The Wright-Patterson Area Office near Dayton, Ohio, has been named the third U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site to be certified in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Voluntary Protection Programs—one of only 54 sites in the Department of Army and 2400 across the nation according to the Office of the Undersecretary.
“Congratulations on your long and successful journey,” said Leonard Litton, acting director, personnel risk reduction, Office of the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness. Litton addressed approximately 40 people during the induction ceremony Jan. 15 at the Area Office. “This puts you in an elite group in the nation—there are a very small number of VPP star sites in the nation as a whole. It puts you in a very elite group in the Corps of Engineers and the Army as well. Be proud of what you have accomplished.”
Created in 1982, OSHA’s programs promote effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system.
“Implementing a world-class safety program is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business, and it’s good for the mission because when people come to work every day in a safe environment, they accomplish the mission much more effectively and more importantly, go home to their family and friends intact,” Litton said.
Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health. VPP focuses on continual improvement by developing and implementing systems to effectively identify, evaluate, prevent and control occupational hazards to prevent employee injuries and illnesses.
“Our directive says we protect workers, and over my career that started to mean more than anything else in my career. We protect workers --not just our own—all workers,” said Gaye R. Johnson, assistant area director, OSHA, during the induction ceremony.
Handing the VPP flag to Kevin Jefferson, area engineer, Wright-Patterson Area Office, Johnson addressed the Corps workers and added, “On behalf of the Corps of Engineers and the Louisville District, Kevin is accepting this flag on behalf of all the workers, not just you, but the workers you protect. So when I hand this to him, I am handing it to all of you.”
In response, Jefferson reinforced the area office takes safety seriously.
“People think you have to force people to want to adopt the culture of safety in protecting themselves and protecting others. It wasn’t that way here,” Jefferson said. “The workers here truly embraced it, and they do look out for each other.”
The resident office has worked for the VPP certification since 2008 when employees formed committees to tackle each element of the program. During the next years, the office made adjustments and tweaks to the written safety program reflecting OSHA and other regulatory requirements. In 2012, the resident office submitted the final application. On August 21, 2015, the office received OSHA confirmation they were approved as a Star Site under VPP. The Area Office is the third in the Corps of Engineers to receive the certificate—Columbus Resident Office, under the helm of the Area Office, received the notoriety as the first Corps of Engineers VPP certified site in 2014.
According to John Hearn, resident office supervisor construction management specialist, safety has been an integral part of the resident office.
“As an office, we have not had a lost-time accident since 2005,” Hearn said. “I can’t be more proud of the employees who have helped us through this certification.”
The area office continues to be well below the industry standards for injury and illness rates. The area office created nine committees, comprised of employees, as participants in the program and encourage all employees to look out for one another and keep safety as their number one goal.
As the committee chair for crane safety, Chris Childs, construction control representative, said the VPP certification is, “really creating a culture of safety. When VPP came and we decided to do committees, we felt we had a need to look specifically to cranes.”
The importance and realization of incorporating safety into a construction project comes to life as the team completes the $40 million hangar–part of the Air Force National Museum located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. With workers lifting beam configurations weighing in at 126,000 pounds, the resident office committee created a 239-page crane lift plan for the hangar project.
According to Chris Hesse, a resident office project engineer, the support of leadership is an integral part of the VPP success story.
“It gives me the tools. If I need to look at a safety issue, I know I have the support,” Hesse said.
That support goes through the command to district leadership. Louisville District Commander Col. Christopher Beck confirmed during the ceremony his support to the entire Wright-Patterson Area Office team.
“I would like to congratulate everyone in the office,” Beck said. “This is the launching off point of what this really means.”
Addressing Hearn and Jefferson, Beck added, “What you two and this entire team have shown--the commitment and culture to safety. It’s not just one player or one worker—it’s the team.”