Be safe today, be alive tomorrow.
This six-word mantra has had quite an impact on Red River Army Depot's workforce. Used in conjunction with an awards system, tight oversight, and multiple forms of reporting and communication techniques, injuries there have dropped. Most important, it has translated into a happier, healthier workforce.
"The No. 1 priority for our leadership is safety," Red River's Injury Compensation Administrator Ann Harmon says. "Employees have the same right to safety when they come home at night as when they leave for work in the morning."
The nature of work at Red River is heavy industrial. The Texarkana, Texas, facility is charged with combat vehicle repair and manufacture, so employees rebuild everything from Humvees to Bradley fighting vehicles, incorporating the newest upgrades and modifications.
Red River's Safety Specialist Roger Simmons says that like workers with a lot of blue-collar organizations, major problems for the depot's employees include back and lifting-related injuries as well as those resulting from fingers, arms and legs getting caught between machinery.
A renewed focus on safety has helped reduce injuries by 48 percent. But the real key to Red River's success has been making it a major priority at every level of the agency, he says.
One of the most interesting safety initiatives at Red River is an award wheel employees get to spin when they contribute to safety initiatives. Supervisors and management walk around work sites with green and red tickets in hand.
"If we see an employee doing something extra to avoid an accident or encourage others to wear equipment, we give them a green ticket, which entitles them to a free spin on our safety award wheel," Simmons says.
Safety-smart employees receive folding chairs, leather portfolios, coolers and calculator sets emblazoned with the agency's safety theme.
Red tickets are distributed if a safety slipup or violation is noted. The employee is invited to talk with management and his supervisor to develop a solution to the problem.
These issues are entered into a tracking system so they don't "fall off the radar," Simmons says.
The depot's participation in an Occupational Safety and Health Administration Voluntary Protection Program has also been a big help with safety.
"Employees and management work together," Simmons also says. "Rather than Office of Workers' Compensation Programs officials coming in with a black hat to issue a penalty, this gives management an opportunity to correct safety issues."
The tenets of the VPP are command support, meaningful employee involvement, hazard identification and elimination, and safety and health training that is related to the job the employees are performing.
Part of the VPP is tracking and reporting incidents. Employees are required to report all potentially dangerous working conditions or behaviors through an online system and they can do so anonymously.
If the issue isn't addressed, it goes to a higher level of management review, where a solution is sought.
November 1, 2007
Copyright 2007© LRP Publications