Starry visions: the power of VPP

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
I often find myself listening to the success stories of others. If you have a "smart op" you want to publicize, a superstar Airman who deserves recognition or a new facility that will soon be open to the masses -- I'm the person to call to get the scoop.

This is great -- I'm privy to more tales of achievement than I can cover in articles. Yet sometimes I wish the subject matter could focus a little bit more on, well, me.

Enter VPP. Now before you dive under your chair to ward off an anticipated acronym assault, bear with me. VPP stands for Voluntary Protection Program and it is the safety initiative employed at Hanscom to empower everyone on base, even me, to think, act and be safe.

In very simplified terms, VPP is the method the Occupational Safety and Health Administration uses to measure the culture of safety at places of employment. Whether it's a business or an Air Force base, OSHA uses VPP to determine who is meeting and exceeding the standards -- those who do so are awarded with "Star Status."

This isn't the gold star sticker of your 1st grade 'I refrained from pulling hair today' days. Star Status under VPP is pretty tough to attain, but help is available. Hanscom has a VPP mentor in the General Electric plant in Lynn, Mass. Through VPP, the plant was able to implement major changes resulting in a much safer work environment -- it worked because both employers and employees recognized the importance of the changes.

While I'm very happy the people at GE are safe, I find myself asking, why is VPP good for me? Then I remember it gives me power.

VPP is all about giving power to the people -- if you see a hazard in your work area or on base, don't wait for the safety representative or building manager to find it -- report it. It's that simple -- there's even a link on the Electronic Systems Center CenterNet labeled, 'Report Hazard,' which allows you to do just that. If you don't have access to CenterNet, call the Safety Office at (781) 377-SAFE.

If the area beneath your desk is filled with so many cords it looks like that scene from Indiana Jones with the snake pit -- fix it. If you don't know how to fix it, ask. It sure beats tripping and looking like a dork in front of co-workers, not that I know from experience.

The way I see it, is that although the Air Force takes better care of its people than probably any other employer -- no one is going to take better care of me than I do. No one is going to take better care of you than you.

If your head is pounding, your eyes hurt and your back feels how you imagine Quasimodo's back felt, perhaps your work station is not set up properly. The ergonomics class offered during Integration Week on Dec. 14 at 10:30 a.m. may be able to provide some information that will alleviate your problems. Registration can be accomplished via CenterNet.

If a stop sign on base is covered by overgrown trees, a pothole looks like it could eat a tire or an uneven sidewalk poses a serious tripping hazard, don't just navigate the obstacle and forget it - report it. You might have forgotten about it the next time you walk by or maybe your Wingman won't be as agile as you in avoiding the problem.

Remember it's all about power -- STAR POWER - yours and mine.

While Hanscom prepares to be inspected by OSHA in the early summer for Star Status, I'll practice my VPP power by checking office electrical outlets for overloading. I'm sure I'll write a story on the happy day that we earn our well-deserved star, but I'll have already reaped the benefits of VPP -- I'll be safe and empowered to ensure I stay safe.