Wright-Patterson first to reach Star status|
by Daryl Mayer
88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
12/10/2008 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Wright-Patterson became the first active-duty Air Force base to earn the Star award Tuesday, joining other prestigious companies across the nation in the highest level of recognition under the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program.
More than two years ago, the Department of Defense directed installations to join the OSHA program. During that period, scores of bases across the country have scrambled to meet the rigorous criteria required for the Star award. The initial site visit beginning the VPP effort for the 88th Air Base Wing took place in July 2006 and identified 146 opportunities for improvement, termed "gaps" in VPP parlance. All those issues had to be addressed to receive Star recognition.
"Receiving recognition of this magnitude is a big deal and was the result of a real team effort between the 88th Air Base Wing, OSHA, with Air Force Materiel Command and with our Union partners," said Col. Bradley D. Spacy, 88th Air Base Wing commander. "We are a safe organization because we are trained to do things safely, but the real challenge is living it every day."
There is a large slate of compliance issues and documentary requirements that must be met under VPP. The final hurdle is the onsite program audit where a team of OSHA inspectors visit workplaces and conduct interviews with all levels of employees to gauge the level of commitment to a culture of health and safety.
"There are 29 installations currently moving forward in VPP and we expect to add another 15 in 2009," said Michael F. McGhee, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Energy, Environment, Safety and Occupational Health. "This is a program that is gaining speed and you're [the 88th Air Base Wing] right at the tip of the spear."
VPP was developed more than two decades ago by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration for use in private industry and has achieved dramatic results. When a Department of Defense task force was looking for a way to reduce the number of accidents, everyone in industry told them VPP was the answer.
OHSA credits the program with saving 862 companies an estimated $1 billion since 1982. Conversely, preventable injuries and illnesses cost the DOD an estimated $10 to $21 billion annually according to the National Safety Council.
"It's recognition of our safety and health programs here on the base and taking care of our people," said Cynthia Bryant, VPP program manager. "It shows that we're looking out for each other that the leadership has commitment to the safety and health of the people here on the base, that the employees are actively involved and looking out for each other."
This achievement is only the beginning of the journey according to Ms. Bryant. Other base organizations will continue working though the program until all have reached the same level as the 88 ABW.