'Safety is critical': Tinker signs VPP agreement with local unions, Xerox

  • Published
  • By Maj. Angela O'Connell
  • Tinker Public Affairs
A Voluntary Protection Program ceremony was held Monday at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center to celebrate the efforts of Tinker Air Force Base for advancing worker safety and health on the job.

The VPP is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety.

"Safety is not something we take lightly," said Maj. Gen. Loren M. Reno, OC-ALC commander. "VPP is helping us improve our workplace by providing us a set of tools to help us do our job better. This is extremely important because our warfighters depend on us to stay safe on and off the job."

The agreement was signed by Gen. Reno, James Schmidt, American Federation of Government employees 916 president, and Todd Lambert, International Association of Fire Fighters F-211 president.

"We are holding the pens, but you are moving the hands," Gen. Reno said to a crowd of employees. "Visualize us working arm in arm with the unions and OSHA on the importance of taking care of our people and the mission.

"Safety is critical."

VPP participants are selected based on their written safety health management systems and ongoing performance.

"In 2006, Tinker was selected as one of nine Air Force installations to implement OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program," said Dan Gamboa, safety manager OC-ALC Safety office. "Not an impossible prospect, but definitely an enormous undertaking considering the base's 26,000 civilian and military employees and the wide variety of hazards associated with the center's working environment."

The multi-stepped on-site review of Tinker included a review of records, logs and inspection history, an initial meeting with management staff and employees, a walk-through of the facilities to determine hazards and precautions, formal and informal interviews and a closing meeting to discuss findings and recommendations.

The VPP stands on four key concepts: management commitment and employee commitment, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and health and safety training.

"From day one, beginning with the engagement and assessment visits by the Department of Defense Center of Excellence team, Team Tinker has prepped the VPP 'battlefield' for success," said Mr. Gamboa. "One of our very first actions was to form a base-wide VPP Working Group of all host and associate units."

"This included not only the Air Force Materiel Command units at Tinker, but the 552nd Air Control Wing, the Navy's Strategic Communication ONE Wing, Defense Logistics Agency, Army Air Force Exchange Service and a host of others."

Participants developed and implemented programs to identify, evaluate, prevent and control occupational hazards to reduce and ultimately prevent employee injuries and illnesses.

"In private industry, VPP has saved 862 companies an estimated $1 billion since 1982," said Mr. Gamboa. "The results claimed by companies implementing VPP speak for themselves and it has been proven that fewer worksite injuries and a more healthful work environment translate directly into greater productivity by workers."

"It employs concepts that improve work processes, save time and money and preserve life."

A separate agreement was signed by the OC-ALC commander, both unions and Michael Le from the Xerox Corporation at the event formally making Xerox the mentor organization for Tinker.

The mentoring program matches a potential site with a current site to help the candidate improve its safety and health management system and help managers and employees in preparing for participating in the program.

"Tinker decided to choose two mentors to help speed our progress," Mr. Gamboa explained. "The local Xerox plant, just west of Oklahoma City, has recently attained its own star status within VPP and is intimately familiar with our region's modified application process."

"The Xerox plant, however, is somewhat small, and has not dealt with some of the larger issues faced by Tinker."

For this reason, Mr. Gamboa said, we have also teamed with Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash. as our DOD mentor.

"Their size and experience in working with a large number of contractors and similar depot-level processes is seen as a tremendous asset in helping our cause," he said.

Tinker is the second Air Force Base to sign the agreement, with Warner-Robins AFB, Ga. being the first.

"VPP is not about which base got there first," stated Mr. Gamboa. "Our goal is to create a lasting culture change where one feels good about themselves, feels proud of the job they do and feels a high level of confidence about the people who are responsible for their well being." 

(Source: www.tinkertakeoff.com)