RED RIVER ARMY DEPOT, Texas -- Red River Army Depot marked another milestone Thursday, December 6 by becoming the first TACOM Life Cycle Management Command site to achieve the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Voluntary Protection Programs Merit Status. The depot is the largest organization to receive merit status in the region. Members and partners of Red River gathered for a celebration ceremony.

OSHA's VPP recognize and partner with companies/work sites that show excellence in occupational safety and health. Sites are committed to effective employee protection beyond the requirements of OSHA standards.

Red River's VPP journey began in 2007 when the depot began to develop and implement systems to effectively identify, evaluate, prevent and control occupational hazards to prevent employee injuries.

"Very few people ever start this journey of attempting to gain recognition as a VPP work site and even fewer achieve it," said Roger Simmons, who recently retired from Red River as a safety specialist. "Red River is setting a standard for not only Army but for private sector partners in region six."

Simmons continued with his speech discussing what's to come for the depot.

"Today is not the end of a journey," he said. "It's not something that we've done where we can sit a trophy on a shelf and all sit back and take a collective sigh of relief and say job well done. But today marks a threshold where we cross over into a new era of relationship and partnership."
Before ending, Simmons asked the question "Who's responsible for safety?" The entire crowd yelled "I am!"

RRAD Commander Col. Doyle Lassitter discussed more of Red River's safety journey.

"Not too many years ago, the Red River safety program was on the top of the list in the bad boy category," said Lassitter. "We use to have a culture in the Army and here at this depot where we were very reactive to the things that were going on in the realm of safety. This entire program is geared to change that from being reactive to being proactive."

Lassitter said people are the number one resource at the depot.

"This program is completely designed to ensure that what we're doing protects our workforce and provides an environment that we can do our mission to best possible standard, in a safe manner, so that we can prepare the equipment that goes to support our Warfighters."

During the ceremony the New Boston High School band provided music. Several depot and contractor team members followed the band into the ceremony dressed in white shirts carrying VPP flags.

Several awards were presented during the ceremony including Simmons who received the Superior Civilian Service Award for exemplary service as the OSHA and VPP coordinator for RRAD from April 2007 to October 2012. Richard Swantek received the Commander's Award for Civilian Service; Billy Harrist, site lead for URS, received the Contractor Partnership Award and Ann Harmon accepted the 2012 Theodore Roosevelt Workers' Compensation and Disability Management Award. Lacey DeBerry and Mike Jackson received the Exceptional Achievement Award on behalf of the rally team and brothers Matthew and Brandon Butler received the Outstanding Individual Achievement Award for composing music for Red River's Safety team.
Each of the five depot unions accepted an award from Lassitter that demonstrated their commitment to VPP.

Lassitter also presented Bonnie Lewis, RRAD safety officer, a certificate of appreciation and a bouquet of flowers for her retirement and dedication to the safety program.

"There's a reason she was selected as safety professional of the year," said Mark Atkins, Director for Safety and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environmental Safety and Occupational Health. "I've never seen anything done like this."

The award portion of the program concluded with Lt. Col. Nora Garono presenting awards to six children, all relatives of team members of Red River. The children represented the future of Red River Army Depot and were deemed as heroes for the day.

"These heroes are a good reason to work safe and go home every day to our loved ones," said Scotty Pearson.

Atkins said Red River is step ahead of the game by achieving this status.

"It is obvious that people are empowered here because they have taken the responsibility to do the things that are necessary to take care of yourself and your co-worker," he said. "Certain companies put people before productivity because they understand that if you provide a safe environment that's conducive to good work, then good work will occur."

Atkins stated within the next few months a policy will be pushed for all Army organizations to have a safety management system in place.

"We look at places like River to see that it can work and it does make a difference," he said. "In a few months, things like you have already done will no longer be a choice within the Army. You are breaking new ground and leading the way. You're pushing to where the Army wants to go."

Across the United States there are 2,316 VPP sites, according to Paul Anderson, URS Corporate safety manager, who also spoke during the ceremony. Anderson went on to say that one in every 3,500 works sites is a VPP site.

"We are in a rare place and it's a great place to be," he said. "We're proud to be able to work with a place that cares about safety."

Following the speakers, Simmons presented the VPP Merit Flag to Lassitter who waved the flag proudly before posting it on stage. Lassitter ended the program by cutting a ceremonial cake.