Safety Office: Yes you can, and here's how you do it safely

August 28, 2012

Story Highlights

  • Col. John Shanklin, military deputy, ARL, provided opening remarks at the annual safety stand down meeting.
  • Robb Altenburg, safety manager for ARL at Aberdeen Proving Ground, reviewed the findings of a recent U.S. Chemical Safety Board Investigation.
  • Engaging the safety office early on in a project's life cycle is key consideration.

Col. John Shanklin, military deputy, U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), provided opening remarks at the annual safety stand down meeting that was held at Aberdeen Proving Ground in July. He reminded everyone in attendance that they are all safety officers, and that they should be vigilant for one another's safety and well being.

At the meeting, Robb Altenburg, safety manager for ARL at Aberdeen Proving Ground, reviewed the findings of a recent U.S. Chemical Safety Board Investigation. The investigation focused on a series of catastrophes in research facilities across the U.S.

Altenburg pointed out that it is widely accepted in the field of occupational safety and health that a statistical relationship exists between the number of near misses, minor incidents and major accidents. While it is required that all workplace injuries be reported to the safety office, employees are encouraged to report near misses as well.

"As the ARL-APG safety manager, I am not in the 'no' business," said Altenburg. "Instead, I'm in the 'yes you can, and here's how you do it safely' business. I feel that it is necessary for the safety office to align themselves with the mission and objectives of the organization."

Altenburg views it as his responsibility to serve as a business partner and consultant in the organization's research endeavors.

"Some of the issues that I've been confronted with to date have been challenging and I am anxious to help ARL continue to move forward," said Altenburg.

He said that well intentioned safety managers in some organizations are at times too helpful in citing all of the regulations that apply to a given circumstance, but not helpful enough in offering solutions to accomplish the objective.

"I believe that a good safety manager is a business partner working behind the scenes to research best practices, industry standards, laws and regulations, and interpret how they apply to their 'customer,'" said Altenburg. "Furthermore, a good safety manager gives prudent and sensible guidance to their customers in order to integrate themselves in the organization into which they are embedded.

Altenburg said that engaging the safety office early on in a project's life cycle is key consideration. It allows the safety office to understand the full breadth and depth of the project, and to offer well reasoned plan to complete the project safely.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board video "Experimenting with Danger" that was shown at the safety stand down meeting can be viewed by clicking on the following link: http://www.csb.gov/videoroom/detail.aspx?VID=61.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: August 28, 2012