ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- In Anniston Army Depot's quest for the Voluntary Protection Program Star award, some shops are conquering equipment and attitude hurdles.

One organization which embodies the VPP spirit is the Component/Flexible Computer Integrated Manufacturing Machining Branch.

A few months ago, it was rare to see a machine guard on the building's lathes and drill presses. Items stored in the flammable lockers were often out of date and the floors were filled with trip hazards.

Today, while there are issues still being corrected, the shop is a safety example.

"The thing that has helped us most with safety is not a store-bought item. It's the total employee buy-in," said Richard Petty, supervisor for the Component/FCIM Machining Branch.

Petty has ensured employees see the rules of safety apply not only to them, but to everyone in their chain of command and visitors as well.

"I've told the employees to hold me accountable also," said Petty. "If I walk on the floor without my safety glasses, they call me on it."

Another key in the organization's drastic turn-around is safety monitor Gary Sparks.

"I am taking the building one section at a time," he said. "As we go through various internal audits and inspections, I walk through the area with Safety and Quality, so I can see the issues and what needs to be done. I've found, with minor issues, I can often fix the problem immediately."

When Petty selected Sparks for the safety monitor position, he set to work learning everything he could by reading the Red Book and attending meetings.

Soon, with his knowledge and a series of work orders requested by Petty, guards were on all the machines and flammable lockers were organized and properly inventoried.

The machining branch's building has three books of material safety data sheets -- each with the same information. To update them, Sparks made a list of every chemical used in the building and took it to the K-Yard. They printed new information sheets for each chemical for him.

Then, he noticed the floors and the electrical conduits and hoses.

Sparks and Petty had the electrical lines re-routed overhead. The shop is now working to do the same with air hoses. According to Sparks, this eliminated not only a trip hazard, but also the possibility of an electrical hazard.

"The operators now see we are trying to make their lives better at their work station," said Sparks.

At the end of each morning's safety huddle, held just after roll call, Petty reminds everyone to wear their personal protective equipment and use the guards.

"We've told everyone the guards stay on the machines no matter what shift is working and, if they are taken off, there will be disciplinary actions taken," said Petty, who takes the safety of his shop personally. "As the supervisor, I am responsible if an employee gets hurt."

"This is a great example of how VPP is supposed to work," said Scott Miller, the depot's safety officer. "The supervisor, safety monitor and employees are taking responsibility for their shop safety and health. Yes, the Safety Office has a role, but we are not in the shop every day, all day."

Miller said installation facilities are encouraged to take ownership of their safety programs as part of the VPP culture. The depot's Safety Office assists, but, day-to-day maintenance of the safety program often comes from the shops.

"In most cases, in addition to safety and health improvements, we see production improvements as well, which is good for all of us," said Miller.