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Bases Selected for Health and Safety Initiative

Nine Air Force bases are scheduled to participate in the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program this year.

By John Scaggs / Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, March 29, 2006 – The Air Force isn't waiting for the Memorial Day weekend start of the "101 Critical Days of Summer" to emphasize health and safety to its work force.

Nine Air Force bases are scheduled to participate in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program this year. Five of the nine bases belong to Air Force Materiel Command.

The Voluntary Protection Program is a concept that promotes effective worksite-based safety and health through a cultural change within the work force.

It is based on cooperative relationships between management, labor and OSHA to develop and promote a comprehensive safety and occupational health management system.

The Voluntary Protection Program compliments the Air Force Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Management System.

"We have Air Force Instructions that tell us how to do our job and do it safely. The Voluntary Protection Program initiative will help Air Force Materiel Command take its health and safety program up a notch."

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski

The Defense Safety Oversight Council selected the Voluntary Protection Program for use within the Defense Department after data showed a reduction in mishap rates and worker compensation costs in civilian and federal organizations that comply with the Voluntary Protection Program.

The Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., is responsible for coordinating program implementation at all Air Force bases.

Approval into the Voluntary Protection Program is OSHA's official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.

OSHA approves qualified sites to one of three programs: Star (the Defense Department target that signifies an exemplary health and safety program); Merit; and Star Demonstration (recognition for worksites that address unique safety and health issues).

Concurrent Technologies Corp. was contracted to visit bases and evaluate health and safety programs. Representatives will conduct a one-day engagement visit with senior leadership.

The contractor will return 30 days later and remain on base for one week to assess existing health and safety measures. Concurrent Technologies Corp. representatives will compare those measures with the Voluntary Protection Program health and safety requirements and identify gaps.

Concurrent Technologies Corp. representatives will visit Wright-Patterson Air Force Base April 5. They will partner with Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command safety officials to brief Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command senior leaders as well as commanders, safety and medical representatives from Air Force Material Command bases via a video teleconference.

The briefing will outline the plan for implementing the Voluntary Protection Program throughout the Air Force as well as the Air Force Materiel Command, the Air Force's lead major command for the Voluntary Protection Program.

Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command will be available to aid bases throughout the Voluntary Protection Program process.

"Our safety office will form a working group to help the Air Force Materiel Command bases implement the Voluntary Protection Program and to help bases close existing gaps following Concurrent Technologies Corp. assessments," explained Charles Pyron, ground safety manager at Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command. "Each base's safety office will facilitate the program while the center commander will assume responsibility for the program."

Ultimately, the Voluntary Protection Program is compliance driven. To achieve a program category of recognition, a decline in illness and injury has to occur.

"We have Air Force Instructions that tell us how to do our job and do it safely," said Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, Air Force Materiel Command vice commander. "The Voluntary Protection Program initiative will help Air Force Materiel Command take its health and safety program up a notch."

In turn, that should equate to a decline in lost days and compensation costs. In fiscal 2005, the Air Force Materiel Command had 11,397 lost days which equated to about $59.3 million in total compensation costs.

"We've got to do everything possible to preserve our most important resource - people," Gabreski said. "As we become more familiar with the Voluntary Protection Program, it will help stimulate the work force to institute new programs and perfect existing programs for providing safe and healthy working conditions. Ultimately, we want co-workers telling their colleagues 'hey, put your earplugs in' or 'wear your safety goggles'."

The first Air Force base scheduled for assessment by Concurrent Technologies Corp. is Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., in late April.

" Concurrent Technologies Corp. will then visit and assess Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio and Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.," said Pyron. "So our five bases will know what their health and safety gaps are by the end of September. Through active involvement from leadership and the work force, we'll start to close the gaps."
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