HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville became the first U.S. Army Corps of Engineers organization to earn the Army’s prestigious Safety and Occupational Health Star during an award ceremony at the Center on Wednesday, June 15.
Organizations achieving the Army SOH Star are recognized for the development, implementation and continuous improvement in the prevention and control of occupational safety and health hazards.
The award follows the Center’s implementation of the Corps of Engineers Safety and Occupational Health Management System (CE-SOHMS), a process that began four years ago and has resulted in significant changes in how safety is incorporated into the day-to-day activities of the workforce. These changes met the additional safety objectives and performance measures established by the U.S. Army in 2020.
While other Army organizations earned the Safety Star prior to the new guidelines, Huntsville Center is the first to earn the Star under the new, “more robust standards,” said Amy Borman, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, during her remarks at the award ceremony.
“The goal is for all commands to achieve excellence by 2028, but here we are in 2022 with you all leading the way, so congratulations, Huntsville,” she said.
To fully implement the new safety system, which focuses on measuring safety performance and effectiveness rather than compliance, Kellie Williams, Huntsville Center safety manager, and her team focused on improving employee and supervisor engagement, which required simple processes and education, said Williams.
Williams and her team created automated digital tools to collect data on the safety needs of employees and to identify and track hazards, and educate the workforce through easily accessible information and quality on-site training. These resources have been shared across the Corps of Engineers and, in many cases, are now considered best practices, said Col. Sebastien P. Joly, Huntsville Center Commander.
“From the beginning stages of the phased CE-SOHMS roll-out, Huntsville Center has been at the forefront of implementation, paving the way for other USACE organizations with innovative initiatives that have quickly become enterprise solutions,” he said.
According to Williams, the achievement was truly a team effort involving the entire Huntsville Center workforce.
“I am fortunate to have an innovative, collaborative safety office, a command staff that endorse the initiative, and employee volunteers who are engaged in safety,” said Williams. “No matter how much I might have wanted to implement the CE-SOHMS, it would not have been possible without employee and management support.”
In recognition of their dedication to the safety program, Williams asked three Center employees—April Rafael-Adams, David Shockley and Traci Davis--to raise the official Army SOH Star flag for the first time during the award ceremony.
- Rafael-Adams, mechanical engineer and team lead, was selected because of her support to safety as a volunteer, said Williams. She has served as a first aid attendant for over 15 years and frequently volunteers to be a floor monitor, crossing guard, safety council member and more. “Ms. Rafael exhibits selfless service,” said Williams. “The safety program cannot excel without volunteers like her.”
- David Shockley, branch chief, was selected for his widespread positive influence on other employees, said Williams. “He understands the impact that a serious accident has on an organization or project and is always proactive in the field of safety,” she said. “Through example, Mr. Shockley has influenced other employees who have becomes supervisors who support safety.”
- Traci Davis, branch chief, was selected for her consistent advocacy for all things safety, said Williams. “She understands that safety impacts every facet of the project and is a supporter and leader for safety who understands that safety is as important as schedule, budget and quality,” Williams added.
Joly praised the workforce for their commitment to safety and emphasized the need for “ongoing vigilance and innovation.”
“We are incredibly honored to be recognized today for this achievement, but we also know that our work doesn’t end here,” said Joly. “In order for Huntsville Center to continue pioneering solutions to unique, complex and high-risk missions, we must continue to explore new ways to keep our employees safe … As always, Huntsville Center is up to the challenge.”