Mission first, safety always

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Keenan Berry
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Every day, humans face the challenge of avoiding mishaps, whether driving, working on the job or even going about daily life at home. Understanding the importance of safety, and implementing measures to make it a reality, are both vital components of a healthy workplace and lifestyle.

One of the organizations on base tasked with helping Whiteman achieve its safety goals is the 442nd Fighter Wing Ground Safety Office. This group of devoted professionals helps maintain personnel well-being in a broad variety of ways, from ensuring workplace safety to providing motorcycle classes.

"We make sure people have a safe work environment through inspections and accident investigations," said Master Sgt. Justin Johnston, 442nd FW ground safety manager. "By promoting proactivity over reactivity, people will learn how to prevent an accident before it occurs."

Ground safety personnel play key roles within their unit, ensuring Whiteman adheres to the guidelines they set forth, said Sidney Guidry, 442nd Fighter Wing weapons safety manager.

"Any 442nd operations personnel dealing with explosives must conduct themselves in a safe manner," he said. "I'm similar to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. I inspect anything dealing with explosives to see if people are operating accordingly to the guidelines. I inspect the explosives daily using a checklist in accordance to Air Force instructions, manuals and headquarter directives."

In addition to inspections, personnel must know the safety regulations when it comes to explosives, especially when they are around other Air Force assets, such as aircraft.

"I identify the quantity of explosives that can be stored in various locations based on calculations and circumstances," said Guidry. "For instance, if 100 pounds of explosives need to be loaded on an A-10 Thunderbolt II, I determine how far they must be from other aircraft because if the A-10 explodes, it will cause significant damage to anything around it."

Safety personnel prefer to inspect facilities side-by-side with the shop personnel who work there, said Johnston.

"I'm not an expert in everyone's job area," Johnston said. "I rely on the shop personnel's knowledge to understand their work environment better. Having them accompany me while I inspect their area helps me find discrepancies I might normally miss. What they catch helps me further my knowledge."

Johnston added it is also good to have a second pair of eyes when inspecting for critical discrepancies.

Safety personnel are exposed to hazards daily while inspecting explosives and aircraft.

"General industrial hazards are associated with human error such as slips, trips and falls," Johnston said. "While inspecting aircraft, we take the risk of slipping resulting from a leaking hydraulic fluid from an A-10 jet's engine. Equipment left lying around presents the risk of tripping and climbing ladders to inspect A-10 jet overheads could cause serious falls."

Hazardous factors aside, Guidry said promoting safety is inspiring and helps him press on to ensure the mission is completed.

"I love my job," he said. "I've been doing this for 15 years and I also did this for half my active-duty career. I then pursued it after I retired. It's a great job and I love doing this!"