Airman improves safety with decontamination booths
By Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 21, 2018
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- One of the most important priorities in any workplace is the safety of its workers. On RAF Lakenheath, the Corrosion Control team recently addressed a 23-year safety deficiency in it's decontamination area.
The U.S. Air Force requirement is to have a process in which personnel are able to transfer from “dirty” hangar bay areas to “clean” areas. This process is in place to prevent chemical contaminants from passing from the hangar bay into clean areas where protective equipment is not required. Despite being an actively operating building, the structure was not designed for today’s mission requirements.
Tech. Sgt. Noe Rodriguez, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight NCO in charge of Corrosion Control, decided to tackle this issue head-on by leading a six month project to improve the decontamination process.
“The current situation didn’t do anything for our Airmen,” Rodriguez said. “So we decided to take the initiative and change it. It was a 100 percent step up from what we had.”
Incorporating the culture of safety, Rodriguez was able to develop a new decontamination process to better support requirements and the Airmen executing them by spearheading the construction of two decontamination booths.
The installation of these booths provided a major upgrade to their current decontamination processes, resulting in the improvement of the quality of life for more than 70 personnel.
“It’s been such a big improvement on what we had before,” said the 48th EMS Fabrication Flight NCO in charge of Tool Crew. “It makes it easier to quickly and safely decontaminate so we can continue doing our jobs.”
These improvements also resulted in the 48th EMS winning the 48th Fighter Wing Summer Safety Challenge, and Rodriguez received recognition at the wing level for his endeavors.
“Instead of mitigating the hazard, they removed it,” said the 48th Fighter Wing Safety superintendent. “We want Airmen to take over the process of their own safety. You can innovate and be safe.”
Without making major modifications to the building or structure, Rodriguez and his team were able to effectively produce a cost-effective, long-term solution.
According to Lt. Col. Joshua De Paul, 48th EMS commander, this innovative solution saved the U.S. Air Force $2 million, safeguarded Airmen and addressed the Liberty Wing’s number one military construction deficiency for a fraction of the cost.
“The spirit of innovation is alive and well at the Liberty Wing,” De Paul said. “I am so proud of my team. It is truly amazing what a collaborative team of Airmen can produce when they put their hearts and minds together.”
Rodriguez acknowledged he was not alone in this endeavor and recognized the fact it took a group effort to accomplish his goal. Working with civilian contractors and his squadron’s leadership, Rodriguez and his team were able to develop a way to execute their plan.
“Getting the booths here wasn’t all me,” Rodriguez said. “There were a lot of people working together to accomplish this task.”
Even though Rodriguez has been recognized by his peers, leadership and the 48th Fighter Wing for his safety innovation and money saving, he remains humble.
“Doing my job as an NCO is looking out for my Airmen and my shop,” Rodriguez said. “I want to be able to do something that will help Airmen in the future and leave a legacy for them to improve on.”
A facility is in the works to become the new location for the 48th Corrosion Control Flight at RAF Lakenheath. It is projected to incorporate the entire decontamination process as well as feature the new booths currently being used.