First Support Services is a 'star' example of VPP in action Published Dec. 17, 2007 By 1st Lt. Sequoiya Lawson 78 ABW/PA Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- Robins has an on-site example of what it takes to truly have an employee-involved voluntary protection program. "It took several years to get to this point," said Eddie Poole, First Support Services project manager for Robins. "Our overall goal is safety for all employees." An on-site pre-approval evaluation was conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the FSS Robins vehicle operations and maintenance facility. All elements of the site's safety and health program met or exceeded standards. This led the review team to recommend that the FSS site enter the VPP at the Star level. After the company came under new management in 2004, Dave Larsen, now a senior vice president with FSS, initiated the culture change within the company to focus on health and safety, said Mr. Poole. "One thing we did was purchase $10,000 worth of steel-toe boots," said Mr. Poole. "One week after everyone had their boots; someone dropped a tow bar on their foot and thankfully didn't receive any injuries." Mr. Poole said it's not just a manager-focused safety program, but that their efforts truly involve all employees. "It's not just about safety on the job," said Dee Selph, safety and environmental manager for FSS. "All employees participate by sharing safety and health information that's useful at work and at home." Simple communication such as sending an e-mail with holiday safety tips for the home can go a long way to involving everyone in the program, said Ms. Selph. "We believe that if you improve a safety program, you can improve morale and productivity," said Mr. Poole. Ms. Selph explained there are several incentives, programs and activities that help contribute to their success. The green light program involves placing a traffic light in the work area so employees can monitor their safety status. If the light is green everything is going well. When the light blinks yellow or turns red, Ms. Selph said employees naturally spread the word. Employees talk to each other about how those incidents can be prevented in the future and it is also discussed in daily safety briefings for each shift during the 24-hour operating schedules. "If a section goes 90 days without a reportable accident they get a free lunch," said Ms. Selph. She said the vehicle section just received rib eye steak dinners for going an entire year without a reportable accident from 2006 to 2007. without a reportable accident. The FSS vehicle operations and maintenance facility is co-located with various functions of the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron which has similar programs and parallel requirements for safety and health standards. Melanie Clearman, VPP manager for the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, said there are definitely plans in the works to review what FSS has done so that government organizations can learn from their example. "Having them on base is a great resource to see what they are doing to maintain an excellent program," said Ms. Clearman. She said the Air Force standards are at the OSHA standard or greater, and that those who participate in VPP programs are going above and beyond minimum OSHA requirements. The OSHA site visit took place Nov. 5-7. Two OSHA and one special government employee evaluated the vehicle operations and maintenance facility to determine their eligibility to participate in VPP. "Our goal is zero accidents," said Mr. Poole. "We'd be glad to get the star status and we'll take that excellence to our other sites such as ground support because the overall goal is to satisfy our employees and keep them safe." FSS anticipates an answer from OSHA by spring 2008. According to OSHA, only five percent of companies receive Star status.