SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – You may have seen these signs around base: “CAUTION WATCH YOUR STEP,” “DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE,” or even “CONSTRUCTION AREA, AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.”
But what you may not have seen are the efforts of the men and women of the 375th Air Mobility Wing’s Safety Office who are responsible for protecting base personnel and resources.
“What we’re trying to do is safeguard personnel,” said Thomas Kelly, the wing’s occupational safety manager. “And we want to protect every resource on the installation … to ensure there are no mishaps.”
Safety’s primary mission is to analyze mishaps and accidents, from minor cuts to fatalities – and everything in between. When analyzing each incident, they trace what caused the accident to occur. Once the issue is identified, they suggest changes in procedure to prevent those mishaps from occurring again.
“The most common mishap we have seen at Scott are slips, trips and falls,” Kelly said. “One difference between DoD safety programs and OSHA in the civilian sector is that we track all mishaps, whether on- or off-duty. So, when we identify an occupational hazard or deficiency, knowing that it could prevent someone from being seriously hurt or even killed is really gratifying … and makes me proud of the mission we do.”
Another aspect of occupational safety is inspecting all facilities, and though the COVID-19 pandemic caused some disruptions, he said they’re able to get after this part of the mission now.
“Our annual inspections are not just an Air Force mandate—it’s a public law requirement. Now that we’re back to a more standard operational tempo, we’re getting those agencies that we’ve missed over the past couple of months scheduled for inspections so we can get caught up.”
Safety also encompasses flight and weapons safety. While occupational safety covers most items around the base, from fire extinguishers to cable management, flight and weapons safety are more specific, according to Tech. Sgt. Christopher Knight, the weapons safety manager.
“Anybody who’s handling, storing or maintaining munitions falls under the wing’s safety program. We check the lesson plans and operating instructions to make sure that they are current with regulations and that they are compliant.”
He said that there’s been an increase in readiness and mobility since he’s been in this role.
“Between the additional exercises and training, the level of involvement and visibility in those types of programs has increased, and we’ve been able to make some good strides in weapons safety.”
For flight safety, there’s Master Sgt. Robert Radford, 375 AMW Flight Safety NCO in charge, who said that, because Scott has a unique mission, their main focus for them is not maintenance safety but other safety programs such as the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard, or BASH, program and Mid-Air Collision and Avoidance program. These programs are to prevent the loss of life and limb of Airmen not just at Scott but across the Air Force.
Across the Air Force, data from mishaps are analyzed disseminated by the Air Force Safety center to prevent similar mishaps from occurring elsewhere. This critical information can prevent the loss of life, limb or eyesight, said Radford.
“Safety first means think before you act. It’s taking the first step to ensure the scene is safe before taking action. It has been proven throughout history that safety, whether its occupational safety, flight safety or flight safety, can help to save someone’s life.”