Corps taking safety from reactive to proactive

Published March 26, 2018

If you were invited to visit a Corps worksite and realized once you arrived that your colleagues were not wearing the appropriate safety gear, what would you do? Would you:

  1. Say nothing, because you’re not the senior employee on-site

  2. Wait until you got back to your office and mention it to the safety manager

  3. Mention it to your colleagues on-site and have everyone put on the appropriate safety gear

  4. Check your cell phone and pretend you don’t notice

A major shift in how the Corps of Engineers deals with safety is currently taking place from the East Coast to the West, and all Corps sites globally as well. It is not a new program, it is a refocusing on safety with the aim of placing the responsibility for safety in the hands of every Corps employee. Therefore the answer should of course be “C.”

The program is called CE-SOHMS (pronounced see-sums), and it stands for Corps of Engineers Safety and Occupational Health and Management System. An easy way to remember that CE-SOHMS means safety is to associate it with the still highly effective slogan, See Something, Say Something – which is what safety officials would like all Corps employees to do.

The official wording for CE-SOHMS states that the Corps will … fully integrate safety and occupational health functions into all USACE business operations; and ensure risk is managed properly and at the correct level, resulting in reduced injuries and illnesses, while enhancing USACE ability to complete our mission on time, within budget, and at a quality expected by our customers.

James Heidenthal, a senior safety and occupational health professional, recently visited Sacramento District and spoke with senior leaders and employees about CE-SOHMS and the goal of getting employees to be more proactive.

“This program will educate employees on their duties and responsibilities to be safety,” said Heidenthal. “If an employee sees an unsafe situation, it shouldn’t be, ‘Oh, I’ll tell safety,’ but should be more of acting on it now, more of the see something, say something.”

The CE-SOHMS program has already been rolled out to the Corps on the East Coast and is making its way West. The timeline for CE-SOHMS is projected for full implementation in approximately three years. However, that doesn’t mean proactive safety isn’t already being prescribed.

Over the next three years the Sacramento District will go through three one-year stages, each focusing on the goal of bringing continuous improvements in the realm of safety. After year three, the goal then becomes sustainment.

“Safety is part of the culture of this organization. It is the way the organization functions and the way the organization does business,” said Heidenthal. “We want every employee to evaluate the risk in any given situation.”

James Heidenthal, a senior safety and occupational health professional, gives a presentation on the Corps of Engineers Safety and Occupational Health and Management System – known as CE-SOHMS – during a recent visit to Sacramento District.