SEPTEMBER 3, 2021 – Days are beginning to get a little shorter and weather a little cooler as Labor Day weekend synonymously marks the end of summer. With that in mind, many will squeeze in that final summer road trip or stay home to finish that overdue summer project.
Emphasis on managing risk is key, not only for a holiday weekend that historically experiences increased mishaps, but also in transition to the autumn season.
“I urge every Airman and Guardian to do their part to help mitigate risks by preparing beforehand for any activities you decide to participate in this holiday weekend,” said Bill Walkowiak, Department of the Air Force chief of occupational safety. “This summer alone, the department lost 10 people to on- and off-road motor vehicle accidents.”
“This is why it is so important to spread the safety message,” Walkowiak said. “Remaining aware of all hazards and using proper safety precautions will help keep you and your families safe.”
Traveling to visit loved ones can be a joyful time, however, remember hazards change with the seasons. Misty mornings can make it hard to see, leaves make roads slick and hide potholes. Cooler mornings could form frost on windows and windshields requiring extra time in the morning to defrost vehicles. Frost can cause slick surfaces not only for vehicles but also for walking. Motorcyclists should be extra vigilant in this type of weather.
Get your vehicle serviced before hitting the open road, windshield wipers are key to being able to see, check all fluids and ensure tires are in good condition. Scan the weather and make a plan before you leave home, stock your vehicle with a safety kit, extra water and food in case of getting stranded or caught in a storm. Follow all traffic laws and signs to get to your destination safely.
Alcohol continues to be a factor in motor vehicle mishaps. The National Safety Council estimates that 466 people may die on U.S. roadways over the Labor Day weekend due to impaired driving which is 19% higher than last year’s estimate of 390. Airmen and Guardians can contribute by not becoming a statistic; make a plan, don’t drink and drive, have a designated driver, and consider all risks to prevent serious injury or death while operating a vehicle.
Additionally in 2019, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data showed 10,142 people killed in motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers. This year, NHTSA is working with the law enforcement community to decrease impaired driving with their “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” Labor Day High-Visibility Enforcement Campaign aimed at preventing impaired driving and improving safety for all on the road. According to NHTSA, “Drivers can expect to see increased messaging and law enforcement presence on the road from August 18 through September 6, 2021, as part of this traffic safety initiative to improve road safety and keep impaired drivers off the roadways.”
If you plan to fire up the grill with a barbeque, remember the risks. The National Fire Protection Association states that “an average of 19,000 patients per year end up in the hospital because of grill-based injuries and gas and charcoal grills combined cause around 4,200 house fires and 5,600 external fires per year.”
Keep in mind safety basics when grilling. Only use propane and charcoal grills outdoors with plenty of space, keep children and pets at a safe distance, never leave a grill unattended and have a plan in place to put out accidental fires.
In 2019, the NSC data showed over 93,000 home fatalities from a variety of causes, however, the leading cause was falls. When using a ladder remember the three points of contact by keeping two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand, on the ladder when climbing. If possible, have a friend or family member nearby to help supervise.
Yard work has its own hazards, be sure to use proper protective equipment for the task; safety glasses and gloves help protect you from flying debris or sharp objects. The weather may be cooler, but dehydration, heat stroke, or sunburn can still happen. Take precautions, drink plenty of water, take breaks in the shade, wear a hat, and apply sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Lastly, children of all ages have started or are going back to school, many in person, for the first time in over a year, make sure to take extra precautions while driving in and around school zones. Always stop for school buses loading and unloading children and never pass a stopped school bus in a school zone. Some children will be walking or riding their bicycles, be more vigilant and keep an eye out for them and slow down.
“Enjoying activities with your family and friends, working around the home, traveling, or starting school should never come at a cost,” Walkowiak said. “Keep you and your family safe by planning ahead, performing a solid risk assessment and being aware of upcoming autumn hazards.”
Additional information and tips can be found here.
By Lisa Gonzales, Air Force Safety Center