Safety key part of Joint Munitions Command’s modernization effort

By Matthew Wheaton, Joint Munitions Command, Public and Congressional AffairsDecember 12, 2023

Safety key part of Joint Munitions Command’s modernization effort
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Lake City Army Ammunition Plant employee uses a cart to relocate ammunition containers for distribution. Improper height on carts and repetitive pushing can cause bodily strains to even the most fit personnel. (Photo Credit: JMC Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL
Safety key part of Joint Munitions Command’s modernization effort
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A robot at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant moves containers of ammunition onto pallets. This eliminates the need for bending and pushing which can result in bodily strain. (Photo Credit: Dori Whipple) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Joint Munitions Command is undergoing a transformation in its approach to conducting business and contributing to its modernization initiative.

With the help of its safety team, JMC is in the process of implementing numerous innovative practices aimed at enhancing workplace safety and refining operational processes.

One such crucial practice is Process Safety Management, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirement, which encompasses a wealth of industry-derived best practices and consensus standards focused on managing highly hazardous chemicals and explosives. The standard has been adopted across various industries, including oil and gas, as well as chemical manufacturing. Incidents involving explosions and chemical releases sometimes result in tragic loss of life. Adhering to PSM practices has proven effective in mitigating such events and can similarly benefit JMC.

The PSM framework encompasses various aspects, spanning from process line design to information management and adaptations to the production line. Furthermore, it influences many facets of JMC's business operations, both at its headquarters and its installations. This includes additional requirements for risk management concerning new facilities and processes. One program that aligns with these supplementary demands is facility system safety.

“FASS offers a systematic approach to risk assessment for facilities, identifying potential hazards inherent to a facility's design and use. This becomes particularly critical given the ongoing modernization projects and new construction endeavors,” said Ralph “Skip” Stuck II, chief of JMC’s Safety Division. “FASS necessitates collaboration among facility users, engineering firms, designers, and builders to pinpoint potential risks and either eliminate or effectively manage them.

“For example, many process lines involved in explosive manufacturing entail specific facility requirements. These stipulations encompass protective construction within the building to safeguard personnel in adjacent areas and frangible walls designed to rupture in the event of an explosion,” Stuck added. “Failure to identify these requirements during the initial design stages could result in significant post-construction expenses or, in some cases, the issues may remain unaddressed, elevating operational risks.”

Many projects featured on JMC’s modernization agenda, which encompass facility upgrades, improved ergonomic considerations, and increased automation, have a direct impact on the safety and well-being of its workforce.

One such project will take place at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, a subordinate of JMC, in Middletown, Iowa. The future artillery complex is presently undergoing its design phase, with a strong emphasis on automation and safety. This new system will be highly automated and minimize human exposure to potentially hazardous materials.

The innovative production line, which is expected to be complete in 2027, will incorporate an additional melt-pour process to help ensure a smooth degradation process, robust operational capabilities, and enhanced flexibility. This assembly line will be responsible for loading, assembling, and packaging explosive materials for artillery. These modernizations not only minimize human interaction with explosives but also reduce the need for physically demanding tasks that often lead to ergonomic issues and back strains.

Additionally, other improvements will decrease worker exposure to hazardous environments, such as TNT vapors, by optimizing line configuration and ventilation systems. Furthermore, considerations extend to maintaining increased distances between facilities and optimizing the distribution of explosives, thereby reducing the potential impact in case of an explosion or fire.

The Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, located in Independence, Missouri, and also a subordinate of JMC, has undergone several projects focused on employee safety and increasing efficiency. For instance, the packing area for 7.62 mm ammunition at LCAAP has eliminated the need for individuals to manually handle ammo cans during the can printing process. A robotic system now manages this task and prevents the risk of repetitive motion injuries linked to lifting and maneuvering cans. Although not necessarily fatal, performing repetitive tasks in confined spaces unfit for employees can lead to such injuries.

“JMC is committed to fostering a culture of safety awareness and continuous improvement across all levels of the organization,” said Col. Ronnie Anderson Jr., JMC’s commander. “This includes promoting open channels of communication where employees can report safety concerns or suggest improvements without fear of reprisal. Regular safety training programs are also a cornerstone of this effort, ensuring that all personnel are well-informed about the latest safety protocols and best practices.

“JMC recognizes the importance of staying abreast of emerging technologies and industry trends that can further bolster safety measures,” Anderson added. “This entails active participation in conferences, collaborations with safety experts, and staying informed about cutting-edge innovations in the field of safety management.”

JMC’s 2030 modernization effort places a strong emphasis on sustainability and environmental stewardship. Safety initiatives are intricately linked with environmental preservation, as minimizing accidents and hazardous incidents also contributes to reduced environmental impact. JMC is actively exploring eco-friendly alternatives and sustainable practices to align safety objectives with broader environmental goals.

“As part of our commitment to transparency and accountability, JMC regularly conducts safety audits and assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of its safety programs,” Stuck said. “The findings from these assessments are used to fine-tune safety protocols and address any identified shortcomings promptly.”

“Our dedication to modernizing our safety practices is a testament to our unwavering commitment to the well-being of our workforce, the protection of the environment, and the continued excellence of our operations,” Anderson said.