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NEWS | April 28, 2022

Safety specialists ensure facilities, occupants remain ready

By Zachary Mott 88th Readiness Division

A studying eye glances around the room, taking account of each tile and every cord, looking for anything that might cause harm to the occupants or the facility itself.

The role of a safety and occupational health specialist with the 88th Readiness Division is one that requires a keen eye and an almost encyclopedic amount of knowledge of safety regulations. There are currently three safety specialists assigned to the 88th RD and they are tasked with inspecting the more than 300 facilities across the 19-state region.

“We want to make sure that [the facility] meets certain safety criteria,” said Brian Russell, a safety and occupational health specialist with the 88th RD. “Primarily focusing on life code safety type things.”
Russell recently completed an inspection tour across Nebraska where he met with facility coordinators and additional duty safety officers. During this tour, Russell inspected Army Reserve Centers and maintenance facilities where he noted that he looks for certain, commonly missed safety items.

“For example, the fire suppression systems in the kitchens and the fire extinguishers throughout the building; making sure that those are all getting their annual and monthly checks,” he said. “I take a look and make sure that ceiling tiles aren’t discolored and things like that where they could be water leakage, mold issues and things like that. General safety things that have to do with us taking care of that building and then on top of it, that the user isn’t creating issues with blocking exits or stockpiling lots of stuff that would cause for health concerns.”

The inspection allows facility coordinators and others assigned with maintaining the buildings and office spaces a chance to walk through and learn more about what it takes to maintain the facilities.

“I have a lot of different things that come on my plate,” said Timothy Marshall, Army Reserve administrator, 2nd Battalion, 377th Regiment, facility coordinator for the Gen. John J. Pershing Army Reserve Center in Lincoln, Neb. “It helps whenever someone in a specialized area comes to let us know some deficiencies.”

To maximize the time spent at the facility, Russell and the safety staff developed a virtual inspection format that allows them to conduct an initial meeting and review the paperwork prior to physically inspecting a facility. Once at the visit, the safety specialists use a curated checklist as they conduct their walkthrough inspections.

“Our checklist, it’s just sort of something that we can give to people as these are the big things that we see while we go out,” Russell said. “We review that on an annual basis and check to see that the regulations haven’t change and what they say hasn’t changed.”

Russell said he and his fellow safety specialists use the inspections as a chance to give a human side to the regulations and explain the methodology behind them.

“We’re trying to get their buy in and to let them know that we’re all in this together. If this is something we can fix on the spot, let’s fix this right now,” he said. “I would rather they fix the stuff while I’m here because then I know it gets fixed.”

Each visit concludes with a back briefing and a write up of any violations that cannot be fixed on the spot is sent to the facility coordinator for follow up, as needed.

“Any time I’ve worked in safety, or any job, it doesn’t matter, there is always a customer and there is always an end user. How you are able to talk with that customer and interact will give them a general reflection of what their feeling is,” Russell said.