Summer ends safely for Maxwell, Gunter

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Maxwell-Gunter members experienced a fatality-free 101 Critical Days of Summer, and this year's Air Force-wide death toll was reduced in comparison to the two previous years.

Regrettably, 16 Air Force members lost their lives during the summer safety campaign, but the number is an improvement over the 19 who died in 2007 and 17 who perished in 2006. But, none of those fatalities involved the use of alcohol as opposed to six alcohol-related deaths in 2007 and three in 2006.

Education is paramount to helping people avoid mishaps that can result in serious injury or death, said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Haisten, a 42nd Air Base Wing ground safety technician. One indication of education making a difference in awareness and consequences is the lack of alcohol-related accidents, he said.

"Increasing awareness is key to keeping people safe both at work and at home," Sergeant Haisten said. "I think education has helped at Maxwell-Gunter. The more people are aware of the hazards associated with their actions, the better the base's record will be."

Sergeant Haisten said getting the information to base members through commander's calls, newspaper articles, e-mails and the base bulletin helps Airmen gain the needed awareness about safety.

"The leading cause of fatalities in the Air Force is privately owned vehicle accidents. We can't stress that enough, and any way we can get that message to Airmen is welcomed," he said. "Of the 16 fatalities during this year's 101 Critical Days of Summer, half were due to vehicle or motorcycle wrecks."

Sergeant Haisten also said operational risk management plays an important role in avoiding mishaps. He said people actually practice operational risk management on a daily basis, often without realizing they are doing it.

"You normally look both ways before crossing a street, and that is an excellent example of using ORM," he said. "There are six steps to operational risk management that everyone should take before doing something that might put them in jeopardy. Taking those steps will greatly reduce the occurrence of mishaps."