MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. -- Madigan Army Medical Center celebrated its new status as an Army Safety and Health Management System Star Strong facility at a recognition ceremony here May 31.

"It's a whole safety management system," said Pete Lopez, Madigan's interim safety manager. "If you implement a program like this, you're actually showing that you can lead the way, that you are safety-focused and safety-driven."

The hospital's path to earning the ASHMS Star Strong certification required a multi-year effort, acing three phases of inspections for a total of 243 points of criteria; after passing the final audit in August, Madigan can boast it is the largest Army facility to earn this recognition, which has its roots in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program.

While ASHMS focuses on pillars such as worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and safety and health training, it's the concentrated focus on management commitment and employee involvement that sets this safety program apart. The first step is leadership making genuine commitments that they care about staff safety, and detailing their safety policies and supports.

"In turn, the employees come back to the management and leaders and say, 'Hey, we want to be safe too, so here's how we can make the place safer. One, I'm going to look at my environment, two I'm going to look at the job tasks that I do, and if this is unsafe, could we get more (personal protective equipment), could we get new and safer instruments?'" said Lopez.

In fact, innovative staff commitments to safety were highlighted at the ceremony by Col. Thomas Bundt, the Madigan commander; he noted that the Department of Pediatrics received special kudos for their creation of the Good Catch Award and their leader flash rounds, in which staff members communicate their safety concerns to their entire team. Other best practices from the ASHMS audit included the industrial hygiene program, standardized safety books across the organization, and the more than 130 baseline hazard analyses staff implemented to eliminate or minimize potential hazards during job tasks. The audit team also thanked 17 safety star performers at Madigan -- the most that they had recognized at that time.

Since the ASHMS Star Strong certification needs to be renewed in three years, sustaining the cultural change of a safety-saturated environment is vital to retaining this status, Lopez shared. While leaders can support their department safety officers and their safety champions, he emphasized that all staff can contribute to a safer workplace by reporting safety hazards and speaking up in safety huddles. Thinking systemically about safety also fits into the hospital's aim to be a high reliability organization -- something that Lopez says is tied to ASHMS, hospital safety overall, and patient safety as well.

"Staff should feel empowered to be responsible for the safety of themselves, and the environment which helps other people. If it doesn't look right, it's probably not right, so say something. There's a lot of people who are willing to listen," said Lopez.