Fort McCoy News March 11, 2016

Risk management essential to preventing accidents

BY DAVID SAN MIGUEL
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center

It was 2 a.m., and the Soldiers were fast asleep. Exhausted by the operations tempo of the field-training exercise, they had hastily set up their cots in unmarked positions near the perimeter of the battalion main command post, ready to tear down and move out the next day.

Sgt. Rider arrived to the compound late, about 4 a.m., in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. It had been a long day, and he was anxious to park the vehicle so he could sleep a few hours. Approaching the perimeter, he dispatched his assistant to ground guide him through the assembly area.

His ground guide was a young specialist who had joined the unit just in time to participate in the exercise. Still green behind the ears, he knew very little about standing operating procedures (SOPs) in tactical environments, much less about ground guiding in the dark. The specialist's inexperience was evident when only a few minutes later he mistakenly signaled Rider to back the MRAP into the sleeping area, crushing one of the Soldiers.

Photo: Safety Specialist Tim Cumberworth with the Fort McCoy Installation Safety Office leads a supervisor safety class Feb. 24 in building 2187. The training helps supervisors in the Fort McCoy workforce in understand how safety is important in daily operations for all employees.
Safety Specialist Tim Cumberworth with the Fort McCoy Installation Safety Office leads a supervisor safety class Feb. 24 in building 2187. The training helps supervisors in the Fort McCoy workforce in understand how safety is important in daily operations for all employees. Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

According to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Izabela Gibson, course manager and instructor, Ground Safety Officer Course, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, this fatality was due to several missteps.

"Accidents like this are tragic and can be prevented if the right supervision takes place," Gibson said. "Each of the Soldiers should have been adequately trained in proper ground guide and tactical operations procedures. Unit SOPs and Army Regulation 385-10, The Army Safety Program, are there for a reason. Leaders must conform to those standards and conduct a unit risk assessment even before they leave garrison."

Gibson explained that the five-step risk-management process is easily integrated into the military decision-making process.

"An accurate risk assessment would have identified the hazards of driver fatigue, vehicle movement through sleeping areas, and the need to establish and adequately mark designated sleeping areas with chemlights or engineer tape," she said. "Once those hazards were identified, the unit should have implemented control measures to minimize the risk. The standard for risk management is leadership, and leaders must make informed decisions to control hazards or accept risks."

The Ground Risk Assessment Tool (GRAT), an interactive, automated online system that empowers leaders and Soldiers to reduce accidental loss and injury, can help with those decisions.

GRAT references Army Techniques Publication 5-19, Risk Management, which provides step-by-step instruction on accident and injury avoidance under various scenarios, including field training environments.

"According to unit SOP and Army regulation, leaders are required to document deliberate risk management on (Department of Defense) Form 2977, Deliberate Risk Management Worksheet," Gibson said. "More than just a worksheet, this form requires leaders to take into account all mitigating factors or conditions that could result in accident, injury or fatality."

However, she said, identifying those factors is only part of the equation.

"Leaders must then accept and implement the necessary safety control measures to mitigate risks," she added. "They sign and become responsible for implementing those safety control measures."

Gibson encouraged leaders and Soldiers at all levels to leverage GRAT to ensure Soldier safety.

"Safety is a combat multiplier," she said. "We owe it to ourselves to do what we can to preserve our nation's most precious resource, the American Soldier."

At Fort McCoy, Safety Specialist Don Vender with the Installation Safety Office (ISO) has been working with installation organizations to mitigate safety risks as the height of the 2016 training season approaches. He said it's important to implement strong risk management measures.

"Whether you are a Soldier training at Fort McCoy, a civilian employee working on post, or a Family member living within the installation community, the mission of the (ISO) has been to promote readiness of the force and quality of life for all people through the prevention of accidental injuries and property damage," Vender said. "Managing risk is key to successful mission accomplishment. Getting folks involved in recognizing hazards that could cause injury or property damage is the first step in managing risk.

"We have been able to achieve this critical first step through safety-awareness campaigns, promoting safety training, and by conducting safety inspections and assistance visits to organizations," Vender said. "The rest of the steps in the risk-management process, built around mitigating the identified risks, have been successfully accomplished by getting leaders and supervisors engaged in managing the process. Our involvement with leaders and management has been to help them create a safe environment, free of hazards if possible, or properly mitigate hazards that cannot be eliminated."

For more information on GRAT, visit https://safety.army.mil. For more information about safety and risk management at Fort McCoy, call the Installation Safety Office at 608-388-3403.