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Snapshot on safety

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Sleepless on Ice

After dinner and a short nap on a cold winter evening, Person 1 (P1) left the family home and drove 15 miles to the site of the new home the family was building. P1 worked on the floors of the new house from about 8:30 p.m. until 2:40 a.m. During the hours that P1 worked on the house, a winter storm delivered a mixture of snow and ice to the surrounding area. P1 left the house at about 2:45 a.m. to go home and get some sleep before work. About half way home, P1 crested a hill to see vehicles involved in a traffic accident blocking the road. P1 tried to brake and maneuver to avoid the vehicles. Road conditions were poor and P1 crashed into the back of the tractor trailer blocking the lane. P1's vehicle went under the trailer and hit the axle. P1 was killed immediately. Alcohol was involved and the individual was fatigued.

Lessons Learned
P1 didn't follow good risk management principles on the night of the mishap. P1 often worked on the new home late into the night and ended up with a long-term sleep deficiency. There are many studies about the need for uninterrupted sleep to provide the rest your body needs. While a short nap might make you feel better, it doesn't provide the deep sleep that your body needs to rejuvenate. P1 also had a couple of drinks while working on the house. The alcohol wasn't enough to be over the legal limit, but enough when combined with the sleep deficiency to slow reactions and alter perceptions. With combined slower reactions, altered perceptions and too much speed for a snow/ice mix on the road, there was little chance that P1 could avoid the truck in the road. Get rest and be alert for unexpected things in your path. Fill the new home with your family, not sad memories.

Deadly ATV Night Ride

After a deployment to Kuwait, Person 1 (P1) decided to travel home for the holidays before returning to work. Following a 24-hour flight, P1 spent the next two days visiting family and friends and enjoying outdoor activities. On the second night at home, the family had a bonfire party in P1's honor. All of P1's friends and family were there, and holiday revelries ensued, along with song and drink. Around midnight, P1 got on an ATV and left the party for a night ride. P1 made an abrupt turn. The ATV flipped and P1 was ejected. The ATV landed on P1's head and back, causing unconsciousness, and the weight of the ATV prevented P1 from breathing properly. P1 was found deceased the following morning. Alcohol was involved and the individual was fatigued.

Lessons Learned
P1 failed to follow sound risk management principles in many ways prior to the mishap. P1 was stationed far from home and didn't get to visit often. After a deployment, P1 went home for a visit and tried to make up for lost time with family and friends at the expense of rest. In the three days prior to the mishap, P1 had only 12 hours of sleep and had traveled halfway around the world. On the night of the mishap, P1 drank enough to exceed the legal limit by three and half times. That much alcohol, combined with almost no rest, can result in an inability to control an ATV. P1 wasn't wearing a helmet which meant that P1 was knocked out when the ATV struck the back of the head. Because he was unconscious, P1 was unable to maneuver from beneath the ATV which ultimately resulted in death. You cannot recover time that's already lost. Enjoy yourself when you go home to visit family and friends, but take care not to try to do too much. Remember your family and friends want to see you, not your headstone.

Engines Off

On a snowy winter morning, Person 1 (P1) reported to duty as a volunteer for the snow removal team. P1 had been a volunteer the entire winter and had been called on to aid in snow removal twice before. P1 was tasked with removing snow from the front of hangar doors with a walk-behind snow blower. After an hour, -the snow blower's chute became clogged with snow. To finish and get out of the cold, P1 tried to clear the chute without shutting off the snow blower engine. When P1 reached into the chute, the fingers of the right hand were caught between the turning impeller and the snow blower casing. The end of the index finger was cut off, and the middle finger was severely mangled. There was no indication that alcohol and fatigue were involved.

Lessons Learned
P1 didn't follow sound risk management principles in the moments leading up to this mishap. The snow blower chute had several warning labels telling the operator that the machine had rotating parts and that severe hand injury could occur. It also warned never to clear the chute with the snow blower engine running. P1 failed to heed these warnings, lost part of one finger and severely damaged another. Your hands are wonderful tools, arguably they're the best tools, but they aren't always the proper tools for the job. Don't risk injuries for the sake of time; hurrying through a task always increases the risk that things can go wrong. The snow will come and go, but a lost finger will never come back.

Toe Hunting

Person 1 (P1) and Person 2 (P2) were hunting on a clear winter morning. After several hours of hunting without success, they decided to head for the base. As they got into the truck, P1 decided to unload the rifle. The rifle required the safety to be placed in the Off, or unsafe position, to unlock the bolt. The rifle fired when P1 pulled the bolt back, striking P1 in the right foot. P1 lost mobility in the toe and required several surgeries and months of physical therapy.

Lessons Learned
P1 failed to follow good risk management principles leading up to this mishap. By all accounts, P1 was a safe hunter, with several years of hunting experience and completing the state hunting safety course. But taking a borrowed, unfamiliar gun, on a hunt without becoming acquainted with the full operation, is a mistake. Unloading the gun is something that should have been done long before P1 and P2 were inside the vehicle. It can never be said enough that you should never point a gun in the direction of anything that you don't intend to shoot. Never point a gun at anyone or at yourself. All guns should be considered loaded and ready to fire. If you're going hunting, familiarize yourself with your weapon and follow gun safety rules. Come back with the game, not as the game.