Safety is as safety does

Capt. Von Dailey
435th Vehicle Readiness Squadron

***image1***Complacency is another factor that contributes to accidents. I’ll share a personal experience that could have cost me my toes and or fingers had I not been lucky.  

One summer, prior to joining the Air Force, I worked on a ranch in Montana mowing hay 12 hours a day, six days a week for six weeks. This is a fairly simple task, but anytime you’re around heavy equipment there’s bound to be some danger involved.

Occasionally, the knives that cut the grass would become clogged with grass and they would have to be cleared by hand. To complete this task I had been trained to stop the tractor, take it out of gear, set the brake and disengage the power take off to stop the knife blades from going back and forth.  I had also been warned what could happen if these steps were not followed.  

Well, during one particular incident I forgot to disengage the PTO and as I reached down to remove the clogged grass from the blades, I stepped on one of the blade guards and immediately felt the blade going back and forth underneath my foot.  

I was lucky because I could have stepped between the guards and lost my toes I could have not stepped on the blade at all and instead could have reached down with my hands to remove the clogged grass and in doing so would have probably lost some fingers. As you can imagine I instantly “woke up” and went back to the tractor to disengage the PTO. As an extra precaution, I also turned the tractor completely off.  I said a quick thank-you prayer after regaining my composure. After all, I still had my toes and fingers. I then removed the grass from the blade and continued about the business of mowing.

Believe me, I listened to that warning!  I was no longer complacent when I dismounted the tractor. I realized right away that I could have lost toes and or fingers. From that day forward, when I had to dismount the tractor, I added turning off the engine so there was no doubt that all moving parts were stopped.  It took a little longer, and some would argue that it was harder on equipment. But my response is simple, I still have all my toes and fingers.  

It’s easy to become complacent. We have to continually remind ourselves and others that accidents happen very quickly if we don’t heed the warnings. What we’re doing is important, but generally not so important that we should risk life and limb to get the job done.

It’s imperative to remain cognizant of our surroundings, pay attention to the warnings, watch out for our wingman, and occasionally take a step back from our fast-paced lives and assess the situation before pressing on.