COMFRC receives SECNAV Emerging Safety Center of Excellence Award

Members of Fleet Readiness Center Southeast’s Field Safety Team, from left, Brandon Gould, Anna Marie Winter-Adams, Cathy Hoang, and David Fox, pose for a picture in front of their office at NAS Jacksonville on Sept. 24.

The Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) Safety and Compliance (S&C) Group is taking employee safety to the next level, and winning the recent Emerging Safety Center of Excellence Award from the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) shows they are on the right path.

COMFRC S&C Group Lead Yvette Bose received the notification from Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment (ASN EI&E) Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Director Tony Militello, who stated that COMFRC was selected among highly competitive programs for demonstrating an exemplary commitment to readiness and American Sea Power. According to the naval message announcing the selections, the prestigious Secretary of the Navy Safety Excellence Award recognizes Navy and Marine Corps Units that achieved unparalleled safety and occupational program performance.

“Our S&C Group has been working extremely hard in these areas and we submitted our award nomination with confidence that our commands’ collective efforts would be recognized,” Bose said. “Rear Adm. [Mike] Zarkowski [former Commander of Fleet Readiness] insisted on safety being the top priority over all other command drivers and Mitch Bauman [previous COMFRC Safety and Compliance Department director] solidified that ‘safety first’ culture. I am seeing it through with prioritized strategies, data analytics and active support to the FRC’s execution.”

Working on an overarching plan of continuous improvement, Bose and her team support the FRCs in sustaining a culture of safety that focuses on hazard elimination, workforce involvement and injury-free operations; maintaining a workforce with necessary qualifications for operational mission readiness; and a progressive plan to attain Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program’s (VPP) “Star Status” across the COMFRC enterprise.

“The S&C Group facilitated the FRCs’ incremental improvement in compliance with safety regulations and policies as well as achievement of increasingly stringent international standard certifications,” said Crystal Colley, S&C Group’s OSH Department head. “These elements are objectives within COMFRC’s strategic plan goal to gain Star Status in OSHA VPP at all locations.”

Last year, FRC East achieved the OSHA VPP Star Status in two application areas, the first naval aviation command to reach that level.

“This achievement was due to significant leadership and workforce commitment and engagement,” Zarkowski said. “FRC East is the benchmark for COMFRC’s strategy to achieve VPP across the enterprise.”

The implementation of a Field Safety Team concept, piloted by FRC Southeast, was another significant initiative that effectively supplements safety programs and measures already in place. This effort uses embedded and highly skilled, immediately responsive Field Safety Specialists (FSS) to support the safety mission.

There have been major strides in environmental hazardous materials (HAZMAT) replacement initiatives as well.

FRC Southwest led in the reduction of HAZMAT and introduced overarching pollution prevention initiatives. They have implemented reductions in the use of chrome, a known harmful and human carcinogen, through utilization of non-chrome primers on F/A-18 new system components and utilized precision anodes, reducing the requirement for the HAZMAT during the plating process.

FRCs continue to work with program offices to implement HAZMAT reduction solutions and support pollution prevention.

“We actively promote and facilitate programs and initiatives that reduce mishaps, apply innovative protective and ergonomics equipment, conserve energy, reduce use of hazardous materials, and improve policies,” said Bob Hicks, S&C Group’s Environmental Department head.

“I’m especially proud of our intermediate-level (I-level) FRCs as they had the challenge of building SMS (Safety Management System) pillars for future Sailors over a three-year period,” Zarkowski said.

The COMFRC Safety Management System (SMS) provides a systematic way, explicit and comprehensive process to manage safety risk, to continuously identify and monitor hazards and control risks while maintaining assurance that these risk controls are effective. As with all management systems, a safety management system provides for goal setting, planning, and measuring performance. All I-level detachments are now under the SMS, a two-year effort from implementation to the achievement of “Gold Status” under SMS.

“It was a healthy competition among the I-level commands,” said Capt. Chris Couch, COMFRC vice commander and former commanding officer at FRC Mid-Atlantic. “As one milestone was accomplished, we all celebrated but wasted no time progressing toward the next milestone. Although most I-level SMS plank owners have transferred, future Sailors will continue to reap the benefits of their legacy.”

The desired outcome is for all FRCs to establish and sustain an interdependent culture of “safety first” as a core value throughout the organization, according to Bose. Under this vision, the care for others and the environment — in tandem with organizational pride — is the foundation of daily operations and long-term sustainment as a SECNAV Safety Center of Excellence.