Safety is more than just 101 critical days

by Airman 1st Class Alexandria Mosness
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Just because you fly a “desk job” in an administrative work area doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about safety.

In fact, according to 86th Airlift Wing safety officials, one of the more extreme mishaps that happened this year took place in an administrative environment.

One unlucky person found out firsthand how dangerous a paper shredder could be when she lost her pinky finger and parts of her ring finger to a paper shredder. To prevent incidents like this from happening in the future, safety personnel have a goal of keeping Team Ramstein informed and educated.

With the close-out of the 101 Critical Days of Summer coming Sept. 7, the 86th AW reminds Airmen that safety is important year-round; it’s always time to think and make the right decision.

“Our job is to prevent mishaps in the workplace,” said Lt. Col. Bayne Meeks, 86th AW safety chief. “We are preserving the Air Force’s capability because when there is ground, air or any type of mishaps, it affects the mission. If the people are injured, then we are not concentrating on our primary mission.”

While the safety office knows it cannot be everywhere at once, its hope is to get its safety messages out so Airmen will make the right decision.

“Part of our job as the safety office is to promote making good decisions to prevent future mishaps,” the colonel added. “If we can instill a sense of discipline and good decision making into the Airmen and raise operational risk management, then we can decrease a lot of the mishaps.”

From aircraft crashes to shredder incidents, it’s often the simplest details that can prevent mishaps.

“The worst safety mishap I have seen has been a fatality and it was because of a little mistake,” said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Kelly, 86th AW safety superintendent. “An Airman was guiding a vehicle to back up and instead of standing to the side, he stood directly in the back and was caught in between the wall and the vehicle when it went in reverse, resulting in a fatality. It just shows you the little things can truly make a difference.”

Once a mishap occurs, the safety office has 30 days to get its process report out to determine the cause.

“We are second-hand responders at the scene,” Colonel Meeks said. “We have a very thorough investigation. ”

To help cover all operations, the safety office is broken down into three different sections: grounds, weapons and flight.

“We have an aerospace and operational physiology officer and technician assigned to proactively address human factors in ground, flight and weapons safety programs through education and consultation,” said Capt. Ross Canup, 86th AW safety aerospace and operational physiologist. “You’ve heard the saying ‘to err is human.’ Human factors are understanding why those errors happen and designing systems to prevent those errors.”

Practicing safety is a full-time job, and the safety office offers many programs to help educate Airmen on how to make the right decision and to be better prepared.

“Some of the things we are involved in are training Airmen on fatigue management, sleep hygiene and attention management,” Captain Canup said. “We also train our flight crews on the hazards of high-altitude exposure, spatial disorientation and night vision goggle use.”

One misconception with safety is that they are trying to ruin everyone’s fun, Sergeant Kelly said.

“We are just trying to ensure a safe working environment for everyone,” he said. “One of the most common things we see is surge protectors plugged into other surge protectors. This is a fire hazard.”

With many people working in their jobs for many years, they can start to believe they know how to do everything, but this should not deter Airmen from doing their job correctly.

“Follow the safety procedures and don’t become complacent in your job,” Sergeant Kelly said. “A lot of people cut corners to make the job go by quicker, but then a mishap occurs. Often, the result of the investigation shows it was caused by that small step they thought they could skip.”

This year, there have been five on-duty ground fatalities across the Air Force. Also, there were 44 off-duty ground fatalities, including 22 vehicle fatalities, 16 motorcycle fatalities, two pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and four non-

traffic fatalities. The last off-duty fatality occurred Aug. 16. By 2012, the secretary of defense’s goal is to see a 75 percent reduction in fatalities.