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Safety Office enables Team AEDC to meet mission

  • Published
  • By Harry Clark
  • AEDC Safety

“Hi, I’m from Safety and I’m here to help!”

OK, what did you think when you read that statement? What most people have thought in the past is something along the lines of, “Oh brother…” Today’s AEDC Safety Office wants you to file all that away and take a fresh look at an organization that exists to enable you and your team to deliver your best products in service to our mission supporting the National Defense Strategy (NDS).

Safety in the Air Force consists of three primary functions: Flight Safety, Weapons Safety and Occupational Safety. At AEDC, we have these three core disciplines, plus some superstar engineers performing System Safety and Test Safety functions.

“Flight Safety? The only planes we have are those on display by the gates. What do you mean, Flight Safety?”

Actually, AEDC has a Flight Test mission at the 704th Test Group, where the 586th Flight Test Squadron supports the NDS with testing accomplished in two C-12 turboprop aircraft and several T-38 jets. To fulfill that safety function, we have a Chief of Flight Safety who is qualified to fly, nearly, every airframe known to man. But there’s more to Flight Safety at AEDC than just the testing done at Holloman AFB. You may have heard that the Arnold AFB airfield is being reactivated. While we will not have an active flying mission headquartered at Arnold, we will be responsible to the general public and those flying the missions to and from our airfield to ensure we are performing all the necessary Flight Safety functions for which a flying Wing Air Force Base would be responsible.

Weapons Safety at AEDC involves supporting the skilled craftsmen and engineers at G-Range where they use gunpowder and ignition devices to launch projectiles/test articles from the “guns” at that facility, and the teams that occasionally use start cartridges for small turbine engines. It also involves support to the teams that execute the solid rocket motor testing that is accomplished in the J-6 test facility and inspections of all the facilities that store and process these types of systems. There are others, but of particular note is the approval that the 704 TG has to modify the casings of solid rocket motors to tailor them for use as boosters for the hypersonic sled track test, which is operated by the 846th Test Squadron. Weapons Safety personnel there are intimately involved in assuring that those actions are carried out within the guidelines of the approved process. Lastly, everyone should know that the lands beyond the industrial area at Arnold AFB may have unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from the time when Camp Forrest was an active range. While these areas have been extensively cleared of UXO, the possibility exists that a recreational user may find an artifact from that time. The AEDC Weapons Safety office is your place to report any such object. Please do not handle any strange objects that you discover on the Arnold reservation, call the Safety Office.

Occupational Safety is what everyone thinks of when they think of “safety.” These are the folks who get no love because they are the ones constantly reminding you that, “you could get hurt if you …” The fact is, these “rules” have been developed over years of analyzing data on workplace injuries. When Safety reminds you that the trench you are working in needs to be shored up (or the walls stepped back), when they ask you to hold the handrail while using the stairs, when they scrutinize your Confined Space Hazard Analysis and ask pointed questions about your entry procedures, they are speaking from the collective experience of hundreds of thousands of workplace accidents. It may seem that all Safety wants to do is slow you down, impede your progress and hinder your ability to get that task accomplished, but what they really want to do is to ensure that you CAN accomplish that task and, at the end of the day, you go home to your family and your friends without having had the really bad experience of being injured while making your contribution to the important work we accomplish every day at AEDC.

System Safety is a discipline that is the foundation of our ability to execute our test and evaluation mission using our ground test infrastructure. It is a systematic way to define the performance envelope within which we can be assured of meeting our customers’ requested test conditions at levels of risk that may be accepted at the appropriate level of leadership. It is also the documentation we use to understand how changes, both enhanced capability resulting from Investment and Modernization projects and degraded capability due to equipment failures or deferred maintenance, affect our ability to meet test requirements. The fundamental process in the practice of System Safety is the assessment of risk inherent in operating and maintaining the systems. Baseline Hazard Analyses document the potential hazards, including what might cause that hazard to happen and what effect that hazard might have on both people and equipment. This analysis then evaluates the risk inherent in operating the facility, some of which may require mitigation to lower the risk to an acceptable level. If that sounds complicated, it is. However, you may rest assured that AEDC has a strong history of System Safety and this office works hard every day to ensure that we continue to uphold those standards so that AEDC is available to support the NDS now and for years to come.

Test Safety is the bread and butter of the AEDC enterprise. A customer comes to us with a plan to acquire some data that will support the development or maturation of their system. AEDC engineers determine how a given test capability may be brought to bear to produce the conditions that will yield that data. This involves understanding how the operating envelope of a particular facility may be used to develop test conditions that best simulate the actual environment that the system will experience. This includes understanding how the required test conditions may stress or exceed the capacity of the facility. Documentation of these assessments is captured in Test Hazard Analyses, which require the same level of rigor as those associated with the facility baselines. All of this requires that the teams putting together the test plans have a strong and in-depth understanding of their test techniques and the skill to match a customer’s requirements to those techniques. With that basis in place, the Test Safety documentation allows the appropriate levels of leadership to evaluate and accept, or not, the risks associated with accomplishing the requested tests.

The Safety office doesn’t do all these things, although we must be expert at the fundamentals of each discipline. What the Safety office does is advise the practitioners of these disciplines and ensure that those doing the work have thoroughly and completely evaluated the subject matter. Whether it’s an engineer developing a Hazard Analysis for a complicated test in a multi-million dollar facility or an analyst working in an office to support the AEDC mission, every member of the AEDC team is making risk assessments every day. The Safety office just happens to be the professionals that can help you make these assessments and provide you the tools you need to make your contribution to the National Defense Strategy.

Yes, we are from Safety and we are here to help!