Personal Responsibility: Be Safe or Die

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col.Leonard D'Amico
  • 509th Bomb Wing Safety
Look both ways before you cross the street. Wash your hands before you eat. Wear your seat belt. Don't stare at the sun. Pick your friends wisely ... blah, blah, blah.

Do these sound familiar? They do for me. They're the sayings my mom used to say to me through various stages of growing up. The funny thing about it is these are the same sayings we hear every day from the safety office, commanders, supervisors and even Charlie Daniels on the Armed Forces Network. The problem is that we are grown adults and having the Air Force sound like your mother who constantly nags you can grow tiresome to most.

Why do we nag? We nag because Airmen are doing the enemy's job for them and are killing themselves for no reason. If everybody would take a step back and accept the personal responsibility it takes to operate safely, maybe the Air Force as a whole wouldn't have to sound like mom.

Just before I deployed to Southwest Asia, I sat through the quarterly Air Combat Command fatality brief and listened to commanders and supervisors describe their Airmen and the incidents that took their lives. It was heartbreaking listening as each incident investigation was briefed. Not surprisingly, excessive speed and alcohol were a factor in each accident. In an effort to help stem these tragedies, ACC officials developed the Wingman concept. The Wingman concept is good program to help us protect each other from ourselves, but it should not stop there.

8th Air Force also had a program that used the "It's On You" slogan. When I first heard this slogan, I thought it sounded like a cop out; maybe leadership was washing their hands of this whole safety mess. But after thinking about it, some of it began to make perfect sense. The leadership in 8th Air Force is preaching a doctrine of personal responsibility when it comes to safety -- from leadership all the way down to individual Airmen.

ACC's Wingman concept works when dealing in groups, but of course we aren't always going to be with buddies or a wingman. We at some point are going to have to decide for ourselves what is right. If we do it right, 99 percent of the time we will be safe (I say 99 percent, and it's not a scientific number, because we are in a business where there is considerable risk.) The overall goal is to mitigate the risk as much as possible, since sometimes the mission has to get done.

So where am I going with this? What's the bottom line?

Here it is: Make safety your personal responsibility.

What does that mean? Call "knock it off" when you see a foul. Wear the proper personal protective equipment when either at work or at play. Do not tolerate attitudes that do not place safety first. Establish your own standards and don't be governed by other's expectations or demands. Wear your seat belt and make sure your passengers buckle up for safety as well. Drive defensively to provide a margin of safety and occasionally play out "what if?" scenarios.

In all cases, assess the risk, evaluate the alternatives and choose a best course of action prior to undertaking any task that could result in an injury. Proper risk assessment is paramount. Leaders are responsible for creating safe environments, as individual Airmen we're responsible for the rest. Safety is cultural; create that culture in your shop and at home.

OK, enough nagging, I think you get the picture. I'll sign off with a phrase an old boss of mine used: "Be safe, or die."