Working to change culture of safety

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Spring is just around the corner, and last year that meant increased sports and recreational mishaps off duty for Malmstrom Air Force Base personnel, according to the 341st Missile Wing ground safety office.

The 341st MW safety offices work to prevent mishaps by educating and training Airmen to instill safety in and out of the workplace.

"For all three disciplines, flight, ground and weapons safety, there is one over-arching priority - reducing the opportunities for mishaps by increasing focus on risk management and continuing to work on institutionalizing a culture of safety," said Lt. Col. Darryl Terrell, 341st MW chief of safety.

Capt. Jonathan Sundman, 341st MW chief of flight safety, provides oversight for the 40th Helicopter Squadron and support to the chief of safety. Flight safety primarily deals with are ecological factors that affect the airfield environment.

"I make sure we are fulfilling annual and reoccurring requirements when it comes to safety briefings, inspections and other programs that keep our flying program and aircrews safe," Sundman said. "We also conduct the bird hazard working group meetings and in those, we go over BASH [Bird Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard] measures."

Flight safety members here, and at most bases, work closely with civil engineering and a base biologist.

Sundman and Jason Gibbons, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron biologist, work to prevent environmental interferences that have the potential to have a negative impact on the base.

"The majority of bird strikes occur at 3,000 feet and under, and that's where we do all of our flying," Sundman said. "The UH-1N helicopters can potentially hit a deer because many of our landings are at night. From scare ammunition, to pesticides, to tranquilizing, I tag team with Jason to find the simplest solution possible without hurting the animals. Our goal is to mitigate risk to the personnel."

Similar to ground and weapons safety, other priorities for flight safety are to conduct mishap responses.

"In the event of an aircraft mishap, we have a primary responsibility to investigate - or at least to start the mishap response investigation process," Sundman said. "We provide an initial response halfway between here and Spokane, Wash.; halfway between here and Hill AFB; and halfway between here and Minot AFB."

Sundman continues to implement necessary solutions to instill safety around the airfields of Malmstrom and to ensure mission success.

Roger Cox, 341st MW ground safety manager, sets the standard for safety at Malmstrom. He recently received the Ground Safety Award of Distinction from Air Force Global Strike Command.

Malmstrom's ground safety office provides training, courses and inspections of vehicle, motorcycle and traffic safety.

The training ground safety offers is the most widespread of all the three disciplines.
"Our job is to help everyone go home at the end of the day alive with both eyes and all their fingers and toes," Cox said. "We do this by having publicity campaigns such as Critical Days of Summer, fall safety, winter safety, school safety, driving safety, trip planning, sports safety, off-duty high risk safety, skiing and snowboarding safety - you name it."

But ground safety isn't just here to provide training, they also provide random and scheduled inspections.

"We go into every workspace once a year, which is mandated by federal law under OSHA, [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], Department of Defense and Air Force requirements, and we do a comprehensive building facility equipment inspection as well as look at the procedures that are in use," Cox said.

Peter Woelkers, 341st MW weapons safety manager, and his staff of four are responsible for managing nuclear surety, missile safety and explosives safety. They, like ground and flight safety, also perform mishap investigations, and conduct scheduled and spot inspections covering their responsible areas.

"We are the functional experts on regulations related to weapons safety so we provide expertise and advice for commanders all the way down to the most junior enlisted Airmen," Woelkers said.

In support of the nuclear mission at Malmstrom, the weapons safety office works with almost every organization in the wing.

"The security involved with weapon assets is critical," Woelkers said. "From security forces to maintainers, anyone related to nuclear surety and the personal reliability program takes annual and monthly training. My role is to oversee that."

Malmstrom's flight, ground and weapons safety offices have proven themselves to be the very best having recently won, for the first time, the AFGSC Human Factors Safety Excellence Award. According to Terrell, the award honors the unit with the most effective human factors safety program.

All three offices continue to emphasize the necessity of safety during and after the duty day by offering a wealth of knowledge, insight and training.

"Our mission at safety is to help commanders and supervisors ensure mission success so they can safely accomplish their jobs," Cox said. "We have limited resources in the Air Force so people are our most important asset. We don't want anyone getting injured; we want personnel to work safely by using risk management."