Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight: keeping Tinker workplaces safe

  • Published
  • By Brandice J. O'Brien
  • Tinker Public Affairs
The 72nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight is here for you. While the flight of 44 personnel is most famous this time of year for posting daily heat condition alerts through the network, the staff assures they do much more and, as a result, have collected a fan base across the installation.

The flight, in short, is responsible for ensuring personnel are safe and assume the least amount of risk possible when performing work. To do so, they conduct industrial hygiene assessments, implement the occupational health requirements in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, monitor base drinking water and provide the annual Consumer Confidence Report, and practice hazard materials emergency management responses.

"Without this team of professionals, Team Tinker would be negligent of providing a safe working and living environment," said Col. Dean Prentice, 72nd Medical Group commander. "They are dedicated to education, inspection, evaluation, and collaboration with every area on the base for one purpose, to keep our community and its population safe. They do their jobs exceptionally well and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their dedication!"

Not to be confused with environmental management, which works with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to prevent damage to the environment, the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight is solely responsible for evaluating occupational health conditions within the four walls of a facility, said Debra Mital, deputy flight commander, who has 30 years of experience in the field.

The flight typically works 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but officials said there is usually someone in the office before and after each shift, or at irregular hours should a survey need to be done at second or third shift. Additionally, the flight is on-call 24 hours-a-day, should the need arise.

Within their primary role of industrial hygiene, the flight performs roughly 140 industrial shop surveys a year. A shop may have up to 1,500 personnel. The surveys are extensive and require flight personnel to review shop processes in order to evaluate potential hazards - chemical or radiation - and identify any new hazards or changes in shop processes. Once they've collected data using a plethora of analytical equipment to assess levels of exposure, the team determines the potential hazards and recommends the use of controls to minimize the risk. These controls include engineering controls, administrative/work practice controls, and personnel protective equipment. If necessary, the team will offer additional measures to keeping the workforce safe.

A shop survey traditionally takes a few weeks to complete.

The staff of 44 flight personnel is divided into three main teams, referred to as elements that support the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and base tenants.

"I am a big fan of the outstanding professionals who make up Team Tinker's Bioenvironmental Engineering, also known as the 'BEE flight,' said Col. Brad Tannehill, 76th AMXG commander. "They play an important role in ensuring the preventative health of every AMXG maintainer.

"In AMXG, we put safety first and the BEEs are part of our first line of defense in keeping our maintainers safe against a myriad of potential workplace hazards present in the chemicals we use to overhaul aircraft and simultaneously comply with all environmental laws and regulations," the colonel said. "For that, I say thank you to the BEEs who protect us and help to keep our mighty aircraft flying!"

Additionally, the BEE flight assumes an emergency response role.

"With the diverse threats we face in emergency response, the Bioenvironmental Flight brings a lot of capability that we previously took 'out of hide' in the fire department," said Terry Ford, Tinker Fire and Emergency Services chief. "They are one of our greatest force multipliers!"

Lt. Col. Jeremy Slagley, flight commander, who has 19 years of experience in the field, said each element is probably smaller than a typical base bio shop, but the responsibility is at least twice that of a typical shop.

"We are the second largest bio flight in Air Force Materiel Command. It's a huge responsibility," he said. "As far as an occupational health ratio of workers to staff, no company anywhere, no government entity not even other branches of the Department of Defense, puts as much emphasis on occupational health as the Air Force. It's a huge investment and we are the most actively engaged to watch over all the things people do within the Air Force."