Hockey Teams and Risk Reduction or What Makes Roberto Luongo = PPE

Canucks Hockey Flag
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Hierarchy of Controls

Special Co-​Author, Tom Doyle

Last week we saw the Boston Bruins earn the Stanley Cup. I was root­ing for the green, blue and white, and the ruin of my voice on Thursday was ample evid­ence that no amount of cheer­ing helped. While I was watch­ing the game with friends and col­leagues, I real­ized that Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas were their respect­ive team’s PPE*. Sound odd? Let me explain.

Risk Assessment and the Hierarchy of Controls

Equipment design­ers need to under­stand  OHS* risk. The only proven meth­od for under­stand­ing risk is risk assess­ment. Once that is done, the next play in the game is the reduc­tion of risks by elim­in­at­ing haz­ards wherever pos­sible and con­trolling those that remain.

Control comes in a couple of flavours:

  • Hazard modi­fic­a­tion to reduce the sever­ity of injury, or 
  • prob­ab­il­ity modi­fic­a­tion to reduce the prob­ab­il­ity of a work­er com­ing togeth­er with the hazard. 

These ideas have been form­al­ized in the Hierarchy of Controls. Briefly, the Hierarchy starts with haz­ard elim­in­a­tion or sub­sti­tu­tion, and flows down through engin­eer­ing con­trols, inform­a­tion for use, admin­is­trat­ive con­trols and finally PPE. As you move down through the Hierarchy, the effect­ive­ness and the reli­ab­il­ity of the meas­ures declines.

It’s import­ant to recog­nize that we haven’t done a risk assess­ment in writ­ing this post. This step was skipped for the pur­pose of this example — to apply the hier­archy cor­rectly, you MUST start with a risk assess­ment!

So how does this relate to Hockey?

Hockey and the Hierarchy of Controls

Hazard Identification and Exposure to Risk

If we con­sider the goal as the work­er – the thing we don’t want “injured”, the puck is the haz­ard, and the act of scor­ing a goal as the act of injur­ing a per­son, then the rest quickly becomes clear.

Level 1: Hazard Elimination

By defin­i­tion, if we elim­in­ate the puck, we no longer have a game. We just have a bunch of big guys skat­ing around in cool jer­seys with sticks, maybe hav­ing a fight or two, because they’re bored or just don’t know what else to do. Since we want to have a game, either to play or to watch, we have to allow the risk of injury to exist. We could call this the “intrins­ic risk”, as it is the risk that exists before we add any controls.

Level 2: Hazard Substitution

The Center and the Wingers (col­lect­ively the “Forwards” or the “Offensive Line”), act as haz­ard “sub­sti­tu­tion”. We’ve already estab­lished that elim­in­a­tion of the haz­ard res­ults in the loss of the inten­ded func­tion — no puck, no game. The for­wards only let the oth­er team have the puck on rare occa­sion, if they’re play­ing well. This is a great idea, but still a little too optim­ist­ic after all. Both teams are try­ing to get the puck in the oppos­ing net and both teams have qual­i­fied to play the final game. If they fail to keep the puck bey­ond the oth­er team’s blue line, or at least bey­ond the cen­ter line, then the next lay­er of pro­tec­tion kicks in, with the Defensive Line.

Level 3: Engineering Controls

As the puck moves down the ice, the Defensive Line engages the approach­ing puck, attempt­ing to block access to the area closer to the goal. They act as a mov­able bar­ri­er between the net and the puck.  They will do whatever is neces­sary to keep the haz­ard from com­ing in con­tact with the net. As engin­eer­ing con­trols, their coördin­a­tion and pos­i­tion­ing are crit­ic­al in ensur­ing success.

The sys­tem will fail if the con­trols have poor:

  • pos­i­tion­ing,
  • choice of mater­i­als (play­ers),
  • tim­ing, etc.

These risk con­trols fail reg­u­larly, so are less desir­able than hav­ing the Forward Line handle Risk Control.

Level 4: Information for Use and Awareness Means

In a hockey game, the inform­a­tion for use is the rule book. This inform­a­tion tells play­ers, coaches, and offi­cials how the game is to be played, and what the inten­ded use of the game should be. Activities like spear­ing, trip­ping, and blind-​side checks are not permitted.

The aware­ness means are provided by the roar of the fans. As the puck heads for the home-team’s goal, the home fans will roar, let­ting the team know, if they don’t know already, that the goal is at risk from the puck. Hopefully the defens­ive line can react in time and get between the puck and the net.

Level 5: Administrative Controls

Information for use from the pre­vi­ous step is the basis for all the fol­low­ing con­trols. The team’s coaches, or “super­visors”, use this inform­a­tion to give train­ing in the form of hockey prac­tice. The Forward Line and Defensive Line could be con­sidered the Suppliers and Users. They all need to know what to do to avoid haz­ard­ous situ­ations, and what to do when one arises, to reduce the num­ber of poten­tial failures.

A “Permit to Work” is giv­en to the play­ers by the coach when they form the lines. The coach ensures that the right people are on the ice for each set of cir­cum­stances, decid­ing when line changes hap­pen as the game pro­gresses, adapt­ing the people per­mit­ted to work to the spe­cif­ic con­di­tions on the ice.

Level 6: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

All of this brings me to Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas. So how is a Goalie like PPE?

Goalies are the “last-​ditch” pro­tec­tion. It’s clear that the first 5 levels of the hier­archy don’t always work, since every type of con­trol, even haz­ard elim­in­a­tion, has fail­ure modes. To give a bit of backup, we should make sure that we add extra pro­tec­tion in the form of PPE.

The puck wasn’t elim­in­ated, since hav­ing a hockey game is the point, after all. The puck wasn’t kept dis­tant by the Forward Line. The Defensive Line failed to main­tain safe dis­tance between the goal and the puck, and now all that is left is the goalie (or your pro­tect­ive eye­wear, boots, hard­hat, or whatever). In the 2011 Stanley Cup Final game, Luongo equaled long pants and long sleeves, while Thomas equaled a suit of armour. The Bruin’s “PPE” afforded super­i­or pro­tec­tion in this case.

As any­one who has used pro­tect­ive eye­wear knows, particles can get by your eye­wear. There are lots of factors, includ­ing how well they fit, if you’re wear­ing them (prop­erly or at all!), etc. If the gear is fit­ted and used prop­erly by a per­son who under­stands WHY and HOW to use the equip­ment, then the PPE is more like Tim Thomas, and you may be able to “shut out” injury. Most of the time. Remember that even Tim Thomas misses stop­ping some shots on goal and the oth­er guys can still score.

When your PPE doesn’t fit prop­erly, isn’t selec­ted prop­erly, is worn out (or psyched out as the case may be), or isn’t used prop­erly, then it’s more like Roberto Luongo. Sometimes it works per­fectly, and life is good. Sometimes it fails com­pletely and you end up injured or worse.

Goalies are also like PPE because they are RIGHT THERE. Right before injury will occur. PPE is RIGHT THERE, pro­tect­ing you — 5 mm from the sur­face of your eye, or in your ear, 2 mm from your ear drum. By this point the harm­ful energy is RIGHT THERE, ready to hurt you, and injury is immin­ent. A simple mis­place­ment or bad fit con­di­tion and you’re blinded or deaf or… well you get the idea!

On Wednesday night, 15-​Jun-​2011, everything failed for the Vancouver Canucks. The team’s spir­it was down, and they went into the game think­ing “We just don’t want to lose!” instead of Boston’s “We’re tak­ing that Cup home!”. Even the touted Home Ice Advantage wasn’t enough to psych out the Bruins, and in the end I think it turned on the Canucks as the fans real­ized that the game was lost. The warn­ings failed, the guards failed, and the PPE failed. Somebody got hurt, and unfor­tu­nately for Canadian fans, it was the Canucks. Luckily it wasn’t a fatal­ity! Even being #2 in the NHL is a long stretch bet­ter than filling a cool­er draw­er in the morgue.

So the next time you’re set­ting up a job, an assembly line, a new machine, or a new work­place, check out your team and make sure that you’ve got the right play­ers on the ice. You only get one chance to get it right. Sure, you can change the lines and upgrade when you need to, but once someone scores a goal, you have an injured per­son and big­ger prob­lems to deal with.

Special thanks to Tom Doyle for his con­tri­bu­tions to this post!

*Personal Protective EquipmentOccupational Health and Safety

Series NavigationUnderstanding the Hierarchy of Controls

Author: Doug Nix

+DougNix is Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Compliance InSight Consulting, Inc. (http://www.complianceinsight.ca) in Kitchener, Ontario, and is Lead Author and Managing Editor of the Machinery Safety 101 blog. Doug's work includes teaching machinery risk assessment techniques privately and through Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Kitchener, Ontario, as well as providing technical services and training programs to clients related to risk assessment, industrial machinery safety, safety-related control system integration and reliability, laser safety and regulatory conformity. Follow me on Academia.edu//a.academia-assets.com/javascripts/social.js

  • I see, I supp­soe that would have to be the case.

  • Rangers Tickets,

    I’d like to be able to dis­cuss your points of dis­agree­ment, as far as the Hierarchy of Controls is con­cerned. ❓ If your points of dis­agree­ment are in rela­tion to Luongo’s or Thomas’ per­form­ance in the game, I respect­fully have no comment! 🙂

  • Rangers Tickets

    Well I think your art­icle is very inform­at­ive. Though there are some points in which I dis­agree. Keep writing. :mrgreen:

  • T Savino

    I must admit, I nev­er con­sidered the sim­il­ar­it­ies between Thomas and safety goggles

    • Hey Tom! That’s the point – we need to be look­ing for these kinds of ana­lo­gies as a way to help our cli­ents and our stu­dents under­stand these con­cepts. Admittedly I was reach­ing a bit on this one, but I think the hockey ana­logy works, and I think the fail­ure of one team and the shut-​out achieved by the oth­er is a good les­son in how well, or poorly, the hier­archy of con­trols can work. When everything is in place, each lay­er plays its role and very few haz­ards get through to the place where the last-​ditch PPE is required to provide pro­tec­tion. Look at the Vancouver vs Boston stats: Shots on Goal – 37:21 or 1.762:1 – Very close to 2:1 and yet the final score was 0 – 4. 19% of Boston’s shots went in, 0% of Vancouver’s made it in the net.

      Now I won’t claim that this is dir­ectly com­par­able to incident/​injury reports, but there are parallels.

      Just think about all the times you’ve seen someone in the shop with their PPE in their hand or incor­rectly worn…