Safety Reminders for First Time Supervisors

Nov. 26, 2018
Safety is everyone’s job but when it fails, we all suffer. Stay Safe!

The role of leadership is often glazed over with many going straight to the big things. Way before the shift begins or big event occurs, little things that matter should have been tended to by you. One of the main roles here is safety. It is incumbent for leaders to protect their most valuable assets – their personnel. Easy enough said but there are some lessons learned and some ‘borrowed’ from the other emergency response disciplines that can make a difference. The list is not all-inclusive but covers most of the major points for consideration.

Safety also has another benefit that the uninitiated leaders will miss. Safety practices will lower your liability exposure. Departmental insurance is a hefty bill to pay, so the lower that bill and less injury to your staff makes everyone’s day better. This is not complex but study the risks your agency faces and seek methodologies to lower them. For those of us military veterans, we all recall the ‘weekend safety brief’ by the First Sergeant. Most of those safety briefs were scripted by prior weekend leave adventures, so listen and learn. There is no harm for every staffer to have a safety brief...make safety an objective.  Ending roll-call, share a safety nugget. It is all about making the job safer.

So, what areas can we make a difference in the lives of our staff:

Immunizations – The season flu immediately comes to mind and this annual immunization may (or may not) be accepted by all but I get mine every year. Tetanus boosters up and current? Do not forget about the Hepatitis C series of immunizations either.  This can often be covered by the Human Resources or health care benefits. Current immunizations can and will protect your staff.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Most of the time within Policeland we refer to PPE as politics, personalities and egos, but not this time. Here it really means personal protective equipment – emphasis on personal, for it requires the user to apply (if properly supplied) the equipment. PPE offers you no protection when it is in the trunk of the vehicle or the department is out of stock. If you do not have PPE ‘in stock’ you are in peril. Not only of the hazards, but often times preferred distributors can run out. Now, you are forced to go to a competing distributor at market demand pricing.  Friendly reminder, without logistics – nothing happens.

Bloodborne pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens training/refresher is an annual training requirement!  You do it every day, but you still need to be reminded. Do not believe me, the dental hygienist reminds you at every visit how to floss and we still forget it or do it wrong. You should issue and stock a good quality (thickness) of nitrile disposable gloves for staff at all times. Disposable masks – n100 are the base line, issued and in stock. Not all police are issued respirators, but if you do; remember the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ( ) fitting requirements. The new standards address facial hair and fit, review your policy for conformity. Eye protection whether face shields or goggles to protect from airborne particles for drug testing. Never forget eye protection on the range.

Hearing protection is only considered at the firearms range. I recommend that all officers have at least a set of disposable ear plugs in carry bag for loud industrial scenes. Reinforce the wearing of the  ANSI-American National Standards Institute ( )

 Retro-reflective vests on traffic scenes. 

Accidental exposures to dangerous suspected drugs (fentanyl comes to mind) is a hot topic.  

Policy, procedure and training are key to this. This is a three-step balanced approach that policy and procedure match in every way and that the training reinforces the process. Often, policy states one version that is slightly different from preferred procedure and training teaches a short cut. This is not defensible in any form - set the plan and follow it, it is officer safety at stake.  Whenever, there is a new or risky process to be accomplished, I strongly recommend that a supervisor or senior officer oversee the procedure. No, it is not that I do not trust the officers but I want a second set of eyes on the process until all are settled with the new procedure. If something bad happens, there is a cover officer there.

Ductless fume hoods/cabinets are expensive for any department; remember that some insurance underwriters may offer grants to lessen accidental exposures.

Special assignments may require special safety equipment. Immediately all think motorcycle and mounted units with specialized boots and helmets. Motor vehicle/truck inspectors should have safety toed shoes, dropping the portable scales on your foot is a real possibility (see ANSI z41 on composite toe shoes).  This assignment as well as arson investigations NFPA – National Fire Protection Association - ( recommendations such as NFPA Standard 2112 fire resistant coveralls/uniforms may be their new issue. Of course, arson investigations will require specialized footwear and maybe some bunker gear due to work environment that still may have hot spots.

Firearms and weapons cleaning tip – always demand that officers wash their hands post shooting and weapons cleaning. Never fails, after shooting we all have to have a snack or dip with shooting byproducts or cleaning solvents on our hands.

Do you have policy and training in the safeguarding of service weapons and other weapons within the officer’s home? One tragedy with an officer’s child is unacceptable, boring as it sounds- train all to be safe off-duty as well.

Hazard Evaluation and Risk Assessment (HERA) is a written product that is produced for special events and training exercises by your safety officers.  This document is provided to leadership to share with pre-event safety briefs to remind and warn of known and suspected hazards in the atmosphere. As simple as this sounds, it is a reminder for suspected hazards with precautions. These are particularly important when you have volunteers or visitors not familiar with the current working environment. Your staff may be new to your area, they may not be familiar with all of the animals, plants, insects and reptiles that are indigenous to your area. A recent example is most current ones have been packed with information regarding tick-borne illness in light of Lyme’s disease.

Safety Officers are important but often overlooked! Of course, while training there is always a safety officer but why stop at this? On any active scene, someone should be tasked with the role of the safety officer very seriously. Officers’ interactions whether training or in the field, we must always be cognizant to provide overview for their overall safety.  

Safety is everyone’s job but when it fails, we all suffer. Stay Safe!

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