Whiteman AFB Safety Office works hard to preserve mission capability

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christina Carter
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Personal safety is something that is important for everyone and is always at the forefront for Air Force leadership. Though for some, safety is not just a practice, it’s a career. 


At Whiteman Air Force Base, the 509th Bomb Wing Safety Office works hard year round to help eliminate or control risk to Airmen, property and mission capabilities under the guideline of the AF mishap prevention program. The safety office is broken down into three divisions: aviation, weapons, and occupational safety. 


“In the safety office, we work as a team between three divisions and via Total Force Integration with the Guard, but the teamwork required to prevent mishaps doesn’t stop there,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Moenster, 509th BW chief of safety and B-2 Spirit pilot. “It requires commander involvement and a personal commitment by Airmen at every level to do things right. When we do it right, we increase our mission capability by keeping personnel and material assets performing at their peak.” 


Each division of the safety office manages a unique part of the AF program. 


“The weapons safety division’s purpose is mishap prevention,” said Walter Swan, 509th Bomb Wing Weapons Safety chief. “We do this through compliance with regulatory guidance, risk reduction, and continuing improvement, while still allowing the wing to meet all mission requirements.”


According to Moenster, the aviation safety division proactively identifies flight safety concerns to prevent mishaps. In the event of a flying mishap, flight safety investigates the accident to find the cause and then recommends solutions to prevent it from reoccurring. Flight safety is also responsible for the aircraft bird strike avoidance program and the midair collision avoidance program.


The occupational safety division primarily deals with operational, industrial, traffic and sports and recreation safety.


“This job allows safety specialists to interact with every single aspect of the Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chase Bevill, 509th BW safety specialist. “I was an Aerospace Ground Equipment technician before cross training into the occupational safety division. So for me, getting to go around and seeing how all of these different functions interact and to see the bigger picture of how we accomplish the mission is very cool.”  


Working with each unit, the safety office is able to assist commanders with technical information and strategies to help comply with Department of Defense, AF and federal requirements that are often founded in federal law. 


The wing commander at each installation is considered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to be the employer for everyone assigned to the Wing and with that comes legal responsibility which is a part of the OSHA Act, Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.


“With all of the Commander’s safety programs, we go out and inspect units to verify compliance with federal law,” said Bevill. “We educate Airmen and help make sure that people are complying with the standards that make it safe to do their job.”


According to Bevill, safety conducts an annual and monthly spot inspection of each unit to evaluate compliance with requirements. Compliance is the minimum acceptable standard in the AF. The AF safety culture is one built around continuous improvement; loss of resources or loss of mission capabilities is unacceptable by AF standards.


On top of inspections, safety specialists deal with investigating mishaps that occur on base and sometimes off base.


“When there is a vehicle accident or when someone is injured at work, safety responds to the scene to take photos, conduct interviews and evaluate circumstances, such as skid marks, in an attempt to figure out ‘the why’ behind the mishap,” said Bevill. “We review a 72 hour history of the people involved in the mishap and try to paint a picture of how the accident occurred.  For uniformed members, we investigate off duty accidents as well.”


According to Dan Maham, 509th BW occupational safety manager, almost all accidents are preventable. Safety processes facilitate a measured approach towards prevention.  Since the inception of the AF in 1947, lessons learned from accidents have greatly enhanced mission capability.


The Whiteman Safety team works hard to prevent mishaps by working with every unit on base and informing them on AF safety policies, plans and procedures designed to prevent the next accident.


For more information on safety visit https://www.safety.af.mil/ or call the 509th Safety Office at 687-7233.