Minnesota National Guard, safety team focus on summer season risks

July 1, 2022 (COTTAGE GROVE, Minn.) — Summer is beginning, and with more than 10,000 lakes, Minnesotans may take advantage of the longer days and warm temperatures. The season officially began on June 21st. It also brings potential safety risks that most haven’t seen since last year.

“Last year, the Army lost 50 Soldiers during the summer months, with July and August seeing a majority of those fatal incidents.  This fiscal year, 76% of fatal incidents have been off-duty,” said the Minnesota National Guard’s Safety and Occupational Health Manager, Army Capt. Jeff Reamer. “You often create the outcome, especially off-duty, and when it comes to safety, you are also the last line of defense in a sequence of events leading up to a mishap. But through assessing risk, we can break the sequential chain.”

Summer safety risks include dehydration, sunburn, heat stroke, or even injuries associated with swimming, biking, boating, grilling, and fireworks. Planning ahead and practicing safety can ensure injuries are less likely.

“If an individual takes a few extra seconds to perform a quick dynamic risk assessment, they can significantly reduce unsafe acts and the probability of an undesirable outcome,” added Reamer. “This can be as simple as not using the top two steps of a ladder or taking a moment to ensure a stable and level platform.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, known as the NFPA, the month of July had the highest structure, outdoor, or unclassified fires rates between 2014 and 2018. An average of 19,700 patients went to emergency rooms yearly because of injuries involving grills.

One in every five grill fires results because grills haven’t been cleaned. Grills should be cleaned and placed well away from the home, deck railing, and out from under eaves and hanging branches to prevent fires and injuries.  If your gas grill doesn’t ignite within the first few attempts, shut off the gas, wait a few minutes, and then try again.

With Independence Day coming up, some may use fireworks to mark the occasion. NFPA claims the only safe way to view fireworks is to attend a professional show.

“Fireworks are not safe in the hands of consumers,” according to NFPA. “Burns account for 44% of the 9,100 injuries treated in emergency rooms seen in the month around July 4th.”

Additionally, while they may seem safe for children, sparklers result in 25% of firework injuries, with children aged 10-14 having the highest injury rate. Instead of fireworks, the NFPA recommends using glow sticks, noisemakers, or red, white, and blue silly string to celebrate the holiday.

Those planning to take their boats out this summer should check the weather forecast before and during their trip. When the weather is nice, a long day on the water might mean more sun exposure than usual. The Sea Tow Foundation, an expert in boating safety, recommends applying and reapplying sunscreen every hour and bringing a canopy, umbrella, or wide-brimmed hat, and lightweight, long-sleeved shirt.

“Safety must be the priority of the individual, supervisors, and the organization,” said Reamer. “A preventable mishap affects the individual, and family and can also create limitations. So, adhere to some of these tips, take a few extra seconds to assess the potential of unsafe acts or conditions, and ensure you end the summer season on a high note and injury-free.”

Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs