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Posted 3/27/2014

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By Carol Labashosky

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Louisville District, Columbus, Ohio, office is the first in USACE to receive the prestigious Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) certification. The Columbus field office is one of 62 sites across the Department of Defense to earn the designation.

On the sprawling 300-acre Defense Supply Center at Columbus, Ohio (DSCC), in a small double-wide trailer tucked at the back of the complex, a remarkable Corps pinnacle was reached where superb safety practices were saluted. A national award in the form of a ceremonial recognition occurred in the modest building on the campus. A plaque was presented and a large VPP flag—designating Star certification—held by attendees waved proudly outside. The award ceremony was held March 11 at the Corps’s Columbus Office. It was widely attended by Corps District leadership, OSHA area office leaders and staff, and Chief of Safety and Occupational Health Richard Wright, USACE Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

The VPP promotes effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces which have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs promote effective worksite-based safety and health. The VPP was created in 1982.

Five members of the field staff of the Columbus Office to include regional Louisville District Corps members, had steadfastly ensured that on-the-job safety remained paramount throughout its many construction projects, and that, coupled with their consummate driver safety program, earned them the OSHA distinction. The team enjoyed excellent safety and health records and no injuries on the job. The application for OSHA’s VPP began in 2008. USACE Louisville District Safety Officer Matt Burg spearheaded the award process documenting and coordinating through echelons of OSHA management. Supervisor Construction Management Specialist John Hearn, who is stationed at USACE Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), Dayton, Ohio, area office, which oversees the Columbus office, took the torch from Burg and pressed forward. Thus, the Columbus office jumped ahead of other projects.

Hearn kept his eye on the big picture and pointed out that the future will provide new opportunities for excellence. "It is not a destination but a journey. Just because we got here, does not mean we are going to quit. We must reevaluate and send reports to OSHA annually.

"We are not going to stop, we are going to continue exceeding the guidance OSHA set forth to keep our certification. It’s all about employees protecting and watching out for each other, " said Hearn. "Safety culture is incorporated into the office to include everybody. This also feeds into the staff of contractors."

"Our safety program, how we keep safe on the job site, is what earned our office the certification," said Charles Campbell, project engineer and current Collateral Duty Safety Officer.

USACE Louisville District Chief of Construction Division Kirk Dailey said, "We can at least take the lessons learned and take the safety culture to our other projects."

Deborah Zubaty, Columbus Area Director, U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, presented a plaque in recognition of the honor to USACE Louisville District Deputy Commander Maj. Edward Allen. "The Columbus office is the first and the perfect role model," said Zubaty. "It is great opportunity for the Corps to go to others to help them in the VPP process."

Hearn pointed out that safety practices feed down into the contractors. The process implements controls to protect Corps employees. He said that the WPAFB office is in process to be certified. "We have one site, and we are working on the second one."

Wright made it a point to thank the team on behalf of the entire Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters, "You are the perfect role model."

The Department of the Army is looking to create their own certification system.