DOD selects five AFMC bases for health, safety initiative

  • Published
  • By John Scaggs
  • Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs
The Air Force isn't waiting for the Memorial Day weekend start of the "101 Critical Days of Summer" to emphasize health and safety to its work force.

Nine Air Force bases are scheduled to participate in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program this year. Five of the nine bases belong to Air Force Materiel Command.

The VPP concept promotes effective worksite-based safety and health through a cultural change within the work force. It is based on cooperative relationships between management, labor and OSHA to develop and promote a comprehensive safety and occupational health management system. The program compliments the Air Force Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Management System.

The Defense Safety Oversight Council selected VPP for use within the Department of Defense after data showed a reduction in mishap rates and worker compensation costs in civilian and federal organizations complying with VPP. The Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M., is responsible for coordinating VPP implementation at all Air Force bases.

Approval into VPP is OSHA's official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health. OSHA approves qualified sites to one of three programs: star (the DoD target is it signifies an exemplary health and safety program); merit; and star demonstration (recognition for worksites that address unique safety and health issues).

Concurrent Technologies Corp., or CTC, was contracted one-day base visits to evaluate health and safety programs. Representatives will visit with senior leadership. The contractor will return 30 days later and remain on base for one week to assess existing health and safety measures. CTC representatives will compare those measures with VPP health and safety requirements and identify gaps.

Headquarters AFMC will be available to aid bases throughout the VPP process.

"Our safety office will form a working group to help AFMC bases implement VPP and to help bases close existing gaps following CTC assessments," explained Charles Pyron, ground safety manager at Headquarters AFMC. "Each base's safety office will facilitate the program while the center commander will assume responsibility for the program."

Ultimately, VPP is compliance driven. To achieve a VPP category of recognition, a decline in illness and injury has to occur.

"We have Air Force instructions that tell us how to do our job and do it safely," said Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, AFMC vice commander. "The VPP initiative will help AFMC take its health and safety program up a notch."

In turn, that should equate to a decline in lost days and compensation costs. In fiscal 2005, AFMC had 11,397 lost days, which equated to about $59.3 million in total compensation costs.

"We've got to do everything possible to preserve our most important resource -- people," General Gabreski said. "As we become more familiar with VPP, it will help stimulate the work force to institute new programs and perfect existing programs for providing safe and healthy working conditions. Ultimately, we want co-workers telling their colleagues 'hey, put your earplugs in' or 'wear your safety goggles'."

The first Air Force base scheduled for a CTC assessment is Tinker AFB, Okla., in April.

"CTC will then visit and assess Robins AFB (Ga.), Hill AFB (Utah), Wright-Patterson AFB and Hanscom AFB (Mass.)," Mr. Pyron said. "So our five bases will know what their health and safety gaps are by the end of September. Through active involvement from leadership and the work force, we'll start to close the gaps."

The other four bases are Altus AFB, Okla., Eielson AFB, Alaska, Holloman AFB, N.M., and Los Angeles AFB, Calif.

(Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)