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From the Desk of the Safety Office


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC

My Last Day at Home Depot

No, the title of this article is not a mistake. Before I begin to discuss the topic of this quarter’s newsletter, take a minute and watch the video at this link,, or just do a Google search for “My Last Day at Home Depot” and watch the video that’s found (it’s a 35 second long video).

Now that you’ve done that, you may be wondering what this has to do with flying. If we take this video and use it as a starting point for a discussion about safety, we should start by asking a few questions about the scenario in the video.

First, do you think that this was the first time the forklift driver had ever attempted to do this? Ask yourself if you were this person, and you had never attempted this before, how would you proceed? Personally, I would be stopping and checking the clearance on each side, possibly getting a spotter to help me, due to a lack of confidence that the cargo would fit through the aisle. No, this driver seemed quite sure it would fit, indicating he had done this many times before. While we can’t know for sure, for the purposes of this article let’s assume this is true. Based on this assumption it’s logical to conclude that in each of his previous attempts he had succeeded in navigating the narrow passage.

If you were this employee’s manager and saw that this was how the wood pallet was being moved every day, would you recognize the potential safety hazard and do something about it? What if you reported this to your superior but were told that there was no other way to get the pallet from A to B, and that pallets had always been moved this way with no problems? Most of us would like to think that we would stand our ground and insist upon a safer solution, but there are numerous studies that show otherwise. If you’re curious about this do a search for the Milgram Experiment to see what people will do when they are assured by authority figures that something is safe. A real-world example of this tendency can be found in the accident between Pan Am 1736 and KLM 3805 at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, which is still the deadliest aviation accident in human history.

The discussion above demonstrates the importance of creating an environment that encourages reporting of safety hazards without fear of retribution, which the FAA and NASA did years ago by creating the Aviation Safety Reporting System, also known as the NASA form. It also shows the importance of participation. How many people in that warehouse saw that obvious safety hazard and could have helped prevent the accident by reporting it? At WVFC, our method for members to let us know about safety related issues is our Flight Feedback form. Despite the name, it can be used for anything that you feel necessary to bring to our attention, even if it is not flight-related. Examples include tiedown ropes that need to be replaced or checklist pages missing or damaged.

Creating a safe operating environment and promoting a safety culture is not an easy thing and requires the participation of everyone involved. To kick off 2015, the Safety Office is asking for your participation to help us promote safety here at WVFC. It’s something that everyone can contribute to, and that we all benefit from.