Military News

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ice safety story: "Who do I call when I slip and fall?"

by Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez
JBER Public Affairs

12/14/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Water can change physical state depending on its surrounding temperature. Gas, liquid and solid; these are the three physical states water can occupy. Of these states, solid water has proven to be one of the most destructive and befuddling for military members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson this winter season.

The 673d Safety Office has recorded an increase in reported slips and falls this year, and has presented a series of measures to prevent future injuries.

"[Safety] has had 15 falls documented this year compared to nine documented last year throughout the same time frame," said Lt. Col. Randy Green, 673d Medical Operations Squadron, Physical Therapy Flight commander. "The severity has been greater this year. They have had three concussions. One involved a hospitalization and an elbow fracture. Last year, there were more sprains, strains and bruises."

A new program, which began last month and is known Air Force wide as direct access to physical therapy, offers individuals a streamlined path to reach a physical therapist, occupational therapist or musculoskeletal professional within 24 hours, Green said.

"If they suspect they have a fracture, they need to go to the emergency room," Green said. "However, if they are just embarrassed, have a bruise, or feel like something is not right because they have limited motion or swelling, we have direct access to physical therapy. They can go to their primary care manager, but if they want to get treatment right away, they can go directly and call central appointments."

If individuals seek medical attention, they should contact their supervisor and fill out a Supervisor's Mishap Report, Air Force Form 978, said Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Tuepker, 673d Air Base Wing Safety Office occupational safety technician.

"There are duty days lost because of injury," said Maj. Nathan Shepard, 673d Medical Group physical therapy element leader. "That is why we have this direct access, so we can get them in quicker to get them back to work quicker."

Certain medicines have side effects like dizziness and fatigue which can increase fall risk, Green said. Understanding personal limitations and knowing which medicines are being consumed goes a long way when preventing a slip or fall.

In battling these safety hazards, there are precautionary measures that can be taken to minimize falls on the ice, Tuepker said.

Tuepker said JBER Safety encourages people to walk like a penguin. Take short strides and walk flat footed. This technique, as silly as it may sound, is effective in preventing slips on the ice.

Wearing ice cleats can help establish a firm foot-hold when walking on icy walkways, Tuepker said.

Individuals are encouraged to have three points of contact whenever possible, Tuepker said. When entering and exiting a vehicle, one can sustain positive control by holding on to the door. Furthermore, holding on to a handrail can help prevent a slip or fall when ascending and descending steps.

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