One of the Aiken area's biggest defense contractors is celebrating a milestone this month, with its recertification in a program run by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
BAE Systems' local facility, now in its 28th year of operations, is a top performer in the OSHA Voluntary Protection Programs. VPP, in turn, "is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health."
"It is a proactive partnership between BAE and OSHA," said Jim McNamara, director of safety, health and environmental in BAE Systems' combat mission systems. "We basically invite them to come in. We discuss our programs, where they're at, the maturity of our programs. We talk about our systems. We talk about our culture and our people and we allow them to give us feedback, and in turn, they provide us guidance and we build a relationship with them so that we can improve but also we can share some of our best practices, so they can have conversations with other employers."
The BAE operation in Verenes Industrial Park is described on BAE's website as "dedicated to the production of armored combat and tactical vehicles." Its opportunity for VPP recertification comes every three to five years.
McNamara said the recertification was achieved this year. "One of the most important things is, you have to demonstrate that you are ... exemplary in the field of safety and health, and you do that through your performance over time. They balance you against your industry peers of your recordable rate of ... how many injuries you have, and against our peers, we performed exceptional."
BAE's local facility dates back to 1994, covers about 189,000 square feet and is based at 15 Windham Boulevard, in Verenes Industrial Park, near Aiken Regional Airport.
The safety program, in McNamara's assessment, is built on the participation and engagement of employees. "They're excellent. The motto at BAE is, 'We protect those that protect us,' and we couldn't meet that mission if we weren't committed to protecting our employees and for them looking out for each other," he said.
BAE Systems is described on its website as the U.S. subsidiary of "an international defense, aerospace and security company which delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services." The acronym is based in the company's roots in British Aerospace.