Multiple VPP sites band together for safety

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
Most things worth waiting for require a bit of hard work and sacrifice.

When it came to maintaining occupational safety and health principles, Voluntary Protection Program participants in several staff agencies in the 78th Air Base Wing and four operating locations under the Air Force Sustainment Center realized that in order to keep the program valid, something needed to change. And, everyone had to be on board for it to work - no matter where they were in their individual VPP journeys.

"What we were thinking at the time when we started this was re-energizing the program and validating the Commander's Safe Site Challenge in a different way," said Sean Johnson with the Installation VPP office. 

So, last spring, with everyone's agreement, the 17 wing staff agencies and participating AFSC units agreed to come together and start from the beginning. That is, go back to Green.

From there, training was conducted on how to perform VPP assessments, teams were created, schedules were made to conduct a baseline assessment of all sites, and everyone forged ahead together.

Using criteria to meet Bronze-level recognition, all organizations reached this level last June. Everyone had to meet this goal, or no one moved ahead.

Providing the time and resources to keep teams on schedule, Robert Williams,78th ABW director of staff, said it was a unique, collaborative effort among wing staff agencies and AFSC operating locations to get to the point where everyone worked together with base VPP leaders.

"The overall goal is that we're achieving safer work sites for the 300-plus people who fall under this confederation of offices," he said. 

Those efforts culminated in 17 sites receiving Silver recognition on Jan. 27. 

The next step is Gold, followed by sustaining that process and assisting other Silver and Gold sites with their programs.

The Robins Equal Opportunity Office is one participating unit that was constantly trying to improve safety in the office and community. 

For example, the office's sidewalk has been upgraded and repaired with handrails to create a safer entry. 

"It was a challenge because we all had different supervisors, different safety and VPP programs - and some of us had Silver already," said Jeanette Draughorne with Robins EO. "But as a team we decided everyone would start over so we all were on an even playing field."

"It's nice having someone you can call and ask for help," she said. "We're in a unique situation having 17 different sections, but we act as one when it comes to VPP and safety."  

In the end, it's all about coming together as a team. It works.

"VPP and safety work together hand-in-hand with the ultimate goal of a sustained culture change where employees, supervisors and management are able to recognize safety and health issues, and work together to resolve them at the lowest level," said Scott Eck, Installation Safety chief.  

Bryant Aaron, the VPP representative for American Federation of Government employees Local 987, agreed but said leadership had certainly played its part. 

"Without leadership, the job would be harder to get accomplished," he said. "We need management and leadership involvement in order to make this base a safe working environment."