Watervliet Arsenal safety program receives recognition

By Mr. Matthew Isaiah Day (TACOM)January 16, 2020

Watervliet Arsenal installs machine guards, boosts user safety
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- Watervliet Arsenal received recognition by the U.S. Army Materiel Command for its significant contributions in safety and risk reduction with the brigade-level Exceptional Organization Safety Award recently.

Cannon production carries inherent risks and requires a robust safety program to ensure Watervliet Arsenal employees remain safe. The award recognizes not only the safety record at the cannon, howitzer and mortar manufacturer, but also recent process improvements that reduce risks at the Army installation.

"The arsenal has made significant improvements this year that create a safe environment for our employees," Matthew Church, acting Watervliet Arsenal Safety & Environmental division manager said. "This award is the culmination of hard work across all organizations."

Watervliet Arsenal has operated safely at a rate 70% lower than equivalent organizations nationally over the last decade, with the current year exceeding 76%. This increase in safety was despite workforce growth of 40% since 2018. According to Church, safety incidents typically increase under similar conditions.

The Watervliet Arsenal Safety and Environmental Division instituted key programs that netted significant results.

Watervliet Arsenal continued to refine the use of new safety management software that tracks and reports safety incidents. The online database tool gives supervisors and safety personnel the ability to report accidents, near-misses and potential safety hazards through any workstation at the arsenal. Safety personnel and supervisors are then able to pass down reports which help identify and eliminate hazards before accidents occur.

"This software has helped us track and manage accidents and develop strategies that help mitigate future incidents," Church said. "Being able to share this information directly with our workforce has helped to build awareness of the hazards that exist and how to avoid them."

One key improvement in increasing safety at the arsenal has been the continued deployment of machine guarding on equipment. The arsenal enlisted the help of the machine guarding team from Anniston Army Depot to catalog every machine on the 2.2 million square foot facility and identify where installation of guards can lower risks to operators. The safety team worked with a Watervliet Arsenal machinist apprentice to design and install guards from both the in-house metal fabrication department and local vendors.

Another contributing factor in Watervliet's safety program success has been collaboration by all directorates at the installation. Some initiatives introduced have been safety training for all new hires on the first day of their employment and weekly safety meetings covering topics relevant to individual work areas.

"Safety is a team effort," said Church. "Safety is everyone's responsibility and it is impossible to achieve this recognition without our employees being committed to safety."

The U.S. Army Materiel Command annually recognizes organizations and individuals for their contributions in keeping soldiers and civilians safe throughout the command. This is the fourth time the command recognized Watervliet Arsenal for its safety and occupational health program, which received recognition by the Secretary of the Army three times. The U.S. Army Materiel Command develops and delivers equipment that supports strategic readiness and support to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th anniversary on July 14, 2013. Today's arsenal is relied upon by the U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannons, howitzers and mortar systems.