One Christmas many years ago, while stationed in a foreign country, I recall sitting in an outpost at a highspeed taxiway where our Alert Fighters would scramble to escort Russian bombers through protected airspace. It was Christmas Eve, it was blowing snow, and it was -20 degrees outside. I had no heat, but I did have the finest in military cold weather garb. Still, I stood there shivering, holding my M-16, and listening to the little transistor radio that was barely working as it aired the Armed Forces Radio and Television Christmas music special. My communication mobile radio had failed because of the cold, so I had no contact with anyone. The only thing I could think of was family—who wouldn’t in such a situation and time? Ever since, I have felt that family and family relationships are just about the most important aspects of life, and it helped me to have a deeper concern for situations that hurt or separate families.
So, this time of year, I always have two highlighted focuses that float in the back of my mind: 1. thinking of our military personnel stationed around the world that won’t be home with family during the holidays; and 2. thinking of the fact that we will end another year in our country where nearly 5,000 workers will not have made it home safely to their families. I know it sounds a little depressing, but I want to focus on the positive side. I am thankful for those who serve our country, and I hope it will always be a safer place because of them. I am proud of the employees who look out for themselves, and their fellow employees, for their families. I am certain the workplace will be a safer place because of them, and families will have a better chance of staying whole.
As we go through the holidays and head into a new year, let’s keep those who serve in our minds—whether they are first responders or military.Find some way to show appreciation for their efforts at keeping our country and communities safe. In our workplaces, we should be building safety plans that will help make the new year a safer year to ensure we reduce the number of workplace tragedies that our country experiences each year. If our safety plans focus on creating a culture where operators and laborers automatically think of how they can keep themselves and their fellow workers safe, then we will reduce these situations that devastate families.
Happy Holidays! End the year safely, and make the new year an awesomely safe year for your teams and keeping their families whole!
President, ASSP – Southern Oregon Chapter
With over 20 years in occupational safety and health, Chris Lawrence is a retired US Air Force Safety Professional who is the Regional Safety Manager for Boise Cascade.