Depot Known Not Only For Helicopters, But For Safety
September 8, 2011
By Brigitte Rox
Corpus Christi Army Depot has become the role model for safety within the Department of Defense.
In 2010 when CCAD received Star Status with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Plan, or VPP, safety personnel began getting some unexpected attention.
"We have people contacting us almost on a daily basis," said David Askew, Chief of Safety, Occupational and Health for CCAD. "They're asking us for VPP advice and help."
"Paul Savage is referring organizations to us," he said. Savage works for the DoD Center of Excellence providing guidance and mentorship to government facilities in their quest for VPP status.
"Paul Savage is our biggest fan," Askew admits. "He is the evangelist of safety."
Savage admits that he has been honking CCAD's horn to the other depots and installations throughout DoD.
"CCAD has excellent union support, an excellent management commitment, and an excellent safety department that administers the program and excellent employee involvement," Savage explained.
"There are not a whole lot of big depots that have their Star yet," he said. "A lot of the bigger depots are working on theirs and they're doing great and to help them understand some of the ins and outs from a 'big depot' perspective, I recommend CCAD because they've done it."
"CCAD has an excellent program and when somebody has an excellent program, why reinvent the wheel when you can take council from someone who has already been across the finish line," said Savage.
Just recently the depot received a phone call from the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics in Washington, D.C. prompted after a site visit in September.
"When they came and they saw our safety program they said this is who we want to model after," said Kevin Martin, Safety Engineer and Master Black Belt.
"They consider us to be the standard that they need to achieve, we represent the best in class for the DoD," adds Martin.
At the moment, depot safety personnel are actively helping four installations on their journey to a safer workplace.
These installations are in varying stages of adopting a culture of safety, said Martin.
"We are in an advisory role with one Air Force base," Martin said. "They asked for data information about the way we run our VPP program and the return on investment. They need to communicate to their commander what VPP can do for them."
According to the National Safety Council, preventable injuries and illnesses cost the DoD an estimated $10-$21 billion annually.
A requirement went out to reduce civilian injuries and illnesses. OSHA developed VPP as an accident reduction best practice for private and government industries to improve their safety program performance.
CCAD is reaping benefits of a safer workplace thanks to VPP. Lost Time incidents, Total Days Off and Lost Production Hours have decreased significantly while Production Hours are on the rise.
"I've seen some real great things here," said Jason Moore, an OSHA VPP auditor.
Several installations have even paid CCAD multiple visits to benchmark the program.
"They're trying to learn from us. [CCAD] is seen as the place they need to model after," Askew said.
"It's ripping off and duplicating but it will help them get it out much faster. We're thankful for all the help we received so we're just paying it forward," he said.
Safety staff at the depot has informational materials available to any DoD installation looking for help on their journey to Star status.
"We have a CD that has over 600mb of info on our VPP journey," boasted Askew. They will happily share CCAD's efforts, data, and lessons learned if it means keeping DoD civilians and contractors safe.
Six years ago, the depot appeared on the DoD's Federal Employees' Compensation Act Top 40 list.
"That is a list you do not want to be on," said COL Christopher Carlile, Commander, CCAD.
In a dramatic about-face, the depot started a campaign for safety with the help of OSHA.
Four elements are needed to receive VPP Star status: 1) management commitment and employee involvement, 2) worksite analysis, 3) safety and health training and 4) hazard prevention and control.
"We've verified that management is committed and that employees are involved--even more so than other sites that already have Star status," said Rick Martinez, OSHA VPP Coordinator.
CCADers have a level of passion and engagement that is important for those considering achieving Star. "That's what I'm looking for in a VPP site," said Josh Lewis, OSHAVPP auditor.
Since achieving Star, CCAD has not let up the reins on their vigilance for a safe workplace.
Recently, the depot's VPP committees set up teams to perform safety audits throughout every area of CCAD annually, performing safety inspections, ensuring proper documentation, and examining training.
CCAD is also getting employees more involved with OSHA. Called Special Government Employees (SGE), these federal employees receive a special distinction from OSHA and become active team members on VPP on-site evaluations. Hopeful SGEs are subject to OSHA approval, company funding, a formal application process and training.
Jaime Villanueva, VPP Manager and Safety Specialist, has been performing inspections with OSHA throughout the local area for some time. He's conducted inspections of the local Valero Refineries and other industries around the Coastal Bend. He often brings back good tips from his inspections that help CCAD's own safety program. Robert (Bob) Davies, Certified Industrial Hygienist, is seeking certification and will be trained at NASA in September. With more depot employees stepping up with safety, a wealth of resources is growing as CCAD maintains the safest workplace around.
"The depot employees benefit from it because we'll have a safer workplace," said Askew. "We feel like we're going in the right direction."
"It's about continuous improvement," said Martin. "We're developing programs to make our safety even better."
"Although the VPP drum is not being beat as loud as it has been, I think with the programs that we've got going that may be out of the box thinking. Health and wellness and all the safety programs and our recent internal safety audits far exceed VPP and Army requirements," said Askew.
"We're wide open to people wanting to learn from us," he said. "We're here to learn from each other and to share information. By helping other people we could help ourselves too."