My first experience with a dismounting accident happened many years ago at Fort Polk, La. I had just completed the first six months of the U.S. Army Safety and Occupational Health Management Program and returned to my home station to begin my on-the-job training portion of the intern program. One day, I was alone in the safety office when I got the call that a Soldier had an accident while dismounting a 5-ton truck. I reached for my notebook and the office camera and headed to the motor pool to investigate my first accident.

When I arrived to the scene, witnesses told me the Soldier had been replacing the canvas on the truck and, as he dismounted, his ring finger got caught on something and was torn off. I walked into the parking lot and found the 5-ton. As I started my investigation, I saw something red on the top of a bolt that held the side-view mirror onto the truck. As I got a closer look, I realized the red object was part of the Soldier's finger! I looked on the top of the canvas and saw skin that had once covered the Soldier's now-severed finger.

The Solder had placed his hand on top of the mirror when he jumped down from the 5-ton's hood. As he did, his wedding ring snagged on the mirror bolt, pulling off the skin and launching it on top of the canvas. The Soldier went to the hospital without his finger and, since it sat baking in the hot Louisiana sun, surgeons would not have been able to reattach it. I will always remember this accident. I imagine the Soldier does, too, each time he looks down at his missing finger.

In the Army, there's large equipment that must be mounted and dismounted to accomplish many different tasks. Soldiers must always be aware of fall hazards, especially when climbing onto or off equipment during maintenance or while securing equipment during transport. When dismounting, Soldiers must be careful where they put their hands and feet. In addition to degloved or amputated fingers, Soldiers can also suffer twisted or broken ankles, along with injuries to their legs, knees, wrists, arms and upper body.

So what can you -- as a leader, battle buddy or Soldier -- do to prevent these types of injuries?

Here are a few tips:

• Use extreme caution when mounting or dismounting a vehicle. Never dismount a vehicle by jumping from it.
• Ensure you understand and use the three points of contact method when mounting, dismounting or moving around on the vehicle. This means having two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand on the equipment at all times.
• Break three points of contact only when you reach the ground, cab, turret or a stable platform.
• Use the parts designed by the manufacturer for mounting and dismounting -- steps, running boards, traction strips, footholds, handgrips, etc., -- and keep these parts clear of mud, snow, grease and other hazards that can cause slips, trips or falls. Do not use wheel hubs, machine tracks or door handles for mounting and dismounting.
• Ensure the driver or gunner is aware when personnel are mounting or dismounting vehicle.
• Never mount or dismount a moving vehicle. Drivers must bring the vehicle to a complete stop before allowing anyone to mount or dismount.
• Never climb in front of a weapon to mount the vehicle.
• Wear protective gloves.

w/ info box below

Did You Know?

The Army had 13 Class B accidents between fiscal 2008 -- 2011 caused by improper mounting and dismounting procedures. All 13 accidents resulted in the amputation of fingers or the tips of fingers. Of those, nine involved Soldiers wearing wedding rings that got caught on equipment. Remove your rings or you may have nothing to wear a ring on.

To learn more about the hazards your equipment may present, go to the Driver's Training Toolbox at (AKO login required).

Page last updated Mon July 30th, 2012 at 11:12