Frontline Fundamentals

Frontline Fundamentals is based on the Incident Prevention Institute’s Frontline program – a highly interactive, enriching, and engaging training designed around the concept that with the right tools, knowledge and insight, anybody—regardless of their position or experience—can be a safety leader. Utility safety experts facilitate each Frontline experience and empower participants to be better safety leaders and achieve safety success. Frontline contains four modules critical to leading safety: Human Performance, Incident Prevention, Safety Leadership, and Standards and Operations.

The iP staff is dedicated to assisting utility safety leaders prevent job-related incidents.  Looking for insight on a particuliar subject? Send us an email and we'll assist in providing clarification / solutions!

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David McPeak, CUSP, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM

Frontline Fundamentals: Organizational Culture: What Caves Can Teach Us

If you were in a cave and someone yelled “Watch out for that stalagmite!” would you look up or down? If you said down, you are correct. Both stalagmites and stalactites are formed in caves by mineral deposits from trickling water. Stalactites result from water dripping from the ceiling. They hang down, typically are hollow, have smaller bases and form faster than their counterparts. Stalagmites are built from the ground up when water drips on the cave floor. They have a more solid structure with a larger base that takes more time to form.

This imagery is useful when contemplating and discussing organizational culture. Does your company have a top-down (stalactite) or bottom-up (stalagmite) culture? As you think about your answer, consider how your organization handles the following occurrences.

Occurrence 1: Change
Stalactite: The company is reactive and changes only because they have to due to incidents or regulatory reasons. Management creates or revises programs and policies that are implemented during lecture-style training sessions conducted per organizational hierarchy. Employees have no or very limited opportunities to ask questions or provide feedback about the change.

Stalagmite: The company is proactive and changes because they want to. Leaders anticipate the need for change. Frontline workers are involved in creating or revising programs and policies that are implemented during training sessions, and they encourage questions and feedback from safety leaders, safety advocates and change agents.

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David McPeak, CUSP, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM

Frontline Fundamentals: Responsibility for Safety

You are responsible for your own safety and the safety of others.

Most people would say they agree with that statement, but do their actions reflect their agreement? Let’s consider that question in the context of the following incident investigation.

The Incident
Bob, who works in shipping and receiving, has just cut himself with his pocketknife while attempting to cut a zip-tie off a package. Randy, the shipping and receiving manager, is Bob’s immediate supervisor. Pam is Bob’s co-worker. Ron is the facility’s safety supervisor and is interviewing Bob, Randy and Pam as part of the investigation.

Bob’s Interview
Ron: Can you tell me what happened?

Bob: We have a specially designed box cutter we use for cutting zip-ties. It works really well, but we lost it. I told Randy we lost ours and he said he would get us another one. That was three weeks ago. What am I supposed to do, not work? I have a job to do, and I’m going to make sure it gets done.

Ron: What could we do to prevent this from happening again?

Bob: We need the right tools for our job. Someone needs to make sure we have them.

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David McPeak, CUSP, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM

Frontline Fundamentals: Risk Tolerance

A fundamental premise of working safely is that hazards must be identified and then controlled. Too many incidents occur because hazards are not identified, or worse, they are identified but ignored or tolerated.

One of my favorite ways to introduce the concept of risk tolerance is to ask a Frontline class this simple question: “What are some things you might hear someone say before something really bad happens?” It always amazes me – and scares me – how open participants are when I ask this question. Typical responses I have heard include:
• “We’ve done this a thousand times and no one has ever gotten hurt.”
• “We’ve always done it this way.”
• “This is going to hurt.”
• “If this works, we’ll be heroes.”
• “I think it will hold.”
• “I can survive anything for two minutes.”
• “What’s the worst that could happen?”
• “Here goes nothing.”

That list could go on for a long time, and it gives us a lot of insight into how we think about hazards and risk. In fact, I want to be sure to mention one incredibly memorable response not listed above that led to some great discussion about risk tolerance: “Hold my beer and watch this.”

Take a moment to remember if you have ever made that statement or heard someone else make it. What followed? I have heard stories involving “testing” an underground dog fence, in which someone held the shock collar in his hand and ran through the fence; jumping off a roof into a swimming pool; attempting to bench-press 400 pounds; boxing a kangaroo; and a myriad of other superhuman feats fueled by alcohol. Oddly enough, sober people do not think it is cool or that it will impress someone if they, for instance, eat a spoonful of cinnamon.

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David McPeak, CUSP, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM

Frontline Fundamentals: Controlling Hazards

Frontline Fundamentals: Controlling Hazards

“Get us a bucket truck, a rock and a hard hat. The rest of the class and I will meet you outside in 10 minutes.” Those were my instructions to a participant who, during a recent Frontline program session, challenged me as I was teaching the hierarchy of controls and explaining why PPE should be considered the last line of defense.

The participant was adamant that he had always been trained that PPE is your primary protection and that if you are wearing it, you are protected and can work as you want. The rest of the group validated that was how they understood their training. This put us at an impasse because I firmly believe safety boils down to your ability to identify and control hazards, and I am extremely passionate about using the hierarchy of controls as a decision-making tool to control hazards to the fullest extent possible. I also believe overreliance on PPE is a serious and growing problem, and that far too often, hazards are identified but tolerated or not properly controlled.

After about 10 minutes of failed examples and discussion with this Frontline group, I decided to go another route and requested the bucket truck, rock and hard hat. The participant who had challenged me gave me a quizzical look and replied, “What?” I told him that per his understanding of PPE, if there was a hazard that involved me dropping a rock from a bucket raised 30 feet in the air, he was OK standing underneath the bucket as long as he was wearing his hard hat. I then gave him three choices: eliminate the hazard (I don’t drop the rock); eliminate the risk (he doesn’t stand underneath the bucket); or I drop the rock and he relies on his hard hat for protection.

Suddenly it became obvious to the class why elimination is the first choice in hazard control and PPE is the last line of defense. We then had an amazing and exciting discussion about the hierarchy of controls and how the group was going to change their training. More importantly, the class talked about how they were going to approach hazard mitigation in the future.

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