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Air Force Space Command Takes An Operational Safety Pause

illustration only
by Maj. Vanessa Hillman
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
Peterson AFB CO (SPX) Sep 03, 2009
In order to put safety in the forefront of every Airman's mind, Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander, Air Force Space Command, is conducting an operational safety pause across the command Thursday.

The mandatory safety day is an opportunity for every supervisor to make 100 percent eyes-on contact with their team to ensure everyone has a safe plan for the four-day Labor Day weekend.

"This operational safety pause is to ensure we retain our most valuable resource throughout the weekend - our people," General Kehler said. "Our current safety record doesn't reflect the level of commitment to safety I want our folks to have on and off duty." This commitment to safety is every individual's responsibility, but commanders and supervisors play a key role.

"When it comes to safety, the most important leadership position is that of the front-line supervisor," said Chief Master Sgt. Todd Small, command chief, Air Force Space Command.

"This pause will give front-line leaders an opportunity to personally engage their personnel on the issue of safety. But, it's simply not enough to talk about safety. Front line-leaders must ensure their people are trained on proper safety practices and then follow through by incorporating these practices as part of the normal course of their work and personal lives."

According to the AFSPC Safety Office director, Thursday will not be business as usual across the command, nor will it be a standard safety day.

"The safety pause is our command reaching out to every member to tell them we value them and their family," said Col. Thomas Peppard, AFSPC Director of Safety. "They are important enough that we need to pause our mission and make sure they understand that their role in safety doesn't stop at the gate. We can't send our Airmen out for four days without taking an opportunity to remind them we want each and every one of them back not just Tuesday, but every day."

During the operational safety pause, commanders and supervisors will sit down with their Airmen to discuss both on-and off-duty safety, identify the potential risks and discuss mitigation efforts to ensure safety.

For on-duty safety awareness, it's a back-to-basics approach. Airmen are reminded to use personal protective gear and follow the instructions when operating equipment. Checklist discipline is vital to maintaining a safe environment according to Colonel Peppard.

"Checklists are designed for a reason," Colonel Peppard said. "If you don't follow them, you create unnecessary risks to personnel and equipment."

With a full month left in fiscal year 2009, the Air Force has 49 off-duty and five on-duty fatalities. With so many fatalities occurring off duty, the safety office has ramped up the focus on getting Airmen to identify elementary safety issues.

One of the areas of most concern is operating motor vehicles. According to the safety office, the chances of accidents are increased substantially when speed, fatigue, inattention and overall distractions such as talking on the cell phone and texting exist. Drinking and driving is a known hazardous combination.

In General Kehler's Labor Day safety message he states, "If drinking is in your plans, then don't plan on operating a motor vehicle. In fact, don't drink to excess regardless of whether you intend to drive."

Planning is the key to overall safety.

"The plan for an evening's safety that involves alcohol is to have the plan before the drinking starts," said Colonel Peppard. "If you are drinking at a party or a picnic and you decide to have the 'who's going to be the DD' talk then, you've already failed. The planning has to begin before the first drink is poured."

However, practicing good safety doesn't stop with alcohol.

According to the safety office, a good rule to use before participating in any risky outdoor activities, such as water sports, hiking, camping or mountain biking is ACT. First, Assess the risks, next Consider the options, and finally, Take appropriate actions to mitigate the risks.

A safety message would not be complete without a reminder for the safe operation of motorcycles, according to Colonel Peppard.

"Motorcycle safety is not just about putting on your PPE," he said. "It is about developing a flight plan before you're on the road. Look at the routes you'll travel, what are the road conditions like, are there areas with lots of gravel. Plan ahead to eliminate and identify the safety hazards you'll encounter."

Finally, remember your wingman this holiday weekend.

"I want all of our commanders and supervisors looking their Airmen in the eye," said General Kehler. "This is a leadership issue and I challenge every supervisor and every Airman to take on the wingman role and support each other."

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