Critical Days of Summer ends with higher percentage of reported mishaps, 'near misses' reported

This graphic illustrates 21st SW Critical Days of Summer mishap categories. (Graphic courtesy of the 21st SW Safety Office)

This graphic illustrates 21st SW Critical Days of Summer mishap categories. (Graphic courtesy of the 21st SW Safety Office)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo -- The 2009 Critical Days of Summer came to a close Sept. 7. How did the 21st Space Wing do? What were the statistics? The "stats" are endless and can be delivered in countless formats: off-duty versus on-duty, lost workdays, mishap rate percentages, category breakouts, and etc. 

Judging from the statistics, the 21st SW can do better.

This summer, the 21st SW experienced 11 reportable mishaps equating to a slight increase in more significant mishaps involving lost duty time or property damage compared to the summer of 2008. The wing also experienced a 25 percent increase in "near misses" - non-reportable mishaps that could have easily resulted in much greater injury or damage levels than were actually sustained. Taken together, the wing suffered 46 total mishaps this summer compared to 35 in 2008.

"Suffered" is an appropriate, if not strong enough description of these mishaps, in light of the fact that one wing member experienced permanent partial disability that cost him his left leg in a motorcycle accident; another incident cost the wing $22,700 as the result of a destroyed government vehicle; and a total of 99 lost work days affected the wing' s ability to carry out the mission.

The preceding paragraph certainly paints the picture, but what cannot be seen are the individual brush strokes or causal factors that created the mishap mural. A closer look reveals that most mishaps were not the result of complex human factors or simple bad luck; most were preventable mishaps that resulted from a lack of risk management, failure to adhere to instructions, breakdowns in checklist discipline, wingman failures, etc.

With the closing of the 2009 Critical Days of Summer, the seasonal challenges to safety are different, but safety principles and tools used do not change. Whether boating in the summer or raking leaves in the fall, proper application of risk management principles is a primary safeguard against mishaps. The 21st SW can and will do better simply by Assessing the environment for risk, Considering options to limit risk, and Taking appropriate action.