Safety in My Navy

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I never gave the Safety Department much thought as I came up through the ranks. Safety was an “All Hands Effort”.  I managed my work center, ensured all by-laws were followed, and looked after the well being of my people. As far as I was concerned I was the safety department. And then reality took a little detour and I became the Safety PO for my command.

Turns out that we were due for an inspection and the Wing was in town to deliver. The Wing can be looked at as the boss’ boss. These were the “Big Guns”. When they look at your program, they have the power to make you, or break you. Since I had just taken over and really had no clue at what I was getting myself into, the inspector went gentle. “You do not have a safety program.” I about choked. He continued, “That’s not to say that you, as a command, are unsafe. You do not have any applied guidelines.” He was right. The inspector had a questionnaire that outlined key aspects of the program. Question by question, step by step, it was revealed that the command’s safety department was not active. First step, start making the Navy instructions a part of our safety department. I read, researched, and called the Wing with questions until I understood what I needed to do and what the expectations were. The last part of that statement was the most important. What were the expectations?

There were a lot of tools used to keep the Safety Department running. I was introduce to a program online that the Navy used to track safety training and medical certifications. Our numbers were below expectations there too. I ran reports and lists were made and posted on who needed training on what. Chiefs made sure their people were off the lists and everything started to take shape. I knew where I was and where I wanted to be. All I had to do was make a plan and start implementing it. Failure didn’t have a change as long as I was making progress towards my goals. The trick was to ensure that I was progressing and not regressing.

Today everything is up to par. The program will never be perfect. People will come due for training. New people will rotate in and have their own issues that need to be solved. That is the joy of this job. Everything needs attention, and everything needs to be managed. Setting standards and knowing what is acceptable is a must. If limitations are not in place a program will run adrift until it’s too late. It is better to be proactive than to be reactive.

I have learned some valuable lessons that could never be taught in class. When taking on a job that has failed and is no longer operational, do not question where to start. Just start. Prioritize the to-do-lists. Yes there will be more than one to do list. There will be an administrative list and operational list. Stay on task. Take the time to re-evaluate the progress made. Am I closer to my completion goals? Am I headed in the right direction? Last thing to do is get others involved. Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for assistance. Learn to work as a team. Delegate responsibility to the appropriate level. Follow up and review the progress made. This is huge, and an major factor in why most plans fail.

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