My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 6, 2022

New change in safety manual updates mishap thresholds, categories 

By Cmdr. Mike Feltovic, COMDT (CG-1131) Safety Program Management Division 

With the recent change to the Safety and Environmental Manual, the Coast Guard has implemented new monetary limits for the types of damages within the standard mishap classification categories. We update these thresholds every several years to align with the Department of Defense (DoD) and to incorporate the effects of inflation on our asset and repair costs. Injury thresholds remain unchanged. 

Aside from the increase in damage thresholds, you will probably notice there are two new categories. The first new category is the Class E Mishap—this used to be for the aviation community only, but now it will be defined as any Coast Guard property damage from $5,000 up to $25 thousand for all communities.   

The second new category is the Operational Hazard (OPHAZ) category for all communities. Operational hazards are those events or “close calls” which resulted in less than $5,000 damage or occurred without damage but had the potential to cause any damage or injury. We used to classify these hazards as Class D mishaps under “Other Reportable Events” but now they have their own OPHAZ category.  Examples include fires, collisions, small boat grounding, deficiencies in policy/procedure, etc.  Operational hazards must be reported to prevent recurrence of similar events that could result in loss of property or life. Reporting these operational hazards, and disseminating them to the fleet, is important because they almost always provide valuable lessons to other similar units and helps the Coast Guard prevent future mishaps. Reporting, and therefore prevention, is the key! 

Why Report OPHAZ? 

Attention to hazards goes back nearly 100 years, when Herbert W. Heinrich studied 75,000 industrial accidents as part of his insurance company and published his work in Industrial Accident: A Scientific Approach. Heinrich’s theory about accidents is often depicted in a triangle or pyramid, and the essence is that for every major accident involving death, there are hundreds of related “near misses” or hazards that precede that incident at the base of the pyramid.  

This concept can be depicted by the iceberg picture: mishaps are those events we often “see,” but for every recorded mishap there are numerous latent conditions or hazards that have been lurking under the surface over time, waiting for the most inopportune moment to become mishaps. The mishap iceberg exemplifies the guiding principle of any world class safety organization: focus on the hazards, near misses, and latent conditions in order to identify the deficiencies or gaps in the organization before they lead to mishaps. This proactive approach to mishap prevention better protects our people and property from operational hazards before a mishap occurs.