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Chief of engineers presents ‘Safety Award of Excellence’ to Nashville District

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published Nov. 12, 2020
Lt. Col. Sonny Avichal (Center), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander; Diane Parks, Operations Division chief; and Ben Rohrbach, Engineering and Construction Division chief; accept the 2019 Safety Award of Excellence, district category, at the Nashville District Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, during the USACE National Awards Ceremony Nov. 12, 2020.  Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commanding general and 55th chief of engineers, presented the award virtually from USACE Headquarters in Washington D.C. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Lt. Col. Sonny Avichal (Center), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander; Diane Parks, Operations Division chief; and Ben Rohrbach, Engineering and Construction Division chief; accept the 2019 Safety Award of Excellence, district category, at the Nashville District Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, during the USACE National Awards Ceremony Nov. 12, 2020. Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commanding general and 55th chief of engineers, presented the award virtually from USACE Headquarters in Washington D.C. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Lt. Col. Sonny Avichal (Center), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander; Diane Parks, Operations Division chief; and Ben Rohrbach, Engineering and Construction Division chief; accept the 2019 Safety Award of Excellence, district category, at the Nashville District Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, during the USACE National Awards Ceremony Nov. 12, 2020.  Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commanding general and 55th chief of engineers, presented the award virtually from USACE Headquarters in Washington D.C. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Lt. Col. Sonny Avichal (Center), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander; Diane Parks, Operations Division chief; and Ben Rohrbach, Engineering and Construction Division chief; accept the 2019 Safety Award of Excellence, district category, at the Nashville District Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, during the USACE National Awards Ceremony Nov. 12, 2020. Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commanding general and 55th chief of engineers, presented the award virtually from USACE Headquarters in Washington D.C. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 12, 2020) – The 55th chief of engineers presented the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Safety Award of Excellence, district category, to Nashville District officials today during the USACE National Awards Ceremony.

Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commanding general, presented the award virtually to Lt. Col. Sonny Avichal, Nashville District commander; Diane Parks, Operations Division chief; and Ben Rohrbach, Construction and Engineering Division chief.

“Nashville District’s employees’ devotion to a safety culture and their passionate performance incorporating Corps of Engineers Safety and Occupational Health Management System into all endeavors throughout the district reflects great credit upon the organization and the United States Army,” said Col. John Lloyd, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chief of staff, during the presentation.

The Nashville District operates civil works projects across seven states and two watersheds while ensuring safety of more than 900 civilian and military personnel, construction contractors, and the safety of the public visiting recreation areas. This award recognizes Nashville District’s exceptional achievement in support of CESOHMS in conjunction with the Revolutionize USACE Civil Works initiative.

“Traditional delivery of the annual Civil Works Program is being overhauled by using innovative tools and modernizing internal process such as the implementation of the Corps of Engineers Safety and Occupational Health Management System while streamlining processes for infrastructure projects while protecting people – employees, contractors and the public,” Avichal said.

Avichal explained that the Nashville District incorporated strategic goals, business plans, in concert with annual safety program evaluation to improve the district’s Command Safety Program.

“We are incorporating CESOHMS into the organization’s mindset to ensure efforts are accomplished through implementing the Safety and Occupational Health Management System as part of the overall effort to modernize the district’s commitment to employee safety and occupational health,” Avichal added.

The Nashville District demonstrated exceptional safety performance during fiscal year 2019 as the civilian accident rates trended down as military personnel, civilians and contractors worked more than 1.5 million employee hours with no fatalities and only two reported accidents.

To improve safety throughout the organization, the district’s safety and occupational health team implemented monthly supervisor safety training covering inspection schedules; accident reviews; trend analysis such as slips, trips and falls; and facilitated interaction between leadership and field employees.

Paul Burress, Nashville District Safety Office chief, said safety inspectors increased visitations to 50 projects and construction sites from one to three annual visits, a 200 percent increase from what is required.

The Safety Office also created and implemented a new checklist that inspectors use to limit hazard exposure for employees and the safety team also routinely communicates with the workforce on topics such as risk management, winter driving safety, ladder safety, holiday safety, and active hazard analysis.

Burress stressed the command’s recognition is indicative of the overall effort of the whole organization through the adoption of the safety program, training efforts, project delivery processes; low accident and work compensation rates; inspection efforts; and aggressively addressing any safety deficiencies.  

“The metrics and events that were reviewed and led to us receiving this award came primarily from the work of those in the field,” Burress said. “This success would have been hard to achieve without some backing by all levels of leadership and the affiliated offices that support them in these efforts.”

Senior leaders championed the safety initiatives, communicated across the organization the importance of complying with safety requirements and committed resources to improving professional and personal development to benefit the Nashville District Safety and Occupational Health Program.

At all organizational levels the Nashville District used risk management to identify and mitigate hazards. Employees utilized safety tools like position hazard analysis and activity hazard analysis to enhance the safety culture. Construction project managers also use accident prevention planning for construction projects like the Kentucky Lock Addition Project in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, and Chickamauga Lock Replacement Project in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to build stronger safety practices.

“Safety is always number one at our field sites. We conduct our job to make sure we understand the hazards associated with an action we are about to undertake,” Rohrbach said. “The award really speaks to the dedication of the staff, 745 employees in the district. In the Engineering and Construction Division we have positions specifically designated as safety specialists out in the field to help us make sure that our contractors and government employees keep safety number one as we go about executing our mission.”

A great safety culture also exists throughout the Operations Division at dams, navigation locks and hydropower plants. Park rangers are always on the lookout for public safety and spearhead water safety education initiatives via social media and directly with schools and visitors recreating at Corps lakes.  

Parks said that in the Operations Division all the credit for this recognition goes to the workforce out at the projects and field offices that cares very much about keeping the public, employees and projects safe, take safety very seriously, and communicates observations, suggestions and requirements to natural resource managers, the Safety Office and district leadership.

USACE conducted the National Awards Ceremony virtually from USACE Headquarters in Washington D.C., due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spellmon recognized a total of 22 awards recipients for positively impacting the Safety Program and emphasized how proud he is of their accomplishments.

The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.