Air Force Unit Celebrates Top Safety Award


ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Members of a unit at Robins on Friday celebrated the achievement of a goal they had been working toward for five years.

More than 100 members of the 402nd Maintenance Support Group cheered as they accepted a Star Site flag from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The unit is the first industrial site in Air Force Materiel Command to win the recognition, which is OSHA's highest award in its Voluntary Protection Program.

"It takes a family to make this happen," Brig. Gen. Cedric George, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, told the group. "We are so proud of you."

The group in 2008 set a goal to become a Star Site. The Voluntary Protection Program is OSHA's grass roots safety initiative driven by employees.

George said in those five years the unit has reduced reportable accidents by 45 percent and safety violations by 95 percent. Reportable accidents are those that require medical attention beyond first aid.

The unit is responsible for planning, designing, installing, modifying, maintaining and repairing ground support equipment. It also does facilities maintenance, builds and issues toolboxes and kits, conducts environmental lab testing, and manages the complex's energy program.

Bill Fulcher, OSHA's area director, said the Star Site award is not given often and is not easy to come by. An OSHA team spent a week in the unit in February going over safety procedures and randomly interviewing employees.

"It's no minor accomplishment," he said of the recognition. "We at OSHA consider it to be the best of the best."

When OSHA started in 1970, Fulcher said 36 people on average were dying each day nationwide in workplace accidents. If that rate were the same today with the increased workforce, there would be about 80 people dying per day on the job. Instead, he said, that number is about a dozen.

"That's still too many," he said. "There is no excuse for anyone to be killed today in the workplace."

The unit is the second at Robins to earn Star Site recognition. The 402nd Software Maintenance Group in 2009 became the first.

George said after the ceremony that the long range goal is for every major unit at the base to earn Star Site recognition. Many are in various stages of reaching that goal, he said.

Randy Bickley, a member of the 402nd Maintenance Support Group's steering committee for the Voluntary Protection Program, said team work was the key to reaching the goal. He said employees take the safety principles they learn at work home with them.

"The culture is a safety and health culture," he said.

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