Make safety part of your time, not a part-time job

Kirk M. Fetcher, Director, Installation Safety Office

By Kirk M. Fetcher, Director, Installation Safety Office

My job is safety. It is a full-time job, but just like you I have many part-time responsibilities.

I have been chairman and deputy chairman of the Civilian Welfare Fund. I am a provisional consulting trainer for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. I complete antiterrorism training once a year.

Years ago in college, I was a full-time student majoring in Near Eastern Languages and Literature. My full-time career path changed and I joined the Army.

I remember being asked several times, “What did you major in?”

“I studied Arabic.”

They would smirk. “You will never use that!”

Yet in 2003, as I rolled into Baghdad with the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, I had a skill that I used every day. In fact, this week I was using it to converse with someone in a store from Morocco.

I mention this because safety training is similar. Sometimes we forget how important it is to pay attention and know what to do in a crisis.

In flight school, we were taught to land our helicopters as soon as possible if a chip light illuminated (a piece of metal might lodge in the gears and blades slow down or stop — not helpful for air travel!).

One time, we had just taken off and it illuminated. We called Air Traffic Control and got permission to do a 180 (not standard procedure). ATC also said, “Will you accept a tailwind?”

Standard procedure was to fly into the wind, because it provides better lift, but this was an emergency. We had never been required to do this before, but we were ready.

In suicide prevention, we consider whether there is a limit to what we would do to prevent a suicide. I don’t have a limitation. But it is a result of much thought and consideration. We used to gather regularly and discuss many things such as this. I think we have lost some of that. What to do in an emergency should not be a surprise.

So if you need to file away something, here is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s top 10 safety deficiencies.

This is like having the answers before the big test. I can almost guarantee that you will find a problem in your work areas right now.

  1. 1. Fall protection
  2. 2. Hazard communication
  3. 3. Scaffolding
  4. 4. Respiratory protection
  5. 5. Lockout/tagout
  6. 6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. 7. Ladders
  8. 8. Machine guarding
  9. 9. Electrical wiring methods
  10. 10. Electrical general requirements

In the coming months, I recommend you unfile everything you learned about spring safety: Avoid too much sun and use sun screen, wear a life jacket when you swim, take a break when you get sleepy driving.

Ensuring proper safety means being alert and vigilant.

If you see lights out, that creates a safety hazard and a security challenge, change or report it.

If it is true for your building or area, it probably is the same somewhere else on post.

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