Recreational Off Duty Safety (RODS) Problem Identification
- Background. Each year approximately 1,152 Navy military personnel engaged in recreation, athletics and home activities are accidentally injured or killed. These mishaps cost has Navy approximately 23,441 workdays. For every on-duty lost-time mishap, there is another off-the-job injury. Additional losses in productivity occur when Navy personnel are required to be away from the job to care for family members hurt in mishaps. Such losses severely impact operational readiness. Recreational mishaps, after motor vehicle mishaps, are the leading cause of death for off-duty Navy personnel. Approximately 15 drowning occur each year during recreational activities. Falls are the second leading cause of death. Team sports produce more injuries than any other recreational activity. Many recreational mishaps report alcohol as a contributing factor; nearly all involve human error.
- Drowning. Naval Military Personnel Command Manual Article 6610120, Swimmer Training and Qualification, established the test for swimmer third class as the official Navy standard basic swimming test. To quality at this level of performance, a sailor does not have to do any more than swim 50 yards and tread water for five minutes. While this may be enough to save a person in some circumstances where rescue is imminent, it is not nearly enough to meet the requirements to survive in most mishaps. The stress brought about by panic, exhaustion, strong currents, cold temperatures and darkness require much more than bare minimums to ensure survival. Personnel should be encouraged to participate in swimming classes to improve their water survival skills. Commands can contribute to greater hazard awareness by providing seasonal briefs on swimming and boating safety.
- Falls. Death from falls is the second greatest source of accidental fatalities for off-duty sailors. Typically, it is falls from heights such as rooftops and cliffs that are the most dangerous. Alcohol is repeatedly cited in such mishaps as well as inexperience for those involving rock climbing. Rock climbing mishaps seem to be on the increase as more and more people turn to rugged outdoor sports to challenge themselves to meet new and higher levels of fitness. Instruction and practice, the use of a competent buddy and proper personal protective equipment and climbing gear are essential to safe climbs. If unsure about how to get started in the sport consult with your local specialty sports shops in your community.
- Sports and Recreational Activities. Sports and recreation provide a basic physical conditioning process through which the Navy can help build and maintain an effective fighting force. By providing members with varied recreational opportunities, the Navy can maintain the high level of morale essential for efficiency. Sports and recreational activities can be classified as either team activities or individual activities.
- Team Activities. Basketball has the highest percentage of disabling injuries among team sports. Softball and football are the next largest producers of long-time injuries. Sports injuries are due to four basic factors: poor conditioning, inadequate ability and skill, lack of protective clothing and equipment, and violation of recognized rules. The most commonly reported injuries are to the knee, lower leg and ankle. Fractures occur most often in football and softball while sprains and strains occur more frequently in basketball. Pick-up games result in more injuries than organized, officiated games. Not all such mishaps are preventable. However, their reduction must remain a firm, basic goal.
- Individual Activities. Swimming, boating and gun handling have the highest potential for fatal injury. Weak swimmers getting in "over their heads" boaters and fisherman not wearing personal flotation devices and hunters cleaning "unloaded" guns are common scenarios which lead to death. Injuries have increased over the past few years due to the increased popularity of leisure pursuits. Jogging, bicycling, and physical fitness oriented activities product the greatest number of reportable lost-time injuries. The type of injuries cited most often are fractures, sprains, and strains.
- Alcohol. According to the American Red Cross, alcohol is a factor in 505 of all motor vehicle fatalities, 20% of home injuries, 16% of job injuries, and 56% of those injured in fights and assaults. Alcohol is a particularly difficult drug to cope with because it is legally sanctioned by our society and is commonly thought of as a stimulant, it is really a chemical depressant, which acts as a general anesthetic for those parts of the brain that suppress, control and inhibit thoughts, feelings, and actions. These are the very functions needed for safe performance in recreational and athletic pursuits. Typical effects of alcohol consumption include impaired judgment, unrealistic confidence, slowed coordination and performance decrements. These changes are present whether a person feels or admits it. Such effects precipitate risk-taking behavior and are associated with unsafe acts and mishaps. Frequently such risk taking is not deliberate; it is simply a result of being unaware of decreased capabilities. Because its use it so pervasive, the involvement of alcohol as well as other drugs must be considered in all mishaps.
- Human error. Recreational mishaps indicate most injured personnel do not understand or appreciate the magnitude of certain hazards. Without the fundamental ability to recognize danger and understand that certain precautions are necessary, mishap prevention concepts are easily forgotten, procedures and devices are bypasses and protective equipment is ignored. Since caution is seldom exercised, even routine activities with low-level hazards, which are repeated over and over again, are capable of producing trouble. More exposure increases the probability of a mishap. Recreation, athletic and home mishaps represent classic human factors problems. Almost without exception, such losses are due to specific acts of omission or commission, which result in some undesired consequence; seldom are poor design, improper maintenance or deficient procedures cited as the principal cause factors. The problem is so extensive that approximately 90 percent of these mishaps involve human error. Human error translates into three commonly observed cause factors; lack of knowledge, inattention or distraction and intentional violation of safety practices. Hazard awareness training is necessary to overcome these deficiencies. Most mishaps can be prevented with full cooperation of all personnel and if care is exercised to eliminate unsafe acts and conditions. Each person must be trained to recognize and correct dangerous conditions and be safety conscious.