NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The Naval Safety Center reminds Sailors to remain vigiliant as they return to work after a long holiday season when many commands were on reduced work schedules.
Time to recharge the batteries is great for Sailors, but it is important to be ready to work now that 2012 is in full swing.
Many commands hold safety briefs, dubbed "Back in the Saddle," in January to reinforce this idea. Derek Nelson, author of the Naval Safety Center's (NAVSAFECEN) popular Friday Funnies Summary of Mishaps said these safety briefs are really intended to combat complacency.
"The problem with complacency is that it can strike almost anytime and you don't even realize it," he said. "It feels comfortable."
Nelson said he reads mishap reports every day to find material for his weekly Friday Funnies message, and a large majority of them involve complacency.
Fortunately, most of these mishaps are minor, which gives him license to poke fun at them. However, others wind up in his quarterly "Not so Funnies" message, which details serious mishaps that lead to death or severe injury - mishaps that are no laughing matter.
"Sometimes complacency is not just embarrassing, it's fatal," he said.
Nelson said the biggest examples of these are firearms mishaps.
"Almost always the mishap reports say the victims were highly experienced with weapons, but somehow they still managed to shoot themselves or someone else."
The complacency in these mishaps usually shows up when the victims forget the first rule of weapons safety: Treat every weapon as if it's loaded. Numerous firearms mishaps show that the victim accidentally shot him or herself while cleaning a weapon that was assumed to be unloaded.
Nelson said complacency also strikes deployed Sailors who fall into what he calls "The Groundhog Day Syndrome" after the movie where Bill Murray's character is forced to relive the same day over and over again.
"When you're doing the same thing day in and day out, you start to feel like you can do it in your sleep," he said. "The fact is you can't."
This truth is borne out by NAVSAFECEN survey teams who regularly visit ships and squadrons to help determine if they comply with various safety requirements. Lt. Christine Davy specializes in surveying how well Sailors complete their Planned Maintenance System (PMS) checks. She said this is an area where complacency can set in, and while Sailors may get away with improper maintenance for awhile, eventually it may lead to dire consequences.
"When you reach for that piece of equipment in an emergency, it needs to operate as advertised," she said, noting that proper and careful maintenance is the only way to ensure it will.
She said she takes a great deal of pride in training Sailors on how to thoroughly perform damage control maintenance, because it makes a real difference in life or death situations.
"People's blood is there to show the importance of maintenance. Ask the guys on the Cole, or the Whidbey Island, or the Stark," Davy said, referring to high profile incidents where Sailors had to use damage control equipment to save their shipmates' lives.
Nelson said the disturbing thing is Sailors know complacency is a danger, but still fall into the trap.
"I've been at the Naval Safety Center more than thirty years, and thirty years ago we wrote articles that said 'complacency kills,'" he said. "It still does."
For more information about combating complacency and to read the weekly Friday Funnies, visit www.public.navy.mil/navsafecen.
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