Posted in 'TOP'

United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 9-675 and management at 3M, a Triangle of Prevention (TOP) site located in Guin, Ala., completed hands-on investigations during a recent training session.
TOP Representative Milton Simmons collaborated with worker-trainers to review incident investigation training and adapted it to enhance participation in safety and health at their site. They refreshed training participants with familiar materials such as near-miss reporting and investigator forms, and then decided to engage in formal TOP investigations around the facility.
“I had several near-misses that needed a formal TOP investigation, so we divided the class into groups of four and five (equally with salary and union members) and sent them on the investigation journey,” Simmons said.
Simmons and the other trainers checked in on each of the groups, interjecting with guidance when needed. After performing their investigations, the groups reported back to share their findings which included logic trees. The trainers provided feedback on the logic trees and worked through any barriers that the groups faced during the process.
“This worked out so well that it will be our pattern from now on when we conduct a new investigator class, or even a refresher,” Simmons said.
Information submitted by Milton Simmons, TOP representative, USW Local Union 9-675.
Posted In: Health and Safety, Mazzocchi, TOP, USW

United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 2-1279 and management at Essity, a Triangle of Prevention (TOP) site located in Neenah, Wis., eliminated a hazard that resulted from an injury due to a design and engineering failure.

The TOP site was using a specific knife blade during a process in which the operators slab rolls of paper. The blade broke during the process, injuring an operator’s arm. The TOP investigation found that multiple blades were broken throughout the facility during this process. As a result of the investigation, the TOP representative worked with management to immediately remove all of these blades and knives from the facility and replace them with another by a different manufacturer.

The TOP representative and team are continuing to pursue the manufacturer of the defective blade, sharing with them the injury from the design flaw, in order to prevent others from facing the same risk of serious injury. The TOP representative from this site then shared this information with other sites within the paper sector and beyond, again, to prevent serious injury due to design failure.

Information submitted by Tim Hayward, TOP representative, USW Local 2-1279.

Posted In: Health and Safety, Mazzocchi, TOP, USW

Lynne Hancock, USW Communications

The Triangle of Prevention (TOP) program was born out of worker deaths and injuries.

During the 1980s and 1990s numerous catastrophic fires, explosions and toxic releases plagued the U.S. petrochemical industry, causing workers to suffer horrific deaths and injuries.

TOPOne of the landmark occupational health and safety incidents was the Oct. 23, 1989 explosion and fire at the Phillips 66 Company’s Houston Chemical Complex facility near the Houston Ship Channel in Pasadena, Texas, that killed 23 people and injured 314 others.

“Blame-the-Worker” company-driven health and safety programs were unable to reveal the root causes of these incidents and prevent them from reoccurring. So, in the mid-1990s the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) enlisted a team of rank-and-file members who were health and safety activists to develop a worker- and union-driven program to replace ineffective behavior-based safety (BS) programs, said John Scardella, the program administrator for the Tony Mazzocchi Center (TMC) that administers TOP.

He explained the program’s history to those attending the Sept. 26-28 TOP conference at Local 10-1’s union hall.

Limited Focus

OCAW member Glenn Erwin was one of the activists who formed TOP and later headed the program for PACE and the USW until he retired in 2012.

He and other members of the team knew the BS programs focused on slips, trips, falls, and worker behavior as a cause of incidents. Managers usually blamed workers for incidents, and prevention focused on wearing personal protective equipment instead of hazard elimination.

The team also saw how companies usually ignored how work processes contributed to a dangerous work environment.

“Glenn and his team saw that companies only focused on process safety when fires and explosions happened,” Scardella said. “There was also a failure to share lessons learned.

“Plus, companies used a low OSHA recordable rate to show how safe a plant was, which did not capture true safety,” he added.

The team wanted to create a pro-active health and safety program.

“Glenn Erwin knew that to prevent incidents from reoccurring, workers had to be involved in health and safety and control it along with management,” Scardella said. “The program puts workers in roles as trainers, investigators and leaders.”

Worker InvestigatorsTOP

TOP is composed of three sides: Systems of Safety Training and Investigations, Comprehensive Tracking of Results, and Union Design & Leadership.

The program requires everyone in a plant, including managers and non-represented staffers, to be trained on health and safety. Workers are trained to be trainers, to investigate incidents, to measure and track incidents and near misses, and to take a leadership role.

Employers agree to a no-discipline policy for reporting or being involved in a near miss. Plus, workers investigate incidents in conjunction with management and government agencies.

Scardella said it is essential for any TOP investigation process to use the logic-tree diagram method to find the root causes of incidents. If a worker made a mistake on the job that resulted in an incident or near miss, the logic tree is used to find what contributed to the worker making an error.

Locals have used logic-tree diagrams to settle grievances when companies wanted to discipline workers involved in an incident, Scardella said.

“Anyone can learn to use this method, and it can’t be manipulated. The logic tree is fact-based no matter the outcome,” he said. “Identifying accidents is not enough. Finding and fix-ing hazards is not enough. You need to identify root causes.”

Erwin and his team also made capturing lessons learned and passing them on a key part of TOP.

“It is important that we recognize TOP’s history,” Scardella said. “We are proud of that history. We stand here today on the shoulders of those who put the program together.”

View the original news article here.


Top: Jim Dannelley from USW Local Union 9-265 at the Shell Saraland, Ala., refinery makes a point during a TOP presentation. Photo by Mike Hancock, Local 9-562 retiree.

Bottom: TOP conference participants engaged in a small group activity to provide feedback on a new TOP training manual. They answered questions in the manual and discussed them. Photo by Mike Hancock, Local 9-562 retiree.

Posted In: Health and Safety, Mazzocchi, TOP, USW

Lynne Hancock, USW Communications

One of the strengths of the worker-driven Triangle of Prevention (TOP) program is the consistent follow-up on issues through full-time, union TOP representatives, a TOP Advisory Group and yearly gatherings.

The Tony Mazzocchi Center (TMC), which administers the program, held its annual conference on September 26-28 in Philadelphia. USW Local 10-1, which participates in TOP with its employer, Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia, Pa., hosted the conference at its local union hall.

Over 50 TOP representatives, alternates, and health and safety members from 16 USW locals and management personnel focused on ways to strengthen the program.

2017 Triangle of Prevention Conference

“We all have to work together to make TOP successful,” said Carmine Frangella, who is a Local 13-750 TOP alternate representative at the Shell Chemical plant in Norco, La., and a member of the advisory group.

TOP Recognition

A highlight of the labor-management sessions was the presentation of the 2017 Glenn Erwin Award to Local 9-675, representing the TOP site at the 3M plant in Guin, Ala., for a major near-miss investigation, and Local 912’s acceptance of the 2017 Fallen Workers Memorial Award for integration of the TOP program into the health, safety and environment department at PBF’s Toledo Refining Company in Oregon, Ohio.

Sharing Lessons Learned

During the first two days of the conference, participants discussed topics like better sharing of lessons learned, improved tracking of all health and safety training, involving an entire plant in TOP through refresher training, and writing success stories. They also engaged in an eight-hour refresher training on incident investigation.

Kevin Theriot, the Local 13-750 TOP representative from Shell’s Convent, La., refinery said the key is to have success stories written for management to read.

“During your 15-minute toolbox talk, share your successes and what you learned. We learn something so we may save a life today,” Scardella said.

Theriot also said it is important to share what was learned from incidents.

“What happened at one site might happen at another site even though it is another company,” he said.

During the union-only session, participants discussed how to grow participation at existing sites, expand TOP to other locations, and increase management participation in the TOP annual meetings. Each site reported on its program successes and challenges. The union participants also elected two new members of the advisory group to represent the paper and oil sectors.

Working Together

Longtime TOP participant “Cookie” Sonnier from Local 13-423 at the Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, advised the attendees to work with managers and gain their support.

“Glenn Erwin said we need management input. He got management into the TOP meetings and told them, ‘You come here to work. You are here to see how to prevent people from getting hurt and how you can correct it from happening again.’

The company people may tell each other about health and safety incidents, and it does not get to the rank-and-file. As workers, we have to let the company know we want their support. When it comes to people’s safety, there shouldn’t be conflicts. You are working toward a goal together, not against each other.”

For More Information

If you are interested in the TOP program, you can contact TOP Program Coordinator Steve Doherty,, (o) 412-562-2561 and TMC Program Administrator John Scardella,, (o) 412-562-2582.

View the original news article here.

PHOTO: Participants in the 2017 TOP Conference at the USW Local Union 10-1 union hall. Photo credit: Mike Hancock, USW Local 9-562 retiree

Posted In: Health and Safety, Mazzocchi, TOP, USW

Dawn Andreoli, TOP representative, USW Local Union 10-234Dawn Andreoli, Triangle of Prevention (TOP) representative and member of United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 10-234, received the Leadership in Health and Safety Award from PhilaPOSH at the 33rd Annual Awards Reception.

USW Local 10-234 represents workers at Monroe Energy, a refinery located in Trainer, Pa. Andreoli also takes on the role of safety representative within her local.

The PhilaPOSH 33rd Annual Awards Reception took place on Nov. 17, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pa., where six awardees were recognized for their health and safety activism within their union or communities.

Andreoli was nominated by her local union for the Leadership in Health and Safety Award because of her ongoing commitment to health and safety.

“I was not aware of my entrance for the award; actually my union president entered me in the program,” Andreoli said. “I was surprised when I got it, it’s pretty exciting and it means more because the union president, Jonas Dauber, put it in.”

The PhilaPOSH award description reads:


USW Local 10-234 Safety Rep and T.O.P (Triangle of Prevention) Coordinator at the Monroe Energy refinery in Trainer, PA. Dawn was nominated by her local union for this award because of her outstanding work for workers’ safety and health at the refinery. She is credited with initiating and managing a new incident investigation program from scratch, part of the Triangle of Prevention (TOP) program that is union run and led. (courtesy of PhilaPOSH)

“If it wasn’t for everybody it would never happen, although I’m honored it is me, it’s really everybody,” Andreoli said.

She reiterates that the reason why she won this award was all due to the collective work of those who surround her, a foundation taken seriously within the TOP program.

“It wouldn’t happen if we all didn’t work together. That’s my main take from it all,” Andreoli said. “If we didn’t have support from the union, if we didn’t have support from the workers, if we didn’t have support from the Mazzocchi Center, if management didn’t buy in, we wouldn’t end up going anywhere.”

Posted In: Health and Safety, Mazzocchi, TOP, USW

The 2017 Triangle of Prevention (TOP) Conference convened in Philadelphia, Pa., from Sept. 26 to 28, with over 50 attendees present. United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 10-1 hosted the conference at their local union hall.
The first two days of the conference were held as labor-management sessions and included discussion on significant issues, an eight-hour refresher training and the presentation of awards to TOP sites and local unions for their health, safety and environmental accomplishments within the program.
Awards are submitted by sites prior to the conference and reviewed by the TOP Advisory Group, consisting of elected union members from each sector in the program, who then selects the recipients. Kevin Theriot, TOP representative from Local 13-750, presented the awards at the conference this year.
The first award presented was the Glenn Erwin Award, given to TOP sites for completing an investigation that resulted in a significant improvement. The award is named after Glenn Erwin, who was instrumental in the development of the TOP Program serving as director in 1994, and retiring in 2011. Erwin was also selected by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) as a union representative to the Baker Panel investigating the explosion at the Texas City Refinery in 2005.
USW Local Union 9-675Local 9-675, representing the TOP site at 3M in Guin, Ala., received the 2017 Glenn Erwin Award for a major near-miss investigation.
During hazard awareness refresher training, a local union member pointed out a potential incident that led to a near-miss investigation, followed by corrective action. A CSB video depicting a 2007 explosion was shown during the training prompting the filing of a near-miss. The catastrophe involved a chemical tank farm and float system, where the floats were on swivels connected to cables that ran through the top of the tanks. The tanks were bonded and grounded but it was found that the float mechanism was not grounded and there was potential for static shock. The static arc from the float to the swivel caused the first tank to explode resulting in a chain reaction. The 3M facility was using the same float system, presenting a serious hazard. A near-miss investigation was conducted by the TOP team followed by action items assigned to correct this Design and Engineering Systems of Safety failure.
In addition to the refresher training which yielded this investigation, participants were led on a site walk-through.
“This was putting employees in a different department than they were familiar with,” Milton Simmons, TOP representative from Local 9-675 said. “The idea was to put a new set of eyes armed with a refresher of what [hazards] to look for in a new environment.”
The second and last award Theriot introduced was the Fallen Workers Memorial Award which is given to local unions for building solidarity and exhibiting collective involvement within the TOP Program.
The 2017 Fallen Workers Memorial Award was given to Local 1-912 representing the TOP site at PBF Refinery in Toledo, Ohio, for the development of a holistic team approach to health and safety due to the TOP program.
This site produced a Health, Safety and Environmental Department consisting of the union’s process safety management representative, full-timeUSW Local Union 1-912 safety representative, TOP coordinator, lead investigator and five-person safety team. The team is involved with comprehensive incident investigations and is an integral part of the functionality of the HSE Department. They focus on the highest Systems of Safety possible for action items and communicate lessons learned across the entire facility. The team collaborates with management daily and shares monthly reports at union meetings. The labor-management health and safety committee is divided into subcommittees designed to target specific concerns. Finally, this TOP site retains 30 brothers and sisters that are experienced incident investigators.
“Our story is one of success brought on by the tireless commitment of generations of union brothers and sisters fighting to improve the working conditions at our facility,” Matt Velker, TOP representative from Local 1-912 said. “As one of the charter TOP facilities we have been honored to carry the TOP banner since TOP was first introduced.”
The third day of the conference included only union members. Attendees expressed the importance of TOP on social media, shared site reports, discussed the continued growth of the program and held elections for new Advisory Group members.
Program members will meet again during the week of the 2018 USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference in March.

For more information regarding the Triangle of Prevention Program, visit and contact Steve Doherty, program coordinator, at 412-562-2561 or

Photos by Michael Hancock, USW Local Union 9-562 retiree.
Photo (top, right): (from left to right) Mike Harris, John Scardella and Milton Simmons.
Photo (bottom, left): (from left to right) John Scardella, Joe Sauerwein, Matt Velker, Richard Avalos, Mike Sarns Jr. and Steve Doherty.

Posted In: TOP

United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 9-675, representing members at 3M in Guin, Ala., continue to work collectively with management toward a safer, healthier workplace. This long-standing Triangle of Prevention site recently agreed to the renewal of a TOP contract.

“TOP is important here at 3M Guin because it has proven over and over to work,” Milton Simmons, Local 675 TOP representative said. “It has been in place now for 14 years, and we just renewed another three-year contract.”
USW Local Union 9-675, 3M, Guin, Ala., TOP site
“The fact that TOP is all about finding the hazards before someone gets hurt, and the investigative tools to figure out what System(s) of Safety failed if there is an injury or spill… and to get it corrected, is what keeps our management and union members in the TOP Program,” Simmons said, “not to mention the high level of training material that the TMC provides.”

TOP is a union-lead and company-supported safety program designed to find and fix hazards, unsafe conditions, and failed systems of safety that cause workplace injury and illness.

“Another key to success is the fact that management here turns in near-misses. That sends the message that they are 100 percent behind TOP,” Simmons said.

“I have even been given a TOP submission by a member of management, with the comment that they know it will get fixed by TOP. That proves that TOP is not the flavor of the month here at 3M Guin. I could not imagine now working somewhere that doesn’t have the TOP Program in place,” Simmons said.

To learn more about the Triangle of Prevention (TOP) Program, click here or contact Steve Doherty at 412-562-2561 or

Photo courtesy of Milton Simmons and 3M.

Posted In: TOP

After Glenn Erwin became involved as a worker-trainer, he and a team of three others set out to design a program that would not only eliminate incidents leading to death or serious injury, but also prevent near-misses that lead to harmful occurrences. Erwin and his team began writing curriculum and studying current accident investigation methods such as the “five why’s” and computer-based “check the box” systems that directed workers to conclusions but didn’t necessarily protect them. These methods didn't settle well with Erwin, knowing that tragedies still occurred too often.

“Accidents happen outside of the box,” Erwin said at the recent TOP Conference.

After evaluating several different models of accident investigation, Erwin was finally interested in implementing the use of a logic tree. (See Logic Tree Diagramming below.)

“Anyone can learn how to use the method and it is not easily manipulated,” Erwin said.

TOP Logic Tree DiagrammingWith this decision Erwin concluded that union leadership could take on the role of incident investigation because the logic tree is fact-based no matter the outcome.

But again, just investigating accidents wasn’t enough; Erwin continued to develop methods to identify near-misses which would reduce incidents because investigators were finding and fixing hazards. Erwin and the rest of the team determined that the method would be to identify the root cause.

The curricula developers then went on to study investigations and fatalities recorded and found that similar incidents were occurring in a wide range of facilities. Capturing “lessons learned” from incidents and sharing the data throughout the specific industry would become another key aspect of the program.

With the generation of these methods and the findings from Erwin and the rest of the developers, the United Steelworkers (USW) Triangle of Prevention program came to life with union leadership at its foundation. Systems of safety and incident investigation structured one side, and measuring and tracking incidents closed the other, forming a triangle.

Glenn Erwin along with Dr. Thomas McQuiston, who are both grant program retirees, attended the TOP Conference which took place in Pittsburgh, Pa., from Sept. 13-15, 2016.

Dr. McQuiston’s two years of work coordinating TOP was essential to program advancement and his efforts are reflected in its continuation.

“I’ve stepped in to build on the foundation that Tom and Glenn effectuated,” Tony Mazzocchi Center Program Coordinator Steve Doherty said. “It’s important to continue to meet the needs and overcome the challenges of existing sites, and to also meet the changing needs of new and prospective sites.”

During the TOP Conference attendees consisting of TOP representatives, alternates and local union leadership participated in newly developed curricula titled “Metrics and Indicators.” They also worked together to identify ways in which the TOP teams and local union leadership could collaborate with one another to make the program more effective.

Other than specific training courses and connecting with staff, retirees and other sites, time was allotted for the recognition of two local unions for their outstanding accomplishments in health and safety through the TOP program.

USW Local Union 13-750 in District 13, representing the TOP site at Motiva Refinery in Convent, La., were given the Glenn Erwin Award for completing an investigation resulting in a significant improvement through the Design and Engineering System of Safety. The site is lead by TOP Representative Kevin Theriot, Alternate Camile Trabeau, Local Union President Marty Poche and Unit Chair Darrell Heltz.

After the site’s TOP program investigated the severe injury of a contractor, it recommended a design and engineering change to a hydraulic tensioner failure found to be a root cause of the incident. The tensioner manufacturer learned of the findings and invited the site’s TOP team to present their findings and recommendations, and to be involved in a system redesign. The new design was built and tested and an improved system was born. The company pulled all tensioner units out of service until they could be retrofitted to the newly designed safety device. This will change the hydraulic industry, making it safer.

Local Union 423 in District 13, representing the TOP site at Motiva Refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, were recipients of the Fallen Workers Memorial Award, for building solidarity and exhibiting collective involvement in the TOP program. The site is lead by TOP Representative Jeffrey Wright, TOP Alternate “Cookie” Sonnier, Local Union President Butch Chapman and Group Worker’s Committee Chairman Jeremy Walker.

In the wake of a long and difficult strike, the large oil refinery began a major plant shutdown and overhaul also known as a turnaround. The site’s TOP program began receiving increasing numbers of incident reports. The USW leadership recommended meeting this challenge with the creation of a TOP Turnaround Investigation Rapid Response Team. Over two months the team investigated approximately 60 incidents. The output allowed the team to better understand the systemic weaknesses across the site. In turn, this led to the establishment of a health and safety improvement plan. The USW leadership is also engaging the company in establishing a full-time Near-Miss Coordinator role and also training 23 hourly employees as TOP/Casual Learning Investigation Facilitators.

Both of these sites carried out TOP team and local union collaboration to work together toward improving the health and safety conditions for the members at both facilities and making it count. The TOP Conference proved to be an overall success which provided members with additional training and a convenient means to share experiences and lessons learned among the TOP community.

The Triangle of Prevention (TOP) Program is partially funded by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number U45ES006175. The TOP Program is administered by the United Steelworkers Tony Mazzocchi Center for Health, Safety and Environmental Education. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIEHS, NIH.

Posted In: Mazzocchi, TOP, USW

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