Safety Messages

Lessons From Challenger


This Jan. 28, marks the 35th anniversary of the Challenger accident. The loss of the crew was a tragedy felt by their families, friends and coworkers at the agency, as well as people throughout the world.

The Challenger accident taught us tough lessons and brought forward what have become recognizable phrases: normalization of deviance, organizational silence and silent safety program. Sadly, we learned these lessons again in 2003 with the loss of Columbia and her crew. This shows how vital it is that we pause to revisit these lessons and never let them be forgotten. We cannot become complacent. 

In this month's Safety Message, Harmony Myers, director of the NASA Safety Center, discusses the Challenger accident and the lessons it continues to teach us today.

Reminders to Keep You Safe

Welcome to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance Safety Message archive. This page contains Safety Message presentations and related media. While some of these presentations are not NASA related, all of them have certain aspects that are applicable to NASA. I encourage you to disseminate these to your organizations to promote discussion of these issues and possible solutions.

—W. Russ DeLoach, Chief, Safety and Mission Assurance

The Cost of Silence

Normalization of Deviance and Groupthink

November 03, 2014

From the Challenger and Columbia disasters, to the Costa Concordia running aground, to the recent ISS EVA-23 event, all have involved normalization of deviance and groupthink. Understanding the symptoms of these two conditions can help us plan for them, avoid them and stop them.

Student and Intern Safety

Lessons Learned

September 16, 2014

It doesn't have to be spectacular to hurt. A lot of people get hurt doing unspectacular things, such as preparing food, cutting across lawns, tripping on floor mats and lifting and moving objects. People also get hurt when they are unfamiliar with their workplace and the associated hazards.

What NASA does is risky. When we bring new people on board, it is imperative that we train them in general safety practices and specific hazards of the job and environment. Managers need to be sure that all employees are aware of what they need to do to work safely. All NASA employees need to know what to do in an emergency and how to report safety concerns. Preventing unspectacular mishaps will help prevent larger and more serious mishaps.

The Importance of Technical Authority

A Message from Administrator Charles Bolden

August 04, 2014

Technical Authorities in engineering, safety and mission assurance, and health and medical all play an important role in NASA's decision-making processes. Hear Administrator Charles Bolden deliver this month's Safety Message on the importance of Technical Authority.

Fall Prevention in Construction

Fall Prevention

June 30, 2014

As NASA builds the future of U.S. space flight, we will not just be building mission hardware and software. We will also be constructing new facilities and modifying existing facilities.

Falls are the leading cause of fatalities and injuries on construction sites. Every year, there are more than 200 people killed and more than 10,000 people seriously injured in falls. We need to make sure that we understand and effectively implement fall protection requirements for our entire workforce. Proper use of fall protection programs saves lives.

Creating a Strong Safety Culture

Lessons Learned

May 27, 2014

Effective in-line checks and balances, healthy tension between responsible organizations, and value added independent assessment are necessary for safe and successful programs. But, in order to create a strong safety culture, we need to move beyond robust technical authority and effective program management.

Creating the right environment is essential. We need to look not just at the way we manage programs, but also at the way we manage people. Establishing trust, creating diverse teams, focusing on engineering excellence, sharing knowledge and recognizing commitment to safety are all necessary for creating a strong safety culture.

Multi-Billion Dollar Deception

Counterfeit Parts

May 01, 2014

Counterfeit parts pose a serious and growing threat to our nation and to NASA. Counterfeiters understand the strengths and weaknesses of the aerospace supply chain process, and they know how to exploit this process for profit. They know who to target to get the counterfeit part entered into the supply system, and how to cover their tracks. To counteract this, NASA has implemented a suite of defenses to guard against the threat of counterfeit parts. By using trusted supply sources, screening parts through the Government-Industry Data Exchange Program, developing rigorous authentication testing methods, educating the NASA workforce and championing legislative/regulatory changes, NASA is working to ensure that counterfeit parts do not impact the safety and success of NASA missions and operations.

ISS EVA 23 Suit Water Intrusion

Lessons Learned

April 07, 2014

Roughly 44 minutes into EVA 23, astronaut Luca Parmitano reported water inside his helmet on the back of his head. The EVA ground team and Luca were unable to identify the water’s source. As Luca continued to work, the amount of water in the helmet increased and eventually migrated from the back of his head onto his face. EVA 23 was terminated early and the crew safely ingressed the airlock.

Close calls like this are a gift. We must use them wisely. Each close call is an opportunity to examine our work with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of urgency. They urge us to think outside the box. They tell us that the obvious answer may not always be correct. They force us to stay hungry and shake off the complacency that comes from past successes. 

The Legacy of Orbital Debris

Orbital Debris and Space Safety

March 03, 2014

The Space Age has opened the frontier of space to humanity, but it has also left a troubling legacy of orbital debris. The problem has reached the point where the general public is now keenly aware of the issue. In all areas of space, NASA has always led the way, and it is no different for the field of orbital debris. What is NASA doing about the situation? How is NASA taking the lead in being part of the solution?

Apollo 1-Challenger-Columbia

Lessons Learned

January 23, 2014

Every year as we get back in the saddle, our Remembrance Day signals us to think back to the tragic events of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia as well as the context surrounding them. We’re accountable for learning from not just what went wrong, but how we recovered. As an example, read these rules recorded by Wayne Hale, former NASA Flight Director and Space Shuttle Program Manager. By actually applying such lessons from the past to your current work, our actions can honor our lost crews beyond silent reflection.

A Loaded Magazine

The Honolulu Fireworks Disposal Explosion

July 01, 2013

Following a NASA Office of Inspector General (IG) Review of NASA's Explosive Safety Program, we look to learn from an industry example where poor oversight, a lack of training and a void of industry regulation led to a deadly energetic material accident. With tight U.S. regulations on fireworks manufacturing, it comes as no surprise that the majority of fireworks consumed in the U.S. are foreign imports — with these imports come mislabeled or questionable materials that could prove to be dangerous to the public. Once inspected and seized by law enforcement, these contraband fireworks must be destroyed. The subcontractor tasked with disposing of these fireworks attempted to destroy them without the proper training and was permitted to do so because safety regulations on multiple levels failed to address disposal of hazardous materials like fireworks. As the agency implements its plan to improve its explosive safety program, we can reflect on potential consequences of insufficient barriers and controls.

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