WINCHESTER, Va. – The Transatlantic Division serves as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ tip of the spear in one of the most dynamic construction environments in the world. Ensuring that building strong is synonymous with building safely, the Transatlantic Division’s Safety Office maintains an unwavering dedication to the well-being of the service members and civilians who execute the nearly $5 billion dollar program in support of U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Forces Command and other global partners across the Middle East and Central Asia.
The CENTCOM AOR presents unique and varied safety challenges, from diverse environments like deserts, seaports, and urban areas, to wide ranging cultural considerations and diversity of languages, as well as security considerations surrounding ongoing military operations. The Transatlantic Division and its Districts overcomes all of this and continues to set the standard for Safety programs in the region.
"Ensuring safety is an integral part of taking care of people within our organization," emphasizes Command Sgt. Maj. Clifton D. Morehouse, Transatlantic Division command sergeant major. "By prioritizing safety, we demonstrate our commitment to the physical well-being and overall quality of life of our employees, mission partners and allied nations."
"The safety of personnel and mission success in the CENTCOM AOR depends on several critical factors, Morehouse continued. “First, leadership commitment and engagement play a vital role in fostering a culture of safety. We ensure that safety is ingrained in every aspect of our operations, from planning to execution. Second, comprehensive training and continuous reinforcement of safety protocols are essential to equip personnel with the necessary knowledge and skills. Lastly, maintaining open lines of communication, collaboration with stakeholders, and a proactive approach to risk management are crucial to adapt to the dynamic nature of the region and ensure the safety of our personnel and the success of our missions. The Transatlantic Division is dedicated to addressing these factors through robust safety programs and ongoing improvements.”
The Division’s safety program centers around the Corps of Engineers Safety and Occupational Health and Management System, CE-SOHMS. Melanie Barajas, Transatlantic Division Safety and Occupational chief, explains that CE-SOHMS departs from traditional compliance-based safety approaches, instead embracing a process-based systems approach. It focuses on changing employee behavior and mindset to actively engage in safety measures and create a safer working environment and culture.
To foster a safety culture, the Transatlantic division and its districts integrates safety into its core values and provides comprehensive safety training to all personnel. Robust safety committees, reporting mechanisms, and leadership engagement ensure safety remains an imperative in all projects and operations.
"We promote a culture of safety within the Transatlantic Division through various measures,” Morehouse explained. “First and foremost, safety is integrated into our core values and is a non-negotiable aspect of our operations. We provide comprehensive safety training to all personnel and ensure that safety protocols are clearly communicated and understood.
Additionally, we have robust safety committees and mechanisms for reporting and addressing safety concerns promptly. Continuous reinforcement, leadership engagement, and regular safety audits are in place to ensure that safety remains a top priority in all our projects and operations.”
Supporting the CENTCOM and SOCOM missions require the continuous growth and development of innovative ideas, creative thinking, and problem-solving abilities. This is why USACE has remained the partner of choice across the region. Delivering agile, responsive, and innovative, design, construction, engineering and contingency solutions and at the speed of relevance – SAFELY is what they do!
National Safety Month holds significant importance as it raises awareness about safety in various aspects of life. Throughout June, individuals, organizations, and communities unite to promote and prioritize safety measures in workplaces, homes, roads, and public spaces. This observance aims to educate and empower people to make informed decisions regarding safety, prevent accidents, injuries, and illnesses. By sharing best practices, highlighting key safety issues, and encouraging proactive measures, National Safety Month creates a safer and healthier environment for all, emphasizing the collective responsibility for safety.
Barajas expressed enthusiasm for National Safety Month, stating, "It's great to have an entire month with the nation's collective focus on safety. It gives us the opportunity to share our successes and challenges, learn about other organization’s safety programs, and reinforce our commitment to Building Strong – Safely!"
"The Transatlantic Division has tailored its safety training and protocols to address the unique hazards and risks associated with the CENTCOM AOR,” Barajas explain. “We provide specialized training on extreme environmental conditions, such as heat stress prevention in desert environments. Additionally, security threats are integrated into our safety planning, ensuring personnel are prepared and aware of their surroundings. Continuous risk assessments, updated protocols and the use of dedicated Safety Champions help us stay adaptive and proactive in mitigating the specific challenges of the region.”
A Safety Champion in CE-SOHMS is a designated individual who actively promotes and implements the safety program within the organization. They not only guide and support their colleagues in adopting safe practices but also play an essential role in nurturing a robust safety culture. Their role in raising awareness and spearheading continuous improvement initiatives directly contributes to the overall well-being of personnel and the success of the organization's safety efforts.
"As a Safety Champion, my role goes beyond simply implementing safety protocols,” Morehouse stated. “It's about fostering a culture of care, where every member feels valued, protected, and confident in their work environment. Our commitment to safety is a testament to our dedication to the well-being of our people and a key pillar of our mission success. That's why I am proud to champion safety in the Division."
"Our safety efforts are directly linked to the overall success of U.S. and coalition missions in the region,” Morehouse continued. Improved safety translates into better outcomes by reducing accidents, injuries, and disruptions to operations. A culture of safety promotes mission readiness, as personnel can focus on their tasks with confidence and without unnecessary risks. Furthermore, by upholding high safety standards, we contribute to the credibility and reputation of the U.S. and coalition forces, fostering positive relationships with our host nations and local communities.”
"Maintaining a safe work environment is crucial as it minimizes the risk of accidents, injuries, and illnesses," Morehouse explained. "This promotes a culture of care and trust, showing that we value the welfare and protection of our personnel. When we prioritize safety, we not only safeguard the physical health of our workforce but also nurture their morale, engagement, and productivity," Morehouse emphasized. "A safe environment fosters a sense of security and confidence, leading to increased employee satisfaction and a more positive work culture and our employees feel valued and supported.”
"Our commitment to safety also enhances our reputation," Morehouse stated. "It demonstrates our dedication to the well-being of our people and earns the trust and loyalty of our mission partners.”
Safety on project sites across the Middle East and Central Asia is of paramount importance, given the unique environmental conditions and language barriers that exist. The often harsh and diverse environments, from arid deserts to busy urban areas, necessitate careful planning and specialized safety protocols to protect personnel. Furthermore, the region's linguistic diversity adds complexity to ensuring that safety measures are understood and followed by all. Efforts to overcome these barriers, such as providing multilingual safety materials and using translation services, are crucial for maintaining a unified safety culture, minimizing risks, and creating a secure work environment for all involved.
“Overcoming language barriers in project site safety is crucial,” Barajas said. “Clear and concise communication of safety protocols, hazard identification, and emergency procedures are necessary to minimize risks and prevent accidents. Measures such as translation services, interpreters, and multilingual safety materials ensure accurate communication of safety messages, promoting a unified safety culture and enhancing understanding.”
"We work closely with our local partners to improve safety standards and practices within their organizations,” Barajas continued. “We provide training and assistance to enhance their safety culture and risk management capabilities. By sharing our expertise and best practices, we contribute to the long-term stability and development of the region. Collaborating with local partners fosters sustainable safety practices, enabling them to independently maintain high safety standards beyond the duration of our projects."
"Learning from our allied nation partners is a vital part of our safety improvement process," emphasized Barajas. "Through close collaboration, we gain invaluable insights into local safety regulations, cultural norms, and region-specific hazards. This exchange of knowledge fuels innovation, broadens our safety toolkit, and enhances the overall safety of our work environment."
In the unwavering pursuit of safety excellence, the Transatlantic Division draws valuable lessons from both its successes and challenges. A significant part of this learning process involves a detailed examination of past incidents and near misses. These are thoroughly investigated to pinpoint root causes, which then inform the development of new procedures, more comprehensive training, and more proactive risk assessments.
"Past safety incidents and near misses within the CENTCOM AOR have become crucial learning opportunities," Barajas explained. "Each incident prompts a thorough investigation, leading to vital preventive measures. As we evolve, these lessons shape our safety approach, resulting in new procedures, enhanced training, and a more targeted focus on risk assessment and management. We prioritize a culture of learning that values open communication, the sharing of lessons learned, and the consistent implementation of proactive measures to ensure continuous safety performance improvement."
"Continuous innovation in safety measures and technologies is at the heart of our commitment to enhance project outcomes and ensure the well-being of our personnel,” said Barajas. “We've embraced new technologies and adopted advanced data analytics tools, so we're able to identify and address patterns contributing to potential risks, thereby increasing efficiency and safety while reducing hazard exposure."
Despite the distinctive safety challenges presented by the CENTCOM AOR, the Transatlantic Division and its districts rise boldly to meet them. With an unrivalled legacy of more than 70 years in the region, their deep understanding of local dynamics is clearly reflected in their proactive collaboration with partners. They deftly tailor safety planning, training, and procedures to manage distinct risks effectively.
Leveraging the CE-SOHMS program strategically, fostering collaborations, emphasizing language inclusivity, and nurturing a culture of continuous learning, the Transatlantic Division steadfastly upholds safety as its top priority. This unwavering dedication ensures that no challenge is too great, and no detail is too small when it comes to safeguarding personnel and operations in the region.
"We're positioned at the tip of the spear, delivering high-quality support while protecting personnel and creating a safe and healthy environment within the CENTCOM AOR," Barajas stated proudly.
The relentless commitment to safety displayed by Barajas, Morehouse, and the Division and District Team-of-Teams in the CENTCOM AOR stands as a beacon. Leveraging initiatives such as CE-SOHMS, innovative practices, collaborative efforts, and continuous learning to safeguard personnel continues to guarantee mission success.
As the Transatlantic Division persistently progresses, embraces innovation, and adapts to ever-changing environments, safety remains their cornerstone. It is the driving force behind every decision they make. It ensures the working environment remains secure and protective, fostering a culture of safety that benefits every individual involved in the Division's work.
"Ensuring safety is more than a policy; it's a direct reflection of our commitment to taking care of our people,” Morehouse underlined. “By making safety our priority, we're investing in the well-being and quality of life of our employees, mission partners and allied nations."