Motorcyle riders must follow PPE guidelines

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Thom Moore
  • 21st Space Wing Safety Office
April is, on average, the second deadliest month for motorcycle crashes, but riders can protect themselves by following the Air Force's personal protective equipment guidelines.

A recent review of Air Force motorcycle data showed wearing the right gear really does help. The Air Force Safety Center looked at 582 Class A, B and C mishaps from 2006 through March 2008. During this time period, there were 40 deaths, six permanent total disabilities, and 530 lost-time mishaps (Class B and C combined). Of the people who were fatally injured or suffered permanent total disability, 13 percent were not wearing required personal protective clothing.

Members suffering from permanent total disability are defined any nonfatal injury or occupational illness that, in the opinion of competent medical authority, permanently and totally incapacitates a person to the extent that he or she cannot follow any gainful occupation and results in a medical discharge, retirement or

So far, motorcycle mishaps for fiscal year 2008 are slightly below the first six months of fiscal years 2006 and 2007 by about 5 percent. It is the goal of the Safety Office to keep those numbers low.

Two regulations - Department of Defense Instruction 6055.4, DoD Traffic Safety Program, and Air Force Instruction 91-207, The US Air Force Traffic Safety Program - outline proper riding attire for motorcyclists. The Department of Defense guidelines require all military personnel at any time and all DoD civilian personnel - on or off a DoD installation - to wear personal protective equipment. The rules also apply to anyone in or on a DoD-owned motor vehicle and anyone on a DoD installation.

PPE guidelines mandate the wearing of helmets that meet Department of Transportation standards. All helmets meeting Department of Transportation requirements have a sticker either on or in the helmet. While the vast majority of full-face helmets are DOT certified, a large portion of half-shell helmets are not. The gate guards at Peterson have been paying closer attention to this item in particular. Riders will likely be stopped at the gate long enough for them to check for a DOT sticker on the back of a half-shell.

Air Force guidelines also require specific eye protection. Riders must wear goggles, wrap-around glasses, or a full-face shield properly attached to the helmet, and the eye protection must be designed to meet or exceed American National Standards Institute Standard Z87.1 for impact and shatter resistance. A windshield does not constitute proper eye protection.

This is not only a requirement but just plain smart. If you're riding down the road you want your eyes protected from anything that hits you, such as gravel and bugs.

Riders must also wear sturdy, over-the-ankle footwear that affords protection for the feet and ankles Sandals, low quarter sneakers, and similar footwear does not constitute proper foot protection, but durable athletic shoes that cover the ankles are allowed. Again this is smart thinking simply because over-the-ankle footwear will protect your ankle better and give it more support when putting your feet down.

Clothing guidelines mandate long sleeved shirts or jackets for riders, as well as long trousers and full-fingered gloves or mittens designed for use on a motorcycle.

The AFI goes on to specify that, "Gloves should be sturdy, non-slip type to permit a firm grip on the controls. Wear of a motorcycle jacket and pants constructed of abrasion resistant materials such as leather, Kevlar®, and/or Cordura® containing impact absorbing padding are strongly encouraged." Although the uniform blouse, with sleeves down, is authorized, it is not as safe as wearing the aforementioned materials.

The regulations also demand garment visibility, stating that riders must wear, "a brightly colored outer upper garment during the day and a reflective upper garment during the night. Outer upper garment shall be clearly visible and not covered."

The Peterson Safety Office has interpreted this to mean that a reflective safety belt wrapped diagonally around the torso does not meet the standard. The operative word in the regulation is "garment." A reflective belt is an accessory. While other local bases may differ with our interpretation, this is the adopted standard at Peterson.

Failure to comply with the PPE guidelines may be considered in making line-of-duty determinations if the injury is such non-use of personal protective equipment or noncompliance.

In the last two and a half years, 76 Air Force-related personnel were either killed or permanently disabled because they were not wearing all the proper PPE. Remember, PPE is mandatory and on DoD installations, it's the law.