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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Base sets sights on VPP star status

By Joycelyn Biggs | | August 28, 2014


Striving for safety excellence, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany is on a mission to become a Department of Defense Voluntary Protection Programs Star Site.

Merrill Dickinson, installation safety manager, Risk Management, MCLB Albany, stressed being a star site is a rigorous but worthwhile undertaking. Currently, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, is the only installation in the Marine Corps to obtain the elusive VPP star site designation.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, having that designation recognizes the command is in compliance with OSHA safety and health standards, has fewer mishap rates than the national standard for its industrial classification and employees take responsibility for their safety and of those around them. 

Obtaining the star site status says to taxpayers the base is saving money by not having injuries and workers’ compensation claims, Dickinson said.

He added it gives the base credibility within the community as well as with the DoD and it says to employees that we care.

Kent Morrison, executive director, MCLB Albany, said his office reviews the VPP passport every week.

“We do this to make sure we are familiar with the information,” Morrison said.

He challenges all department heads to do the same in their offices.

Morrison explained this is an objective that is the responsibility of each and every person on the base.

Every single person will play a role in accomplishing this goal, he said.

Dickinson revealed MCLB Albany has diligently worked toward this goal for the last five years. 

The initial process entailed MCLB Albany presenting a comprehensive application package to OSHA, which included written programs and base orders explaining what the base does to maintain a safe, healthy working environment.

“The second part is an on-site visit by OSHA, which they will determine if we are, in fact, doing what we say we are doing,” Dickinson said. “If the installation has a base order that states we store respirators in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions to keep them in a plastic bag that is clean and in a cool place, we should be doing that.”

Dickinson went on to say OSHA may find an employee who is required to wear a respirator and request to see where it is stored. 

Dickinson said along with validating the programs and inspecting the facilities, the on-site evaluation team will conduct formal interviews with employees to assess the safety culture and level of employee involvement. 

He said there is not one person who should feel exempt or not integral in this process.

Anyone in the command, in any position or any grade has the potential to be selected by OSHA and interviewed during the on-site evaluation. Dickinson pointed out almost a third of the grading process will consist of the employee interviews.

The risk management office is preparing several different initiatives to assist base employees to be well prepared for the on-site evaluation.

VPP passports provide excellent examples of questions that may be asked and information employees should know, according to Cathy Brannon, lead safety specialist, risk management, MCLB Albany.

Brannon explained it is imperative that employees are well versed of the information in the passport. She said information in the passport represents questions that may be asked during the evaluation. 

Brannon recommended to employees who don’t have a passport to get one from the unit safety officer, their supervisor or from the Risk Management Office.

Dickinson said most employees are already actively involved in maintaining a safe work environment, but may not recognize it.

“I see people go get a mop when they see a spill on the floor or pick up debris from the hallways,” he said, which are excellent examples of keeping the work environment safe.

However, many people are unable to give an example of how they are safe in the workplace when asked. 

Other examples of employee involvement are completing safety training, reporting near miss events, serving on an office or shop safety committee, and inspecting a work area for safety hazards.

The Risk Management Office will be providing additional information on the MCLB Albany Facebook page, in The Emblem and on the base website to assist employees in becoming more familiar with information pertaining to VPP. 

According to Dickinson, prizes may be awarded to base employees who actively participate. The goal is to encourage all base employees to familiarize themselves with the information.

A rehearsal evaluation to prepare the command for the OSHA VPP on-site evaluation will take place Sept. 16-18.

The actual evaluation from OSHA is scheduled to take place Nov. 3-6.