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NEWS | Aug. 16, 2021

Shipyard Spotlight: Michelle Johnson Making NNSY a Safer Place for all and a better place for working moms

By Allison Conti, Public Affairs Specialist Norfolk Naval Shipyard

Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s (NNSY) Occupational Safety and Health Specialist (Code 106.24) Michelle Johnson is a champion for women on the waterfront. As the shipyard’s waterfront ombudsman, Johnson has put in countless hours to make America’s Shipyard a more inclusive workplace. “I assist women in the shipyard with everyday issues they encounter on the waterfront,” said Johnson. “By helping to eliminate any barriers women may face when performing their jobs or trying to grow in their careers, I am able to help women advance in the workplace.”

Johnson has been at NNSY for more than 30 years. She started her career at NNSY in 1986 after graduating high school, following in her father’s footsteps. “I am a second-generation shipyard worker; my father was one of the first Navy nuclear welders here at NNSY. I saw that he made enough money to support a family all while supporting the Navy and its mission. I figured, why not go into the apprenticeship and learn a trade myself so I could do the same,” said Johnson.

When Johnson began her career, the shipyard was far from the more inclusive workplace she sees today. “When I first came to NNSY, there were urinals in the women’s restrooms,” she said.

Today, Johnson is the shipyard’s Safety Deficiency Report (SDR) Program Manager. In this role, she tracks all safety deficiencies on a Combined Deficiency Backlog that is shared with all codes and posted on NNSY’s WebCentral. She communicates with building monitors and safety advocates from various codes to help abate deficiencies in their spaces.

Johnsons’ supervisor, NNSY Hazard Abatement and Analysis Branch Head (Code 106.24) Stephanie Twine said, “Michelle is a hard worker, team player, exhibits C.O.R.E. values in everyday work and is extremely dedicated. She enjoys working with codes and shops at NNSY to enhance the safety culture through communication and knowledge sharing. She is a true asset to Code 106 and to the whole shipyard!”

Before moving to Code 106, Johnson was teaching safety courses for NNSY’s Production Training Division (Code 900T). Her background and  desire to make the shipyard a safer workplace for all civilian employees, contractors, and Sailors motivated her to apply for the job. “I enjoy the feeling you get when you have helped someone and working for safety at NNSY is how I help personnel and support our shipyard,” said Johnson.

While Johnson is incredibly proud of her tenure at NNSY and her titles as the SDR Program Manager and waterfront ombudsman, the title she cherishes the most is that of “nana.” “I have worked at NNSY for more than 30 years now and have been a nana for 8 years – I love it!”

As a mother and grandmother, Johnson is in the corner of every working mother at the shipyard. In her role as waterfront ombudsman, she has played a pivotal role in adding nursing mothers’ rooms to the waterfront. “Women need to make sure that their quality of life needs are met and as the waterfront ombudsman, I am here to listen to them and help ensure that NNSY meets or exceeds their needs.”

 Johnson said that she hopes to “leave NNSY a safer place for all employees than when I first started working here in the 80s. I hope that my successor is successful in doing the same. There is always room for improvement.”