KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — The Air Force Ground Safety program was rebranded as Occupational Safety with an official name change Oct. 1.
Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, the former commanding general of U.S. Army Air Forces, coined the name “ground safety” in 1943 when he directed a ground safety division standup to prevent jeep accidents. The name stuck and remained a part of the Air Force safety structure.
“This name change is significant,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Mueller, the Air Force chief of safety, “because it properly reflects the broader requirements of our current safety program that has evolved considerably beyond the program that was launched 62 years ago.”
According to senior safety leaders here, the change aligns ground safety with current Defense Department and industry nomenclature and better clarifies the duties and strengths of today’s Air Force occupational safety professionals.
“Occupational Safety instantly translates our duties and responsibilities to other federal agencies and industry,” said Bill Parsons, the division chief who championed the initiative. “The name ‘ground safety’ was an anachronism that ceased to effectively capture or support the evolved mission responsibilities of today’s world-class service. The name change to Occupational Safety was imperative for the clear branding of our Air Force safety discipline in the 21st century.”
Conflicting terminology between the Air Force Ground Safety function and that of other federal agencies began to appear when the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was expanded to apply to all federal agencies, and subsequent DOD instruction became OSH program guidance. As the service’s federal and industry partners transitioned to the occupational safety designation, the ground safety moniker appeared less inclusive of the Air Force’s roles and responsibilities since the days of Arnold’s vision.
“While the new name isn’t all-inclusive of duties aligned under occupational safety, such as sports and recreation, it’s more succinct and points directly to our mission: prevent mishaps and preserve combat capability,” said Mike Ballard, the division deputy director. “Occupational safety more clearly addresses the duties and strengths of our Air Force safety professionals supporting a force that maintains global readiness 24/7.”
The division manages the Air Force on- and off-duty safety program that includes operational, occupational, sports and recreation, as well as traffic safety. It oversees integration of Air Force safety inspections, evaluations, assessments and policy, as well as risk management processes.
The division also manages Air Force safety standards and interprets Department of Labor and industry standards for implementation throughout the Air Force. The division conducts evaluations of service-wide ground safety mishap investigations, develops occupational safety-related training courses for supervisors and safety professionals, and oversees occupational safety policy, programs and procedures to provide a safe work environment and enhance the safety of Air Force personnel while off duty to help maintain combat capability and readiness.