Savannah River team arrives for VPP inspection, analysis

Jackie Keenan, GAP Analysis team for VPP, Savannah River Site, observes Bill Wallace, 402nd MXSG welder, as he performs his job. U.S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Jackie Keenan, GAP Analysis team for VPP, Savannah River Site, observes Bill Wallace, 402nd MXSG welder, as he performs his job. U.S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- A team of safety and health experts from the Savannah River nuclear power plant arrived Monday to begin a week of inspection and analysis here at Robins.

The seven-member team, led by health and safety manager Philip Coretti, will tour facilities of the 402nd Maintenance Wing. The objective is to determine the gap between existing safety and health programs, and what OSHA requirements are for the Voluntary Protection Program.

"VPP is a government-wide effort to create a positive safety culture through management commitment and employee involvement. Both Savannah River and Robins are strong supporters of safety, and we share a history of safety," said Mr. Coretti. "However, just because there is a strong safety program doesn't mean you are a good VPP site."

Mr. Coretti emphasized that VPP is a voluntary program, and all members of the team are volunteers.
"The key is employee involvement and empowerment, and a cultural change," he said.

Savannah River has been awarded VPP Star Site status by OSHA in recognition of its safety achievements.

The gap analysis is a major step in the VPP journey. The Center VPP steering group has been working to organize core teams within each wing, and the gap analysis will indicate where the core teams must concentrate their efforts.

Brig. Gen. Andy Busch, commander of the 402nd Maintenance Wing, welcomed the team, which includes not only experts from Savannah River, but also from AFMC and the Defense Department Center of Excellence.

"As a VPP Star Site, you have a responsibility to mentor newcomers to VPP. I will be especially interested in your impressions of our current safety programs," he said.

General Busch was referring to safety improvements already made under Operation Risk Reduction, a focused effort aimed at reducing safety and health risks and to bring Team Robins workers into the Air Force culture. Under ORR, a team analyzed operations here and recommended ways of improving them.

"We welcome their look at our programs and facilities, and look forward to their suggestions," said Melanie Clearman, safety manager for the 402nd Maintenance Wing. "We can learn a lot from their experience in achieving VPP Star Site status.

The team will visit all five groups within the maintenance wing. Worksite analysis was completed Tuesday, and interviews of leadership and bargaining unit personnel took place Wednesday. The final outbrief takes place today.

According to Mrs. Clearman, the four elements of VPP are management commitment and employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and health and safety training.

Another major VPP milestone will be reached Jan. 25, when Maj. Gen. Thomas Owen, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, signs a document officially committing the Center to the OSHA VPP program. The document will also be signed by Tom Scott, president of American Federation of Government Employees local 987, and Russell Adams, president of International Association of Firefighters local F-107.

A separate agreement to be signed at the event formally makes the Washington Savannah River Company the mentor organization for Robins. Congressman Jim Marshall is expected to be present.