Mission first and safety always was the theme at a recent safety management program held to train safety professionals about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Voluntary Protection Program, or VPP.
When the Army Materiel Command expressed an interest in the VPP, I coordinated this training so that safety professionals from around the command and APG could learn about the program. With the information that they learned from the class, they can advise their leadership about whether the VPP is right for their organization. Sean Obrian, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center safety director said.
Thirty-six representatives from RDECOM, 20th Chemical, Biological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosives, Army Sustainment Command, Aberdeen Test Center, Communications-Electronics Command, Chemical Materials Agency, Integrated Logistics Support Center, Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, U.S. Army Public Health Center, Tank Automotive and Armament Command and Regional Health Command-Atlantic participated in the VPP training.
The training covered the requirements necessary for an organization to participate in the VPP, as well as background information such as how and why the program started.
“The VPP recognizes organizations that are the best of the best in taking care of their greatest resources the workforce,” said Janet Nixon, principal safety professional with the Department of Defense Safety Management Center of Excellence.
The OSHA VPP, which began in 1982, awards certifications to organizations when their injury and illness rates are below the national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries. Federal worksites became eligible for VPP in 1998.
In 2006, the DOD stood up the DOD Safety Management Center of Excellence- a joint effort with the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness, Personnel Risk Reduction- to provide occupational health support to DoD services and agencies and safety management system implementation and Sustainment to DOD worksites to help reduce injuries and illnesses.
Nixon, along with SMCX team member Paul Savage, led the two-day course hosted by the Aberdeen Safety Academy. The SMCX team assists the DOD and other organizations around the world to implement VPP, as well as other safety and occupational health management systems
We’re all trying to do more with less. We have a 15-gallon hat, and we’re trying to pour 20 gallons in it. There is always the competing pressure of production and safety,” Nixon said. “Implementing the VPP program requirements helps organizations standardize processes, which drives consistency, efficiency and proactive rather than reactive responses. VPP provides goal setting, planning and measuring performance, which becomes part of the culture, including the way the organization functions and how people do their jobs. As a result, injury and illness rates decrease and the mission is accomplished.”
According to David Ricks, chief of the safety and environmental division at Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, the greatest issue in the workplace is falls.
“We get distracted and text and walk, for instance, or text and drive, which is worse. We need to improve the culture and educate our employees that even though safety takes extra time, they cannot ignore it,” Ricks said.
Fewer injuries and illnesses may result in lower healthcare premiums, which is beneficial to employees. Another benefit is less time missed from work.
“Our ultimate goal is to minimize risk and make safety second nature for our employees. And a key part of that is being proactive instead of reactive,” said Joe Krawciw, assistant chief of staff at Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.
By Argie Sarantinos-Perrin, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command