Everyone is a Safety Officer
MAJ. BRIAN HARTMAN
Accident Investigations, Reporting and Tracking
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
During a live-fire training exercise, a Stryker crews’ mission was to maneuver a squad of infantrymen along a designated route to a dismount point and return to the assembly area. As the four Strykers were returning, they reached an intersection and made a left-hand turn onto the main range road. The second Stryker in the movement continued south along the range road for 234 feet before it drifted over the right-hand shoulder. The vehicle commander was ejected from the commander’s hatch as the Stryker rolled into a 41-foot-deep eroded ditch that was within feet of the main range road and masked by foliage. The Stryker came to rest upside down on top of the VC.
Months prior to the mishap, the eroded ditch was evaluated as a hazard, but numerous garrison agencies failed to assess the risk level and mitigate the hazard until a permanent solution to fix it could be completed. This failure to properly assess and communicate the hazard resulted in a Soldier’s death and severe damage to a mission-critical Stryker.
Safety is key to accomplishing a commander’s intent. It involves the prevention of materiel loss, but the focus is really on saving lives. Each loss, whether in combat or garrison, has a significant impact on our force. Commanders rely on their Soldiers, leaders and civilians to effectively communicate critical information needed to make effective decisions to mitigate hazards and protect the force.
The agencies involved in the Stryker mishap mentioned above failed to communicate known critical information to appropriate individuals in a timely manner and did not adequately evaluate the risk associated with the eroded ditch. This hindered leaders from making effective decisions to mitigate the ditch as a hazard. All of the agencies were aware of the ditch prior to the mishap but concluded it was someone else’s responsibility. This was a failure in the risk management thought process. They forgot safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Everyone is a safety officer. Everyone has an obligation to look out for themselves and the Soldiers, civilians and families around them to heighten safety awareness, promote safety and employ hazard control measures. Army Regulation 385-10, The Army Safety Program, and U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s safety program regulation clearly define the requirements, but we often fail to act on them, degrading our safety efforts. Everyone must embrace the safety program and be actively involved. The goal of the safety program is to reach all Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians, contractors and their families. Reaching every member of the Army community is paramount in instilling a culture that puts safety first — a culture that protects the force and keeps the Army mission-ready.
Even with the best safety programs in place, we can never become complacent or act as if what we are doing is good enough. The Army continues losing lives through senseless, preventable mishaps. We as an Army need to communicate the actions necessary to verify the agencies involved in the assessment of a hazard, develop the controls necessary to mitigate the associated risks and take action to prevent mishaps. We must understand there are various levels of controls. In the mishap above, simply announcing there was a hazard, informing the units training in the area and marking the location until a more permanent solution to eliminate it was completed would have prevented the loss of a Soldier.
The bottom line is the safety program is about saving the lives of our Army family. We cannot be satisfied with our safety programs or become complacent as long as we are still having mishaps that cause the loss of life. When you practice and teach about safety and speak up when you witness unsafe or risky behaviors, you are saving lives. I cannot think of a higher calling.