FORT HOOD, Texas – During soldiers’ day-to-day operations, following proper safety procedures at all times is paramount. For troops with the 1st ACB, training was held to keep those who work in enclosed areas to protect themselves from a potential tighter spot.
Soldiers with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, attended confined space training April 7 to 11 at Hood Army Airfield here.
During the training 20 soldiers received their certification in confined space training after a four-day block of instruction that taught them how to prevent harm to personnel and equipment, said Jorge Pena, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration instructor with Texas A&M Engineering Extension Services.
“This week we specifically focused on aircraft fuel cells, as I tailored the curriculum upon seeing my students were entirely Black Hawk, Chinook, and Apache maintainers,” he said. “We really hit on how to enter into fuel cells, while minimizing exposure and hazards that could potentially cause injury or death.”
When dealing with confined spaces, safety regulations become imperative to follow, and soldiers must ensure they’re complete and up to date before entering the space, Pena said.
“Soldiers have to be able to identify hazards immediately,” he said. “Fuel cells are restricted by their size, which causes hazards to become magnified due to the enclosed space. The atmosphere can change dramatically in a close environment, which causes less time and quantity for a problem to arise. Even heat comes into play, as all elements will have issues quicker due to size constraints.”
During the week 1st ACB soldiers went through existing regulations with a fine tooth comb and compared them to standard federal regulations approved by OSHA in order to find potential short comings, Pena said.
“The soldiers compared the regulations and located some deficiencies to improve upon in order to make their job safer,” Pena explained. “Some hazards are immediate and some are lingering. We want to ensure regulations provide the maximum safety benefits to soldiers doing their jobs in all elements, and that rescue plans are detailed and spread to the lowest level before entrants perform their duty."
Pvt. 2 Austin Guess, a UH-60 helicopter repairer and Denver, N.C., native with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 227th “Spearhead” Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, attended the class and said the training was essential.
“I’ve learned so much about safety procedures for climbing into tight spots and equipment around chemicals,” Guess noted. “We’ve had the opportunity for a week to ask questions and learn how to make sure everything’s safe before entering a confined space. When we work on fuel cells or tail cones from now on, we’ll definitely have more knowledge about safety and how to look things up in the OSHA regulation.”
After the group completed their culminating exercise, Pena said the class more than exceeded his expectations with their motivation, expertise and thirst for knowledge.
“The class did great,” Pena said. “They asked intelligent questions and took the information to heart, as it could one day save themselves or their partner’s life. When it comes to safety, we make sure troops are made aware of all hazards. You end up depending on each other, and when individuals are safe, it equals a stronger unit as a whole.”