Air Force holiday safety campaign begins

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- With the holiday and winter season in full-swing, it is important to remember the unique risks associated with seasonal activities and celebrations. Being aware of these risks helps to keep everyone "Safe 'n Sound, All Year Round."

The Air Force Ground Safety holiday and winter campaign will run from Nov. 22 through Jan. 2, 2014.

The topic's for this year's key safety messages include safe driving, weather condition awareness, and sports safety.

Week One, Nov. 22: The Long and Winding Road
Week Two, Nov. 29: Christmas Lights
Week Three, Dec. 6: Super Skier's Last Race
Week Four, Dec. 13: I Just Want to Celebrate
Week Five, Dec. 20: Ice Ice Baby
Week Six, Dec. 27: Cold Weather Blues

The 2012 season and private motor vehicle and sports and recreation remained the categories with the most Class C mishaps.

Staying vigilant throughout the season and an increased effort in trip planning and preparation, are part of the formula for everyone to return after the holidays Safe 'n Sound.

For more information about the 2013 Safe n' Sound campaign and weekly schedule, click here.

The 20th Fighter Wing Ground Safety Office can be reached at (803) 895-1984.

Week One: The Long and Winding Road

It's that time again: the winter and holiday season -- one of the busiest travel times of the year. With the change in weather and the rush of the season, hazards are everywhere. Last year's data show there were four fatalities in off-duty mishaps; one permanent total disability mishap in a government vehicle, on-duty Class A; and four permanent partial disability mishaps, Class B, from Thanksgiving through New Year's. Even more alarming is the number of Class C's: 158 on-duty and 231 off-duty. Whether you're on-duty or off, knowing what's out there can prevent an accident or save a life.

The CAC-enabled TRiPS website for all Air Force members is up and running here. This tool is great for planning your trip as well as providing peace-of-mind for both you and your supervisor: you can learn more about the possible dangers of your trip and someone knows your plans in case of an emergency.

Preparation for travel and the change in weather conditions will mitigate many of the problems you might encounter. All vehicles should be ready for winter weather -- your POV, GOV and sports-related vehicles all need preparation.

Read this winter auto maintenance checklist for information ensure your vehicle is ready for the season.

Fatigue is also a common hazard during this time of year. We're all thinking about spending time with family and friends and how to maximize that time. We want to attend all the parties, dinners and celebrations hosted by the unit, squadron, group and friends. In our rush to do so, are we sacrificing needed rest to get there and back Safe 'n Sound? Are the celebrations causing sleep loss? Have you lost focus on duty because you're tired? These are just a few of the questions to ask yourself to avoid a mishap. Driving tired or operating equipment is as dangerous as performing these tasks drunk.

Week Two: Christmas Lights

Are you ready to decorate for the holidays? No matter what or how you celebrate this time of year, decorations are a family tradition for many. It's easy to get caught up in the festivities, and while you're busy decorating your home or office; safety may be one of the last things on your mind.

To ensure a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season with your friends and family, here are 12 tips to keep in mind:
  1. Keep live trees away from heat sources. Place your tree away from fireplaces and heaters, and keep a fire extinguisher near your tree. Live trees are highly flammable due to needles and sap.
  2. Hydrate your tree. A dried-out tree can catch fire faster than one that has been properly watered. Check the water level every other day to ensure proper hydration.
  3. Fake it! If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it's labeled "fire resistant." Fire-resistant (which does not mean fireproof) trees are less susceptible to catching fire.
  4. Don't burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. Paper can catch fire very quickly and can cause flash fires. Instead, recycle (or better yet, reuse!) your wrapping paper.
  5. Work as a team. When stringing lights and decorations above your normal reach, make sure you use a proper ladder with someone supporting the base.
  6. Double-check your lights for safety. Replace any lights with frayed wires, broken sockets, and loose connections.
  7. Power down before you turn in. Turn off all lights when you go to bed and before leaving the house to avoid a short that could start an electrical fire.
  8. Prevent electrical cord damage. Don't mount lights in a way that might damage the cords, and avoid using nails or tacks. Use hooks or insulated staples instead.
  9. Secure candles. Keep candles on a sturdy base to prevent tipping. Never leave a lit candle unattended.
  10. Use unbreakable ornaments. If you have fragile ornaments, place them out of reach from pets and kids.
  11. Skip the fake food. Avoid decorations that look like candy or food if you have young children in the house.
  12. Beware of poisonous plants. While festive, poinsettias are poisonous when eaten, so keep them out of reach of kids and pets. There may be additional safety requirements differences for your on-duty decorating.
Check with your installation fire department for local information as well as Air Force Instruction 91-203 Consolidated Occupational Safety Instruction, 6.2.13, which lists the following guidance for workplace decorations:
  1. Electric string lights and wiring must be UL or equivalent approved and in good operating condition.
  2. Unplug all electrical decorations when work area is unoccupied.
  3. Decorations shall be noncombustible or fire retardant.
  4. Larger decorations, i.e., Christmas trees or fake fireplaces, if authorized, shall not block exits or paths of egress.
  5. Decorations utilizing an open flame are prohibited.
One of the most common injury-causing hazards during this season is the use - or the improper use - of ladders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 6,000 people are treated in emergency departments every year for holiday decorating-related falls. Almost half of those falls are from ladders, and men are much more likely than women to be injured. Many people sustain injuries from falling off the roof while mounting lights or other decorations, and from falling off furniture they stand on to hang indoor decorations up high. Here are some tips when decorating on or from your roof:
  • Install lights/decorations on a good-weather day, i.e., no wind, ice, snow or rain
  • Check lights/decoration on the ground to make sure they work properly
  • Make sure you have the proper equipment for installation
  • Make sure lights/decorations are UL approved for outdoor use and follow manufacturer's recommendations
  • Make sure lights/decorations do not have exposed wires, frayed edges, loose connections, or broken or cracked sockets
  • Use a good sturdy extension ladder that will extend 3' above the edge of the roof
  • Make sure your ladder is set on stable, even ground so it doesn't fall while in use
  • Use a ladder as much as possible so you don't have to climb up on a roof. Remember that decorative lights are made for temporary use and should be taken down within 90 days to prevent damage caused by weather
  • Never hang lights near (or on) power lines or feeder lines. Feeder lines are the lines that go from the power pole to your house
Below is more information to help your decorating a safety success:


Ladder Safety


Emergency Care for You

Editor's Note: information for this article was used from the official Air Force Holiday and Winter Safety Campaign 2013 guidance.