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    Safety managers ensure mission completion through safe work standards



    Story by Patrick Moes 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Supporting Americans in need following a disaster is one of the key tenants of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    When the nation calls upon USACE to deliver engineering solutions, one of the key components of that response team are safety specialists. They ensure the team responding to a disaster does so as quickly as safety permits. That is what happened following Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Puerto Rico Sept. 20, 2017. The damage in the hurricane’s path included more than 4 million yards of debris, thousands of homes with roof damage and an electrical power grid that continues to be repaired eight months after landfall.

    Paul Armstrong, USACE Task Force Puerto Rico Recovery safety manager, said the response has been impressive. He added that while the work has been critical to help Puerto Ricans in their recovery efforts, the well-being and protection of the task force has remained one of the top priorities during the disaster response mission. “Safety is important in all aspects of the recovery mission,” he said. “Everything from vehicle safety to work in the field, it’s important that we keep our employees safe while on the ground so they can focus on helping Puerto Ricans recover from the Hurricane Maria.”

    To date, the biggest challenge for the program and the recovery efforts, alike, is the environment. The mountains, heat, roads and vegetation are just a few of the obstacles that safety officials are concerned with on a daily basis. Armstrong, a Portland, Oregon, native, said the safety team has implemented strategies to reduce the risks associated with the recovery work.

    Armstrong, an Omaha District program specialist when not deployed, said the team developed daily briefings about some of the dangers surrounding safety-related issues and have encouraged leaders at every level to monitor their employees to ensure they are getting the proper rest and nutrition needed to continue supporting recovery efforts.

    With a small team of safety specialists scattered throughout the island, Armstrong said he relies on quality assurance inspectors to help. “They really play a vital role in expanding our eyes and ears and make sure the work progresses as quickly and as safely possible,” he added.

    Armstrong summed up the role of safety in the Puerto Rico response mission by providing perspective about the mission. “Safety in the big picture is ensuring that our resources are being spent where they count most,” he said. “That’s toward helping [our fellow Americans] that we are here to support.”



    Date Taken: 05.30.2018
    Date Posted: 05.30.2018 14:40
    Story ID: 278866

    Web Views: 25
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    Safety managers ensure mission completion through safe work standards