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THMG114 – Productive Communication with Superiors

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We got this question from a loyal listener and thought it would be beneficial to unpack it on the show.

Complete Show Notes

3:05 Listener Question

  • “I feel, as well as you guys, that the reconnaissance of a hazmat run should be done in bunker gear/turn out with meters, pH paper, F paper, M-8, M-9, etc. I work with a senior hazmat captain who determines which set of PPE is appropriate. We have many types to choose from: bunker gear, Tyvek, Level B, Level A, etc. I know that chemical-physical properties and permeation charts and books should determine PPE. He feels that his rank should suffice, and that any questions about PPE are an affront to his rank and a show of complete disrespect. I have tried the, “with all due respect, captain, I disagree” with him, but he just won’t hear it. He’s not a ‘Level A everyday’ kind of guy, but he does not believe that bunker gear is sufficient protection for an unknown (it seems to work on fires). How do I deal with an overprotective supervisor?”

9:35 Firefighter Perspective

  • Mike’s perspective due to his history as a firefighter and hazmat technician is that he’s qualified to choose his own PPE – only been challenged a few times on this
  • This may not apply to firefighters or hazmat techs who are new to the job, though
  • Bob’s tips:
    • Know more than everyone else, including your captain – get to the point of matter-of-fact competency where everyone else knows you’re the expert
    • Understand the laws and the standards – have this in your back pocket if your captain wants you to do something you think is wrong
    • Everyone on-scene can be a safety officer – OSHA states that anyone can stop an operation if they feel something is unsafe
  • Don’t let anybody pull rank to the point where you don’t get a justifiable answer
  • Teaching is a great way to become an authority – shows what you know and why people should trust your judgment and decision making
  • Ask the chief or captain for their reasoning behind why they want you to wear a specific level of protection – flatters them but also gives you the opportunity to express why you disagreed with what they chose
  • Another way to gain knowledge and increase your value is to go to conferences and travel outside your circle – get involved on social and make contacts in other states and counties
  • If you’re non-union, though, you should tread lightly while still incorporating these tips to build your credibility

25:25 Officer Perspective

  • Has their reasons, may not trust that firefighter yet, and need to make sure things go the way they need to go
  • This isn’t a good excuse to pull rank over and over again, but it can be valid when the situation is pressing and there’s no time for explanations

27:30 Incident Commander Perspective

  • If Bob were the incident commander, he’d listen in to the conversation between the firefighter and the captain and direct the discussion
  • Incident commander can also make the decision not to step in and to just let the captain and the technician work it out – depends on the specific person who’s challenging the captain
  • Incident commander also knows the captain might pass the buck to someone lower down the chain to handle it
  • In general, know this isn’t a battle to be won in the moment – instead, handle it privately later

Have a question? Send an email to feedback@thehazmatguys.com or leave a message on our Haz Mat Guys comment hotline: 843-628-1484

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