By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Wood
Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) Northwest, located at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, recently earned the Gold Level Award in Safety Management System (SMS) becoming the first FRC command in the fleet to receive such a distinction.
The Gold Level Award represents the final major milestone in implementing the Secretary of the Navy’s requirement to align the Navy’s safety risk management practices with industry best practices.
The award epitomizes a commitment to safety, recognizing that the entire command at FRC Northwest is fully integrated with proper safety risk management with a focus on preserving workforce health through prevention.
“We’re proactive,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Ronald Ullrich, a sailor assigned to FRC Northwest. “We’re staying ahead of it. We project three months out on anything that may happen and we try to take care of it beforehand.”
Proactive was the general consensus at FRC Northwest as to why the command earned its prestigious Gold Level recognition.
The SMS itself was established to prevent any major mishap ensuring that anything unsafe is reported directly and that Sailors at all levels of leadership are capable of filing a report and managing safety within workspaces.
A notable feature within the command is safety boards established throughout the facility where concerns and issues are publicly posted and immediately addressed, encouraging this proactivity.
These boards can be traced back to the safety team at FRC Northwest, who in the last two years have made a significant impact on the safety program, essentially overhauling the SMS at FRC Northwest.
Aside from maintaining the safety boards and responding to safety issues at hand, the safety team is also responsible for daily tasks such as respirator management, investigating mishaps, ensuring the command is up to date on medical readiness and training and conducting monthly walkthroughs such as fire and electrical safety.
“Our attitudes have been the biggest factor,” said Aviation Boatswains Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Henry Larreynaga, when asked what made the safety team and SMS stand out at FRC Northwest. “We’re always motivated and try to help them out instead of just putting them under the bus. From my perspective, if something’s wrong I don’t try to punish them about it, I try to help them fix it and move on.”
The willingness and readiness to help have become major motivating factors that have enabled the command to make a significant perspective change on safety.
“It shines a light of emphasis on a program that was previously thought of as a footnote,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Zachary Hickman, a representative from safety. “Now, it’s brought safety into the work center every day.”
Hickman emphasized the empowering quality of SMS, explaining, “It allows people to make the changes that they talk about every single day. It allows them to make that change. With this program, we can fix that, we can make real change, real leaps and bounds and it’s the newest airman that checks into the command that can do it.”