BARSTOW, Calif. --
It is reasonable to assume, not a single employee aboard MCLB Barstow arrives to work each day hoping to get injured on the job, or get exposed to hazards that may result in an occupational illness. Rather, the expectation is quite the opposite. So much so, the expectation for an employer to provide a work place free of recognized hazards was codified in the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Under the OSHAct, regulatory requirements are published as Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The regulatory requirements almost exclusively focus on the responsibilities of the employer. Granted, an employer who strictly enforces each and every applicable OSHA regulatory requirement would in fact meet the intent of the OSHAct, but it misses the bigger picture. A safe work environment relies on the mindset and culture of the entire organization, not just an individual C-suite officer, safety representative, first-line supervisor, or employee. In order to shape the safety culture of an organization, employers have many options from which to choose. However, OSHA has developed five cooperative programs designed to improve an organization’s safety and health management systems. Active participation in one of these programs in-turn helps prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses in the work place through collaborative efforts and continuous process improvement. Of OSHA’s five established programs, MCLB Barstow has been actively involved in the Voluntary Protection Programs since 2006 and STAR certified since 2008.
It is almost certain, everyone aboard MCLB Barstow has heard about VPP and possesses a basic understanding of how it enhances our safety awareness and culture. What may be less commonly known is the significance of MCLB Barstow’s continued certification as a STAR site. In essence, MCLB Barstow’s long-term VPP STAR status (13 years and counting) demonstrates our employer’s dedication to cooperatively work with their employees, Union (if so represented) and OSHA to reduce or eliminate safety and health hazards and promote safe work conditions for each and every employee. To date, this dedication to safety has transcended six installation commanders and countless managers, supervisors, and employees. The fact so many personnel have come and gone from all levels of the organization and yet we are still able to maintain our VPP STAR status is a true testament to our organization’s enduring safety culture and all the employees’ contributions, past and present. More importantly, through management and employee involvement we have been able to consistently maintain Total Case Incident Rates and Days Away, Restricted or Transferred well below the national average for our particular industry. In short, this means fewer employees are getting injured on the job or experiencing an occupational illnesses, which is truly the ultimate goal of the program.
All of the past success set aside, our current objective is to ensure the continued safety and health of our present and future work force. We will achieve this by relying on VPP’s four elements of an effective safety and health management system: management leadership and employee involvement; worksite analysis; hazard prevention and control; and safety and health training. Each of these four elements play a vital role in the continued success of the Installation’s safety program and you can support these elements by:
• Getting involved. All Installation employees, regardless of rank, rate, and status are encouraged to join the VPP Sub-Committee. The sub-committee meets once per month and is vital to building interdepartmental relationships, developing fresh ideas for safety outreach campaigns and using collective experience to solve unique problems.
• Staying Alert. Look for changes in your work environment and processes. We rely on continuous process improvement, just because a worksite analysis was conducted in the past doesn’t mean conditions and processes will remain the same.
• Taking Action. You don’t have to be a trained safety specialist to prevent or control hazards. Cleaning up a spill, removing items from walkways and similar actions are examples of measures all employees can do to address hazards. For hazards that extend beyond your abilities, notify others then immediately report the hazard to your supervisor or the safety office, so we can properly abate the hazard.
• Rely on Your Training. Employers are required to properly train their employees, but the training is only effective if put into practice. Use your training to guide your actions and if there are gaps in your capabilities request an update, refresher, or suggest how the training curriculum can be improved.