Ground: Putting the “S” in safety

by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Tech. Sgt. David Almy talks with civil engineer Airmen about the importance of maintaining a safe working environment by following the rules and procedures outlined in safety instructions at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, June 18, 2013. Almy is a 379th AEW ground safety technician deployed from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)
Tech. Sgt. David Almy talks with civil engineer Airmen about the importance of maintaining a safe working environment by following the rules and procedures outlined in safety instructions at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, June 18, 2013. Almy is a 379th AEW ground safety technician deployed from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

6/20/2013 – SOUTHWEST ASIA — “Mission first, safety always,” said Master Sgt. Michael Asdel as he explained the meaning of the phrase coined by wing safety professionals Air Force-wide.

“In the same way, I am an Airman first and a safety professional always,” he said. “Safety is everyone’s responsibility — we’re just here to make sure everyone is following the safety guidelines as trusted counselors to wing and installation leaders.”

Asdel is a 379th Air Expeditionary Wing safety technician deployed here from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., who works hand-in-hand with the installation’s weapons safety section. Contrary to the other two sections in safety, weapons and flight, ground is an actual Air Force specialty. This fact sets them apart from the other two safety sections.

“Going to safety school really opens your eyes to a new world and way of looking at things,” he said. “It’s a whole new experience. As an Airman we have to be safety conscious, but as safety technicians, we are here to ensure supervisors are doing what they need to do to be safety conscious themselves.”

Ground safety personnel responsibilities include the training of managers, supervisors and employees to identify, evaluate and control workplace hazards and ensure mishaps are investigated and reported. The ground safety program includes operational, occupational, off-duty and traffic safety concerns. These concepts are taught to each unit safety representative, who are the eyes and ears of the wing’s safety office and essential to safe completion of the wing’s mission.

“No one knows their work centers better than the individuals who work in them,” Asdel said. “Our office is here to help and provide the knowledge and guidance necessary so everyone goes home safe.”

Asdel said he’s been very happy with how concerned units are here with safety.

“Since I put boots on the ground in April, I’ve seen no signs of complacency or deviation on safety matters,” he said. “I’m particularly proud of the civil engineers and maintainers with their ‘lock-out, tag-out’ program in place to control hazardous materials around the installation.”

Ground safety conducts annual inspections of all units on base, while their ground unit safety representatives carry out monthly spot inspections, disseminate safety educational materials and verify unit safety briefings are being conducted.

“These USR’s are an instrumental component to the success of the safety program,” said Asdel. “We couldn’t do what we do without their assistance. With no annual or monthly inspections — safety could be put on the backburner and service members could get hurt. So you can see why what we do here is very important.”

Ground safety also maintains strong partnerships with other agencies across the base.

“Our primary partners include bioenvironmental engineering, the fire department and public health,” said Tech. Sgt. Joel Barnett, a 379th AEW ground safety technician deployed from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. “These agencies help us to mitigate and abate hazards.”

As with most functions in the military, the mission isn’t a success without the combined efforts of multiple agencies. Jets require maintainers to keep them serviceable, but can’t fly without pilots. Service members can’t perform at their best without water, food and lodging. Without safety, the risk for injury and possibly death could skyrocket.

“It’s a team effort,” added Asdel. “It takes every Airman, all the way from airman basic to the wing commander to keep ourselves and our wingmen safe. Mishaps are going to happen, we know this, but it’s our job to educate and prevent them as best we can.”

[Editor’s note: This story is part two of a three-part series highlighting the three sections of wing safety.]

Published by Benjamin W. Stratton

I'm a photojournalist traveling the world sharing what I experience along the way.

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