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Safety becomes way of thinking

Dennis Ritko, OSHA Voluntary Protection Program advisor, discusses chlorine tank safety with Ed Stepan Sept. 25. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Lt. Col. Joseph McBrearty)

Dennis Ritko, OSHA Voluntary Protection Program advisor, discusses chlorine tank safety with Ed Stepan Sept. 25. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Lt. Col. Joseph McBrearty)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Goodfellow Air Force base recently took part in a safety assessment from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program that culminated in an out-brief to Col. Richard Ayres, 17th Training Wing commander, Sep. 26.

The VPP team began safety assessments across the base Sept. 23 looking for ways for base personnel to improve the safety of their work environments. The team, led by Vance Linebarger, also took note of areas where Goodfellow workers have gone above and beyond established safety requirements.

Mr. Linebarger stressed that the week-long assessment was not a safety inspection.

"We came here to create a baseline for Goodfellow to help improve the safety culture and environment," Mr. Linebarger said. "It's about improved processes, not administrative documentation. It's being proactive instead of reactive."

According to Mr. Linebarger, VPP is similar to Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century in that it targets processes to enhance people's way of thinking. In the case of VPP, it's all about safety.

In the end, Mr. Linebarger says Goodfellow is statistically on track with the rest of the Air Force according to the program's 82 elements of safety. The team expects that with continued effort and focus on safer procedures, Goodfellow will continue to create safer work environments while forward-thinking workers innovate new, better procedures in dealing with work-related hazards.

In 2006, the Air Force approached OSHA with a desire to improve their proactive approach to safety and health at their installations.

According to the OSHA website, VPP promotes effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA's official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.