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NSC names Senior Master Sgt. Lucas Shay among 2020 Rising Stars of Safety

  • Published
  • By Jessie Perkins
  • Air Force Safety Center

Extraordinary talent during an extraordinary time, is the National Safety Council’s motto for 2020, and during a year where health and safety seem to be emphasized in everything we do there are still Airmen going above and beyond for safety.

On September 27, 2020, Senior Master Sgt. Lucas Shay was one of the 32 individuals recognized by the National Safety Council as a Rising Star of Safety, in the class of 2020. The Council has given the award to one Air Force officer or enlisted personnel each year since its inception.

Shay currently serves as the superintendent of the Safety Directorate, Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. As one of the Rising Star of Safety award-winners, his photo and contributions were highlighted in the September edition of NSC’s magazine, Safety + Health.

Shay began his Air Force career in 2004 as a Radar, Airfield & Weather Systems technician during which time he served at many of his respective wings’ safety offices. “Safety was woven into our mission at every level,” he said.

In 2012, Shay was given the opportunity to retrain into safety. “I knew that I wanted to serve in the Air Force as a safety professional,” said Shay.

Upon hearing that he had made this year’s list of rising stars, Shay said he was grateful for being nominated by his leadership, as well as for the leadership he has had throughout his career, which he said, “collectively paved the way for me to succeed.”  

Shay said, “I was thankful for all of the top-notch professionals who have surrounded me throughout my career, making me look better and driving me to improve upon myself.”

During his time at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, Shay also served as a full-time additional duty first sergeant.

“As the enlisted advisor for my Squadron Commander, I had to maintain the pulse of the unit and assist in personnel actions to ensure our unit was ready to accomplish the mission,” said Shay.

He called it “an eye opening experience”!

“The bottom line is that we don’t always know what other people are going through; we don’t know what weight they may be carrying at a given moment” Shay said.

Shay learned that by listening to people and trying to understand them rather than being an “iron-fisted, compliance sheriff” it went a long way in gaining influence over the actions of others, which has helped him greatly in his time since serving in the safety community.

Shay also continued Air Force collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for Transport to reduce the speed limit from the country’s two-lane divided highway standard of 60 mph to 40 mph on a one-mile stretch of road, between the RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath installations.  Because this road linked the two bases, Airmen traveled on this road daily. “The road was narrow, had no shoulders, and was filled with dips and blind-curves … serious accidents were occurring on this road on a monthly basis” he said. The road between the two bases had yet to see a fatal vehicle accident, but Shay knew it was only a matter of time. 

Shay assisted the RAF Lakenheath safety office and Suffolk council pursue the mitigation, receiving a final determination that the speed limit officially was lowered to 40 mph after years of work. The change only added a one minute additional commute time but mishaps decreased significantly.

Shay added, “The mishaps which did occur [afterward] were much less severe in nature.” 

“Shay also hosted semiannual conferences with British electrical utility companies, sharing mishap prevention best practices” the NSC’s Safety + Health stated.

Some of the other notable accomplishments that led Shay to receive the award included enforcing COVID-19 counter measures designed to mitigate the spread of the disease contributing to zero deaths in the Air Combat Command during the pandemic.

“Luke followed his passion for safety to create great outcomes for Air Combat Command; he beat out stiff competition from sister services and commercial industry around the globe to reach the pinnacle of success,” said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Daniels, the Chief of Occupational Safety Division for ACC. “I hope he will inspire the next generation of safety leaders, as he has inspired me.”

The NSC also highlighted Shay’s creation of a KC-135 aircraft fuel cell simulator that allowed risk-free confined space training, saving $500,000 in development costs and decreased training time by six weeks.

“We are thrilled to spotlight these up-and-coming safety professionals, who have demonstrated enthusiasm, skill and leadership to further promote safety,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council in her official press release. “The work these Rising Stars undertake day in and day out is helping people live their fullest lives. We applaud them for their dedication.”

“The NSC is one of the foremost safety organizations in the world,” said Michael Ballard, chief of Air Force Occupational Safety. “We are proud call Luke one of our own and congratulate him on this accomplishment – his efforts have made a difference in the lives of those not only in the Air Force, but with our international partners.”

Saving lives, and raising awareness has been a total Air Force goal this year. Airmen like Shay remind all of us the role safety professionals have in making, work, travel, and our duties possible even while living through a pandemic.