Safety program earns prestigious award

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Divine Cox
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The men and women who serve this great nation are recognized every day for the amazing accomplishments they achieve and today is no different.

The 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) Airmen and the Department of the Army Civilians, jointly formed a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) in 2011. Today the VPP was awarded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) VPP Star during a recognition ceremony at Joint base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The VPP Star recognition is OSHA’s highest honor, designed for the nation’s exemplary worksites. VPP Star sites have exceptional employees, programs and management systems that prevent occupational injuries and illnesses.  Overall, Star sites have a work-related injury rate that is less than half of the national average for their respective industries. The VPP program has existed nationally since 1982, since 1998 for the federal government, with only .03 percent of all the nation’s eligible worksites having VPP Star recognition.


To earn it, a site must have a true partnership between management, labor and OSHA; must meet or exceed all OSHA regulatory standards; must have all their safety and health program elements in place and operating at full bore; must reduce workplace injuries and illnesses dramatically; and must submit to a detailed OSHA review and approval of their programs. OSHA approves successful worksites by recognizing them at one of two levels: Star or Merit, with Star as the highest level of recognition.


“This is even a bigger accomplishment for our organization because of our unique employee situation,” said James Larue, 627th LRS material management division and VPP committee president. “The Material Readiness Division consists of Department of the Army Civilians and the 627th LRS consist of active-duty Air Force personnel, but due to the fact that our missions are entwined, our organization had to accomplish this goal together. We could not have done this separately. We accomplished this as one team. The first ever joint team to be recognized.”


The VPP promote 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.


“The mission of the 627th LRS is to provide Installation and mission support to the joint base through a relevant, responsive and reliable logistics process, but we have to be safe while doing this,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Durham, 627th LRS commander. “Safety, for the LRS, has shifted from a program to a cultural mindset. Our personnel at all levels have a belief that a safe environment is a professional environment and have invested into the Voluntary Protection Program to meet that goal.”


According to Larue, since starting the initial application of the VPP Program in 2011, the squadron has seen an increase in near misses, but a drastic decrease in actual mishaps.


“A near miss is found before it becomes a mishap,” said Larue. “Near misses are encouraged to be reported because it shows that the members of each work area are being safety conscious and paying attention to their surroundings. When a near miss is identified it is reported and corrected immediately.

“A mishap is a reportable incident that has happened and caused damage or injury, which is what we are trying to avoid all together.”

Staff Sgt. Nicolas Barrena, 627th LRS material handling equipment maintenance NCOIC and VPP committee vice president agreed adding, “Safety is instrumental in achieving this mission success, if members are constantly hurt or missing work due to mishaps our mission will be severely impacted.”

The 627th LRS and material readiness division plays a vital role in supporting the airlift mission here at JBLM.

In order to constantly succeed in sustaining global air power having reliable logistics is key,” said Barrena. “Our recognition as a VPP Star Site is a true testament to our organizations high safety standards which in turn are critical to the wellbeing of our military and civilian counterparts whether it be at work or at home. Ensuring the welfare of our organization's members is the lynchpin to providing logistical support here at JBLM and around the globe.”


For the 627th LRS, getting this recognition was not the goal, but a welcomed vector check, and they will continue to look for ways to stay safe in the workplace.


“Being selected as a Star Site is the fulfillment of a promise that the squadron dedicated to five years ago,” said Durham. “It is a continuous process of investing into the health and welfare of all who work in the 627th LRS.


“This means our folks go home to their families the same way they arrived--happy and healthy, which is our ultimate goal.”