Safety is a leadership imperative

Rear Adm. Brian Fort
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

(Editor’s note: This is a follow-up to Rear Adm. Fort’s commentary just before Memorial Day and the start of the ‘101 Days of Summer’ lasting through Labor Day. More mishaps and fatalities occur nationwide during the 101 days of summer than during the rest of the year.)

This month was my one-year anniversary of assuming command at Region Hawaii and Surface Group Middle Pacific. It’s been an eventful and rewarding year, and I’m remarkably proud of what the MIDPAC-Region team has accomplished together.

For example, the 2018 Rim of the Pacific exercise was a great event, and I commend all of our MIDPAC ships, installations — Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Pacific Missile Range Facility — as well as all the tenant commands who contributed to making the world’s largest international maritime exercise such a resounding success this summer.

We will carefully analyze all the lessons learned from RIMPAC 2018 so we can apply a critical self-assessment to future exercises and operations. “Celebrating” small problems is the best way to prevent bigger problems over the horizon.

At the top of my list for continuous critical self-assessment is safety.

While we should never discount the thousands of events and procedures we safely and professionally executed during RIMPAC 2018, the difference between “good” and “great” is our ability to critically assess those we did not.

During the final week of RIMPAC we had three accidents — each of which could have been prevented. Thankfully, none of these accidents resulted in tragedy, but in each we identified failures of operational risk management principles. When it comes to personal injury, one accident is simply too many. While even the most routine evolutions of our daily business are inherently dangerous, accidents should never be considered part of the cost of our business.

Ownership is key. We must own our “kuleana” — our area of responsibility — no matter how small or how big, throughout Region and MIDPAC, embracing safety and accountability as a norm every day.

From the deckplate to our office spaces, it’s up to all of us to identify, rectify and then verify safety violations or hazards. Make sure your voice is loud and listened to when it comes to something that isn’t right, particularly a safety violation.

Those of us who are senior leaders and who oversee managers and supervisors must support and promote a doctrine of safety throughout the command, communicate safety every day, lead with integrity and be bold decision makers who rise to the challenge, in order to take care of our people.

A good doctrine of safety should be part of the fabric, part of the routine, something we do automatically — aboard our ships, on the flight line, at work, in our homes and on the road.

The Naval Safety Center and Air Force Safety Center websites offer lots of great information, and I encourage you to visit their sites to learn more about safety. Both safety centers offer practical tips, good checklists and clear operational risk management expectations.

Safety is a leadership imperative we must never take for granted.

In the long term, I want the year ahead to be as safe and secure and as rewarding as it can be for each of you. In the short term, please be safe this weekend as we celebrate Labor Day and the end of the “101 Days of Summer.”

Drive with aloha, be aware, be engaged, and enjoy the opportunities that service in Hawaii affords us all — be smart and always get home safe! Owning safety is how we all ensure long, healthy service and lives!

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Category: News