By Kirk Fechter, Fort Meade Garrison Safety Office
New Beginnings in Safety
Summer is a new beginning for many in the Army. Summer is a great time for a change of command. This brings a window of opportunity for change.
One new commander put things in perspective. He called it, “The 100 Things Wrong Tour.” He remembered taking a tour of Fort Meade and noting that there were figuratively 100 things wrong. He speculated that previous commanders had made similar tours and noted “100” things wrong at that time… and those commanders following him would also see “100” things wrong.
As a young lieutenant at Ft Dix, NJ, I will never forget what our command sergeant major said. A new general had arrived and had laid out his new program. "Gentlemen, we are going to start doing this and that."
The general asked why the team wasn't doing this and that. The command sergeant major said, “Sir, when the other general came in, he said the same thing. So some of the things we are doing, we had not done before, and because of that, the "this and that" you want us to do, we have not been doing.”
The point of this introduction is to make the point that there are lots of ‘this and that’s’ to do but not necessarily universal agreement on what to do and what is important.
There is a concept of a 1-n list; a list of tasks that starts at 1 and ends at an unknown number ‘n’.
Every year we look at such a 1-n list in safety. We turn to DA Pam 385-10, Safety, and Appendix J-2. It has a comprehensive list of safety tasks. In some units, some things are not applicable such as biological safety. Of course, it [Appendix J-2] doesn’t cover everything we do in Safety. And I can remember as an exercise, I wrote down tasks that an individual was tasked to do from one Army Regulation to another, and so on. I listed such things as mandatory training, etc. I soon had exhausted a man-year with no end in sight!
In the movie, Shrek, as a Dragon chases her, Princess Fiona asks Shrek frantically, "You didn't slay the dragon?" Shrek calmly answers while being chased, "it's on my ‘to do’ list.”
For management, it is helpful to have a full “to do” list to share with the new boss. One reason an employee doesn't share the full to do list is because it invites the question, "Why haven't you done this, that, and those on your to do list? This is not always a pleasant conversation. It is encouraging when the supervisor suggests a shift in priorities while thanking the employee for all the good work done.
Looking at all these things to do, it is important to review priorities. Some priorities are provided by our higher headquarters. The IMCOM Safety Priorities have been: Inspections, Abatement, and CP-12 training for safety specialists. The Ft Meade Garrison has adopted these and prioritized the other 18 Garrison and 11 Installation Safety Programs. Our most visible program that we support is Motorcycle Training. It is important to remember that Safety priorities shift throughout the year. In the summer, prevention of heat injuries, swimming and grilling are important. In the winter, preventing cold injuries, driving on snow when traveling are among the priorities.
Safety is challenged, as are other specialty areas, by its reliance on additional duty personnel to perform safety as well as the essential ingredient – daily individual attention to detail. We all have an obvious priority to do our basic specialty. But I would remind people of an analogy.
In football, everyone is assigned a basic position such as quarterback or defensive tackle. So the majority of the game, the offense and defense lines up for a play. But when the offense succeeds or fails, the special teams coach runs a team on the field. This team could have offensive and defensive specialists, first team and back-ups who run onto the field.
Someday, I would like to see the equivalent in an Additional Duty Team chief who would help orchestrate all the moving parts. Unless we make an effort, safety as an ‘additional duty’ and individual attention to detail can get lost in the shuffle.
I have proposed “Take 5 for Safety”. Put it on the schedule. Maybe Friday at 1100 am. Even if you skip the event, you have awareness.
If we don’t make time for safety, it is not a priority, and it could impact our ability to do ‘this and that.’