USS Germantown Wins 2014 VADM Bulkeley Safety Award
YOKOSUKA, Japan - Damage Controlman 2nd Class David Holcomb (left), manager of the hazardous material program on board USS Germantown (LSD 42), assists Operations Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Owen in checking out hazardous material needed to conduct equipment maintenance. Germantown was recently awarded the 2014 Vice Adm. Bulkeley Safety Award as the ship which contributed the most toward afloat safety awareness through the submission of hazard, near-mishap, lessons-learned reports, and safety-related articles for publication demonstrating a culture of safety awareness (U.S. Navy photo)
USS Germantown Wins 2014 VADM Bulkeley Safety Award
By Lt. j.g. Benjamin Rathwell, USS Germantown Force Protection Officer
YOKOSUKA, Japan – The officers and crew of the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) were awarded the 2014 Vice Adm. Bulkeley Safety Award, May 27.

This Chief of Naval Operations award recognizes ships who contributed the most toward afloat safety awareness through the submission of hazard, near-mishap, lessons-learned reports, and safety-related articles for publication demonstrating a culture of safety awareness.

According to the award citation, "Germantown's commitment to safety is reflected in the ship's outstanding Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) program.” The citation continued, “The ship proactively administered a rigorous Hazard Abatement program, routinely documenting and correcting identified hazards through weekly zone inspections and safety petty officer and fire marshal walkthroughs.”

According to the ship’s leadership, this award was just one way of exemplifying the command-wide culture of safety with Germantown setting the example for others to follow.

This command-wide culture of safety resulted in zero mishaps even while completing type command (TYCOM) and Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) material inspections along with successful certifications in every warfare area and an arduous fall patrol. Shipboard operations can be inherently dangerous and possess a wide spectrum of safety challenges and hazards.

Certifications and inspections, such as INSURV, can create a false sense of urgency where the temptation to skirt procedural compliance or operate equipment in non-standard configurations in the interest of expediency or mission accomplishment can elevate risks as the ship and crew are pushed to their limits.

Germantown continues to raise the bar when it comes to safety through a steady strain approach. Both the hazardous material and respiratory protection programs were specifically noted as exceeding the Navy standard.

Both programs were also featured in the Naval Safety Center’s “Sea Compass” magazine and during the inspection, the Navy Occupational Health and Safety (NAVOSH) inspector credited the hazardous material and respirator lockers as being the most organized lockers he had ever seen and requested to use pictures of the lockers in his training slides for the fleet.

However, maintaining a steady strain doesn’t come without significant effort and coordination.

“I would constantly email and communicate with the base industrial hygienist,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Shannon Ramsden. “They would help explain how the parts of references I didn’t understand related to my program.”

With subject matter experts backing her up, she was able to develop a clear understanding of expectations and what would be required to drive an active afloat safety culture ready for any inspection.

“It really is an all hands effort; it requires developing a ship culture that starts with me and goes all the way down to the Sailor that just reported to the command,” said Cmdr. Gary Harrington. “This award means a lot to the crew because it represents the pride that these great Sailors take in doing each and every job right the first time every time.”
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