Culture change leads to Defense Supply Center Richmond earning OSHA safety star status

By Amy T. Clement DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency employees on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, celebrated receiving the installation’s highest safety accolades, Voluntary Protection Program star status, from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Dec. 12 during a ceremony in the Lotts Conference Center on post.

OSHA’s VPP recognizes employers and workers in federal agencies and in private industry who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for the respective industries.

DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day gave remarks to an audience made up of employees from DLA Organizations located on DSCR. 

“This has been a long time in the making,” Day said, as he referenced the fact that DSCR began its VPP Star Challenge in 2006.

From 2004 to 2006, there were more than 300 lost production days (averaging 100 per year) to workplace accidents or injuries on DSCR.  “Leadership knew there had to be a change,” Day said.  

A memorandum of agreement was signed by DSCR officials, OSHA and the American Federal of Government Employees, Local 1992 on February 21, 2007, signifying a commitment from leadership to be proactive in becoming a safer installation.

“That day in 2007 started the change in our culture of safety.  It took us until 2016 to achieve a level of excellence to get us our star,” Day said.  “The journey has been long, but along the way we made improvements and implemented key elements of culture change…many that are still with us today.”

Day went over many changes that led to the cultural change emphasizing the importance of getting management and leadership more involved and in a meaningful way in order to promote safety in everyday processes. 

Changes throughout the 10-year process included more training for employees and supervisors (both in class and online); the appointment of safety monitors and fire wardens in all areas; and an employee safety shadowing program.  Several committees were also formed throughout the process from the employees at lowest level through senior leadership that helped drive ideas on how incorporate safety in everyday work processes.

Day said a turning point came in 2012, when DLA Aviation put a command policy in place making every director and major office chief responsible and accountable for safety and health activities within their directorate.  Internal safety webpages were also updated and software programs were created that made it easier for employees and supervisors to report accidents, mishaps and unsafe working conditions.

In 2013, a brochure titled “The DSCR Travel Guide to Safety” was produced and distributed to every DLA employee on DSCR. The guide informed employees about workplace hazards, including hazards specific to industrial spaces and office areas at DSCR. 

“By 2013, employees recognized and were reporting more unsafe conditions and near misses.  From the top down, we were taking better control of our work environments and ensuring safe work practices and conditions,” Day said.

Day said safety inspections are now done on a regular basis: weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. Senior leaders and first line supervisors are also on teams that conducted monthly inspections, and there are more employees at all levels who participate in and develop hazard identification and job hazard analyses.

In the fall of 2015, a VPP Mock Inspection was conducted by a DLA Headquarters Safety team. While they validated our progress, they gave us some specific areas to focus more attention on prior to our final audit with OSHA.

“To hone our safety program to a fine edge, we completed two self-assessments, a final mock audit and held DSCR-wide Safety Stand Down Days,” said Day.

In March 2016, Day, along with DLA Installation Support at Richmond Site Director David Gibson and the local union president signed the application DSCR submitted to OSHA seeking designation as a VPP Star site.

An OSHA VPP team conducted inspections in September and upon completion, DSCR was recommended for star status, which became official Dec. 2.

“This didn’t happen overnight,” Day said. “One of the key things that the OSHA auditors highlighted was our culture. They could see the engagement of management and staff with the Safety Office.  We, as an organization, put safety in all of our work practices every day.  We know what to report, who to report it to and how to report it. The auditors saw that safety is engrained in our culture.”

Day compared DSCR safety statistics from 2007, when there was an average of 100 lost work days a year to 2015, when there were nine.  “If that doesn’t reflect a change in safety culture, I don’t know what does,” he said.

Day recognized the DLA Installation Support at Richmond Safety and Occupational Health Office, as well as the many safety liaisons, champions and teams at all DLA organizations on DSCR.  He also thanked every employee for what they did to change the safety culture.

“We are a VPP Star site, but our work is not over,” he said. “This star begins the next chapter of our safety culture. We must daily, in all that we do, think about, practice and emphasize safety.  But it’s okay to celebrate this moment and this milestone on our journey.”