taken many certifications. Along with my STS, OHST, ASP, CSP, I am a certified well driller. I have been a red cross first aid instructor and taken CSX railroad safety training. I have taken classes on NFPA 70E. I am a competent person rigger, fall protection qualified, Radiological worker trained and silica competent person. I recently became certified as an installer for Transport Platform Car systems (material/ personnel hoist). I have a certification for root cause analysis and accident investigation. The more you know and have been exposed to, the better equipped you will be to identify potential hazards and keep personnel safe. Volunteer for safety committees so that you can make a difference in your safety culture. Being part of organizations and associations (ASSP, VPPPA, CDC/NIOSH) are a great way to improve your professional knowledge and development.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I am a grandfather of two girls (23, 21) and a boy (19). I have two great grandchildren, a boy (5) and girl (2). I have been married for 24 years. I am a singer-songwriter with two published albums. I perform at local establishments in the Knoxville, TN area. I served 13 years in the US ARMY (1976-1989) and attained the rank of E7. I am a 6th degree blackbelt and Master Instructor for Isshin-Ryu Karate and Isshin Jujitsu.

Safety Star of the Quarter Archives


Tami L. Keas – 1st Quarter 2024

Karen Lee K. Kazanecki – 2nd Quarter 2024


Jeremy Presnal – 1st Quarter 2023

Larry Webb – 2nd Quarter 2023

John Frattali – 3rd Quarter 2023

Julie Smith – 4th Quarter 2023

The Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association (VPPPA) was born from a passion for safety and a dedication to OSHA’s VPP Participants. Our mission is to be a leader in safety and health excellence through cooperation among communities, workers, industries, and governments. The VPPPA Safety Star of the Quarter is a program to honor and recognize an employee’s achievements in safety performance and professionalism. Thank you to all our VPPPA Safety Stars and VPPPA members for their continued contributions to the safety and health community. Safety Stars of the Quarter will be featured on our website, social media, Leader magazine, and On the Level e-newsletter.