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436th Logistics Readiness Squadron skips the fall

Airman 1st Class Kiley Gring, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron multipurpose vehicle mechanic, operates on top of a B-1000 aircraft tow tractor Nov. 6, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Gring wore a body harness connected to the LRS’s new mobile “A-frame” fall-protection system, which prevented her from falling on the job. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zoe Russell)

Airman 1st Class Kiley Gring, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron multipurpose vehicle mechanic, operates on top of a B-1000 aircraft tow tractor Nov. 6, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Gring wore a body harness connected to the LRS’s new mobile “A-frame” fall-protection system, which prevented her from falling on the job. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zoe Russell)

Airman 1st Class William Perry, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron firetruck refueling maintenance journeyman, works on top of an R-11 aircraft refueling truck Nov. 6, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Perry was safely secured on top of the vehicle using the squadron’s new fall-protection equipment designed specifically for R-11s.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zoe Russell)

Airman 1st Class William Perry, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron firetruck refueling maintenance journeyman, works on top of an R-11 aircraft refueling truck Nov. 6, 2018, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Perry was safely secured on top of the vehicle using the squadron’s new fall-protection equipment designed specifically for R-11s. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zoe Russell)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Sometimes the most mundane tasks can suddenly turn into the most dangerous ones.

According to the Air Force Safety Center, from the fiscal year 2013-2017, active duty and civilian members lost more than 47,000 work days due to almost 5,600 non-sports-related falls. Of those, 13 were fatal.

The threat of falling is all too real for members of the 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Anytime a vehicle technician works more than four feet above the ground, a fall protection system must be used.

Gary Eley, 436th LRS multipurpose maintenance shop vehicle management flight supervisor, explained the squadron was using outdated and inconvenient fall safety equipment systems.

“What worked in 1981 when I came in [the Air Force] sometimes isn’t going to work in 2018,” said Eley. “Technology is constantly changing. You’ve got to stay with the times. Why go with a system that works half the time when you can go with a system that works all the time?”

To remedy the situation, the 436th LRS purchased two fall safety equipment systems in October, 2018.

The first system was designed specifically for their refueling maintenance shop, providing fall protection for Airmen repairing or inspecting the top of R-11 aircraft refueling trucks. The new system allows technicians to clip their safety belts to two cables that run the full length of the fuel tanks; increasing mobility and offering the security of a “catch” if they fall.

“It gives us a peace of mind, especially on days like today where the weather is wet and rainy, said Staff Sgt. Nigell McAlpin, 436th LRS NCOIC of firetruck maintenance. “These [trucks] get very slippery. We shouldn’t have any falls if everyone is using the equipment correctly.”

The second system installed in the 436th LRS multipurpose maintenance shop features two metal “A-frames” with tracks in the upper beams. Technicians can connect their personal body harnesses to self-retracting lifelines protruding from the upper beams, allowing them to work on vehicles parked under the frames. If a technician were to slip, the maximum he or she would fall is six inches before the lifelines locked in place.

Eley said the A-frames are mobile, user friendly and fit the height of all vehicles. They also allow the technicians to work on vehicles taller than four feet that are parked outside, which previously wasn’t an option without violating safety protocols.

“It has made my job easier because if I can do my job safer, then I can do it without worrying about accidents,” said Airman 1st Class Kiley Gring, 436th LRS multipurpose vehicle mechanic.

Eley said the modernization of 436th LRS fall-safety equipment not only instills confidence in Dover’s LRS technicians, but also mirrors the Air Force’s commitment to protecting its most valuable asset: it’s Airmen.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Eley. “Throughout the Air Force, whether you are an [administrative] specialist, working out on the flight line or you are working in a maintenance facility, safety is an integral part.”