Defense Logistics Agency activities at the McNamara Headquarters Complex are on target for completing Stage Two requirements of the Voluntary Protection Program by the end of this month.
VPP is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration program that promotes health and safety in the workplace. DLA is participating in OSHA’s VPP Challenge, a three-step process in which OSHA officials help organizations create health and safety programs that prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses.
Employees have been working since April to implement new processes and initiatives that were created during Stage One to improve organizational health and safety. Among those is the inclusion of a “Report Potential Hazards” link on DLA Today, the agency’s intranet site.
“Now that we’re 98 percent complete with the second phase, we’re gearing up to encourage more employees to get involved with VPP,” DLA Installation Support Director David Rodriguez said.
Leaders throughout the HQC demonstrated their commitment to VPP during Stage Two by completing the VPP Passport, a workbook and checklist that helps individuals recognize hazardous conditions and know how to correct them.
“Going into Stage Three, we’ll encourage all employees to complete the VPP Passport. But more importantly, we want everyone to recognize that safety is not just the responsibility of supervisors, safety officers or union workers. It’s about all of us; all of us taking care of each other,” Rodriguez said.
Making safety an element in employees’ performance evaluations is just one way managers can get employees involved while also demonstrating that their safety is a critical part of daily operations, he said.
“Within DLA Installation Support, for example, we’re asking every employee to identify two things in their workspace that could be improved with regards to safety,” he added. “With 2,000 employees in Installation Support, that will give us 4,000 things we can address to potentially improve safety.”
In a Nov. 26 blog post, DLA Chief of Staff Fred Baillie said VPP does far more than boost the agency’s safety record. Other payoffs include reduced absenteeism, an increased understanding of safety in employees’ personal lives, and cost savings in workers’ compensation.
“DLA’s workers’ compensation costs range from $23 [million] to $24 million every year. Such significant cost directly affects military readiness,” he said.
In 2003, the secretary of defense challenged DoD to reduce the number of workplace mishaps by 50 percent at DoD installations nationwide. That goal was revised to a 75 percent reduction in 2005.
“We’re not asking employees to dedicate an hour a day or an hour a week to safety. If you can volunteer to serve on a VPP committee, then by all means do it. But it’s the small things we can all do on a daily basis that will make us a truly safety-conscious organization,” Rodriguez said.
An employee who sees food on the floor has an opportunity to contribute to safety, he added.
“Don’t say, ‘It’s the janitor’s job to take care of it.’ Between the time you see it and the time it gets resolved, somebody could slip on it,” Rodriguez said. “Do something about it, and you’ll see that safety is contagious. If your co-workers see you doing it, if employees see supervisors doing it, then they think, ‘That’s the right thing to do.’ That’s where you start changing the culture, and that’s what VPP is really about.”
Most DLA Headquarters employees already believe safety is a communal effort, according to a Safety and Health Perception Survey conducted in 2011. More than 90 percent of respondents agreed that employees work safely and follow safety and health rules and procedures, while almost 85 percent agreed that employees are held accountable for safety in the workplace.
The ultimate goal in the VPP challenge is for agencies to achieve “Star” status. This designation indicates the agency has achieved injury and illness rates at or below the national average and that it is self-sufficient in its ability to control workplace hazards.