Advanced Safety Officer Workshop for the Railroad Industry

Looking for a new angle to improve your organization’s Safety Officer’s skills? What could be better than taking a handful of great like-minded safety individuals, putting them in a room for two days, and allowing them to dissect a scenario to better enhance their overall safety skills?   (Nothing, right?)

In July, EMSI delivered a custom designed, two day Advanced Safety Officer Workshop for a railroad industry client.   Taking their Emergency Response team members, who were already trained and seasoned Safety Officers, this workshop delved deeper into the role of the Safety Officer in using the ICS framework to contribute to the overall successful response to an incident.  The workshop focused on interagency cooperation and information sharing, looking at it from the “boots-on-the-ground” perspective, as well as an overarching strategic level.  Examining topics such as how the Safety Officer can provide counsel to the Incident Commander and how to ensure responders are reaching milestone checkpoints towards overall mitigation in a safe efficient manner, this workshop aimed to discuss the width and breadth of being a Safety Officer.

Using an actual real-world train derailment as the basis for the scenario, EMSI’s design team developed materials to guide the participants through an active series of questions and facilitated discussions.  Discussing internal staffing and dispatching of the Safety Officer and assistants, we learned that defining something as simple as who is responsible for an action or identifying the Safety Officer representative on site can be crucial to the communications, safety, and success of a response.  Recognizing that the railroad industry has outreach programs that interface with local communities through which their trains pass, the workshop took a new perspective and looked at outreach through a Safety lens, not merely the operations level.  By ensuring the right mix of attendees participated, the workshop was able to explore a myriad of topics that aren’t routinely questioned, including:

  • What are the various decision-making thresholds for an incident?
  • How does the Safety Officer help Operations and Command make decisions on whether to shelter in place or evacuate? What are the triggers to make such a decision?
  • How do we weigh risks and benefits?
  • What risk base decision-making model is used?
  • Is the risk base decision-making model adequate enough or does it need to be better defined?

Quite often, Safety Officer training focuses on how the Safety Officer can support the operational planning process (the planning “P”).  While this is important, the workshop’s intent was to look outside the planning process and into the various aspects of the Railroad Safety Officer in incident response.  We took a brief look at other jobs within the Safety Officer realm that might be outside the normal job description of a Railroad Safety Officer, discussing about how these jobs/roles could benefit and help the entire Incident Management Team move forward safely throughout the incident.  For example, the attendees deliberated how to best support Operations in developing contingency plans for various possibilities, ranging from weather to a second incident within the first incident.  The discussions were lively, talking about a wide range of topics from time management to how to maximize the little time we had. Networking opportunities, lessons learned from past incidents, and even things like identifying what others carried in their personal go-kits/vehicles were a great education for everyone involved.

Overall the workshop was a great success, as it generated a lot of thought, as well as considerations of being a Safety Officer and leveraging the collective safety knowledge of the attendees.  Based on the success of this workshop, we are in the process of turning this into a formal Advanced Safety Officer training course to complement our existing ICS-404 Safety Officer course.  EMSI can help your organization host workshops to improve any ICS position or function on your team. Contact us for more information.