Never Rush a Job
STAFF SGT. ANDREW POIRIER
Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center
Arkansas Army National Guard
Fort Chaffee, Arkansas
Recently, I accepted a position as the post safety specialist. Just before starting, however, I made one of the most common on-the-job mistakes — rushing to complete a task.
At my installation, I am one of two Rough Terrain Cargo Handler (RTCH) operators. For those unfamiliar with the RTCH, it is a large equipment handler used to move 20- and 40-foot ISO containers. I was unloading 20-foot containers and setting them aside to load with company equipment when the noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) told me about a problem at the installation’s front gate. The military police arrested a civilian semi-truck driver who was delivering another ISO container for having drugs in his vehicle. The company that owned the truck said the earliest they could move it would be the following day. Being a motivated Soldier, I told the NCOIC that I could easily remove the container from the truck and take it to the motor pool.
The NCOIC asked if I could fit the RTCH into the front gate parking area. I told him I could and did it with ease. What I failed to consider was the height of the power lines compared to the RTCH’s overall height while carrying the container. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just grab another trustworthy NCO to ground guide me out of this tight situation.” Unfortunately, no matter how good your ground guide is, you cannot make power lines any taller.
As I attempted to maneuver out of the front gate area with the 20-foot ISO container, I contacted the power lines on the side of the road. (Keep in mind that this was the main gate with a line of vehicles waiting to exit post.) There was a bright flash and a loud bang, and the live power line fell to the ground and caught the grass on fire. My ground guide was able to put out the flames, but the MPs still notified the fire department to ensure they were fully extinguished.
My supervisor quickly arrived on the scene because the entire post lost power and he wanted to see if I was responsible. So not only did I create a traffic jam and start a fire, I knocked out power throughout the installation. The facilities manager had to initiate an emergency work order to get the power company on post to repair the line. I spent the rest of my day finding an alternate method to recover the ISO container and writing a report for the damage I caused.
During the immediate investigation and after-action review, I learned my ground guide did not have a clear view of the container. In hindsight, I should have used two ground guides due to the various obstacles in the area. However, the true moral of the story is never rush to complete a job or task. Had I taken the time to use the risk management process, this mishap never would have occurred. When we focus on the end result rather than the steps required to get there safely, we are much more likely to make mistakes. Fortunately, this close call only led to a temporary power outage and some burnt grass, not a Soldier’s injury or death.
Ground guides are a vehicle operator’s eyes when maneuvering equipment in areas of limited visibility. Therefore, ground guiding a vehicle is one task where training and coordination between the two is paramount. For successful operations, follow these simple steps:
- All drivers and other unit personnel will be trained to standard in the correct use of ground guides and ground-guiding operations.
- Always use ground guides when backing and in congested areas.
- When traveling in a field environment during periods of limited visibility, ground guides will be used. Drivers will keep ground guides in view at all times.
- Ground guides will be used in bivouac and assembly areas.
- Two ground guides will be used when vision is restricted. Ground guides should never walk backward and never get between two vehicles.
- During periods of limited visibility or darkness, ground guides will be equipped with suitable lights (and don't forget extra batteries, if applicable).
- Ground guides will use hand signals. Voice signals can be misunderstood or go unheard.
- Ground guides will also keep a proper distance from the vehicle (10 yards), give signals only to the vehicle driver, stay out of the path of travel, stay in the driver’s line of sight, keep to the side and front (or rear) of the vehicle (driver’s side is best), and clear themselves, clear the vehicle and, finally, give the command to move the vehicle.
For additional information on ground-guiding procedures, see Army Techniques Publication 4-11, Army Motor Transport Operations; Training Circular 21-305-20, Manual for the Wheeled Vehicle Driver; Training Circular 21-306, Tracked Combat Vehicle Driver Training; Field Manual 21-60, Visual Signals; and the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center’s website at https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/Government-Motor-Vehicle/Ground-Guiding.