VPP: One unit's journey to become a Gold Site

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
A dozen people recently showed up at the visitor's center in front of the 402nd Electronics Maintenance Group complex.

They were there to put the 300-member 568th Electronics Maintenance Squadron, which works on avionics for the F-15 Eagle, through a rigorous examination to see if it was worthy of being labeled a Gold Site in the WR-ALC Commander's Safe Site Challenge.

Since the challenge began, 63 units have earned gold, which means they've met requirements to become a Star Site in the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's Voluntary Protection Program.

In the initial briefing to the evaluators, squadron director Jim Russell noted he has been impressed with his unit's efforts to improve safety.

"You will see this squadron has embraced VPP," he said.

Several members of the unit's VPP team also spoke at the briefing, highlighting their initiatives to improve safety, including a campaign to have first responder training for employees and the use of medical badges by employees to alert others to their medical conditions.

They also noted how employees have carried safety into their homes, explaining they're using safety glasses and ear plugs when engaging in potentially hazardous activities away from the workplace.

After the briefing, the evaluators visited the production floor, and each evaluator spoke to four of five employees each about their jobs and safety habits.

Following that, it was time for the jury to deliberate, which turned out to be quite a vigorous and prolonged discussion. In fact, it took nearly two hours.

While the evaluators were impressed with many of the squadron's "above and beyond" initiatives, some felt the unit still had room for improvement in some areas.

Ultimately, however, the team voted to award the unit the Gold Site designation.
"I don't think anything is going to be 100-percent perfect," Melanie Clearman, program manager for the Center's VPP Office, told the group before voting. "I think when OSHA comes in, they don't expect perfection."

Mike Watson, a member of the evaluation team, said the lively discussion illustrated the evaluators have high standards for handing out Gold Site recognition, and those standards are continually being raised.

"Every time you go on an evaluation you see someone who is doing something a little better," he said.