By Art Powell, U.S. Army Combat Readiness CenterJuly 20, 2016
Speaking at the 2016 Senior Safety and Occupational Health Summit in late May in Alexandria, Va., the head of Army safety presented an overview and update of plans to streamline the Army safety and occupational health programs.
"Our working groups are developing the new Army Safety and Occupational Health Enterprise Information Management System, an information technology system which will replace current products such as the Risk Management Information System and the Army Safety Management Information System, that will become obsolete under the new system," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Farnsworth, HQDA, Director of Army Safety and commanding general, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center.
The project to combine the programs focuses on policy issues and synchronization with the Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Army Medical Command, and particularly the Army Public Health Center (Provisional) in the safety and occupational health fields and has produced a work-in-progress product.
"We have an emergent Army Safety and Occupational Health Management System," Farnsworth said. "Thanks to the efforts of the various working groups, and, after a lot of thought, we have developed an emergent model, meaning we are ready to formally coordinate the model across the Army and then take it forward for senior leader review and approval."
He added, "Our goal is to adopt a unified system that will enable a better shared understanding of both risk and resources and to enable a more and efficient and effective loss prevention program for our Army."
Other senior Army leaders discussed the modernized safety and occupational health management system with the more than 300 safety and occupational health program professionals attending the summit.
A formal synchronization of safety and health protection activities will enhance the tools for preventing injuries among Soldiers and that improves Army readiness, said John Resta, acting director, USAPHC.
"There are issues out there affecting Army readiness, such as injuries, that are mostly preventable and are not solely a medical problem," he explained. "I'm trying to build a partnership between occupational health, industrial hygiene and safety to look at the problem and apply the tools we have to make the Army a better place. If we can prevent injuries we can improve Army readiness because accidents and injuries are not inevitable."
Resta said the purpose of Army safety and public health professionals is to prevent injury and illness from occurring since they reduce the Army's readiness to fight and win.
The efforts to synchronize the two programs come at a time when "there is a tremendous trend going for reducing our accidents and we want to keep that going," said the Director of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Gary H. Cheek, as he saluted the success of the Army Safety Program. "It's because of the great professionalism of Army safety officers and leaders and we should be proud of where we are and continue to move forward with the great program and success we have."
Cheek cited adherence to standards as one reason the Army achieved a record-low number of 112 accidental deaths in FY 2015, its sixth consecutive year of declines in accidental fatalities according to data from the USACRC.
"The dangers we face when we're live-firing weapons or operating vehicles are with us all the time and we don't need to waste time, energy, resources or manpower because we failed to meet standards," he said. "So, it is the standards we have for these things that allows us to do very complicated things in a very safe and effective manner."
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey told the group that leaders are key to making sure Soldiers stay safe, both on and off duty.
"Good leaders are not just checking the block on safety," he said. "I know we place a lot of requirements on leaders at the company level, but safety is one thing we can't skip past. We need to make sure we're doing it right and checking Soldiers and their leaders. I always say Soldiers do what leaders check."
Dailey, the 15th SMA, said the "Not In My Squad" initiative is designed to create a climate of dignity, respect and cohesion and educate Soldiers on the importance of garrison safety and make them see how accidents affect unit readiness.
"Soldiers need to see how an accident that takes them out of the fight means there is one less person on their team and someone else has to compensate for that loss."
The synchronization of information between the safety and occupational health fields will help the Army maintain increased readiness levels since commanders will have available a broader picture of Soldiers' health and safety from one source, said Eugene Collins, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health.
"Commanders will know what risks their Soldiers have been exposed to and work with a broader understanding of their readiness with the Army Safety and Occupational Health Enterprise Information Management System we're building," he stated.
Collins also sees the Quality Work Environment Initiative as a path to ensure Soldiers and civilians have a safe workplace and help in preventing accidents.
"The name tells the story," he explained. "We first looked at industrial settings for Quality Work Environment and now our goal is to conduct quality workplace assessments everywhere because if we expect Army Strong Soldiers, then we must have an Army Strong work environment."
The synchronization of the Army safety and occupational health programs is in response to a directive from the office of the Honorable Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.
The proposed implementation plan has three lines of effort that will modernize the Army Safety and Occupational Health Program, enhance Army SOH information management and improve Army SOH workplace proficiency and effectiveness. The plan is the result of over a year of business needs assessment across the Army that identified necessary program and capability improvements and also addresses requirements in response to the ASA(IEE) directive and release of the Department of Defense Instruction 6055.01, DoD Safety and Occupational Health Program.
"Today's safety program consists of 1,994 pages of requirements, processes and procedures that is nearly seven inches of paper that we expect commanders to understand and comply with. We need to simplify, clarify and streamline all of that," Farnsworth said. "The emergent management system and enabling enterprise IT system will allow commanders to buttress readiness through proactive risk management, safe practices and health protection in a more effective and efficient way."