HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, is leading the way for implementation of the Corps of Engineers’ new safety system.
The Corp of Engineers Safety and Occupational Health and Management System, or CE-SOHMS for short, is a three-stage shift from the traditional compliance-based approach to safety to a process-based systems approach to safety by changing the thoughts and behaviors of employees. Stage one looks at the policies and processes that are currently in place and how they might need to be updated or changed. Stage two is about educating the workforce to make employees aware of safety processes and policies. Stage three asks districts to take ownership of the new policies, including measuring whether the district is following the guidelines.
According to the results of its stage 3 assessment in June, Huntsville Center has met 94 percent of the new system’s total capabilities, making it the only USACE district to see green on almost all CE-SOHMS objectives, said Marty Werdebaugh, CE-SOHMS national program manager.
“You guys are the tip of the spear,” he told Huntsville Center leadership and safety officials during the presentation of the Center’s stage 3 assessment results. “No other district has reached this level of implementation, and from our discussions with your people, it is clear that this has been a team effort.”
Werdebaugh praised the Center’s safety team, led by safety manager Kellie Williams, for their multi-pronged approach to communicating vital safety messages to the workforce.
“You see safety messages on signs throughout the building, in emails, on SharePoint – all of these things building up over time,” he said. “The redundancy matters because it’s usually the first, second or third time that it finally sinks in.”
Williams attributed the Center’s success to their unique organizational method of embedding safety specialists into the project delivery teams, as well as the numerous “safety champions” within the organization.
“All of my staff – 14 safety professionals – sit with the PDTs, which allows them to form those relationships,” she said. “What’s also helped is the number of safety champions out there, the branch chiefs like Dennis Bacon and Dave Shockley, who get out there on the ground level and influence other people to make safety a priority.”
The Safety Office also launched a new SharePoint page that provides easy access to training materials, assessments, and other resources. The site’s automated Personal Health Assessment is now being used as a model for similar assessments at other USACE districts.