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Building a safety culture begins with individual behavior

by Chris Anderson
6th Air Mobility Wing Safety Office

Can you define the word "culture" and explain how it relates to safety 365 days a year? One of Webster's definitions is loosely paraphrased as, the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, beliefs, institutions, and other products typical of a population or community at a given time.

Given this definition, let's see how "culture" is directly tied to the 6th Air Mobility Wing Safety Program and each of us at MacDill.

It seems like just yesterday we kicked-off the 101 Critical Days of Summer Safety Campaign at the Base Exchange. The 101 Critical Days actually runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This Air Force-wide campaign has run annually since the early 1980's and was created to counter the consistent increase in Air Force mishaps and fatalities that occur during the summer months.

The 101 Critical Days campaign is one tool the safety office uses to promote a "safety culture" on base and protect our resources and personnel from harm. The specific goal of our safety campaigns and promotional efforts is to make good safety behavior a year round practice for base personnel, family members, mission partners, and visitors.

Our mishap prevention efforts will not end with this year's 101 Critical Days campaign. As we take a glimpse into the future, the end of the summer season at MacDill doesn't necessarily equate to a less hazardous environment. Instead, as the extreme temperatures of summer begin to subside more people will venture out to enjoy Florida's beautiful fall and winter seasons. In fact, our "101 Critical Days" could be more appropriately titled "365 Critical Days."

To mitigate safety risks associated with this increase in activity, commanders, supervisors and family members are encouraged to remain involved. Each of us can make a difference.

Everyone must remain vigilant and continue to promote the "Safety Message" throughout the year. The wing safety office will support this effort through presentations, protective equipment checks, newspaper articles, inspections, training classes, committee meetings, e-mails, fairs or personally greeting the troops with our daily walker/runner reflective belt compliance checks. Reflective belt checks are just one of the initiatives we're using to protect personnel, promote safe behaviors, and to create the safety culture we're aiming to develop.

Everyone should ponder the following question: Have any of the hundreds of reflective belts passed out to base members in the last few months saved a life or allowed a loved one to return home to their family in one piece? Though it's impossible to count the number of mishaps that were prevented, I do have a story, which may persuade some of you out there to wear the reflective belts.

I reported for my first day of duty at MacDill a little fatigued, completely lost and apprehensive about my new job. I proceeded along Bayshore Drive at approximately 5:30 a.m. when out of the blue, three of our mission partners dressed in black shorts and t-shirts were jogging in the street competing for a portion of the lane my 5,000-pound Dodge Ram occupied.

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uckily, I was lost and moving at less than the posted 25 miles per hour speed limit due to my inability to read the street signs in the dark. There was just enough time for my brain to react (at pre-coffee speed) and avoid a potentially tragic incident. The outcome could have been much different if a higher speed was involved or if I had been looking away at that moment. I'm certain reflective belts would've helped prevent this near mishap.

Situations like this are why everyone is required to wear reflective belts during periods of reduced visibility. Reflective belts, however, are just the tip of the iceberg.

Just as reflective gear protects runners and walkers from the "threats" in their environment, the same holds true for other types of personal protective equipment such as ear plugs, gloves, eye protection and steel toed boots.

Doing these little things may help avert a mishap, prevent the degradation of Air Force resources, and allow our missions to proceed on schedule. Remember, developing a safety "culture" begins with individual behavior. Be sure to do your part.

 

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