5 or 5 Million? More Than Any Other Issue in Years, This Issue of Occupational Hazards Represents a Journey

By Smith, Sandy | Occupational Hazards, March 2007 | Go to article overview

5 or 5 Million? More Than Any Other Issue in Years, This Issue of Occupational Hazards Represents a Journey


Smith, Sandy, Occupational Hazards


Often, the seeds of a feature article in this magazine are sown long before you read it. Story-ideas meetings take place months in advance of an issue. Contributors come to me with a kernel of an idea, eventually growing it into an article for the magazine.

The start of this issue's journey stretches back to last year--April for the article on safety at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and May for the series of articles on small business safety.

Last April, Carol Brink-Meissner and Forrest R. Sprester of the Inspector General's Office of DoD called me out of the blue to ask about the America's Safest Companies (ASC) recognition program. I love talking about ASC, because I find the efforts of employers who genuinely care about the safety of their employees to be inspiring. Our hope is that employers also will be inspired by their peers to pursue creative solutions to safety challenges.

It seems DoD was in the middle of a several-year effort to improve safety for both military and civilian personnel. Carol had come across the ASC articles on OccupationalHazards.com and, with Sprester, called to learn more about the program. We chatted a couple of times.

They told me that the culture change started in 2003 when then then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld issued a challenge to DoD leaders to reduce injuries and fatalities by 50 percent. "World-class organizations do not tolerate preventable accidents," Rumsfeld wrote in a memo. His words proved a wake-up call for many at DoD, prompting benchmarking exercises with world-class organizations such as ASC companies Delta and DuPont, one of the reasons I was contacted.

While I found DoD's efforts--and, to my surprise, honesty--compelling, I held off writing about the discussion. I wanted to wait until the safety leaders of the Defense Department were further along on their journey.

The first leg of that journey, a massive survey of DoD personnel, is set for publication in a series of reports to be released this month. I decided the time had come to write about DoD's efforts to change a culture not known for change. On page 42, you can read what Assistant Inspector General Brem Morrison and Lt. Cmdr. Robert "Coop" Cooper told Associate Editor Katherine Torres and me about the efforts to protect 5 million military, civilian and National Guard and Reserve employees and their families at 6,000 locations around the world. …

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