AFRL Safety Office Named Best in Air Force

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Air Force Research Laboratory's safety office at Kirtland was recently named the best office of its kind in the Air Force.

AFRL Philips Research Site Safety Office won the award for being the top Category 5 Group Support Unit in 2014. The office helps protect the health and safety of 2,000 contractors, military personnel and civilian employees, according to Phillips Research Site Chief of Safety Mike Martin.

He said the achievement is primarily due to a lack of mishaps along with some emphasis on safety compliance. "We've got an excellent group of research and support workers at PRS. They're the main reason we received the award," he said. "Our office does good work, but we have a good safety program because the folks out in the industrial and administrative work areas operate safely."

He added that developing and implementing safety protocols is challenging when dealing with a research lab.

"I have a great crew of hard- working safety professionals who work with the scientists and engineers to figure out how to do things safely. It requires flexibility and creativity because this is research and development."

As new laboratory procedures are developed, someone from his office is brought in to sit down with the researchers and figure out how to do them safely.

There were six Class D mishaps in the year, he said. A few examples of the included are anything that costs between $20,000 and $50,000 to repair, recordable injuries or illnesses where the employee only works partial days, or requires medical treatment that is greater than first aid.

Martin said some of the reporting requirements are odd, though. For example, a broken bone that is treated with an inflatable cast, as opposed to plaster, is in a lower category of reportability. But to his mind, Martin said, that isn't the best metric for either the severity of the break or the safety concern it may indicate.

That's why he goes beyond what is required for reporting, he said, and records any damage done to government property, minor injuries and near misses.

"We track everything," he said. "That data is used to prevent future mishaps which reduces injuries and prevents damage to equipment, conserving the taxpayers' money.

Martin, James Wilkinson, Karen George, Stephen Sites, Karen McCreery, Cory Young, Frank Wheatley and Cassie Ringham-Chavez were all named in the award. Not mentioned was Kea Anderson who replaced Karen McCreery during the award period.