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Safety and the warfighter

  • Published
  • By Dolly Holbrook
  • 1st Special Operations Force Support Squadron
Has this ever happened to you? You're sitting at your desk when suddenly an e-mail pops up informing you a periodic safety inspection is to occur in your work area at some unannounced time during the coming week. Or during a shop or office meeting, your supervisor tells you the unit safety representative will be conducting a cursory safety inspection sometime in the next two days.

More times than we'd like to admit, we react by immediately walking through the work area and policing anything that might generate a write-up by the safety inspector. 

You know the things I'm talking about -- furniture or supply boxes stacked up in front of a rarely used exit door or near a fire extinguisher, electrical cords loosely run across the floor for that much needed space heater, overfilled waste baskets, a paper cutter with the blade in the open position, the list goes on and on. 

So we make things right by eliminating these write-ups in order to pass the safety inspection knowing full well as soon as the inspection is over we'll gradually backslide into complacency. Is this really the best way to ensure an effective safety and health program or a safe work environment?

Enter the Voluntary Protection Program. We already know the Air Force has had great success in a compliance-based safety and health management system. Its a program implemented by management with limited workforce involvement other than to comply with the rules. 

VPP allows us to take safety performance to new levels by setting performance-based criteria and establishing a managed safety and health system that lends itself to continuous improvement. But we won't attain or sustain the VPP-level of performance without all of our team members actively participating as stakeholders in the process.

This initiative directly supports the 1st Special Operations Wing's third Aimpoint to forge wingmen, strong families, and an Air Commando culture. The 1st Special Operations Wing cares about its people and takes an aggressive stance to keep its military and civilian members safe and healthy. 

As such, the recent implementation of VPP at Hurlburt Field empowers all employees to actively identify and then take action to rid safety and health hazards, both on and off-duty. By decreasing mishaps and increasing the health of our workforce we improve our ability to execute the wing's first Aimpoint to "Fly, Fight, and Win."

You are an essential component in the effort to protect against our countries' enemies. Likewise, your participation in VPP is critical in order to improve health and safety across the wing. 

In the near future you will have opportunities through your organization to receive VPP training on the identification of hazards in your workplace and how to become part of the solution in their elimination.

VPP is a mindset change to encourage us to move furniture or supply boxes that hinder our ability to safely exit a door or reach a fire extinguisher during an emergency, long before a safety inspection occurs. 

It's the vehicle that encourages us to empty the trash can before it becomes a combustible accelerate, to tape down the extension cords before someone trips and falls and to lock the blade down on the paper cutter to prevent someone from getting hurt. It's the right way to remain safe and the right thing to do.