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OSHA Auditors Recommend Retention of VPP Stars at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility

After a recent review by Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) auditors, NASA and contractors Jacobs Technology, Inc.; Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc.; and SAIC at the White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) all were recommended to retain Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star status.

In OSHA’s VPP, worksites have implemented a comprehensive safety and health program with management and labor working cooperatively with OSHA. OSHA’s official recognition of this achievement is through three status awards: Star, Merit and Demonstration. Sites with Star status are audited every three to five years.

WSTF was commissioned by NASA in 1962 for the Apollo Program. On Sept. 22, 1964, the first Apollo Service Module propulsion engine test was conducted. Today, WSTF is an award-winning site, known for its expertise in testing spacecraft components/materials
WSTF was commissioned by NASA in 1962 for the Apollo Program. On Sept. 22, 1964, the first Apollo Service Module propulsion engine test was conducted. Today, WSTF is an award-winning site, known for its expertise in testing spacecraft components/materials
“The ability to maintain our VPP Star demonstrates the workforce’s dedication to going the extra mile for not only themselves and co-workers, but also for the families they return to each day,” said Keith Beck, NTEC Jacobs Technology, Inc., General Manager. “We sometimes forget there are many work sites that don’t place the amount of emphasis on safety as we do here. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that values safety professionalism and achieves outstanding technical accomplishments. It took a tremendous amount of preparation and continuous improvement to keep our VPP Star. Our workforce should be very proud of their achievements.”

“You should be proud,” said Sheila Schulmeyer, team lead of the OSHA auditors. “Out of 8 million U.S. worksites, only 2,400 are OSHA VPP Stars.”

The assessors spent several days looking through WSTF’s program, interviewing employees across the site, and examining records, files, documents and the facility itself as proof of commitment to the program. OSHA looks for evidence that employees and management are working together to mitigate hazards in the workplace, as well as employees being able to report those hazards. One of the tools used by OSHA is the North American Standard Industrial Classification for classifying industries by a six-digit code, and then, as another data tool, compares injury rates and days away from work to companies classified in the same code. The OSHA assessment team compares information gleaned from employee interviews and facility walkthroughs to finalize their decision.

OSHA Headquarters in Washington approved the NASA White Sands Test Facility’s initial application in 1999 with the main contractor’s request granted in 2000. At that time, a grassroots employee safety committee was formed that is still instrumental today in communicating employee concerns to management. Continuing the cooperation between employees and management, Keystone Committee Chairs Ben Luttrell and Eva Cuevas attend management tag-up forums to discuss issues reported in employee safety meetings.

All employees, regardless of affiliation, work under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001, a quality documentation management system, and ISO 14000, an environmental management system, in a “seamless system,” said Frank Benz, manager, WSTF.

“Having an integrated ISO management system that includes the WSTF Safety Program certainly makes life easier for all WSTF employees when undergoing any audit,” said Rene Rodriguez, WSTF SAIC site lead, whose company also was recommended to retain the Star status. “’What we say is what we do’ is our life here, and the OSHA VPP auditors have recognized and validated our efforts.”

“Navarro Research and Engineering and its WSTF staff are excited about joining with NASA, Jacobs and SAIC in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program,” said David Sharp, Navarro Research and Engineering Program Manager. “Our employees are dedicated to ensuring the highest level of health and safety. Their dedication has been the key to achieving VPP Star status.”

WSTF is a remotely located worksite that safely performs testing of hazardous materials, propellants, aerospace fluids, oxygen systems and rocket propulsion systems for NASA, other government agencies and commercial industry. To learn more about WSTF’s unique capabilities, click on http://www.nasa.gov/centers/wstf/home/index.html.


Cheerie R. Patneaude
White Sands Test Facility
575-524-5628

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