The following post was written by Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division Commander, Rear Admiral Randy Mahr, and first appeared on his blog on June 6, 2011.
Some of you may remember this period used to be referred to as the ‘101 Critical Days of Summer’. A few years ago that tagline was dropped, but the idea remains the same – we all need to raise our level of safety awareness during this time of year.
When I started the Blog, I said I’d write each post myself and I’ve kept that commitment. (OK, technically two weeks were guest posts.) But this week I’m going to make an exception.
Over my career I’ve acquired a lot of really useful information by hearing stories of someone else using poor judgment. Once in a while I contribute to that database, but I prefer not to learn these things first hand because it usually hurts my ego, if nothing else. I find it easier to look at the Naval Safety Center weekly Summary of Mishaps, also known as the Friday Funnies, in which they give brief scenarios about another group of Navy / Marine Corps personnel who probably wish that life had a rewind button.
Since I couldn’t make this stuff up, I’m copying a few of them here to give you all something to raise your co-worker’s awareness and talk about around the water cooler. I selected a few that seem applicable to things we usually find ourselves involved in during the warmer weather months. Not that while many of them involve military members, they just as easily could start with GS-xx….
* A sonar technician first class was riding his Harley after work. Stopped at a traffic light, he heard a rattle coming from a chrome fitting. “Without looking at what he was touching,” the report said (and if that isn’t a Friday Funnies-worthy introductory phrase, I don’t know what is) he “attempted to tap the fitting with his left hand.” The motorcycle rewarded him for this bit of impromptu troubleshooting by grabbing his glove in the drive belt and crushing two of his fingers in a gear. Thirty-four days of light duty, wearing a splint, resulted. “You should always look where you’re sticking your fingers,” the report advised.
* Two Sailors needed some paint stripper. And what better source of hazmat than the local large civilian retail establishment? It’s handy, cheap and you don’t have to waste time messing around with forms, permissions, hazardous-material information sheets or personal protective equipment. The task was in a confined space. Within minutes one of the Sailors was nauseated and vomiting. He spent three days on what the report shows as overlapping hospital time, missed work and light duty, due to “underlying medical issues,” a.k.a. “ multiple symptoms, signs, and ill-defined conditions,” whatever that means.
* One afternoon a machinist’s mate first class was at home mowing his lawn. He was wearing ear plugs and steel-toed boots, and had (the report said) 20 years experience at this common task. But his protective gear and experience proved useless when the mower’s discharge chute clogged and he left the mower running and stuck in his left hand to clear the clog. Just about chopped off his middle finger and deeply cut the next finger. At the time of the report doctors weren’t sure whether they could reattach the severed digit. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it is so hard to kill the engine on a mower. Most of the new ones, you just release the little bar that you have to hold against the handle where you push. If you’re determined to flirt with disaster and if you really want to use your fingers to find out just how close and sharp that blade is, wash your hands, tape a clean plastic bag over the discharge chute to catch any chopped-off fingers so the doctors have a chance, and make sure your blade is real sharp so the cuts are clean. Also, warn your wife to get the first-aid kit and a bag of ice and to turn on the car and make sure she knows how to get to the nearest E.R.
* Here’s one that was short and if by “sweet” you mean “stupid”: “a Marine received 10 stitches to his head while on liberty. This occurred after head-butting the headlight of a truck. ” Yes, he’d been drinking. Yes, it was at a bar. What the corporal’s action accomplished wasn’t explained in the report. It did say the mishap was “recreational.”
* Strike one: a boatswain’s mate was not wearing a seatbelt while riding in the back seat of a friend’s car travelling at 75 miles per hour. Strike two: she was asleep. Strike three: so was the driver. The Sailor returned to consciousness as the ambulance attendants were removing her from the wreckage. When the doctors started treating her for a collapsed lung, lacerated spleen and a jumbo assortment of bruises to her chest and abdomen, she no doubt was wishing that it had just been a bad dream. If the sound of skidding tires, breaking glass and crumpling metal isn’t the worst alarm clock in the world, I don’t know what is.
* A master-at-arms first class was on leave blasting around a swamp as a passenger on an ATV piloted by her sister. At one point, anticipating that the ATV was about to get stuck, her sister hollered, “Hold on!” and poured on the coals. Here’s the thing about telling someone to hold on – you have to give them a second or two to comply, which wasn’t the case here. The ATV bolted ahead and the MA1 toppled off the back, landed on her shoulder and head, and broke three ribs. I’d have thought the MA1 would have been holding on already, but what do I know.
* An aviation boatswains mate third class is driving the family flivver when it starts acting funny. He pulls over, pops the hood and performs that classic maneuver known to all American males, namely, eyeballing the engine. If he is like me, he begins to wonder how they cram all that stuff under there and what the heck is most of it. He does detect a hiss, however, and traces it to the radiator cap, which incidentally, is one of the things on an engine that I can recognize. He puts his hand on it and presses down, motive unknown. Predictably, he determines it is hot, thereby saving himself the $115 that a mechanic would have charged for that information. And not just hot, really hot, so he yanks his hand back, the cap comes off, and yada yada yada, he has second-degree burns on his hand, good for 24 days of light duty.
You can find more at the http://www.safetycenter.navy.mil/ and select ‘Summary of Mishaps’ under the ‘Popular’ section. After you talk among yourselves about other people’s judgment, remember to use your own. This summer when that little voice in the back of your head starts to whisper “This might not be a good idea”, you should probably listen. If the voice is screaming, that’s probably too late.
Have a great summer! Be safe out there.