The importance of reporting safety mishaps

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Why do we report mishaps?
Well, the short easy answer is - it's the law. The Air Force falls under the Department of Labor regulations and has an obligation to report injuries that happen to their employees. Mishaps in the Air Force are basically classified by severity and monetary losses:

Class A - fatality, permanent disability, loss of more than $2 million in government property damage
Class B - three or more people hospitalized for the same incident, partial disability, loss of $500,000 to $2 million in government property damage
Class C - loss of work day(s) due to injury, $50,000 to $500,000 in government property damage
Class D - medical treatment greater than first aid (splints, stitches, prescribed meds, restricted duty, IV's, short term loss of consciousness) or government property damage $5,000 to $50,000
Class E - any significant incident that might have resulted in an injury or government property damage up to $5,000 but doesn't meet the above criteria

However, the best answer to the question is - to determine the root cause(s) and take appropriate action to prevent future similar mishaps from happening. While the Class A mishaps get more attention, the Class E mishaps are an invaluable insight as to when and what kind of Class A is going to happen. At least, in theory, because statistics can vary. There are thousands of Class E mishaps, hundreds of Class D mishaps, and dozens of Class B and C mishaps before the Class A occurs. The unsafe act or condition that leads to the Class A can usually be observed in the less severe mishaps, so if you take the time to thoroughly investigate the seemingly minor and insignificant mishaps and implement actions to prevent them, then you prevent the Class A mishaps from happening. Since more than 90 percent of all mishaps are preventable in some way, this should be an easy task for us to accomplish.

What's the best way to investigate a mishap and determine the root cause(s)?
Ask "why" until you can't anymore. This is the most basic way to get to deeper or underlying incident causes. In this method, an individual keeps asking "what caused or allowed this condition/practice to occur" until you get to one or more root causes. Often the answer to each single one "why" uncovers another reason and generates another "why." It often takes "five whys" to arrive at the root-cause of the problem. The initial personnel determining the cause(s) are the mishap individual and the supervisor. They fill out the base or major commands safety and mishap reporting form and route it to the unit safety representative. From there, it goes to the commander followed by the Wing Safety office for further investigation if warranted. It's important that those in charge are made aware of risks as quickly as possible. Should an accident go unreported, there's always the chance that an accident of the same class or higher could happen again.

A couple of other important facts to remember; your employers are legally-bound to protect you from health and safety issues, so don't feel that reporting a mishap is going to land your unit in hot water. Mishap investigations are done for the sole purpose of determining the root cause(s) and reports cannot be used to punish, find fault or lay blame. These mishap reports are trended and analyzed at the squadron, wing, major command and Air Force levels.

What are your trends?

Check out bls.gov or osha.gov for more information.