By Mr. Johnathon Orrell (SDDC)June 8, 2018
Prior to beginning their offloading operations, Soldiers from the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's (SDDC) 832nd Transportation Battalion and other participants in the Joint Readiness Exercise at the Port of Port Arthur, Texas participated in port safety training and received a detailed safety briefing focusing on marine cargo activities.
This training was no formality; safety is integrated throughout all phases of mission planning and included critical information for the participants about how to protect themselves from accidents, incidents or even death while conducting their mission at the port.
John Wood, the safety and occupational health specialist from SDDC's 841st Transportation Battalion out of Charleston, S.C., is the lead safety subject matter expert for the exercise and said that safety should never be an afterthought or a checkmark in a box. It needs to be ever-present.
"When it comes to port operations, there are so many moving pieces that it is essential you have safety personnel on the ground, monitoring everything that is transpiring," he said.
"We ensure everybody understands the safety aspects of the operation and we make sure that everybody is doing the right thing. If you don't do the right thing, we have accidents," Wood added.
Wood explained that the environment associated with marine terminal operations can exponentially increase the impact of safety mishaps, and that is why it is so important to ensure safety procedures are being followed.
According to Dan Maham, the director of safety for SDDC, "Mishap prevention is serious business at marine terminals where heavy equipment is used to load and unload ships and move freight from place to place on the terminal."
"The work is fast-paced, and is often performed in inclement weather. Accident prevention is important to protect workers, military hardware and to ensure supplies are delivered to the warfighter on time, every time," he added.
And to make that happen it is the responsibility of safety professionals like Wood to ensure that risks are managed and everybody knows what they should be doing and when they should be doing it.
"Safety professionals working port operations must effectively communicate safe work practices while supporting the commander's objectives," said Maham, adding "Fostering communication and teamwork are a key role for the safety professional."
At the Port of Port Arthur, that responsibility falls to Wood and Greg Ferst, the 597th Transportation Brigade safety manager.
Wood said they have successfully communicated what the Soldiers on the ground need to do to operate safely, but that the job doesn't end there.
"We are monitoring for heat injuries, making sure that contractors are meeting the standards set forth by Army policy, making sure that flagmen and ground guides are doing their job around the heavy equipment, and making sure everyone is wearing their personal protective equipment -- hardhats, hearing protection, steel-toed boots and reflective vests -- at all times," he said.
Maham added that safety needs to be fully integrated into every mission, with detailed planning and execution, to ensure success.
"Safety is incorporated into port operations - early and often - during mission planning, during operations and during post operations briefings," he said.
"Every Solider, civilian and contractor is read-in on the importance of doing the job right the first time and not taking shortcuts. The investment in safety can make the difference between mission success or mission failure," Maham added.
Wood noted that after all of the planning, briefing and executing of a successful safety plan is accomplished, there is one measurement that can make the day a success.
"A successful day is when everybody that goes to work that day comes back at the end of the day with no injuries and no mishaps," he said.