Daytona International Speedway and “Our Safety Protocols Worked”

Posted on February 24, 2013 | in Cars, Defects, Error-Proofing, Lean Tools, Lean Wastes, Problem Solving, Racing, Root Cause Analysis, Safety, Sports | by

kyle larson nascar daytona crash nationwideYesterday’s Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway was marred by a final lap pileup of cars sprinting to the finish line. One of those cars, driven by #34 Kyle Larson, was pushed up into the wall and protective fence where the entire front end of the car was sheared off and the engine blasted through the protective fence and landed on a spectator walkway. 28 fans were injured as a result of the incident, which included one of Larson’s tires becoming a projectile over the protective fence into the crowd.

After the race, NASCAR officials held a press conference about the crash concluding the race.

From Daytona Track President Joie Chitwood III:

“Following the incident we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately.”

“We don’t anticipate moving any of our fans. We had our safety protocols in place. Our security maintained a buffer that separates the fans from the fencing area.”

Basically, Mr. Chitwood is stating that the safety protocols were effective because they a) prevented fans from being so close to the track that they were in danger, and b) emergency medical personnel reacted very quickly to the incident.

Here’s my problem with how Mr. Chitwood is defining “safety protocol.” In my opinion, safety is to be preventive and not reactive. Safety is predictive of bad occurrences and creates a feeling of comfort and trust, which builds up the customer experience. Once an incident occurs, it stops being a safety issue and immediately becomes an emergency response and handling issue. The idea of being safe takes a backseat to a reactive measure.

Calling this a success for the safety protocols would be a stretch – the protocols were not stringent enough to protect fans from being hit by a speeding loose tire and/or an entire engine blasting through the reinforced safety fence. And sure, the fans were prevented from being right up beside the track because of the “buffer” but that buffer was totally ineffective against a stray spinning tire since that tire went rows into the crowd.

For proper safety protocols to be in place successfully there would have to be improved preventive measures to maximize patron and driver safety, and to nearly error-proof the safety component of the customer experience.

Some pretty big questions need to be answered by NASCAR going forward to maximize patron safety. A lot of root cause analysis and five-whys can come into play.

– Why did the protective fence get destroyed as it did by the cars crashing into it? Is the fence designed to protect from debris or from the flying race cars themselves?
– How did a stray tire make it over the protective fence that hangs over the track?
– What can NASCAR do to further minimize the safety risks of fans sitting as close to the track as they do?

In my opinion, a fence with reinforcement cables overhanging the track getting shredded by an indirect crash of a car means that there are still some pretty big steps to take to protect the fans.

One of the ways to error-proof a crash in that area of the track affecting fan safety is to move the fans away from the track. That is an option discussed by track officials but I don’t think they will run in that direction because it does detract from the fan experience.

Another way to (nearly) error-proof an incident is to install fencing that will not tear apart by a direct impact of a multi-ton speeding missile tall/wide enough to shroud any projectiles.

Either way, emergency response is not safety prevention. It is reactive and safety recovery.

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4 Responses to “Daytona International Speedway and “Our Safety Protocols Worked””

  1. Mark Graban says:

    It sounds like they took SOME precautions but NASCAR and Daytona was LUCKY as opposed to being really good. The question is what countermeasures will they take to improve the system as to improve safety?

    • Chad Walters says:

      It’s clear that NASCAR safety protocol has improved over the years (in cars, for fans, etc), but I agree that they and the fans got very lucky Saturday.

      I’m curious how they approach safety ideas and implementations – are they being more reactive (well, this is something that happened in the past so let’s put something in place to prevent precisely this) or strategic (FMEA for implementations, modeling and testing how cars hit fences, etc).

      Anytime you do anything in life you take on an element of risk (driving, working, anything inside the house and out) but it is imperative that we all work together to create a safe culture so as to minimize that risk. Here’s a link to a post about fans falling from stadium upper decks:

  2. stevenresnick says:

    So can you name a race in the last three years where this has happened? What about the last decade?

    Fans take the risk sitting so close to the action and there’s nothing that’s 100 percent full proof unless you want to make it so fans are miles and miles away from the track where those fans won’t see anything without binoculars.

    Not a fair fix right? Did the safety fence not do its job? It kept a car going 200 mph from going anywhere and if you don’t realize that when a car hit something solid like a fence the result usually involves debris flying if you haven’t seen that then you must never seen a car accident in your lifetime.

    NASCAR’s safety is fine, it’s that people must pay attention at all times. The fence only provides a false sense of security.

    It’d be like someone being hit by a foul ball in baseball even if it went over the protective screen that all ballparks have. There’s nothing 100 percent fool proof and if NASCAR fans can’t realize that there there’s no reason to go to a race and are better off staying at home and watching it from their couch.

    • Chad Walters says:

      Steven –

      The fact that it DID happen and the situation and environment permitted it to happen is the problem. It might be a “rare” occurrence but I’m guessing the 28 injured fans might be wondering why more hasn’t been done or how this event happened.

      Yes, fans take the risk of getting hurt any time they walk out of their house. I’m not questioning that there is a risk in attending any sporting event, just like there is risk in doing just about anything in life. There’s risk in falling from upper decks, getting run over by dudes in helmets and shoulder pads by standing on the sideline wielding a camera, getting hit by flying bats/balls. That’s not the point.

      If NASCAR safety is “fine” then why do they continue adding safety enhancements year after year? Why do they continue to make cars safer and seek out more ways to make fans safer? I bet even NASCAR won’t say they are as safe as they can possibly be.

      The point I’m trying to make here is that there is work to be done to reduce the risk of fans and drivers getting hurt. I’m not sure to what degree the improvements being made are implemented as a reaction or to be proactive. Another point I’m making here is that safety is not reactive – safety must be proactive, and for NASCAR to say the safety protocols worked I believe that to be incorrect.

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