Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville underwent inspection for the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) last week and passed with no violations enabling the base to maintain the “Star” status it has held since 2010.
“VPP is a certification of your safety program,” said Ron Williamson, safety manager for NAS Jacksonville. “You get a Star certification if your program meets all of the elements that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has for the Voluntary Protection Program.”
Williamson stated that less than one-tenth of one percent of all industries in America are Star certified.
NAS Jacksonville Commanding Officer Capt. Mike Connor expressed his gratitude after hearing the news the base was recertified.
“Thank you is not enough to express my appreciation for your focus, attention
to detail, and ownership of safety in your jobs and workspaces,” he wrote in a message to the base. “The OSHA team was very impressed with your compliance with safety directives, attitudes, performance and condition of the spaces. As I told the OSHA team, the executive officer, command master chief, department heads and I know we have an outstanding team. It is nice to hear that sentiment validated by an outside agency.”
Connor also stressed to his Sailors that now the certification process is over, the focus on safety doesn’t stop. “Even though the VPP inspection is behind us, continue and improve upon our safety processes and adhere to our safety policy so we can become an
even better model of safety compliance within the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of the Navy and private sector.”
OSHA created VPP in 1982 to promote effective worksite-based safety and health.
NAS Jacksonville first qualified as a Star site in 2010. The base was re-certified in 2013. After the initial recertification after three years, the process calls for an inspection every five years to maintain the Star status.
The inspection was carried out June 11-14 by an OSHA lead and four inspectors. The inspectors are safety managers from VPP Star certified corporations, such as NASA and Delta Airlines.
“Everyone has to perform to the OSHA regulations for any business, anywhere in the United States, but under VPP, you have to go above and beyond that standard,” said Tom Dwyer, safety program manager for NASA Kennedy Space Center since 1991.
“You have to set a higher standard for your business to be a Star site.”
The inspection team toured 16 facilities aboard NAS Jacksonville chosen at random. They interviewed personnel and pored over base safety records.
“We look for improvement,” Dwyer said.
“We look for the company to be better than it was the last time we were here. And that they constantly find ways to make it a safer environment for all their employees and management.”
One of the NAS Jacksonville facilities inspected by the VPP team was the First Coast Navy Fire and Emergency Services.
“We are always prepared for VPP,” said Fire Chief Mark Brusoe. “It is a way of life on NAS Jacksonville.”
Brusoe was the fire chief when during the last VPP inspection in 2013 and praised the program for increasing safety awareness.
“VPP is key in reducing injuries and workplace incidents and educating the public on the safety program,” he said.
The DoD came out with a directive in 2015 that every shore installation has to have a safety management system. VPP is one of the safety management systems the DoD has approved for use to meet that requirement.
“We were already way ahead of the requirement because we’ve been doing this since 2010,” Williamson said.
Commander, Naval Region Southeast Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar also ordered earlier this year, that all 17 bases under her command will be certified by VPP as a Star site.
Right now, the only three bases meeting that requirement are NAS Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport, Florida and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia.
Williamson said the VPP inspection team had “glowing comments” for the NAS Jacksonville Safety program in the 44-page evaluation they sent to the OSHA office in Atlanta.
“We have no deficiencies in our records and no field violations that we have to fix,” Williamson said.
“It was an amazing inspection. We have a great workforce here at NAS Jax that embraces the safety culture. They said very clearly that they saw that everywhere they went.”