Five-Step Risk Management Process and Innovation Mindset Drives Rising Stars of Safety.

  • Published
  • By Dawn Bodenner
  • Air Force Safety Center

On August 28, the National Safety Council recognized 39 women and men from 31 states and eight countries, making this year’s class of Rising Stars NSC’s most diverse yet. When it comes to true safety leaders, the 2022 NSC Rising Stars are second to none and include Master Sgt. Dylan Gaissert, Occupational Safety Superintendent, and Tech. Sgt. Omar Salih, Occupational Safety Manager, from the U.S. Air Force.

According to the NSC, safety leaders aren’t just born – they’re created. Often from personal experience: Someone they care about was either injured or killed in an unsafe situation. Other times, they’ve been tasked with understanding the day-to-day challenges people face in their workplace or community, and they’ve made it their mission to ensure a culture of safety. Now in its 13th year, the program recognizes up-and-coming safety professionals under the age of 40 who have a proven track record of safety leadership in their organization and are dedicated to continuous improvement.

 “An operations and innovation mindset drives continuous improvement,” said William “Bill” Walkowiak, chief of Occupational Safety for the Department of the Air Force. “I encourage leadership at all levels to work with our Airmen and Guardians in keeping a robust and evolving safety culture. Our 2022 Rising Star honorees exemplify a commitment to the day-to-day challenges with the understanding that they make it their mission to ensure a culture of safety.”

When Gaissert was stationed at Second Air Force, Biloxi Air Force Base, Miss., he led the creation of a high-risk training program with a streamlined process to provide oversight of risk management at basic military training and 93% of all Air Force technical training.

This program incorporated the Air Force Five-Step Risk Management process throughout the training environment where those training requirements were deemed a higher risk. Through the process, Gaissert identified 750 out of 2,300 courses that fell under this new oversight. Due to these efforts, all training is now constantly under observation ensuring 189,300 students safely graduate every year.

When asked if there was a soundboard at the beginning of the program that led to success, Gaissert said, “It took many conversations and tools of emotional intelligence to align all parties to understand the importance of the programs and contribute to the initiatives. There was no cohesive soundboard from the top of the chain to the bottom. Having the support of my leaders with centralized control and decentralized execution allowed the success of the safety division.”

His current aspirations are to use the tools taught by the Air Force to develop and lead teams to reach their goals while executing the Commander’s mission. “I want to be a change agent for the future of the Safety Career Field and the Air Force to help continue the acceleration of Air Superiority. I still have many years of service left and want to continue to grow daily through more challenges and experiences.” He thanks his mentors and Wingmen that have been in his corner allowing him to be in the position he is in today. Most importantly, Gaissert thanks his wife, Megan and three daughters whom without their support his success would not be possible.

Air Force Occupational Safety Manager Tech. Sgt. Salih arrived at his assignment at the 726th Air Mobility Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and immediately began planning a fall protection rescue exercise. Within two months, he executed a flawless rescue exercise that gave experience to his entire unit of more than 140 military and civilian personnel and validated the capabilities of more than 300 Airmen.

Salih’s innovative mindset not only brought change to his squadron, but to the entire Air Force: He identified a flaw in a major Air Force safety publication and standardized confined space training for the entire aircraft maintenance career field, which enabled a seamless transition for over 100,000 Airmen.

When asked what key innovative qualities led to a flawless rescue exercise execution, Salih remarked, “We really just got down to the roots of the daily operations. Instead of planning an in-house Squadron exercise, I knew other organizations around the base could be of great benefit as well. The innovation that took place after the exercise allowed our Airmen to put a “self- rescue” harness system into use that would greatly alleviate the time an Airman would be susceptible to suspension trauma/orthostatic intolerance.”

For Salih, it boils down to being genuine, focused, and putting people first. “As long as you put people first, the rest will take care of itself.” One day he’d like to wear the rank of Chief Master Sgt. and be in a position to lead change for the next generation of safety professionals and Airmen.

All Rising Star honorees have an inspiring and encouraging story to tell. They exhibit a commitment to doing their part in ensuring people live their best lives, free of preventable injury and death. We thank Tech. Sgt. Omar Salih and Master Sgt. Dylan Gaissert, and all honorees, as we recognize their contributions to the safety mission of safeguarding Airmen and Guardians, while protecting resources to enable mission success – are truly stellar.

The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate and has been for over 100 years. They focus their efforts where they can make the greatest impact: workplace, roadway and impairment.

For more information on this year’s honorees:

2022 Rising Stars of Safety | Safety+Health (