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In June 2003, the United States (U.S.) Secretary of Defense tasked the Department of Defense (DoD) with reducing the number of workplace injuries and illnesses by 50 percent at all 400 DoD installations nationwide. In 2005, DoD changed this previous goal to a 75 percent reduction goal. DoD selected OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) safety and health management system (SHMS) model to accomplish this task. Currently, 27 DoD facilities have been recognized by OSHA as VPP Star participants.
In the spring of 2006, the United States Air Force (USAF) approached OSHA about participating in OSHA’s cooperative programs to promote safety and health at their installations and reduce injuries and illnesses. To formalize this commitment, OSHA and the Air Force signed a national OSHA Strategic Partnership (OSP) agreement in August 2007. The main purpose of the OSP is to provide an infrastructure for managing USAF installations that are working towards attaining VPP status – OSHA’s premier recognition program.
Case Study: Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts (MA)
One of USAF’s installations is the Hanscom Air Force Base (AFB), located in Bedford, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. Rather than hosting and flying military aircraft, Hanscom has the unique mission of supporting research and electronic systems and serves as the headquarters of the USAF’s Electronic Systems Center (ESC). In addition to this primary function, Hanscom supports the Air Force Research Laboratory's Sensors and Space Vehicles directorates and various other companies and groups related to DoD. The host unit at Hanscom is the 66th Air Base Wing (66 ABW) which supports the ESC as well as over 3,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard military personnel, and DoD civilians who work and live on the base. The OSP covers over 1,500 employees.
Collaboration at all Levels Used to Achieve Exemplary Safety and Health
As one of the first of ten bases selected to participate in the national OSP,
Hanscom began their VPP journey in 2006. During the three-year application
process, General Electric (GE) Aviation in Lynn, MA served as Hanscom’s VPP
mentor. In order to engage all individuals from all levels of the organization,
GE suggested that VPP working groups be formed.
The site had a variety of controlled hazards including: point of operation and power transmission machine hazards; hazards from the unexpected energization of machinery; material handling hazards related to powered industrial trucks; hazards related to confined space entry; and hazards from high temperature ovens. Health hazards included: exposure to noise and automotive fluids, and use of solvents during minor spray painting operations. Additional hazards include: strains, sprains, and injuries from lifting and ergonomic stressors. Hazards at the site are corrected or controlled by using engineering controls, work practice and administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
When they began their journey to VPP, Hanscom was already meeting USAF and OSHA standards, but they realized that achieving VPP recognition would be going above and beyond these standards. With a lot of hard work and dedication, the base’s three-year average TCIR and the DART rate for 2006 to 2008 were 1.3 and 0.2, respectively. This three-year average TCIR is 80 percent below, and the average three-year DART rate is 92 percent below, the 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) national average for this industry. The below table presents Hanscom’s injury and illness data recorded between 2006 and 2008, and 2009 (as of October):
During the VPP recognition ceremony, Italia Minchello, 66 ABW VPP team lead and National Association of Government Employees Local R1-8 chief union steward, commented on the unions’ support and commitment to VPP at Hanscom: “VPP has given management, unions, and employees the opportunity to build better relationships by working cooperatively to operate an effective safety program.”
Hanscom will serve as an example for other installations that are working towards achieving VPP Star recognition. Also during ceremony, Lieutenant General Ted Bowlds, ESC commander at Hanscom stated, “Just like we leaned on GE Aviation to help us, I fully expect other Air Force installations to lean on us. We welcome them with open arms just like GE did for us, because this is good for the Air Force; it’s good for our nation.”
Origin: Region 1 (Bedford, MA)
Entered VPP: August 3, 2009
Industry (NAICS and SIC Codes): Facilities Support Services (NAICS Code 561210, SIC Code 88744)
Source and Date: Al Woodson and Danielle Gibbs, OSHA National Office, Washington, DC (November 2009)