Italy's Vicenza Dental Clinic received the Army Safety Health Management System Star Status on June 18, making Dental Health Command Europe the first region within the U.S. Army Medical Department to obtain certification for all of its dental clinics.

The Safety Star program is based on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Voluntary Protection Program, which encourages private industries and federal agencies to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses through hazard prevention and control, work site analysis, training, and cooperation between management and workers.

The average Star Status organization has injury rates that are 52 percent below their industry average. The U.S. Army Medical Command implemented ASHMS in 2012 to promote a culture of safety for all personnel and employees.

According to McNeal Baptiste, DHCE Safety Officer, the process to become a Star certified site is not an easy one. On average it takes three years of training and development to fully institute the safety program.

Baptiste stated the clinic staff had to complete a number of safety programs, documentation practices, and mock interviews to prepare for the two and a half day assessment sponsored by MEDCOM in order to be awarded the Star site certification.

Obtaining the certification is conducted in three stages: the development of safety programs; the training of employees to the program's standards; and the assurance that employees remember and implement this training to sustain the culture of safety.

Once the ASHMS star status is awarded, the site has to undergo a re-certification every three years to ensure the facilities are maintaining the Star Status level of safety awareness.

According to Baptiste, this requires continuous investment and dedication from all employees to achieve and maintain the program's high standard of safety.

Col. Stephen Tanner, the DHCE Commander said, "The inspection and preparation process takes significant time and effort at the clinic, Dental Health Activity, and region level, with multiple pre-inspections and training, as well as significant time and effort developing the safety program at the clinic level."

The goal, Tanner said, is to become a high reliability organization, meaning the target is for zero preventable harm events while operating in environments where human errors occur and the risk for adverse events is high, such as in many medical fields.

Lt. Col. Kevyn Wetzel, DENTAC-I Commander, said the star status speaks to the culture of the organization.

"The Safety Star is a significant recognition that really speaks to the culture of our organization and the involvement of leaders at all levels," Wetzel said. "When team members feel comfortable to speak up and are empowered to improve the organization, everybody wins."

Tanner said having all of the DHCE clinics reach this safety milestone is outstanding, but is most proud of the staff's dedication.

"But the recognition isn't what was truly important. Our Soldiers and civilians dedicated themselves to creating a culture of safety - at work and at home. This inner dedication and follow through is the true achievement, and will improve our patient care and staff safety for years to come. That is what I am most proud of."

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