NAVY: Risk Management Key to Mitigating Mishaps in 2011

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January 6, 2011

NORFOLK (NNS) — Following the holiday season, Sailors and Marines across the fleet are returning from leave and getting back to the regular routine at their duty stations in January 2011.

Whenever large numbers of people are returning from extended time away from the job, there’s a potential for mishaps to occur due to complacency or skills that have become rusty.

January is also a time when many Sailors and Marines enjoy winter sporting activities such as skiing and snowboarding. There’s a greater likelihood for inclement weather, deteriorated driving conditions and slips, trips and falls.

All these factors combine to make this a good time to remember the basics of risk management, said Derek Nelson, head of the Media Division at the Naval Safety Center (NAVSAFECEN). Nelson writes the popular weekly “Summary of Mishaps,” which is better known as the “Friday Funnies.” In this capacity, he pores through the mishap reports received by NAVSAFECEN, and he has noticed some trends.

“Snowboarding mishaps have really been on the rise in the last few years,” said Nelson. “People seem to have a hard time recognizing their limitations.”

Nelson said a lack of training contributes to many snowboarding mishaps. Others attempt to outdo their experience level, including a second class petty officer who had been on five separate snowboarding trips before he hit the slopes with some shipmates who had far more training than he had.

“He wasn’t completely inexperienced, but he went with people who knew a lot more, and he wanted to keep up with them. He ended up with a concussion and a lot of days on limited duty,” Nelson said.

Other mishap reports he has examined show a general complacency trend. He said one of the major problems is people who are in a hurry and cut corners.

“Whether you’re driving or performing a task around the house or on the job, being in a hurry to get things done is a needless risk that too often ends in a trip to the emergency room,” said Nelson. “Usually, the person doesn’t take time to make a risk assessment beforehand, and therefore, there’s no risk management that takes place.”

Nelson cited one particularly memorable example; a Sailor was using a gas-powered snow blower to clear his driveway after a winter storm. The blower became clogged, and rather than turning it off to clear it, the Sailor just reached his hand inside the still spinning blades.

“It chopped off one of his fingers,” Nelson said.

He also said he hoped Sailors and Marines would take time to reflect on risk management. It doesn’t have to be a formal military training session to be effective.

“When people simply talk about their experiences, it can be very helpful. Everyone’s got a story and sharing that story could help others. Talk about what could have been done to avoid the mishap or near miss,” he said.

Those who need resources to start a risk management discussion can find them on the NAVSAFECEN website. Nelson recommends a product called “Deckplate Dialogue,” which provides information and discussion ideas about numerous safety-related topics. This tool is available for download at

PHOTO: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rosa A. Arzola/Released


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