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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quickstoppers: Action vs. Inaction

by MSGT HUMBERTO MARCHESE
HQ AMC/SEO


8/20/2014 - TMF Fall 2014 -- How often have you seen a hazard and simply maneuvered around it to avoid getting hurt? Do you recall your first encounter with this condition--thinking, "This is not safe" but simply avoiding it instead of doing something about it? Eventually, the hazard blends into what you and others accept as the environmental norm, and your ominous sentiment slowly fades into the periphery of your consciousness. After all, it hasn't materialized into a serious accident yet.

Let's suppose for a moment that a visitor--let's say an inspector--stumbles upon your work area and points out a hazard that needs immediate correction. You know, that hazard you and someone else were concerned with at some point. What kind of reception might this person receive? After all, what does he know? As far as you and everyone in your workplace are concerned, avoiding this hazard has become part of your routine, and no one has had a serious accident because of it.

Sometime thereafter, an accident happens to an unsuspecting person. It's unfortunate that our initial concerns about the condition should be validated by an accident. This doesn't have to be the case, and I want to highlight one instance where folks identified a hazard, realized that the potential outcome could be unacceptable, and were persistent in fixing it.

In April of 2012, two NCOs converged on an old natural gas incinerator. TSgt Lambdin alerted the unit Safety NCO, TSgt Sotak, to an incinerator that had sheared from its foundation and now had the smell of natural gas emanating nearby. TSgt Lambdin was logically concerned for his workers' safety, as they had also noticed the smell of natural gas in the course of their work. Together, the two NCOs sought assistance from several on- and off-installation entities. They found the source of the elusive gas leak, fixed the leak, and repaired the incinerator's foundation to prevent future leaks or other potential problems. They did not simply avoid it, and they prevented a potential catastrophe before someone was hurt or possibly killed.

We don't know how many lives may have been saved by their efforts--perhaps one, maybe two or three. We'll never know. What we can be certain of is that they'll never regret inaction or have to look at the grieving family of a lost or injured coworker. That is something they can live with. The loss of even a single employee greatly affects family, friends, and coworkers. The aftereffects also compromise productivity and morale, and hinder the overall mission. Can you live with the consequences of inaction? Must a hazard materialize into an accident to gain attention? The answer is obvious. Embrace safety, and don't become a statistic.

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