TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The Department of Defense’s Safety Management Center of Excellence recently announced the 2019 Calendar Year awards for the “Star Among Stars” awards program recognizing Voluntary Protection Program Star sites for exceptional performance throughout the year. The 76th Software Engineering Group as well as the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Staff Offices, who are grouped together as one VPP site, earned the Star of Excellence Award.
Due to the size of Tinker Air Force Base, it was necessary to create seven different VPP sites on base alone. The 76th SWEG/OC-ALC staff offices VPP site was the first site at Tinker AFB to earn one star and it was also the first site to get three stars.
The Voluntary Protection Program is comprised of and run by employees and also is designed to benefit all employees. VPP provides tools, training and education in order to make the work environment as safe as possible. Norman Wagner, one of the members of the 76th SWEG/OC-ALC staff offices VPP team, provided some insight into the inner-workings of the award winning VPP team.
“Our motto is, VPP- learn it, live it and love it,” said Wagner. He went on to explain how the members of the VPP team have everyone’s best interest in mind when they share policies and procedures designed to keep people safe.
“We want you to come to work safely without distractions, stay safe at work, and then travel safely back home,” said Wagner.
When asked how the 76th SWEG/OC-ALC staff offices VPP site achieved the Star of Excellence award, Wagner said that his team works every year to try and maintain zero incidents at the work place. He said that they are typically “zero heroes” and are able to achieve that feat. He also explained that in order to achieve this, it is important to have employee buy-in which has been done over time.
Employees first are educated about the safety protocols used in order to minimize incidents at the workplace and traveling to and from the workplace. Tables and booths are set up by members of the VPP team and employees are encouraged to take safety measures seriously and invited to voice any concerns they see around their workplace. Then, as employees become more aware of the need for workplace safety, they begin to make recommendations for safety measures to be put in place.
Wagner shared some examples of instances in which employees felt a sense of buy-in to the VPP when they made suggestions and then management took their advice and made the requested change. In one building, an employee noticed that one staircase often became a slipping hazard due to high traffic, and management asked the employee to research the best solution to the problem and then make a recommendation. Management then took the employee’s recommendation and installed industrial grip strips on the stairs. Mirror balls were installed in key corners in hallways of another building after a similar suggestion was made and management listened and approved the request.
This type of employee buy-in and then management cooperation is exactly why VPP is so successful at the 76th SWEG/OC-ALC staff offices site.
Due to COVID-19, the annual Region VI Voluntary Protection Program Participants’ Association conference was cancelled and the awards were sent out through the mail.
Typically, the 76th SWEG/OC-ALC staff offices also puts on an annual event that features a blood drive, civilian health screenings, a chiropractor, awards, and other fun events that was also cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
Wagner had high praise for everyone involved in earning the award.
“Congratulations to the 76th SWEG/OC-ALC staff offices VPP site for once again earning the Star of Excellence Award. The members of the VPP team worked hard to maintain the highest standard, and all employees in these units also played their part since zero workplace safety incidents has to involve full cooperation from everyone involved,” Wagner said.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created by Congress with the passing of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. OSHA was created to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Region VI of OSHA, which includes New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, established the Star Among Stars program in order to recognize and promote the VPP sites that achieved excellence in their ability to minimize workplace safety incidents.
There are three levels of the award, which are defined by the percent below the Bureau of Labor Statistics national average the VPP site is able to achieve that year. Each site’s single-year total case incidence rates and days away/restricted/transferred cases are well below the industry average when they earn one of the awards.
The three levels of awards are specified below:
- Star Among Stars- sites with both TCIR & DART 50% below their industry average
- Super-Star Among Stars- sites with both TCIR & DART 75% below their industry average
- Star of Excellence- sites with both TCIR & DART 90% below their industry