Commentary by Master Sgt. Chris Dineen
21st Space Wing safety office
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The new year has arrived, and it’s time to begin those “pesky” New Year’s resolutions. Whether it is to lose weight (which is always first until the hamburger chain on the corner creates their new triple, one-pound bacon grease factory), be more money conscious (until the new iSomething comes out), or spend more time with the family (right after the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB seasons are over), we all have a goal we wish to meet for the new year.
If you are tired of all the same old resolutions and want to try something new, here’s a suggestion. What if your New Year’s resolution was to be more “safety-minded” this year?
Immediately, some of you may be saying to yourself, “I’d rather try the weight-loss thing again,” but when we say “safety-minded,” we mean in all aspects of your life. Whether it is on-duty or off-duty, everyone can be more conscious of their own safety behaviors, and may be able to influence those around them to be more safety-conscious. This does not have to be a major, life-altering change, only a few simple “tweaks” in your life to make you more of a “mishap-free” person.
To begin with, if you are a person who makes a conscious decision to never wear a seatbelt, here is your chance for your first change. Every year in the United States, hundreds of people die in vehicle collisions for failing to use their seat belts. The good news on this point is that according to the National Traffic Safety Board, in fiscal year 2010, the use of seat belts rose from 84 to 85 percent. This is only a small increase; however, it shows the majority of the population is realizing the importance of seat belts.
Along with seat belts, if you have children who must use a car seat or booster seat, have it checked out by the child development center. The CDC has a car seat certified person on staff that will take you through a detailed checklist for the proper installation of car seats and booster seats. It is also beneficial to research current Colorado state traffic safety laws for any updates to child car seats or booster seat usage.
Another area where you could make a minor tweak is the use of cell phones while operating a vehicle, whether talking or texting. According to statistics by the NTSB, 3,092 people were killed in motor vehicle mishaps involving cell phones in the United States in 2010, and the number is said to be probably higher than reported. Sad to say, but that’s almost as many people who have died in war since 2003. This is a very disturbing and increasing trend found on the roadways and interstates in the United States. According to the NTSB, if you related distracted driving with a blood alcohol content, it would equal .08 percent, which is legally intoxicated. Bottom line, put the cell phone down, keep your eyes on the road, and worry about playing your turn with “words” when you get to your destination.
Safety consciousness isn’t confined to the roadways and motor vehicles. What about your work centers, offices, parking lots and at home? When you are done for the day at work, do you leave all of your safety practices and concerns when you close the door? Believe it or not, the largest percentage of serious mishaps occur off-duty.
Whether you’re cooking meals, building home projects, riding motorcycles or simply sitting in the sun outside, serious accidents happen in and around homes more often than around major construction areas. A reason for this fact is the military has set standards and guidelines for accomplishing tasks, and with these guidelines are established safety procedures implemented with each task. People know if they break these established safety guidelines, they could be facing serious punishment or be severely injured.
However, when you are building an outdoor deck on your house, there are no stringent Air Force Instructions for safety. The only guideline protecting you is your knowledge of right and wrong, and remembering consequences before taking actions. Things like using the wrong tool for the job, damaged electrical cords, improper or no personal protective equipment, or allowing children to play around the area are some of the common situations some people allow to happen.
Remember, safety is a lifestyle, an important portion of the continuity of life, and failure to include safety in your life possibly means living a shorter, more restricted lifestyle. Ask the individuals who didn’t wear seatbelts and helmets, or decided to drink and drive resulting in their mishap, and are now confined to a wheelchair if they think safety is important. Everyone who gives testimonial after a serious, life-altering event always says, “I wish I could do it over again differently,” but the problem is you can’t. You need to do it right the first time and set the example for co-workers, friends and family to follow.
Don’t let your life’s existence be nothing more than an example for others not to follow or a negative statistic to be briefed at a commander’s call. Make the decision today that you are going to set the positive example for others to follow, and you’re going to be a safety success story.