By Alain M. Polynice, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Bavaria Public Affairs OfficeApril 3, 2019
VILSECK, Germany -- All five Army health clinics of the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Bavaria were recognized and formally honored for their recertification as an Army Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) Star Site in a ceremony held at MEDDAC Bavaria headquarters at Rose Barracks, April 2.
The award was presented to each health clinic, certifying them for the successful completion of the Army Safety and Health Management System three-year validation in which they demonstrated continuous commitment and improvements to safety and occupational health as an SOH Star Site.
Regional Health Command Europe commander, Brig. Gen. Ronald T. Stephens, was on hand to present the award to each health clinic commander.
Col. Mark Swofford MEDDAC Bavaria commander, delivered the opening remarks to the audience gathered. He addressed the importance of the safety aspect of the program, noting all five of his clinics' collective commitment to safety.
"Even though the goal of [this program] is to increase staff safety, it increases patient safety simultaneously," Swofford said. "That commitment to safety and our adoption of the program is important because it really does mean a safer work place for the staff, increase of patient safety, and ultimately, increase in outcomes of care."
ASHMS is a safety and health management system program that originates back in 1979 from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and later on from OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The U.S. Army Medical Command implemented the program in 2012. Since that time the program has operated under different names leading up to its current program name.
"[The program] is a distinct staff and environmental safety process, reflecting on 243 applicable safety standards which are assessed in at least three different stages," according to Thomas Zirkelbach, who has been the MEDDAC Bavaria safety manager since 1990. "After the primary Star assessment, the process and Star Site status are reevaluated at least every three years following the primary Star recognition."
The criteria to be a Star Site and remain a Star Site are multiple, but it can be linked to four program elements: management-leadership and employee commitment and involvement; worksite analysis; hazard prevention and control; and safety and health training.
"Star Sites entities are recognized as high safety performers and are usually at the bottom of the staff accident statistic," explains Zirkelbach. "To become a Star Site does not mean you have a certificate for three years or until the next assessment. It means that one permanently looks for improvements regarding staff and environmental safety."
MEDDAC Bavaria served as the test site with the Army Health Clinic Illesheim becoming the first facility to implement the program. Subsequently, all clinics within MEDDAC Bavaria became certified as Star Sites, making the command the first organization within MEDCOM to be 100 percent certified.
Zirkelbach believes the recognition and success MEDDAC Bavaria has achieved has:
• Built cohesive teams through mutual trust, between management and employee
• Created a shared understanding of how the system works and how each individual has a part in the system
• Provided a clear commander's intent of how to address and accept prudent risk
• Created a high reliable system based upon all program elements being in place and working effectively and collaboratively
What makes ASHMS different from other Army military safety programs is that it focuses on work force safety, control, mitigation, and if possible, abatement of risk.
"ASHMS Star Sites are usually leading industrial development, utilizing a pro-active risk assessment process and fostering open communication channels regarding worker safety and risk exposure," Zirkelbach adds.
ASHMS not only supports a commander's priorities, it supports patient care and patient safety.
"Less staff accidents [occurring] supports staff presence for care to patients. Staff presence ensures access to care for our patients. Staff awareness mitigates [safety] risk for [the] staff, but also for and in patient care," Zirkelbach concludes.
Emphasizing the importance of ongoing command commitment and staff involvement within the process makes ASHMS as effective as it is.
With their Star Site status being recertified, the clinics at MEDDAC Bavaria have shown their willingness to use a program that allows the organization, as a whole, to create a safer work place where both clinic staff and patients occupy and use simultaneously.