Staying safe, healthy all summer

  • Published
  • By Keith Wright
  • Air Force Safety Center

As the summer months wind down, leadership at all levels advocate for the continued health and safety of our Airmen and Space Professionals on and off duty. The Air and Space Forces top five leaders continued the conversation with a recently released memorandum encouraging vigilance in combating the threats of coronavirus and injury from preventable mishaps.

“Our priority remains the continued health and safety of your families and you,” the memorandum stated. “This summer may be different in some ways, but with outdoor activities and travel resuming, along with permanent change of station moves and continued high operations tempo, we remain vulnerable to an increased risk of accidental injuries and exposure to coronavirus over the next few months.”

The memo also emphasized that the practice of good hygiene, social distancing and other personal measures recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention would help mitigate the health risks.

“This summer brought significant challenges which affect the health and welfare of us all on many levels, from on-duty operations to our off-duty activities,” said Maj. Gen. John T. Rauch Jr., Air Force chief of safety and commander of the Air Force Safety Center. “To that end, we cannot compromise the mission or safety as ‘C’ (the coronavirus) lingers, operations change and life adjusts to our current situation.”

“I encourage our Airmen and Space professionals to remain intently focused on accomplishing the mission safely in spite of the many distractions. Use sound risk management and make smart decisions for you and all those around you, on and off duty,” Rauch said.

Summer is typically a time spent enjoying outdoor activities like trips to the beach, family vacations, barbeques and summer concerts. This year, many of these activities were not fully available due to pandemic restrictions, leaving many searching for other ways to enjoy themselves.

Many bought pools for their backyards or proceeded to natural bodies of water to cool off. Some experienced nature from the seat of their bicycle going down a mountain, while others enjoyed the solitude of camping in the wilderness.

Every activity brings with it some risk, none of which should be taken lightly. Safety experts agree that recreational and home activities must be managed effectively to avert any potential dangers that could cause injuries or fatalities.

Over the past five years, 64 Airmen lost their lives to on- and off-duty preventable mishaps during summer months. Last summer alone, Airmen suffered 842 mishaps that took them out of work for at least one day. Sports, recreation and individual fitness mishaps made up the majority with 308, followed by motor vehicles with 147 mishaps.

“These fatal mishaps were preventable and unnecessary; they affected loved ones, friends and co-workers,” said Mike Ballard, chief of Air Force occupational safety. “It takes the commitment and discipline of our air and space forces at all levels to ensure our most precious asset—our people—is preserved.”

“While navigating the final days of summer and the enduring pandemic, I urge everyone to keep their well-being as their goal in all activities, at work, home and during recreational or travel activities,” Ballard said.

Many of these mishaps involved contributing factors like poor planning, inexperience, lack of skill, risky behavior and the consumption of alcohol.

The memo added, “When you plan for the unexpected, and use your risk management training and protective equipment, you directly contribute to the readiness of the Air and Space forces.”

Summer safety information can be found on the Air Force Safety Center’s website at and the latest Air Force guidance for COVID-19 at