[FRC Blog] Safety Update

Posted on the FRC Blog, 1/20/2020: https://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/frc/blog/2020-safety-update-safety-animation-award-winner

Safety Update

2020 JAN 20 | Written by Barb Guthrie, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability at UL and proud Safety Advisor.

Hello FIRST Robotics Competition Teams,

As an electrical engineer who has had the privilege of serving as a Safety Advisor at FIRST Robotics Competitions for many years, it is truly my honor to be a contributor for the FRC blog.

For more than 125 years, UL – a mission driven company – has been working for a safer, more secure and sustainable world through our testing and certification of products. Each year, over 22 billion UL Marks appear on products found by UL to be in compliance with safety standards. You’ve probably seen the mark on your computers, hoverboard, as well as the motors, batteries, circuit boards and wiring you use in your robots. Our mission comes to life in many ways including our long-standing partnership with FIRST . Over the past year, our team at UL has worked closely with FIRST staff to look at ways we can build upon the current program and foster a culture of safety, second to none. We are excited to share with you below many enhancements which include an opportunity for you and your team to learn about and engage on important safety topics through the brand-new Safety Learning Portal.

New This Year - UL & FIRST Robotics Competition Safety Learning Portal

We are very pleased to announce that online safety training is now available for all F IRST Robotics Competition teams through the Safety Learning Portal. FRC teams are encouraged to expand their safety knowledge by completing UL safety-related training courses. Topics include:

  • UL/ FIRST Safety Manual Training
  • Fire Extinguisher and Safety Awareness
  • Hand and Power Tool Safety Awareness
  • Hazard Communication – Safety Data Sheets
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Awareness
  • Recognizing Electrical Hazards Awareness
  • Lockout/Tagout Awareness
  • Hearing Conservation Awareness

The portal is a valuable resource to all team members and mentors. Training modules can be assigned to team members to view independently or Safety Captains/Mentors can show the training in a group setting. Every team member who completes a training module will earn an awesome virtual badge! A great accomplishment to showcase in the pits. Visit the FIRST Safety Page to learn more and register for the Safety Learning Portal.

Safety Managers & UL Safety Advisors

Creating a culture of safety is a top priority for both UL and FIRST . As such, a dedicated, trained Safety Manager and/or UL Safety Advisor will be at every event in 2020. The Safety Manager is a local volunteer who has been trained by UL and FIRST to help promote safety at FIRST events. The Safety Manager/UL Safety Advisor is responsible for hosting the safety captain’s meetings and presenting daily Safety Recognition awards.

Daily Safety Recognition

In addition to some of the other improvements we have been developing, we have also redesigned daily Safety Recognition at events. Safety Captains that go above and beyond to create a culture of safety will have an opportunity to win “Safety All Star.” This recognition replaces the Star of the Day and Pit of the Day awards. All Safety Captains are eligible for the “Safety All Star”. Safety All Star nomination cards will be distributed to all teams each day of the competition so they can cast their vote.

Safety Award

Teams will continue to have the opportunity to win the coveted UL Safety Award. As mentioned in the 2020 Season Judging Update, Judges will work in collaboration with UL Safety Advisors for the Safety Award. You can read more details about this change here.

Safety Animation Award Winner

We are pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Safety Animation: Team 3100, Lightning Turtles from Mendota Heights, Minnesota, USA. You can view their video below:

We also want to congratulate this year’s runners up:

  • Team 2228, CougarTech, from Honeoye Falls, New York, USA
  • Team 4048, Redshift, from Westborough, Massachusetts, USA


We’re really excited about these updates and opportunities and the continued growth of FIRST ! We wish you a safe and successful 2020 season!

Barb Guthrie


Can someone explain the reasoning on why the Safety Portal needs a login? We can’t just look at it?

Nothing else that’s “good for you to know” (rules, field, etc) needs a login to view.

I imagine the badging process would be more difficult without a login. Perhaps tracking usage is another motive?

(Speculation) Off-site of the FIRST page and guessing someone wants information to better report metrics on.

How about we just abolish the whole thing and start encouraging actual safe practice instead of safety theater?

A guy can dream.


does this mean FIRST is going to stop putting gigantic speakers 3 feet from a team’s pit or does this mean they’re telling us to deal with it


Ok. I signed up, agreeing to what appears to be a rather onerous policy statement – it includes the idea that FIRST can change the policy whenever they want. Sigh. I have been committed to this community’s mission for too many years to be put off by obnoxious legalese, so I’ll just agree and move on. Don’t want to get bogged down in contemplating the motivations of whoever concocted this.

So, then I logged into the Safety Learning Portal. Off to one side I see this:

and I click the link to review the course. That leads me to this message:

Which is still there 15 minutes later. No action, no content, no learning.

30 minutes I will not get back. Time to move on.


At the top, see safety leaders. And click the course catalog. And also set it so the site can generate pop-ups. I did part of the fire safety course. My complaint is mostly that I know all that stuff and it is really, really slow (and timed not in a way to quickly move through the material).

There is also a way to administer the courses as a mentor, explained in the mentor guide.


Thank you! Setting my browser to allow pop-ups fixed that issue.

I took the PPE training. Best of its kind that I’ve seen, and I am old. My favorite parts:

I wish FRC event Safety Advisors were required to take this training. Too many of them have mis-informed students about when and when not to wear gloves.


Me dissapoint.

I like the idea of the safety training website, but god there is a lot of awful things about the entire website. Why in the world do they need to limit passwords to between 6-10 characters?

I’m totally baffled. My password doesn’t work anymore. The password reset doesn’t work, saying it doesn’t find my username name. I can’t sign up again because it says it is in the system. I get kicked for excessive login tries after just a couple tries. It has very restrictive password requirements so I had to use a shorter than normal password. I’m pretty sure I’m entering the correct password but I could be mistaken because of trouble creating an acceptable password in the first place.

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I feel so much safer now.


As Volunteer Coordinators we have been asking for Safety Training for (non-UL) Safety Advisors for years! This is the first year that Safety Managers exist and are required to pass a certification test and attend pre-event training. While I am not 100% sure, I would wager that the certification test/pre-event training is almost identical.

Note that UL Safety Advisors are different roles and thus have different expectations and probably different training. The past years UL Safety Advisors have had specific training that has not been released publicly (to my knowledge).

As always, if you think a volunteer has overstepped or not performed to their role expectations talk to the Event Volunteer Coordinator or file a Non-Incident Medical Report (either online or on paper), or else no one knows that a problem has occurred so it cannot be fixed.


This is a step in the right direction, but I don’t understand why all Safety Advisors don’t have to do similar training. The Safety Manager will be there to manage disagreement is they should arise, but they won’t be supervising everything the Safety Advisors are doing. Having untrained people guiding students on the “proper” safety techniques based on nothing but their own prior knowledge (or mis-knowledge) is a recipe for disaster, as we have seen in the past.

We wouldn’t accept it if the RIs could show up to competitions without training and rule however they wanted just because we have a trained LRI to manage disagreements. Some students won’t know enough to know that they should disagree in the first place. And misinforming a student on proper safety procedures for using dangerous tools is much worse than mis-ruling on an inspection issue. If FIRST really cares about the safety of the participants, they should require all Safety Advisors to undergo this training so they come to the competition with at least a standard baseline of knowledge.

There appears to be some confusion…

Both the UL Safety Advisors and Safety Managers require pre-event training. There is no other “Safety Advisor” role.

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Ok I just double checked and compared the list of volunteer positions this year (that you linked to) to last year’s list, and you’re right I was a bit confused.

So it seems as if they got rid of the Lead Safety Advisor role, renamed Safety Advisors to Safety Managers, and made them key volunteers with “pre-event certification provided by FIRST Headquarters prior to the start of competition season.” I don’t understand the reasoning behind getting rid of the supervisor role, but requiring training for all used-to-be Safety Advisors is definitely a good thing.

I think I would feel insulted if we ever won the Safety Award in its current incarnation.


As far as I know, last year was the first year Lead Safety Advisors at some events were NOT provided by UL, at least in the PNW. Last year there wasn’t a standardized training for non UL people who became Lead Safety Advisors which obviously caused inconsistency across events.

Getting rid of the Lead Safety Advisor, adding a clearly defined role specifically for UL provided volunteers and adding Safety Managers was a decision made by HQ with feedback from numerous Regional and District personnel. UL Safety Advisors now report to the Judge Advisor, which hasn’t been done in the past and seem to have less autonomy.

HQ has made it seem like events with a provided UL Safety Advisor have no need to staff volunteers as Safety Managers. In the PNW District just 2 of our 10 events will have UL Safety Advisors (and we have UL facilities within driving distance of almost 6 events).

Safety Managers become more of the “catch all” for safety related topics at events. They are supposed to manage the Safety Glasses Table which has not been the role of the Lead Safety Advisor previously. With Safety Managers becoming Key Volunteers the expectation of performing to their job duties is much higher and quite frankly VCs have a lot more control over who fills that role than we have had previously with Lead Safety Advisors.

I think the change in role descriptions and titles is primarily so that it is abundantly clear that UL Safety Advisors are provided by UL and Safety Managers are not. I’d imagine it has something to do with money and not wanting non UL people to represent UL in the role.

Would the safety glasses table attendant not be a Safety Attendant?

I haven’t seen anywhere that says how many Safety Managers HQ expects to have at an average event. If it’s just one or two with a number of untrained Safety Attendants under them then we haven’t changed anything from last year other than the names of the roles.