ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
The Air Force Reserve Command Safety Office here has identified its top three safety emphasis items for 2020. While safety officials encourage all members of the Air Force Reserve team to always emphasize safety, they are focusing on off-duty private motor vehicle accidents, the use of personal protective equipment and ladder safety in 2020.
Off-Duty Private Motor Vehicle Accidents
The Safety Office is focusing its attention on the role driving under the influence and fatigue play in private motor vehicle mishaps.
“Each year, the Air Force experiences an average of 14 private motor vehicle fatalities involving cars and trucks, and 10 private motor vehicle fatalities involving motorcycles,” said Rich Burns, AFRC’s Occupational Safety Program manager. “In many of these cases, the mishaps are attributed to the use of alcohol while driving and driving while fatigued. Our goal is to reduce the number of private motor vehicle mishaps to zero. This can only be accomplished if everyone takes note of what the causal factors are and focuses on preventing them.”
Burns encourages everyone to focus on defensive driving, to have a plan for transportation if you’re planning on drinking and to ensure you have proper rest when taking long trips. “Once your plan is developed, stick to it,” he said.
Over the last six years, the Air Force has had 163 private motor vehicle off-duty fatalities, including eight involving Air Force Reservists. Nearly one-third of the fatalities involved alcohol and another one-third involved fatigue. Based on the Consumer Price Index, the Department of Defense estimates that each fatality costs the service $9.6 million.
Personal Protective Equipment
PPE protects users from any physical harm or hazard the workplace environment may present.
“It’s important for industries that are known to be more hazardous, like manufacturing, but it’s equally important to use PPE around the house,” Burns said.
The different types of PPE include face shields, gloves, goggles and glasses, gowns, head covers, masks, respirators, and shoe covers. While many people may think of hard hats and steel-toe boots when considering PPE, it can also be used to protect against the transmission of germs through contact and droplet routes.
“PPE is really a last resort,” Burns said. “It’s not considered highly effective because it does not control workplace hazards. Instead, PPE aims to protect employees in the event a hazard occurs. While it’s important to use PPE, the first choice is always to try and eliminate the hazard if possible.”
Most PPE is provided on a personal basis; but may be shared by employees when only required for limited periods.
“When shared, employees should ensure such equipment is properly cleaned and decontaminated to ensure there are no health risks to the next person using it,” Burns said.
Over the last six years, the Air Force has identified 245 mishaps that could have been prevented by using PPE, including 147 that could have been prevented by using gloves, 83 that could have been prevented by using head protection, 12 that could have been prevented by using a personal fall protection system, 11 that could have been prevented by using eye protection, and four that could have been prevented by wearing boots.
Ladder and Personal Fall Arrest System Safety
More than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment following ladder-related injuries every year. Elevated falls account for almost 700 occupational deaths annually. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration believes 100% of all ladder accidents could be prevented if people were properly trained and they paid proper attention to their equipment.
“When using a ladder, always maintain three points of contact (two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand) to ensure stability,” Burns said. “And never attempt to reach for something while on the ladder. It’s much safer to get off the ladder, move it, and then climb back up. Never carry items up or down a ladder.”
Another common cause of ladder accidents is the use of old, worn or damaged ladders. “Damaged ladders are extremely dangerous because they can easily break while being used and cause serious injuries,” Burns said. “To protect yourself from damaged or broken ladders, make sure to thoroughly inspect each ladder before using it. If any damage is found, do not use the ladder until it has been safely repaired to the manufacturer’s specifications or it has been replaced.”
Personal fall arrest systems are one way to protect workers from falls. They consist of a body harness, anchorage and connector. “When using PFASs, workers must ensure they are using components from the same manufacturer to ensure the system works as it should,” Burns said. “If not, any substitution or change must be evaluated and tested to ensure it meets the standard.”
The Air Force has had 51 on-duty ladder injuries over the last six years with a total injury cost of $1.1 million.