Tuesday, June 26, 2012
ECBC Safety Director Reflects on the Center's Superior Safety, Expertise
Center (ECBC) works hard to ensure that the work we do at the Center is safe.
ECBC has been defending the nation from chemical and biological threats since 1917. Since then, we have seen an evolution in the Center’s mission from responding to immediate chemical threats in the First World War to the elimination of weapons in the 1990s and more recently to the vital role ECBC plays in defending the nation against emerging threats. Along with the growth of ECBC’s technical mission, the safety culture has also evolved.
When I first came to Edgewood in the 1980s, risk management was seen as a watchdog staff function that was out to “catch you” if you did something wrong. That kind of environment was not effective in reducing accidents or preventing injuries because it did not include input from the individuals performing hazardous operations. During this period, we experienced quite a few mishaps and outside agencies repeatedly found significant problems with how we managed risk. Over the next two decades, the Center’s philosophy of managing risk was influenced by industry best practices and a realization that a culture change could not happen unless scientists, engineers and technicians had a voice in risk management policy development.
We are very proud of the safety culture at ECBC in 2012; in many key areas, ECBC is considered the gold standard for working safely with highly hazardous materials. In every discipline, we see “hands-on” operators collaborating with the risk management community to develop new policies and safe practices. Successes such as the Non-traditional Agent Safety Committee and the BioSafety Committee clearly show that scientists, engineers and technicians do have a voice in how we conduct hazardous operations and in the development of new policies.
The collaborative nature of our safety program today is also visible in our low accident rate; in the favorable results of external inspections; in the organizational safety awards we have won; and in the strong participation of ECBC personnel in safety committees, hazard analysis meetings, and facility construction and modification meetings.
Without the support of all Center employees, the success we have seen thus far would not be possible. As we move forward, it is my hope that all ECBC employees continue to support a positive safety culture across the Center. Together we can achieve the ultimate goal of a workplace free of injuries.