Fleet Readiness Center East Executive Officer and Compliance and Quality Department Head pose for group photo with North Carolina Labor Commissioner

Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) Executive Officer Randy J. Berti, right, and Compliance and Quality Department Head Amy Morgan, left, accept the command’s seventh consecutive North Carolina Department of Labor Gold Award for safety from Josh Dobson, commissioner of labor. The depot earned the award for its commitment to workplace safety, including having no fatalities during the award year, and also posting a days away, restricted or transferred (DART) rate at least 50 percent below the industry average.

State Labor Department recognizes safety excellence at FRCE

For the seventh straight year, the North Carolina Department of Labor recognized the command’s commitment to safety by awarding Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) the Gold Award, the department’s highest workplace safety honor. During a recent ceremony in Greenville, the depot also received four Million Hour Awards for its safety performance in 2023.

To meet the Gold Award standard, an organization must have had no fatalities during the award year, and also post a days away, restricted or transferred (DART) rate at least 50 percent below the industry average. For FRCE, that means the aircraft maintenance industry. The Million Hour safety awards are given to employers each time they accumulate one million employee hours with no injuries or illnesses involving days away from work.

FRCE Executive Officer Capt. Randy Berti said the state’s continued recognition of the command’s safety program is significant because it indicates that safe work practices are built into the everyday processes at the depot.

“Winning the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Gold Award for the seventh year running demonstrates just how integral safety is to our operations at FRC East,” he said. “This isn’t a one-time recognition or a blip on the radar, but a sustained push that requires effort every day, from all levels of the workforce.

“But the most important outcome of our safety management system isn’t the recognition the command receives, it’s keeping our workforce safe and healthy,” Berti continued. “Our number one asset at FRC East is our people, and we want to ensure we send them home safely to their families every night. Protecting our people is key.”

The North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) Safety Awards Program recognizes private and public firms throughout the state that achieve and maintain good safety records. The program is designed to stimulate interest in accident prevention and promote safety in the workplace. The program began in 1946 and now extends to more than 5,000 firms. FRCE won its first Gold Award for 2017’s safety record, and has continued to earn the honor every year since.

FRCE Compliance and Quality Department Head Amy Morgan said the outcome of the command’s proactive safety campaign speak for themselves in terms of results. At FRCE, the safety culture focuses on instilling a sense of ownership through education; top-down emphasis on the importance of workplace safety; and continuous improvement of an already-robust safety management system.

“Arriving at the command’s current safety posture really has been a journey, and implementing the policies and procedures that are now in place has been incredibly impactful in terms of reducing injuries and bringing a culture of safety to the forefront,” Morgan said. “We have made enormous strides in workplace safety over the past 20 years, but we aren’t content to rest on our laurels; we continue to proactively seek out opportunities for improvement so we can work toward our ultimate goal of zero workplace injuries. That might seem like a stretch goal, but I do believe we can get there as long as we keep making incremental improvements while we continue this journey.”

FRCE’s current focus on safety as a core tenet of the depot’s operations began in 2004 with the adoption of an internationally recognized standard for health and safety management systems, and has continued to grow and change with the command. Before this transformation began, however, the depot’s safety record was less than stellar. In 2002, for instance, FRCE saw more than 800 Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recordable incidents; now the depot sees fewer than 30 OSHA-recordable injuries per year, Morgan said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Participation in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) has also been a driving factor for the sustained improvement in workplace safety at FRCE, she noted. VPP focuses on preventing fatalities, injuries and illnesses through a system of hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; training; and management commitment and worker involvement. FRCE began the VPP process in 2006 and became the first naval aviation command to attain VPP Star Site status in 2019, then achieved Star Site recertification in 2023. The Star Site designation is the highest level of recognition in the VPP program and is awarded to employers who demonstrate exemplary achievement in the prevention and control of occupational safety and health hazards.

“Participating in the VPP program really has been a game-changer for FRC East, and allowed us to take an even more proactive approach in assessing and preventing potential hazards before they become an issue,” Morgan explained. “As we worked toward achieving and sustaining our VPP Star Site status, a natural outcome is that the members of our workforce have, as a whole, become much more conscientious and aware in terms of safety and risk management. As we have seen, increased understanding of the risks associated with our industrial environment has naturally led to better safety outcomes.”

According to Safety and Occupational Health Division Director Angelo Owens, the depot’s existing safety standards are reinforced by additional measures including vigorous enforcement of personal protective equipment requirements and training that goes above and beyond Navy and Defense Department regulations. With only 10 safety specialists on staff, it’s important for other members of the workforce to be trained, educated and informed about safety best practices, he said.

“Safety truly is a collaborative effort, and it takes everyone working together to mitigate risk and protect the workforce,” Owens explained. “It’s important that we all do the right thing, from proper risk assessments conducted prior to completing a task to wearing appropriate personal protective equipment like safety shoes, gloves and bump caps while completing that task. It’s all there for a reason, and it all makes a difference.”

In addition to the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Gold Award and Million Hour awards, the Chief of Naval Operations recently announced FRCE as the winner of its Shore Safety Award in the Large Industrial category and Aviation Safety Award, both for 2023. In 2022, FRCE’s safety program was recognized as the best in the Department of Defense with the Safety and Occupational Health Management System Achievement Award, presented by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. 

FRCE is North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

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