OSHA, VINP Join Forces To Improve Safety of Employees and Visitors

VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove, center, signs the OSHA agreement with OSHA representatives Jose Carpena and Patricia Clark. St. John Tradewinds News Photo by Andrea Milam

The V.I. National Park moved toward becoming a safer place on Wednesday morning, December 12, when VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration designed to enhance the safety and health of park employees.
A comprehensive inspection will be conducted to identify leading causes of injuries and illness among park employees, and a safety and health management system focusing on employee involvement and training will be developed based on information collected during the inspection.

“OSHA’s Puerto Rico area office, which covers the U.S. Virgin Islands, will provide training and technical assistance, and aid in the development of a five-year occupational safety and health plan for the park,” according to a DOL press release.

Park Inherently Dangerous
Hardgrove and three OSHA representatives signed the agreement at a ceremony last week in front of a room full of park employees in the VINP’s maintenance building.

“When we look beyond the sheer beauty of our National Park Service areas, we must immediately recognize that these parks are inherently dangerous,” said Hardgrove. “While we do our job protecting the natural and cultural resources every day, we must not lose sight of our most important resource — our NPS employees. We face threats and hazards every day at work and must keep our safety and the safety of our visitors first and foremost in our thinking.”

Park employees should set the safety standard, Hardgrove continued.

“We have much to do to improve our safety programs here at these parks,” said the VINP superintendent. “We must train and empower our NPS team to conduct safety inspections with identification, prevention and elimination of hazards as our top priorities. This five-year partnership agreement between the NPS and OSHA will give us the tools and help us provide the safest work place possible.”

Proactive Solution
Establishing a relationship with OSHA is a proactive way to prevent injury and illness on the job, explained OSHA Regional Administrator Patricia Clark.

“We’re really happy the Park Service is so willing to come forward and work with us and do it in a proactive way,” said Clark. “The better way to deal with these issues is assessing work areas on a continual basis.”

Unique aspects of the VINP, including the ocean and risk of hurricanes and earthquakes need to be considered when developing a safety plan, Clark added.

OSHA, which partners with more than 21,000 employers in the U.S., aims to assure the safety and health of working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health, according to OSHA’s press release.