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Workplace Safety and Health successes attributed to center-wide teamwork efforts

Ronnie Gadola, 574th Composite Repair Flight sheet metal mechanic, displays a Purflo helmet, part of a new generation of respirators used at Robins. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Ronnie Gadola, 574th Composite Repair Flight sheet metal mechanic, displays a Purflo helmet, part of a new generation of respirators used at Robins. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Lyndon Baines Johnson, 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group Fuel Cell Repair Shop mechanic, inspects a fuel cell bladder. Johnson came up with a new process of repairing and replacing the bladders which helped solve an OSHA citation. U.S. Air Force file photo by Tommie Horton

Lyndon Baines Johnson, 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group Fuel Cell Repair Shop mechanic, inspects a fuel cell bladder. Johnson came up with a new process of repairing and replacing the bladders which helped solve an OSHA citation. U.S. Air Force file photo by Tommie Horton

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- When the Center's Workplace Safety and Health Team first met March 2, its mission was a monumental one.

Tasked to immediately address 39 citations issued by OSHA during an earlier period of several months, the business of taking care of people would continue, as team representatives from across the center met to discuss and implement safety measures to ensure a safer work environment.

The team's successes since then speak to the collaboration of many across the center, including union, maintenance, civil engineer, bioenvironmental engineering, base safety, and additional environmental representatives.

To date, the team has been successful in establishing processes to gain compliance with OSHA regulations. Of the 39 citations, 37 have been abated.

Highlighting a few key accomplishments, as there are too many to list, before moving forward the team needed to first document all processes that originated from the 44 buildings where industrial processes are conducted.

Once a process is identified to the bioenvironmental engineering office, surveys are conducted to ensure the process has proper engineering controls and adequate personal protective equipment is used. The team was able to identify any inconsistencies among surveys and group them on one spreadsheet.

"We went in categorizing and capturing all the personal protective equipment required of those processes," said Scott Edge, 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group chief engineer and team member. "It was a big effort. What it did was give us a baseline for where we are generating hazardous materials so we could control them."

Proper fall protection was a key point. When a maintainer works on a piece of equipment, it was found that many times they would work above a 4-foot level, which was previously the Air Force standard. As a result, more than 4,100 pieces of equipment were assessed to determine what fall protection equipment would be needed.

That work was catalogued, and plans were put in place to address the issue across maintenance. Formerly using a dry-sweep method to clean, new regulations were put in place to move to mopping work areas. However, with that came dirty water containing chemicals which in turn must be properly disposed. As a result, new collection points were established.

Maintenance shops are now following housekeeping checklists. This can include for example, following guidelines when to sweep, mop, dust, etc.

"We developed, implemented and deployed a standard housekeeping plan for all the shops in the maintenance wing," said Edge. "It was important to standardize to make sure we had control of those processes across the Center."

A dust containment directive was also successfully enacted, which was critical in gaining control of dust-generating processes to decrease the amount of contaminants escaping into work areas.

A few communication activities included the creation and distribution of instructional videos to educate the workforce. For example, a video was made on getting in and out of personal protective equipment; decontamination procedures; and properly maintaining vacuums.

Weekly safety and health tips were published, and visual aids were developed which highlighted the seven tenets of safety, fall protection and various procedures - all of which have received positive feedback, said Edge.

Additional accomplishments included air and swipe-sampling visual management, sanding booth modifications in multiple facilities, and continuing to make sure record keeping was in OSHA compliance.

The team also expanded housekeeping and dry sweeping safety grams, which helped address ongoing solutions to new or existing practices in the workplace.

Looking across the Center's maintenance shops, there have been many positive visual changes. But overall, Edge said it would be important to continue to build trust and maintain good rapport and communication between the workforce and management.

"I think we have made tremendous progress in doing that," he said.