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Inspections, education, investigations are methods to maximize safety

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Safety office’s management of robust programs ensures mishap prevention throughout the year.

The mission of the 88th Air Base Wing Safety Office is to protect people from injury and loss of resources through the management of mishap prevention, education and training, inspections and investigations.

“We are in the place where we can make a difference for people,” said Bill Neitzke, 88th ABW Safety director. “We can affect Air Force policies and change how people operate day to day [to ensure safety] … we sort out how that happens and where to put the focus.”

The office’s area of responsibility encompasses all of the units across the installation and within a six-state region for interim safety board duties.

Annual, as-needed and on-the-spot inspections are done throughout the installation all year long. Facility inspections consist of checking for “general housekeeping” type trends, such as placement of extension cords and microwaves, safety of floors, ceilings and industrial equipment.

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“A trend we see a lot of is the plugging of unauthorized items into surge protectors and overloading them,” said Chief Master Sgt. Faith Fix, 88th ABW Safety superintendent. “Other common trends include tripping hazards with carpet, tile and rugs and exit signs and emergency exit sign lights burned out.”

Also, monthly supervisor safety training and quarterly unit safety representative classes are conducted.

One of the office’s biggest events is Motorcycle Safety Day, which is a base-wide event every May. Training for motorcycle safety is provided face-to-face when needed.

Safety plays a critical part in the planning of base events, such as fun runs, annual pumpkin chucks and the recent Cajun Fest. Organizations hosting such events are required to complete a risk assessment worksheet to ensure compliance with safety standards.

“The risk assessment allows unit leaders and our office know everything is taken care of safety-wise,” said Kelley Hill, 88th ABW Occupational Safety manager. “We make sure people are wearing life jackets, operators are wearing gloves and eye protection … they have coordinated with the fire department, hospital for emergency management teams, and Security Forces to control traffic.”

Aside from managing safety programs, most of Neitzke’s staff are qualified investigators. Investigations are performed to determine causes for prevention in relation to the Air Force mission.

Recently, an incident at the Dayton International Airport involving a ground safety mishap with a Thunderbird F-16 fighter jet employed some of Neitzke’s interim safety board members to assess the accident. The members were dispatched to the scene to preserve evidence, such as photographs, statements from air and maintenance crew members, and retrieving aircraft flight data recorders.

Once all the evidence was secured, it was turned over to the higher-level safety investigation team.

“Incidents like this are high-visibility, Class A and B investigations,” Neitzke said. “Our investigators, based on experience and qualifications, can be assigned to support investigations at other locations and bases within the Air Force Materiel Command.”

Another high-level investigation they participated in was damage to a one-of-a-kind test facility at Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee.

After mishaps and incidents, safety recommendations are consolidated in an automated system managed by the Air Force Safety Center and are available Air Force-wide through Safety channels.

“Sometimes our recommendations change policies and procedures Air Force and/or DOD-wide,” Neitzke said. “But it can be a slow process. Take for instance, seatbelt use over the last 50 years … it [mandatory use] took 50 years and it was a slow process, but there are times we can affect change fairly rapidly when it’s just not right. More importantly, supervisors can make a difference because they are the first line of opportunity to break that mishap change.”

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The Wing Safety Office is comprised of four functions: flight safety, weapons safety, Voluntary Protection Program and occupational safety (formerly known as ground safety).

Flight safety is concerned with the airfield, hazards around it, the way air traffic control operates and how the aircraft operates.

Weapons safety deals with explosives, how they are handled, used and stored.

The Voluntary Protection Program interfaces with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance program. The program involves grading Wright-Patterson against other like industries based on the ability to do prevention mishaps and safety education. The better the grade, the less OSHA-level restrictions placed on the base and allows for the management of incidents in-house.

Occupational safety involves slips, trips and falls at work, hazards associated with the roof, fall protection and vehicle safety.

For more information, contact the 88 ABW Safety Office at 937-904-0888.

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