Season's hazards lie in wait

  • Published
  • By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center
A melted, blackened, multi-plug surge extension is an excellent example of the unintentional situations going on in our offices and homes regarding the fall and winter safety mindset - or not-mindset - to show how overlooked hazards arrive with the seasons.

When my boss, Lt. Col. John Capra, the Air National Guard's training and education center deputy commander in East Tennessee, presented the image, splayed out up on the TV screen like a dead fish in our staff meeting, everyone thought it was a great reminder on how not to overload electrical circuits with high-amp space heaters.

It turns out, extension cords and power strips should never be used with space heaters because they can't handle the current load, and the use of space heaters in the office should always get the OK from safety officials, if not the base fire department, first.

But just as bosses like Colonel Capra and their guidance looks out for us in the office, the dangers remain in our homes, with those who may unknowingly plug in a tragedy. I'm no safety expert, but I do know that seasonal safety tips are everywhere, online and through other’s examples, so please read them and share them.

I went home that day and read the fine print on my surge suppressors to find out that my appliances were all within the amp and wattage rating listed for safe use. Whew! But I also put into the trash an old electric space heater, which I had just placed in my car to give away to a coworker. Whew, again!

Suddenly, what was a simple safety example by my boss had prevented a bad situation, with a good lesson to share from several perspectives. 

From the seasonal safety mindset hitting home with that scary photograph, I risked looking foolish for forgetting the very rules presented. If I don't share my shortcomings and their lessons I'll be even more foolish because that photo came from someone who probably made the simple mistake that I nearly made. And it was their example that kept me short of trouble.

It should not take the smell of a singed electrical outlet to remind me that hazards are widespread. Slips on icy sidewalks, headaches from carbon-monoxide poisoning, or frostbite from blanket-less, broken down cars are poor ways to remember. And it all falls on a personal decision of taking risk management everywhere we go, looking out for those we care about as we go because human error remains.

Thanks, boss, for unplugging me just short of trouble.