Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. -- A team at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center has earned one of the Army's highest safety awards after establishing new approaches to strengthening laboratory safety practices.

The Chemical Biological Test Division of ECBC's Engineering Directorate earned the Director of Army Safety Risk Management Award, a prestigious award presented by Brig. Gen. David Francis, commanding general of the Combat Readiness Center and director of Army Safety.

Francis presented the award on Tuesday, Jan. 9 in front of 100 Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) safety officials during a safety briefing at APG North.

"The work this team does is exponentially dangerous, and it is directly applicable to what we're going to face in the future," Francis said. "This team took the initiative and showed the leadership to take their own time and find ways to make their work safer. Their work is commendable and will improve both safety and readiness in the future."

The safety rules were developed through a committee comprised of multiple division staff members, as opposed to being created and handed down from the safety office. With members from each of the division's three branches, the committee examined the directorate's 15 safety initiatives and sought to create more tangible, clearly defined rules for safety and surety.

"One way we could make these safety initiatives more meaningful is to start in the lab with the staff that are in the lab and look at safety at that level," said Matt Shue, chief of the Chemical Biological Test Division. "Our goal was to take a look at the safety initiatives and what they were intended to do. More than that, we wanted to take a look around the labs at our operations and find things that are specific examples of what we can improve - tangible changes."

One outcome is a "sterile cockpit" rule to combat complacency. Used by airplane flight crews during critical times in flight, the rule is aimed at focusing crew members on the task at hand, instead of non-essential duties or activities like idle chat. Through this culture change, readiness is improved.

"We can't ever lose sight of what we're doing, how we're doing it, and why we're doing it," Shue said. "This is serious business and we shouldn't be chit-chatting about what we did last weekend."

Other outcomes include changing the vessels for storing, transferring, and delivering chemical agent; preparing chemical agent fact sheets for awareness; and installing lockboxes with medical countermeasures.

"We installed individual storage boxes that are all uniquely keyed so that the operators can have their medical countermeasures all in the same spot," Shue explained.

Additionally, the division is holding more "deep dive" reviews of standard operating procedures to strengthen knowledge and promote cross-training in different areas.

"We come together as a big group, and it's been pretty effective," Shue said, explaining that the reviews serve as "multifunctional meetings" providing a roadmap for improved safety and professional development. "Everybody has a voice in it from the operator level up."

Shue called the award "a team effort and a team award," and noted, "We just want to make sure everybody is as safe as possible."

For their efforts, the division was successfully nominated for the 6th annual ECBC Excellence in Safety Award.

"ECBC has encouraged the workforce to come up with innovative solutions to ensure that safety is of paramount importance and the creation of the Safety Initiatives Team and the work they have done in the CB Test Division is a prime example," wrote Andrew Cote, a certified safety professional in ECBC's office of safety and human capital, in the nomination.

"The CB Test Division's efforts have strengthened their posture for working with the most toxic compounds known to mankind and have served as a stepping stone to strengthen its safety culture for next generation."

ECBC's directors concurred with the nomination and presented the award. Subsequently, the team was nominated for Department of Army Safety Risk Management Award, a nomination that was endorsed by ECBC Director Eric Moore, Ph.D.

"The CB Test Division's initiatives have improved their ability to safely work with the most toxic compounds known to mankind and have served as a stepping stone to strengthen its safety culture for next generation," Moore wrote in an endorsement to Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins, commanding general of US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. "The CB Test Division won the ECBC Excellence in Safety Award and is greatly deserving of higher level awards such as this prestigious award."

Historically, the Director of Army Safety Risk Management Award is a difficult award to win. Multiple awards can be presented through the Army world to individuals or organizations that demonstrate outstanding performance in the field of Risk Management (RM). RM is defined as the Army's principal decision-making process used to identify and assess hazards, determine and control risks and ultimately, prevent both accidental and tactical losses.

ECBC previously won the award in 2015 for successfully destroying 600 metric tons of Syria's declared chemical warfare material aboard the MV Cape Ray using the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System. Safety was critical component of the mission, which was completed in just 42 days without any reportable accidents or releases to the environment.


The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.