Operational Risk Management Reaches Beyond the Flight Deck and the Call of Duty
By SUSAN GUREVITZ, a frequent contributor who lives in Philadelphia
The Navy's attention to safety dates back to 1917, when it assigned safety engineers to naval shipyards to try to stem the accidents there. It kept adding safety elements on ship and shore installations with no major mishaps until it got slammed with a major submarine accident in 1963 when 129 sailors died.
Then the Navy quickly imposed a quality control program for subs. After a spate of fires, collisions and mishaps in 1966 and 1967, it established the Naval Safety Center in 1968 to address hazards and prevent mishaps of all shapes and sizes. The center's mission: Keep 'em Safe.
Today's center is all things to all mishaps and injuries. It's responsible for analyzing mishap and injury reports from the aviation, ship, submarine and shore commands. This information is poured into an extensive database, categorized by the phase of the operation, material failure, personnel action or cause factors.
Then the center can easily retrieve mishap and injury records for any specific incident and monitor trends. It puts out numerous reports based upon this data.
The description of the center's Web site on a Google search says it contains best practices, online reporting, checklists, downloads, instructions, presentations, photos, reports, magazines and pages for safety center services. But it doesn't stop there.
The center is continuously updating and adding operational risk management programs as the need arises.
For example, Commander Allen McCoy, head of operational risk management at the Naval Safety Center, says there's been a concern over the mishaps that occur when the Navy personnel are off-duty, which the safety center has been addressing more emphatically over the past couple of years.
"It's tougher when they're on their own time," he says. "They have to do the right thing when no one else is watching, and that takes integrity."
When you do have a mishap, you're supposed to report it. And young men who are off-duty, like college students, are less likely to do that. McCoy says that 70 percent of all mishaps last year occurred off-duty, while people were mostly riding their motorcycles or driving their cars. "We trying to improve training and education," he says.
On the Web site at the time of this writing, the introductory topic is about a new sport-bike safety course that the Navy and Marines have developed in conjunction with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. "Tragically, the number of sport bike mishaps is increasing at an unacceptable rate," the site says. It encourages novices and experienced riders to sign up for the 16-hour course at their local base safety office.
There's also a link to the Motorcycle Safety Information page, which contains a list of motorcycle-riding safety advice on a range of topics, such as unsafe helmets and preparing for the ride, plus links to yet more motorcycle safety sites and Motorcycle Safety Foundation promotional materials.
McCoy says that unfortunately many of the trainees are of the age--18 to 25 years old--when they succumb to peer pressure but don't think about the consequences. In other words, they don't think of operational risk management when they're off-duty, which the Navy is trying to instill in them.
They may be wearing their helmets and the proper clothing when they leave the base but take it off during their ride, which can be dangerous. Then they will quickly put the equipment back on before they re-enter the base.
October 15, 2008
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