By Megan GullyMay 24, 2018
FORT LEE, Virginia -- Taking an in-depth look at workspaces across Logistics Readiness Centers, the Army Materiel Command is asking if workspaces are safe, healthy and productive environments for employees to accomplish their mission.
Kristina McCarthy-Martin, an AMC safety engineer and the Quality Work Environment project lead, helped lead two weeks of training for two teams on how to conduct a QWE assessment at Fort Lee, which culminated in the pilot assessment of the local LRC.
"QWE is a holistic evaluation of Army facilities to determine whether the workplace meets the needs of the employees and is appropriate for what they are doing," McCarthy-Martin said.
During their visit to Fort Lee, Max Wyche, deputy chief of staff for AMC personnel, and Marjorie McDonald, safety director for the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, saw firsthand the QWE approach for assessing whether the workplace meets the needs of the employees and is appropriate for the work they perform.
"The QWE is different in that it looks at the gaps that exist versus those things that are looked at as a part of routine and recurring regulatory inspections," McCarthy-Martin said.
The two trained QWE teams are now conducting assessments at 53 LRCs across the country, looking at each facility from a whole workplace perspective. The teams include experts in safety, facilities engineering, fire and life safety, industrial hygiene, and ergonomics.
"A regular inspection might check if the sprinkler system is functioning, but it doesn't ask is this the correct sprinkler for what they do," said McCarthy-Martin. "Another example is bathrooms. The question may be, is there a bathroom, not are there men's and women's bathrooms. Many of the LRCs are in old buildings, built in the 1940s for an all-male workforce and haven't been updated because it passes the inspection for having a bathroom."
The current design for the Army's Central Issue Facilities has a restroom for visitors but not one for staff. When CIF staff need to take a break, it shuts down their station even longer than normal because of the distance they have to walk to access a bathroom, said McCarthy-Martin.
The results of each QWE will be submitted to the LRC director, who will then use the information to support funding requests to improve the workplace. These evaluations will not just benefit aging buildings. The findings can also be used to change the standard design for new Army buildings, said McCarthy-Martin.
"It is only a seven-year-old facility, so if we don't fix the design, the next CIF will have the same issue," said McCarthy-Martin. "This is our chance to stop the propagating."
Phase one of the QWE focused on the Organic Industrial Base; phase two is kicking off for the LRCs, and phase three will evaluate the Research, Development and Engineering Centers. QWE is a partnership initiative between AMC, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installation, Energy, and Environment, Army Chief of Staff for Installation Management, U.S. Army Installation Management Command, U.S. Army Medical Command, and U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center.
"The QWE initiative is important for the Army because it allows us to help improve working conditions for the workforce, which has a direct impact on readiness. It also increases the Army's ability to become a model employer to recruit and retain the highest-quality workforce," McCarthy-Martin said.