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Tinker organizations improve contractor safety by changing process

Example of Speak Out for Safety placard.

An example of a Speak Out for Safety (SOS) placard that was developed as part of the Tinker Contractor Safety program. The SOS placard is used in work areas to denote what work is being performed as well as contact information that can be used if anyone, be it a contractor or base employee, notices unsafe working conditions that must be addressed. (Courtesy graphic)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Various units across Tinker Air Force Base are ensuring safety is a top priority for contractors, base employees and service members that work together on base.

Implementing Art of the Possible combined with Continuous Process Improvement tools and techniques, members from the Air Force Sustainment Center, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and the 72nd Air Base Wing are making Tinker AFB a safer place to work by building clear expectations before contracts are signed, identifying gaps in safety plans and encouraging everyone in the workplace to speak out for safety.

“There is unlimited potential when you involve all stakeholders in a process with a single focus on making an improvement,” said Connie Davis, OC-ALC strategic deputy director and AoP subject matter expert. “The resulting team is a powerful force for change and standardization.”

The realization that improved safety between contractors and government employees was needed occurred after a series of close calls and near misses.

“We realized that what we needed was to have earlier engagement with safety,” said Matt Mercer, OC-ALC director of safety. “We needed to increase two-way communication between the complex and contractors and we needed a means for employees to speak out for safety when they had the opportunity or they observed something that they were concerned about.”

Offices from the 72nd ABW, OC-ALC and AFSC came together as a charter group to address the issues.

“We created a charter to get all of these organizations who have a play in the process, but don’t necessarily look at the process together,” Davis said.

The group was joined by representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, AFGE Local 916 and a number of contractors that perform work on base. They met Feb. 24-28, 2020, to identify what could be done about the issue in an event known as an enterprise value stream mapping event – breaking down every step of a process to look for places to improve upon.

As a result of the event, members from organizations such as Tinker Fire and Emergency Services, Safety, Bio-Environmental and Security Forces were brought in for pre and post contract award meetings to make sure all stakeholders aware of the risks associated with upcoming contracts.

By integrating safety into the foundation of the contract work instead of later in the process, potential issues were addressed earlier and the reworking of contracts was minimized.

According to David Herrig, AFSC Infrastructure Division contracting officer, many of the challenges the base populace faced with contractor safety mainly focused around a lack of awareness of procedures and available resources, as well as busting myths.

Herrig said that through discussions with Safety, Process Improvement, Finance and Civil Engineering, representing a combined 100 years of experience, no one was aware of a situation where a member had been disciplined for causing a work stop situation with regard to safety.

Problems that had immediate fixes, called just-do-its, were implemented to bring immediate improvements in workplace safety.

One challenge the group faced but quickly overcame was the need to move all process improvement activities to virtual platforms when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

A total of 26 original and 81 follow-on action items were generated. Some of the changes these action items created include:

● A Speak Out for Safety program was created where placards are displayed in a contractor’s worksite, listing Contracting Officer’s Representative Information.

● Daily communication process between government and contractor personnel was established to review expected hazards in the workplace generated by either party.

● A unified commander’s safety intent to be added in all applicable contracts.

● Creating a standard process to include safety personnel and hazard identification at the beginning of the contracting process.

● Added checklist items to the contract post award meeting with contractors to emphasize the Contractor Safety Plan has a mitigation strategy for identified hazards.

● Improved COR surveillance and enhanced feedback through enhanced CPAR reports.

● Improved safe product unloading practices produced by OBC, which have already seen positive results.

Efforts are being made to ensure the safety improvements will endure. Members of the charter group are also reaching out to their counterparts throughout AFSC to share their best practices.

“So much focus and energy went into ensuring this problem set and these new processes would last long after this team walks away.” Davis said. “They put things in templates and checklists to make these actions sustainable over the long run.”

Those efforts have led to discussions with the Air Force Safety Center about modifying Air Force Instruction 91-202, which covers the Air Force Mishap Prevention Program.

“We want to put processes in place, everywhere we can, that facilitate our employees going home at the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of a career as healthy as possible,” Mercer said. “They have worked out here, doing an incredibly hard job and doing a great job for a long time.”