By Dawn Douglas, Garrison Safety Office, Fort Riley, KansasAugust 29, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 29, 2017) - June 6 marked the 333rd day Fort Riley experienced no fatalities involving private motor vehicles. This milestone was realized despite the 55 Class A PMV off-duty accidents the Army experienced with 60 Soldier fatalities during the same period. What is Fort Riley doing differently to reach its set goal of eliminating PMV accident fatalities and preserving the most vital resource of America's Fighting First? While there are many variables, approaching accident prevention from a "Lean" perspective may reveal the answer. Applying a management system philosophy to accident reduction may seem out of left field, but understanding the importance in being Lean in everything we do to reach our fullest potential has resulted in reducing avoidable risks and saving lives.
So what is Lean and how does it work in the realm of safety? In short, it is a process of solving problems to bridge gaps and make production more efficient. Lean is cyclic and the intent is to set goals, test processes, evaluate outcomes, analyze, learn and implement ways to improve. In this process, businesses increase productivity and affect their bottom line.
In safety, risk management is also a cyclic process that looks for areas of continuous improvement: identify hazards, assess hazards, develop controls and make risk decisions, implement controls, and supervise and evaluate. This process aids in developing appropriate training, reporting and interpreting trending data to communicate identified risks and arm Team Riley. With the knowledge on how to eliminate those risks - and make appropriate risk decisions at the critical, deliberate and strategic levels - the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley execute the Army Safety Program.
How have we "Leaned" in on accident prevention? Identifying the parallels in risk management that we can correlate to Lean processes reveals the answer:
Set goals - The strategic plan for the Army implies that Soldiers should embed safety into every operation whether they are on a mission or engaged in personal endeavors. The ultimate goal is to manage risks in life by being safe. Although the Army does not propose a finite set of goals on safety every year, the standards for safe operations outlined in regulations, policy letters and standard operating procedures communicate the intent that Soldiers are to be informed and accountable for risk decisions made on and off the battlefield.
Test processes - Goals provide a view of what we would like to achieve, but ensuring mechanisms are in place to ensure resources are maximized to prevent accidents and injuries requires the investment of the total team. Leaders play their part by ensuring Soldiers are properly trained in safe PMV operations, conducting safety briefings and "oak-tree" counseling, and periodically checking to determine if Soldiers are properly licensed, mentored and making good personal risk decisions. Soldiers engage in making sure their vehicles are inspected and in good working condition, following the guidance provided by leadership and assuming responsibility for their own risk decisions, as well as supporting their battle buddies. Law enforcement confirms the standards are being applied consistently and issue warnings and penalties when indiscipline occurs.
Evaluate outcomes - Unfortunately, the best way to evaluate outcomes is looking not only at areas of success, but also areas where correct processes did not prevent a fatality. This is the case when we look at the last PMV fatality that occurred July 7, 2016. A 20-year-old Soldier died of injuries from a motorcycle crash when his bike left the road and struck a telephone pole. The investigation revealed the Soldier was wearing a helmet, had completed the required motorcycle training a month prior and passed a safety check ride before his leave. It appears the Soldier did all the right things, yet the outcome was not a favorable one.
Analyze - Applying in-depth analysis to determine the root cause of accidents and incidents, to include near misses, allows leaders, Soldiers and law enforcement to look at accidents from a variety of angles to develop more efficient processes. Did the Soldier have enough driving experience? Was the Soldier speeding, complacent or exercising some other indiscipline? Did the Soldier recently return from a deployment? Were there environmental factors such as road conditions, precipitation or low visibility that contributed to the accident? Was the driver distracted or impaired in any way? Drilling down and peeling back the onion to reveal areas of improvement is key in analysis and critical in developing training and policies to help achieve more favorable outcomes.
Learn - Using the analysis to identify best practices, as well as ineffective processes, is instrumental in continuously improving Army training. The Progressive Motorcycle Program is the result of the Army learning from accidents and injuries and applying an educational philosophy designed to consistently keep motorcycle operators' training current and sustain or enrich skills.
The program consists of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic/Experienced RiderCourse, Military Sportbike/Advanced RiderCourse, Motorcycle Refresher Training and sustainment training. The program requires all riders complete the BRC or state-approved curriculum for motorcycle operator safety training prior to operating their bikes. Based on the type of motorcycle owned and operated, Soldiers must complete ERC/BRC-II or MSRC/ARC within 12 months of completing BRC.
The MRT is required for any licensed and endorsed Soldier owning a motorcycle returning from a deployment greater than 180 days. The MRT must be completed prior to the Soldier operating his or her motorcycle on a public or private street or highway, with the exception of riding to or from training. Finally, within five years of completing ERC/BRC-II or the MSRC/ARC -- or five years of inactivity, acquisition of a new or change of motorcycle -- Soldiers are required to complete sustainment training.
Improve - Establishing standards and applying the best training model is not enough to prevent fatal accidents and injuries. The "want-to" factor must be present as well. PMV operators must look to improve their driving skills through defensive driving courses and maintaining keen situational awareness. It's not enough to say, "We made it 333 days without a PMV incident so there must not be anything else we need to do to continue the success." Leaning in on accident prevention means we are constantly searching for new areas of improvement such as better roads, gaining more experience, engaging in training opportunities, updating risk assessments, listening to good ideas and learning from mistakes.
In the eight years we have been tracking Fort Riley's days without a PMV fatality, we have only achieved 333 days and beyond twice. That means we've had to reset the day to zero more than we've had an opportunity to celebrate the milestone. Resetting the day to zero is a sobering reminder that there is more work to be done. Seeing each day advance also teaches us a valuable lesson about "Leaning." We must have a plan in place to sustain growth and achieve improvement.
Safety is everyone's responsibility, and the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley prove daily it is a team effort to achieve 333 days without a PMV fatality. Let's continue to Lean in so we can reach 444, 555 and beyond and ensure no Soldier's life ends as a result of a preventable PMV accident.
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