First Air Force Unit to recieve OSHA's VPP Star Rating

A member of the 148th Fighter Wing works on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during an October 2007 Operational Readiness Exercise in Duluth, Minn. The 148th FW was selected by Occupational Health and Safety Administration officials for the Voluntary Protection Program Star Award. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Action)

A member of the 148th Fighter Wing works on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during an October 2007 Operational Readiness Exercise in Duluth, Minn. The 148th FW was selected by Occupational Health and Safety Administration officials for the Voluntary Protection Program Star Award. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Action)

Minnesota Air National Guard members of the 148th Fighter Wing await departure in a C-17 Globemaster prior to departing to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, Nov. 9, 2007, at the Air National Guard Base located in Duluth, Minn. The 148th FW was selected by Occupational Health and Safety Administration officials for the Voluntary Protection Program Star Award. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason W. Rolfe)

Minnesota Air National Guard members of the 148th Fighter Wing await departure in a C-17 Globemaster prior to departing to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, Nov. 9, 2007, at the Air National Guard Base located in Duluth, Minn. The 148th FW was selected by Occupational Health and Safety Administration officials for the Voluntary Protection Program Star Award. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason W. Rolfe)

5/7/2008 -- Occupational Health and Safety Administration officials announced April 30 the Air National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing earned the prestigious Voluntary Protection Program Star status.

The 148th FW from Duluth is the first unit in the Air Force to earn the VPP Star rating, which demonstrates a measurable process to show excellence in occupational safety and health.

VPP participants are recognized based on their written safety and health management system, sustained superior performance, and a commitment to effective employee protection beyond the requirements of OSHA standards. In addition to reviewing extensive documentation, OSHA officials conduct an on-site evaluation to judge how well the site's safety and protection system is working.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne made improving safety and health performance part of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century in March 2006. Tasked with building a culture of continuous improvement to enhance combat effectiveness, AFSO 21 has outlined safety as a key area for process improvement to help guide initiatives throughout the Air Force. VPP is a program aligned with this initiative.

Members of the 148th FW began the VPP process 18 months ago and worked with a mentor from Minnesota Power. Greg Rindal from Minnesota Power, an Allete Company based in Duluth, was appointed as a special government employee by OSHA officials, which enables business industries and government agencies to work together.

Mr. Rindal "completed a site analysis and helped the Wing identify improvement areas which was very helpful to the 148th," said Senior Master Sgt. Todd Zinmer, the 148th FW ground safety manager.

Officials from the 148th FW submitted their official VPP application to OSHA in October 2007. In February 2008, a team of OSHA VPP experts performed an on-site assessment of the 148th FW and recommended the unit for a "Star" rating.

"Earning the VPP Star rating is a validation of all 148th members working together for a common goal -- to ensure the safety of all its members and their families," said Col. Mark Johnson, the 148th FW commander.