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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 23, 2024

Celebrating a decade of safety

By Edward Bock, Health, Safety and Work Life Service Center, Safety and Environmental Health Division chief

The FY23 Coast Guard Annual Safety Report (ASR), officially released in March, celebrates a “Decade of Safety” by aligning future actions with the Commandant’s Strategy, providing meaningful program safety metrics, briefs on risk reduction initiatives and an update on the Hazard Reduction Initiative. 

Empowered by the Safety and Occupational Health Council (SOHC), the Coast Guard reduced the backlog of 21,199 hazardous conditions from FY18 to just 3,833 by the end of FY23, a reduction of 82 percent. Rear Adm. Dana Thomas, assistant commandant for Health, Safety and Work-Life (HSWL), considers this a “consequential milestone” that will help “set a new standard of excellence” in safety and the Coast Guard safety culture.   

Thomas expressed, “the challenges facing Coast Guard operations have never been greater. Every worker and asset is critical to mission success. Using our risk management processes is frequently the only backstop to preventing injury and damage to valuable resources. When the challenges are the greatest, using risk management techniques to ensure appropriate warranted risk decisions are made, is critical.”  

Capt. Jose Martis, the HSWL Service Center’s commanding officer, echoed the admiral’s sentiments. He emphasized that we are making “durable improvements” in safety by executing the HSWL SC mission, “to promote and protect the well-being of individuals, families, and commands by providing services and information when and where it matters.” 

It’s important to note that units are not on their own to remedy hazardous conditions. Hazard correction is a team effort. The HSWL SC Safety and Environmental Health Division recently embarked on a unit outreach campaign with the goal of implementing abatement plans for the remaining hazardous conditions by the end of FY24. Read more about the Coast Guard’s Uncorrected Hazard Conditions Initiative and get resources to support your hazard abatement efforts.  

In addition to hazard abatement strategies, the FY23 ASR contains detailed community-specific (e.g., cutter, boat, aviation, shore, etc.) mishap rates, loss metrics, and mishap causes. In total, mishaps cost the Coast Guard $24.5 million in property damage, $6.3 million in worker’s compensation, and resulted in 5,696 lost workdays and 18,401 days restricted.  

The FY23 ASR has dramatically modernized over the past decade, with more data-driven initiatives resulting in the correction of thousands of hazardous conditions as reflected in the report’s pages. Whether it’s drinking water quality, lead and asbestos hazards, galley sanitation, thermal stress, fire safety, motor vehicle safety, or recreational safety, there is something for everyone to improve awareness and prevent mishaps.  

The key to mishap prevention and safe operations is proactive hazard reporting. Hazard reports provide necessary information for initiating hazard correction actions and contributing to the Annual Safety Report to inform the organization and sustain the hazard awareness campaign. Only through collective efforts will the Coast Guard achieve a safety program aligned with the initiatives under Adm. Fagan’s Strategy to Transform our Workforce, Sharpen Our Competitive Edge, and Advance Mission Excellence.