Take a moment to fit safety into the ‘Big Picture’

Maj. Lance Carmack
Warrior Preparation Center

Have you ever focused so hard on all the minute details that the important things somehow slipped by? This was the case for me one day, and it provided a lesson that I have never forgotten.
One day at work, I received an emergency call that one of my flight members was in the base hospital. The details were sketchy at that point, but somehow he had splashed acid into his eyes while installing underground cable.
At the hospital, I learned that he and three workers were laying some plastic communication pipes, which involved applying two types of chemicals to the ends of the pipes before pushing them together.
Apparently, he was working fast and somehow flicked some of the chemicals up into his eyes.
Fortunately, my troop didn’t suffer any permanent damage to his eyes, and after a week of observation, they declared him fully fit for duty.
I felt responsible, and started to review our safety program to find out why he wasn’t wearing his goggles that day. Somehow my program failed to take hold in the flight. I had tried to manage it from the office, rather than by walking around. If I had visited each major project we worked, I would have quickly observed that people weren’t wearing their safety equipment. I had ensured everyone was trained in CPR, I had put safety suggestion boxes near my office and promised people a day off for the best suggestion of the month. We even talked about safety in our weekly meetings. Still, I was unaware if the program was really working.
If your unit lacks perspective, you may see some of the following problems. Troops will be overworked, but won’t really have much to show for their effort. People will be confused about their role and the purpose of their work. General dissatisfaction or apathy may also usually be apparent. Accountability is beyond reach because you won’t truly be able to identify who’s in charge of a particular program.
At times we must all lift our eyes up from the daily grind and look at the “big picture.” Whether it’s a small program like safety, or our overall duty of providing security for the United States, perspective is key.
In our current environment refocusing isn’t an easy task but it is something we must all do periodically. If we refine our efforts, the mission gets done and done properly.