October 19, 2016

Retirees welcomed back, locals recognized for accomplishments during TOP Conference

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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