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What are you paying attention to?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott Maskery
  • 6th Mission Support Group deputy commander
Recently, General Paul Selva, Air Mobility Command commander, sent each one of us an e-mail titled "Responding to Tragedy." In that e-mail, the boss talked about aerial and ground accidents resulting in human and materiel tragedies associated with complex to routine tasks. He also wrote about making sense of the loss, how we deal with it and driving on with our mission.

In a recent Air Force Incident Management course I attended, the mobile training team who came to MacDill Air Force Base had us watch a training video from a well-respected and experienced expert in public safety operations, Gordon Graham. In the video, Graham shared his "Risk - Frequency" chart.

In Graham's briefing, he talked about how low-frequency events aren't the main problem. Low-frequency, low-risk events aren't particularly worrisome either - even if they go wrong, the consequences are minimal. However, high-risk, low-frequency events are worrisome in every occupation.

"When things are very risky and are done very rarely, the employee does not have the memory markers to deal with these activities," Graham said. "This is a universal concept. Every time you give your people a new piece of equipment: a new toy, a new tool, a new vehicle, etc. for a while they're playing in the top [left] box - high-risk, low-frequency."

Take a look at the chart. Can you point out in your on-duty and off-duty time which activities fall in which block? Do you have the training and experience to reduce and mitigate the pitfalls that accompany hazardous and routine steps in your job that create risk and increase your chance for safety and success? If you don't have the training and experience--you need to speak up to your supervisor and ask for the help to get you trained and experienced so you can safely do your job.

This chart really brings to life many examples of the work and risks we do and take on every day as Airmen from the simple and routine of driving to work on busy roads to the more complex tasks each of us perform on an hourly basis within our Air Force Specialty Codes: active duty, reserve and guard, Department of the Air Force civilians, and contractors.

As a personal example, my 15-year-old daughter just got her driving learner's permit. I know not to put her on Dale Mabry and say "drive out to I-4, let's see how you do." As her parents (supervisors), it's my wife's and my responsibility to train her up from her "3- to 5- to 7-levels" on all the aspects of driving before I put her and others at risk. If I don't provide her the training and build up her hours of driving experience and her confidence to drive a car, then driving for her will certainly remain in that "high risk - low frequency" block.

As supervisors it's our responsibility to engage our Airmen before they engage their weapon system--whatever that weapon system may be. And new, inexperienced Airmen have the onus to ask for help so the seemingly routine, low risk and low frequency tasks don't become a problem or tragedy.

As we step into our "101 Critical Days," I challenge each of you to take a look at the "Risk - Frequency" chart and pay attention to where your on- and off-duty responsibilities and activities fall, and use hindsight, foresight, and insight to make smart decisions and take the right actions to create successful outcomes. As the saying goes, safety is no accident.