Commentary: There's no escaping risk -- but you can manage it!
September 9, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (Sept. 9, 2013) -- Risk is inherent in everything. On a mission, on the road, at home, at play and on vacation, there is no escaping risk. Risk properly managed promotes growth and provides opportunities, and, to be honest, risk can also be thrilling.
One of the guiding principles of risk management is to avoid taking unnecessary risks. In other words, everyone should weigh the risk against the benefits to be gained. If the benefits outweigh the risk, they should mitigate the risk as much as possible and accept the residual risk to get the benefit. Riding a motorcycle with an approved motorcycle helmet with a visor and protective clothing is an example of risk management.
Safety accident files are filled with accident investigations where the members involved failed to weigh the risk involved or did not mitigate the risk. The result is pain and suffering. The following actions are often cited as causal or contributory to preventable accidents:
• Mixing alcohol with vehicle operations, heavy machinery, water activities and power tools is a recipe for an accident. Even one drink can make a difference. Alcohol doesn't follow the normal digestive route; instead it is directly absorbed into the blood stream, altering brain chemistry. This causes impairment in judgment, reaction time, balance and vision, which are critical skills when operating vehicles, machinery and performing activities where there is little to no margin for error. Before you take the first sip, make sure you have a plan to get home that does not involve you driving or riding with an intoxicated driver.
• Driving too fast for conditions. This act endangers you and others on the road and increases your chances of being involved in or causing an accident. Slow down during inclement weather conditions or when traffic conditions dictate.
• Distracted driving. Any activity (such as texting, phone calls, reading, operating navigation systems and more) that diverts your attention away from driving increases your chances of having an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, reports if you are using a cellphone while driving, you're three times more likely to crash. If you're texting while driving, you're 23 times more likely to crash.
• Failure to use seat belts. The NHTSA reports that lap/shoulder seat belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. For light-truck occupants, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent and moderate-to-critical injury by 65 percent. Buckling up only takes seconds -- every traveler is worth it.
• Improperly installed or non-use of child safety seat. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of accidental deaths of children worldwide. The NHTSA reports child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (children younger than one year old) and by 54 percent for toddlers (children from 1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars. For infants and toddlers in light trucks, the corresponding reductions are 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively. Parents and guardians should read the manufacturer's instructions before installing their child safety seat and should periodically check the seat to ensure it remains secure and use it each and every time to protect their child from harm.
• Unattended cooking. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in military family housing units. Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. Turning off the stove to leave the kitchen for even a short period of time can save property and lives.
• Swimming in areas without a lifeguard or diving into unknown waters. While it is still summer, swimmers should stay in only approved areas with lifeguards or lifesavers present, swim with a buddy, and always stay within arms' reach of novice or weak swimmers. Above all, swimmers should never dive into unknown waters.
• Failure to wear personal protective equipment, or PPE. Failing to wear the required PPE for an activity is an invitation for an accident to occur. PPE may not look cool, but it can save eyesight, hearing and, in some cases, lives.
• Failure to get properly trained. The safety office has read reports where accident victim had little to no training trying to engaging in high-risk activities. Some sports require training; players should take the time to get trained before engaging.
It's clear to safety professionals that the above actions constitute unnecessary risk. Yet almost daily we all see unrestrained children and passengers riding in vehicles and drivers using cellphones or texting. Deciding which risks are acceptable and which ones are not is a personal decision, but it is easy to learn from others' mistakes.
As everyone wraps up their summer activities and transition to fall, everyone should learn from each other's mistakes and avoid taking any of the above unnecessary risks. It is a simple matter to plan an activity, identify the inherent hazards, mitigate the risks and accept risk only when the benefits outweigh the risk involved.
Everyone is an important member of the USAG Ansbach family and we need everyone to stay healthy. So manage your risk on and off duty to stay safe.