The Secretary of Defense previously tasked the Department of Defense (DoD) with
reducing the number of occupational injuries and illnesses at all 400 DoD
installations nationwide. DoD selected OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs
(VPP) safety and health management system (SHMS) model to help them accomplish
this task over other international SHMS models because of other federal
agencies’ success with the model. So far, 22 DoD facilities have been recognized
by OSHA as VPP Star participants, and by the end of September 2009, DoD plans to
have an additional 15 participants approved in the program.
Attaining an excellent safety and health management system takes hard work and
dedication and may seem a little overwhelming at first. The United States Air
Force (USAF) recognized that OSHA had valuable expertise in workplace safety and
health, and could offer useful tools, such as VPP and OSHA Challenge, to help
them achieve DoD’s goal. OSHA Challenge provides a three-stage process to
establishing an effective SHMS. Participants are guided through this process by
volunteer Administrators and Coordinators.
First, in the spring of 2006, USAF approached OSHA to discuss forming a
partnership to assist them with promoting safety and health at their
installations. They recognized that OSHA had valuable expertise in occupational
safety and health and could offer useful tools and resources. In late August of
2007, USAF and OSHA formed a national OSHA Strategic Partnership (OSP) with the
main purpose being to provide an infrastructure for managing installations that
are working towards attaining VPP recognition in the future. USAF also is
utilizing OSHA Challenge to help them develop an effective SHMS and volunteered
to serve as a Challenge Administrator. Lessons learned shared by VPP
participants will benefit employee safety and health at all DoD installations.
Implementing Effective Safety and Health Management Systems and Promoting Occupational Safety and Health Leads to Many Positive Results
Eighteen installations are covered under the USAF and OSHA national OSP – one of
these being the Altus Air Force Base (Altus) in southwestern Oklahoma. With an
average of over 300 days of weather favorable to flying each year, Altus is an
ideal location for young airmen and airwomen to sharpen their skills. Since it
was founded in 1943, the base has evolved to become the premier air mobility
training location in USAF.
However, several years ago in 2005, Altus was listed as one of DoD's top 10
hazardous worksites which was consistently reflected in reported high injury and
illness rates. In August 2006, the base began developing their safety and health
management system which included implementing safety and health policies and
practices. Almost immediately, Altus began to see a decrease in incident rates
and a dramatic reduction in lost work days. Before starting the VPP process,
Altus recorded 720 lost work days. Two years later in 2008, 42 lost work days
were recorded - this represents a 94 percent reduction over a two-year period.
Below are a couple of examples of how this was accomplished:
- Altus employees suggested implementing a new work practice and researched a
design of special rack and charging station minimizing manual handling of oxygen
cylinders weighing 133 pounds each. Rather than manually moving dozens of
cylinders from multiple levels on existing racks, they adopted a National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) designed charging station allowing
for the use of a forklift to transport the cylinders, significantly reducing
employee exposure to sprains and strains.
- Employees coordinated with base engineering to design a specialized work
platform to maintain jet engines attached to C-17s in the hanger bays. The
outcome was astonishing. Not only did the new platform reduce exposure to ergo
related injuries, fall hazards, and damage to the aircraft caused by traditional
work platforms, it aslo allowed up to seven mechanics to work on the platform at
one time (as opposed to one mechanic in the past). This new design has led to a
50 percent reduction time needed to maintain the engines and was so successful
that other platforms will be fabricated at other USAF bases around the country.
USAF also shared this design with the Royal Australian Air Force who has plans
to build a similar unit for maintaining their own aircrafts.
"Base management and employees will attest that their
VPP – particularly increasing employee involvement and using the
OSHA Challenge tool – had the greatest impact to date. I attribute this
success to employees and management working together to make their
work tasks safer….and as it turns out – a lot more efficient."
-- Lieutenant Colonel Wade Weisman
United States Air Force
Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., former Assistant Secretary of Labor,
OSHA (left) and William C. Anderson, Assistant Secretary
of the Air Force, Installations,Environment and Logistics
(right), shake hands after the signing of the national USAF
OSP agreement on August 27, 2007.
Key objectives of the national OSP are to: reduce civilian and military
workforce injuries and illnesses at each participating Air Force installation by
at least three percent per year, expand USAF participation in VPP, increase
awareness of the value of effective safety and health management systems, and
provide mechanisms for promoting contractor safety and health.
Origin: Washington, D.C.
Partners: The Department of Defense, Department of the Air Force (Air
Partnership Signed: August 2007
Industry Code Description (NAICS Code): Air Force-National Security
Source/Date: Lieutenant Colonel Wade Weisman, United States Air Force
Pentagon; Jim Boom and Danielle Gibbs, OSHA National Office/July 2009