FORT RUCKER, Ala. - While serving as a first sergeant years ago, I was frustrated when an accident report submitted to the U.S. Army Safety Center was returned to me for additional information. Unfortunately, because the accident occurred off duty and my Soldier had been rendered unconscious, I couldn't provide any additional information.
What I now realize is even more unfortunate - I didn't understand why the Safety Center was "wasting my time" looking for the information when I had other "more important" issues to deal with in a company of more than 400 Soldiers. As a safety and occupational health specialist currently working at what is now the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, I have a new perspective on accident reporting, a topic that was sadly missing from my educational experiences as a noncommissioned officer.
While I was very well versed in Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy, and AR 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, along with many other regulations and Department of the Army pamphlets relevant to my position, I was ignorant of the fact that the 385 series of publications that cover Army safety even existed. I only submitted the previously mentioned accident report because my organization's civilian safety professional told me to, without educating me on the "hows" and "whys" of accident reporting. Because I didn't know the requirements to report accidents contained in AR 385-10, the Army Safety Program, and DA PAM 385-40, Army Accident Investigations and Reporting, I failed to report several accidents in accordance with those publications.
So what is an Army accident and why should you report it? An Army accident by definition is an unplanned event, or series of events, which results in one or more of the following:
•Occupational illness to Army military or civilian personnel
•Injury to on-duty Army civilian personnel
•Injury to Army military personnel (on or off duty)
•Damage to Army property
•Damage to public or private property and/or injury or illness to non-Army personnel caused by Army operations
The most important part of the previous question is the why. While Soldiers injuring themselves performing maintenance in the motor pool or playing sports or suffering a heat injury during a training exercise may seem like insignificant, isolated events, these individual incidents may be prevalent across the Army. By accurately reporting accidents in a timely manner, you allow us to identify trends and take action to prevent future occurrences. Shared information regarding accidents has lead to improved policies, procedures and equipment that protect the lives and limbs of our Soldiers.
While the actual number of accidents or injuries that really occurred is unknown due to failure to report or delays in reporting, in fiscal 2012 alone, more than 2,000 Soldiers were injured in accidents reported to the USACR/Safety Center. Some of those Soldiers are now permanently disabled, and 161 lost their lives - all to preventable accidents. Those 161 Soldiers are now gone from our formations forever and will never return home to their families and loved ones. There is nothing sadder than seeing a Soldier survive a deployment to a combat zone only to return home and be killed in an accident that could have been prevented.
When we add in the more than 4,000 members of our civilian workforce that were injured on the job and the equipment that was damaged or destroyed in these accidents, the cost to the Army is staggering. Lost lives, decreased mission readiness, millions of dollars worth of medical treatments, worker's compensation benefits and equipment costs vastly reduce our already diminishing resources. These are costs that we cannot and should not be willing to pay.
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The next time an accident occurs in your organization, take the time to investigate the circumstances and report it. Appropriate action can prevent a similar occurrence near and far.
ACCIDENT AND INCIDENT CLASSES
Accident classes are used to determine the appropriate investigative and reporting procedures.
Accident classes are as follows:
Class A accident. An Army accident in which the resulting total cost of property damage is $2 million or more; an Army aircraft is destroyed, missing, or abandoned; or an injury and/or occupational illness results in a fatality or permanent total disability. Note that unmanned aircraft system (UAS) accidents are classified based on the cost to repair or replace the UAS. A destroyed, missing, or abandoned UAS will not constitute a Class A accident unless replacement or repair cost is $2 million or more.
Class B accident. An Army accident in which the resulting total cost of property damage is $500,000 or more but less than $2 million, an injury and/or occupational illness results in permanent partial disability, or when three or more personnel are hospitalized as in-patients as the result of a single occurrence.
Class C accident. An Army accident in which the resulting total cost of property damage is $50,000 or more but less than $500,000, a nonfatal injury or occupational illness that causes one or more days away from work or training beyond the day or shift on which it occurred or disability at any time (that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B and is a day(s) away from work case).
Class D accident. An Army accident in which the resulting total cost of property damage is $2,000 or more but less than $50,000, a nonfatal injury or illness resulting in restricted work, transfer to another job, medical treatment greater than first aid, needle stick injuries, and cuts from sharps that are contaminated from another person's blood or other potentially infectious material, medical removal under medical surveillance requirements of an OSHA standard, occupational hearing loss, or a work-related tuberculosis case.
Class E aviation accident. An Army accident in which the resulting total cost of property damage is less than $2,000.
Class F aviation incident. Recordable incidents are confined to aircraft turbine engine damage because of unavoidable internal or external foreign object damage, where that is the only damage (does not include installed aircraft auxiliary power units). These incidents will be reported using DA Form 2397-AB (Abbreviated Aviation Accident Report); check "F" in the "Accident Classification" block.
For more information on accident investigation and reporting and the Army Safety Program, visit http://www.apd.army.mil/pdffiles/r385_10.pdf to review AR 385-10 or visit https://safety.army.mil/accidentreporting/.