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Merrill E. Dickinson Jr. received the 2021 Department of Defense Safety and Occupational Health System Achievement Award recently for his outstanding service and accomplishments as the installation safety manager at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. He serves as the senior safety professional on the installation. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jennifer Parks)

Photo by Jennifer Parks

Merrill E. Dickinson Jr. Receives 2021 DOD Safety and Occupational Health System Achievement Award

11 Jan 2022 | Jennifer Parks Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Merrill E. Dickinson Jr. received the 2021 Department of Defense Safety and Occupational Health System Achievement Award recently for his outstanding service and accomplishments as the installation safety manager at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.

He serves as the senior safety professional on the installation.

“I am very honored to be recognized, but this award is really for my colleagues in the MCLB Albany Risk Management Office,” Dickinson said. “They work diligently and resourcefully to deliver the installation core safety services and protect our Marines, civilian-Marines, contractors, residents and visitors from harm.”

The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the community surrounding MCLB Albany. The Phoebe Putney Health System emergency rooms and intensive care units were beyond capacity and there was a shortage of both healthcare workers and personal protective equipment. This impeded the base’s ability to sustain the mission and support the warfighter.

Dickinson applied what he learned when orchestrating the installation’s response to the H1N1 outbreak. He was instrumental in developing the installation’s face covering policies, cross-leveling and distributing personal protective equipment contingency stocks, coordinating and providing respirator fit testing for Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany’s medical staff and first responders and developing the installation’s screen and barrier policy for locations where employees could not social distance. He was also key in the development of the temperature screening policy along with numerous other initiatives to counter threats posed by COVID-19.

“MCLB Albany is very proud of Mr. Merrill Dickinson’s achievement for DOD safety excellence, and more importantly his impacts that make MCLB Albany one of the safest places to work in the Department of Defense,” Len Housley, executive director, MCLB Albany, said. “Mr. Dickinson has a tireless reputation for sustaining and improving safety programs which makes him most deserving for this award.”

“Our continued accreditation as a Voluntary Protection Program star site are due to his exemplary leadership, management and engagement. Knowing Mr. Dickinson, he will want to give credit to his team for this award,” Housley added.

He also worked closely with the base’s emergency management team during the pandemic, ensuring accurate information was collected and disseminated to the workforce. Dickinson closely monitored COVID-19 cases within the workforce to determine if there were case clusters indicative of occupational exposures.

He continued to perform his duties as the safety manager in the meantime. His responsibilities included completing all scheduled facility inspections, convening quarterly virtual safety councils, delivering required safety training and continuously improving the installation’s safety program. He did this by revising the command’s explosive safety self-assessment base order and blood-borne pathogen exposure control plan.

One of his most notable deliverables provided under his leadership was the COVID-19 Safety Reset. This provided workplace sanitation and behavior standards to reduce coronavirus transmission, important elements of the command safety program, VPP refresher topics, the command’s 2020 safety goal and relevant training and web-based resources. The educational booklet was distributed throughout the Marine Corps.

Dickinson has worked at MCLB Albany as a safety professional since 1994. The command is recognized for safety excellence nearly every year and has received 19 awards since Fiscal Year 2003. He has been active in Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s VPP since 2009.

“We have a mature safety management system in our command,” Dickinson said. “We examine every aspect of our program in detail, keep precise program metrics and are committed to continuous improvement. The work is meaningful and rewarding and I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to our success.”

He worked diligently last year to procure forklift simulators for MCLB Albany, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island. The simulators were delivered in April.

These efforts illustrate how Dickinson strives for safety excellence for the Corps as a whole.

The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness established the award in 2016 to recognize and promote performance considerably exceeding the requirements of OSHA VPP Special Government Employees. The individual award was expanded in 2012 to include not only SGEs, but other individuals meeting the criteria.

Dickinson holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Environmental Science from East Stroudsburg University and a Master’s of Science in Public Health with concentrations in safety management and industrial hygiene from the University of South Florida, College of Public Health. 

Dickinson is also credentialed as a certified hazardous materials manager and is an active OSHA VPP SGE. He is a member of the American Society of Safety Professionals, Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Eagle Scout Association. He is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel having served for 28 years in all three Army components. 

His professional diversity is shaped by successfully serving in a variety of assignments ranging from a human factors engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to serving as a tactical safety officer for a forward-deployed Army brigade combat team in the Balkans. He has produced one of the most comprehensive and credible safety programs in the DOD while in his current position. 

Dickinson wants to teach, coach and mentor others in the pursuit of safety excellence, and continue to professionally develop his staff to enhance their capabilities and potential.  The success of MCLB Albany’s safety program during his tenure is without question. 

Shortly after MCLB Albany received VPP Star in 2015, Dickinson and three colleagues attended the SGE training course to prepare them to support OSHA on VPP evaluations. In the past six years he has supported OSHA Region 4 on 14 VPP evaluations, numerous VPP readiness assessments and on-site rehearsals and served on the panel to assess VPP self-evaluations with OSHA Region 4. 

He mentored two other Marine Corps commands and one Navy command to achieve VPP Star. He was the 2017 OSHA Region 4 SGE of the Year, presented at the VPP Participants' Association conferences, assisted the DOD Safety Management Center of Excellence as a webinar as a guest speaker and coached and mentored private industry sites in their pursuit of safety excellence.

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany