MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. — Fleet Readiness Center East’s commitment to safety has earned the depot designation as a Star Site in the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).
The recognition makes FRCE one of fewer than 60 facilities across the entire Department of Defense to hold Star Site status, and the only Naval Air Systems Command facility to earn the distinction.
“This achievement reflects the commitment of the entire FRC East team to safety in our workplace,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto. “We are now part of an elite group of organizations that set an exemplary standard for occupational safety and health protection that serve as role models for safety management.”
An OSHA VPP team recommended the depot’s VPP Application Areas Charlie and Golf for the OSHA Star Site designation following a rigorous evaluation in March. Inspectors rated FRC East on 133 criteria in four subject areas: hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; safety and health training; and management commitment and worker involvement.
The five-day evaluation started with a review of the FRCE’s safety management system, after which the VPP team conducted employee interviews with 10 percent of the application areas’ workforce population. Following the evaluation, inspectors submitted their recommendation for Star Site status to the OSHA Regional Administrator’s Office in Atlanta, which concurred the evaluation was successful and sent the report for approval to the Labor Department in Washington, D.C.
“This has occurred due to all members of FRC East pulling together to improve safety across the command. Nearly a decade of sustained, focused work has gone into leading to this achievement,” said FRCE Compliance and Quality Director Amy Morgan. “It has not been easy nor fast, but it has made a tremendous difference in the workplace for all our FRC East employees in that they have a safer, cleaner workplace in which to produce critical Navy and Marine Corps aviation products to support fleet readiness.”
Achieving Star Site status at application areas Charlie and Golf gives FRCE a new goal: broadening that status to include all nine VPP application areas at the depot, which was too large to apply for Star Site status as a single entity. The command qualifies for Star Site status as a whole, but OSHA had to separate the facility into application areas to make the review process manageable.
“Earning this recognition is not the end of our journey to safety excellence,” Nieto said. “We must continue to maintain the high standards we have established and look for ways to continuously improve safety at FRC East. Our goal is to also get the other application areas of the command to the same level, so that we can bring the evaluation team back and achieve the same results for the remaining areas.”
“We can’t let up. We have to keep our foot on the gas,” Morgan agreed. “Historically, the press has been on production, on turning out more product – but when you get in a rush and you hurry, you get hurt. With new initiatives focusing on increasing production throughput, we have to be more aware than ever. We cannot take the focus off safety.”
OSHA approves qualified VPP sites to one of three programs: Star, Merit or Demonstration. Star Sites, the highest ranking, excel at hazard prevention and control, and have successfully implemented a health and safety management system. Star Site status is not just about achieving the standard – it represents an organization greatly exceeding the standard. On average, a VPP Star Site has maintained a days away, restricted or transferred (DART) case rate 52 percent below the industry average for at least three consecutive years.
At its core, VPP promotes effective worksite safety and health. The program recognizes employers and workers who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below average for their industries, with average defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
FRCE began participation in VPP in 2010, with three goals: reducing workplace injuries, improving perception of the depot’s safety systems among leadership, and creating a safe workplace with improved quality of life for all of the organization’s employees.
“I think VPP has created a cultural change. People are much more conscientious and aware, and more likely to think before taking action,” Morgan said. “This program has been a huge success, because it engaged everyone to participate and they had ways to communicate concerns that they didn’t have before.”
Under Voluntary Protection Program, management, labor and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses through a four-pillar system. Success depends on the ability to effectively demonstrate hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; training; and management commitment and worker involvement. VPP encourages efforts to reduce the number of occupational safety and health hazards at a site, and spurs sites to perfect existing health and safety programs while finding new ways to provide safe and healthful working conditions.
“I attribute our success to a combination of things implemented over the last decade,” Morgan said. “The first would be top leadership’s commitment to make a change with FRC East’s safety culture, in order to make the workplace safer and reduce injuries. Command leadership has had a strong presence, speaking to the importance of safety, walking the talk, and financially supporting changes made to large safety programs within the command.”
The command’s positive record of accomplishment is a testament to the depot’s long-standing commitment to safety. In 2018, FRCE received the Chief of Naval Operations Shore Safety Award in the Large Industrial Activity category – the Navy’s top safety award – which recognizes commands with the best overall command safety programs. The North Carolina Department of Labor recognized FRCE in both 2017 and 2018 with Gold Awards and Million Hour Awards for maintaining a DART rate at least 50 percent below the industry standard, and also for accumulating multiple increments of 1 million employee work hours with no injuries or illnesses involving days away from work.
FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and Naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.
DISCLAIMER: This article was originally published at the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System Hub (www.didvshub.net). The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
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