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Summer season requires extra safety vigilance

WASHINGTON -- Safety is an individual responsibility of all Defense Department personnel, especially during summer, when accidents historically increase, a senior Pentagon safety official said here July 20.

Joseph J. Angello, the director of operational readiness and safety for the Defense Department since 1995, said the period from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend has come to be known as "the Critical Days of Summer."

"Think of it as your summer months -- when you were kids, you had your summer vacations," he said. "It's the summer months when you're out, active and you're enjoying yourself."

No factor has affected people across all branches of service, as well as federal employees, more than alcohol, Mr. Angello said.

"Alcohol impairs your judgment. When you're under the influence of alcohol, ... you often make the wrong decisions," he said. "You take risks that you normally wouldn't take. That's why you can't drink and drive, drink and boat, (or) drink and ATV. Alcohol has effects on your judgment. Alcohol is the risk factor we (worry) the most about."

Mr. Angello cited reduced reaction time and impaired judgment and abilities as negative side effects of alcohol. He also said it leads to other negative activities.

"As always, with alcohol, what tends to come next?" he asked. "You go a little too fast. You're taking risks you wouldn't normally take."

He also pointed out what he said is a simple, yet effective, method for vehicle safety -- wearing seat belts.

"'Buckle Up For Safety' was a 1960s campaign," Mr. Angello said. "In today's age, you must wear your seat belt. The life you save may be your own."

Mr. Angello said that tragically, a majority of the accidents people have were within their own control.

"We would judge about 80 percent are preventable," he said. "That's a good portion that you, as the individual, can prevent through your actions and your care."

Safety off the job is an issue throughout the department and among both military and civilian personnel, Mr. Angello said.

"You can operate military equipment very safely on duty. We designed them that way," he said. "But then, all of a sudden, the rules seem to go out of the window when [people] are on their personal time. And they have to realize they're just as much at risk. We lose a number of people, about 70, in the summer months. We shouldn't be losing any."

Motorcycles have been a serious safety issue, Mr. Angello said, but the trend is improving.

"We've instituted motorcycle training programs -- ride with buddies, clubs (and) mentoring," he said. "But I think the majority of it is we focused attention on it. Motorcycles are inherently dangerous, but they're fun. Ride them safely."

Avoiding fatigue, refraining from texting or using cell phones and generally exercising self-discipline are among key components for safe driving, Mr. Angello said.

He encouraged supervisors to impress the importance of off-duty safety on the people who work for them.

"The DOD is a challenging (workplace), and we thank everyone for their service," he said. "It is hard, so make sure you have fun. But have fun safely, ... and plan ahead."

The safety director also encouraged people to do the right thing and apply common sense to their situations.

"We've got some phenomenal people who serve our country -- our federal civilians, and (people) in uniform. It's incumbent on us to preserve them," he said.

"Keep in mind that safety is your business," he added. "Safety is everyone's mission."