ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - New safety equipment is in place and operational, making use of Anniston Army Depot's two wood chippers a safer process, thanks to a near miss in November 2010 that was quickly reported and tracked.

According to Sue Turton, depot safety director, a piece of metal was ejected from the chipper while employees were chipping pallets in the wood yard.

"The metal must have been still within one of the box pallets," said Turton. "It was ejected with enough force that it damaged a nearby building."

The incident was a wake-up call to the Directorate of Community and Family Activities' recycling team who had not seen an accident at the wood yard in its 15 years of operation.

Dale Larry, a depot safety and occupational health specialist, found the solution in a deflector for the chipper. The deflector is essentially a large screen that drapes over the top of the chipper, preventing debris from being thrown out of the chipper; something LaNoah Ealy, the depot's recycling business manager, said typically only happens when the machine is being shut down.

Jim Webb, DCFA's director, quickly responded and ordered deflectors for both wood chippers. It took nearly six months to build and install the screens, but both were installed in early April. A test run of the chippers was held to ensure the new equipment would properly protect employees and visitors of the wood yard.

"I was very impressed when invited to view the equipment operating with the new deflector. LaNoah and his recycle staff took a lot of initiative to ensure safety during the test run. They were all wearing safety equipment, took care to ensure I and the other visitors had hard hats as well as ear plugs and placed us a safe distance away during the trial run," said Turton. "It was obvious they were well trained. More important, it was obvious they had pride in the operation and cared about us and each other."

Ealy said purchasing the new screens would ultimately save the depot money, since each load of wood taken to the landfill costs approximately $600.

Nearly 1 million pounds of wood are brought into the wood yard each month. The chippers turn the wood into material that can be sold to vendors for use in other products, not only reducing landfill waste, but creating a profit as well.

"Our job is not to keep the materiel, it's to recycle it and allow it to be reused for other purposes," said Ealy.