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NEWS | Sept. 16, 2008

Complacency can lead to disaster

By Master Sgt. Robert K. Farthing 10th Intelligence Squadron

I recently buried a friend. The saddest thing about it is it was an avoidable death.

He didn't die in a traffic accident, a water sports accident, or other accident briefed during the "101 Critical Days of Summer".

I don't know all the details, but I do know he was working on his vehicle, had jacked it up with a bottle jack that was sufficient size to handle the weight and even placed a piece of wood under the jack for additional stability. No one knows why or how, but the truck fell off the jack and killed my friend almost immediately.

What seems obvious to me is that he didn't use jack stands or other stabilizing devices to hold and distribute the vehicle's weight before working on it. My guess is that he'd done this many times before without incident and took it for granted that he'd have no problems doing it one more time. I've done similar things myself, but will never do so again.

Familiarity with a task, plus complacency, can lead to an injury if you're lucky, and disaster if you aren't.

Another lesson to take away is anyone can become complacent and careless.

My friend was a 22 year active-duty Air Force member. He was a Master Sergeant and a highly respected First Sergeant. One who practiced and preached safety incessantly. Why didn't he put safety measures into practice on this occasion? We'll never know, but we do know, and will always remember, that decision cost him his life.

A few weeks after his death I was weed-eating in my back yard when a fairly large oyster shell, thrown by my weed-eater, hit me square in the middle of one of my safety glasses lenses. Had I not been wearing those glasses, I likely would have had a serious eye injury at the least, and possibly could have lost an eye.

My point is that it is always prudent and necessary to take an extra minute to evaluate safety in anything you do. We always hear about the dangers of drinking and driving, water safety, sports safety and fire safety, but there's no way to brief every danger.

The Commandant at my Non-Commissioned Officer Academy course passed on to my class something his dad taught him when he was younger, "You have to be smart enough to learn from other people's mistakes, because you won't live long enough to make them all yourself".

Those were wise words I'll never forget, I encourage you to learn from my friend's mistake; it might just save your life.