Fort Riley earns Secretary of the Army’s safety award for fourth time

By Thomas ReustApril 14, 2020

U.S. Army Garrison Fort Riley Safety Manager, Rick Hearron, stands in front of a display of national safety awards at Fort Riley, Kansas on April 13, 2020.
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Riley Safety Manager, Rick Hearron, stands in front of a display of national safety awards at Fort Riley, Kansas on April 13, 2020. (Photo Credit: Thomas Reust) VIEW ORIGINAL

The U.S. Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, announced Fort Riley as winner of the Exceptional Organization Award of Excellence in Safety March 12. The award is the pinnacle in recognition for U.S. Army safety programs.

Col. Stephen Shrader, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Riley commander, says “this recognition is a great testament to the hard work and dedication that the Garrison Safety Office team and the entire Fort Riley enterprise put into creating a safe work environment.”

Rick Hearron, garrison safety manager for Fort Riley, attributed the award to the work of everyone at Fort Riley.

“Everybody on this installation had a part into us being recognized with this prestigious award,” Hearron said.

The Fort Riley safety team outlined three core principles, which shaped their approach to success, in fielding the commander’s safety emphasis: management commitment, employee development and innovation.

“You have to have the commitment of the leaders, you have to have the buy in of the employees and then you have the trained, certified safety professionals to put it all together,” said Hearron.

Hearron says The Fort Riley safety team is committed to exceeding commander expectations. That commitment led to concrete success in fiscal year 2019, when minor injuries were reduced by 16% and there were no civilian accidents leading to long term disablement. In fact, no major civilian vehicular accidents occurred during that period. Hearron attributes that track record to having the right focus on safety across the Fort Riley garrison and the right professionals to implement it.

“Our mission is to manage the commander’s safety program, which provides a safe and healthful workplace for the civilian workforce,” Hearron said. “I have an office of five employees overseeing around 154 separate safety-related tasks.”

Hearron said civilian employees are at the forefront of safety initiatives, and employee involvement means engaging the workforce with impactful presentations. To help engage with the civilian workforce, the Fort Riley Safety office staff rolled out a Memorial Day Injury/Accident Prevention Campaign that fielded 29 separate safety presentations and reached more than 1,200 family members, visitors, Soldiers, retirees and veterans. Support came from Irwin Army Community Hospital, the 1st Infantry Division, and the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource office.

The safety office staff also engages garrison employees through an internal award program.

“We recognize employees across the garrison with a monthly (safety) award,” said Hearron. “The employees see that you appreciate their efforts and that the program is there to protect them and provide a safe place to work.”

Through the monthly award program and awareness campaigns, GSO staff constantly strive to enhance safety on Fort Riley. For instance, the team fielded a new “heat map” system to indicate hazardous areas. This enabled commanders to implement more robust risk management operations. In another example, the team found an area that was high risk for motor vehicle accidents in a bus parking lot and worked with the unit to mitigate that risk.

Hearron said his team members are also good at incorporating regional knowledge into the safety program.

The establishment of an Intergovernmental Support Agreement enabled the staff to work with state safety officials to blend state and post safety initiatives. The team also focused on ensuring that the renovations to Child Development Center playgrounds were properly inspected by certifying six safety professionals as National Program for Playground System inspectors. These initiatives align with the safety team’s vision of providing innovative solutions to existing problems, and planning ahead to mitigate any future safety issues.

“We concentrate on being proactive, and not reactive,” said Hearron.

The Fort Riley Garrison Safety Office received the Exceptional Organization Award of Excellence in Safety four out of the last six years.