TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Tinker AFB has the largest Respiratory Protection Program in the Air Force and fit-testing is a critical step in ensuring the safe use of respiratory protection in industrial work areas and military-unique settings. With approximately 2,600 personnel requiring annual industrial fit tests and 800 military gas masks being fitted each year, it is critical to optimize this process and provide the best customer service possible. Recently, Bioenvironmental Engineering implemented major changes to improve fit-testing operations.
The fit-test room, located in Bldg. 3334, is open for walk-in service Monday-Thursday, 7:30-11 a.m. and noon-3:30 p.m. The walk-in service provides flexibility to customers, allowing them to come directly from Occupational Medicine or whenever their schedule allows. This service, however, resulted in challenges when the number of walk-ins overwhelmed the capacity of the fit-test room. As a result, customers were subject to potential wait times of up to two hours with a corresponding negative impact on mission requirements.
Reaching into their Art of the Possible and Air Force Trusted Care toolboxes, BE approached this problem by initiating cost effective process improvement initiatives. Initial facility designs to increase the capacity of the fit test room would have required electrical, plumbing, and other structural changes. Realizing that this was not a time or cost effective option, BE and their teammates in Bldg. 3334, Public Health, analyzed the usage of existing rooms within the facility. Ultimately, the team found an underutilized training room that had the potential to meet requirements.
On a Friday, when the room is normally closed, a team of BE personnel went to work moving the fit-testing equipment and furniture to the new space. The team finished the move in one day without any construction cost to the Air Force. In addition, the new room allowed for a larger waiting area, decreased hallway congestion, and incorporated an improved customer sign-in area with more effective visual aids and posted procedures. Finally, old computer hardware from other sections was acquired and repurposed to provide increased throughput of customers and associated data storage. The new fit test room was fully operational and ready for use the next duty day.
The hard work of BE personnel has been met with extremely positive results. The potential two-hour wait times have been eliminated. Many customers can sign in and be seen immediately, and during the busiest parts of the day, the wait is only an average of 20 minutes.
Through continuous process improvement, standardization, and cost effective performance enhancement, BE and PH put the key principles of Art of the Possible and Air Force Trusted Care into practice. The result was increased throughput, an improved customer experience, and returning the worker to the mission in an expedient manner. Reduced downtime equals increased production, a win for Tinker AFB.
Questions regarding respirator/gas mask fit testing can be directed to Scott Cole at 734-7844.