By Kirk Fechter, Garrison Safety Office

Safety on the Fly – The Lessons of Accidents

I have investigated accidents before I had safety training and after. I will share some insights.

The first thing I do is check on the condition of the person involved in an accident. Was someone hurt? Was there medical care? If there was any type of injury or potential injury, I recommend a visit to the Occupational Health Clinic at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center at Fort Meade.

I note that sometimes people feel too busy to go to the Clinic. I follow up many times and they will tell me that they were too busy. Some people need to man the office because there is no back-up for their particular skill set. I recommend that they at least make a phone call. The Clinic staff is friendly, skilled and helpful.

An accident investigation should include all relevant academic disciplines. It is important to have a medical perspective. Physics is important. Chemistry as documented in Safety Data Sheets (SDS) is needed. Other disciplines can be essential to the investigation as well.

A situation: One person on the job stepped in a hole and broke a bone. A lot of people step in holes. We always like to at least mark them with caution tape or with signs, or sticks with netting. This can be done very easily. Instant hazard abatement. Actually, fixing the holes in grass or sidewalks takes a little more time. There is technology to add some materials that can be put in the hole and fill it fast.

Another situation: Years ago, my track team was running laps around the track. As I sped along, in front of me, one of my teammates ran into a young man who was not paying attention. This youth ran in front of my teammate.  Someone blurted out that youngsters are indestructible. The young man, jumped up, dusted himself off, and continued his jogging. My teammate was a little more bruised and had a slight limp as he resumed running. This is illustrative of the medical consideration for the severity of an accident.

As a commander, I had an accident report in front of me. The form required that I recommend a preventive measure so that there would not be any more football injuries. I recall my young life spent playing sports. My elementary school had an asphalt playground. Much of my skin was gradually scraped off after collisions and falls. I played tackle football, full speed basketball, ran through rock strewn trails. I was often hurt, but not severely. Statistically, there are a lot of injuries from sports. Ironically, the worst accident that I ever had was playing volleyball. I landed on my foot and sprained it enough to require a cast.

I would not replace that time of learning the lessons of sport and the resulting fitness acquired.

If I could go back in time, I would have recommended that everyone have the benefit of a topnotch injury prevention program. It is amazing how some injury prevention measures are simple.

The Army War College discovered that new running shoes every year can prevent accidents. We know flexibility is important, but is it done correctly? I see many people bouncing up and down on their leg to stretch, the so-called ballistic stretch. The best is the dynamic stretch – stretch to the point of resistance without pain and hold for 20 seconds.

As we age, we become a fragile work force. All the knowledge and years of experience should be protected. I am proud that we have installed handrails in some buildings to help navigate hallways.

We need to pay attention to the workforce.  During Christmas at a hospital, it was very festive, and someone wrapped the handrails with Christmas lights effectively removing the hand rails from use. It didn’t’ affect me, a worker, but a patient would be hindered.

During an emergency, pay attention to those having trouble exiting the building.  I always monitor these situations so that I can help.

So, join the team that investigates accidents and learns from other’s mistakes.