U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez

The Annual FOD walk down is a large-scale planned activity designed to get as many people as possible at the site to meet at a predetermined time and location, then walk the entire compound and/or flightline to retrieve trash, rocks, loose metal objects, or anything else that may be or could become a FOD hazard. The big challenge is luring people to participate in such an activity. No one would dispute the value of cleaning up the site but getting him or her to show up voluntarily is another matter.

At times it is not so “voluntary.” If the site manager or commander schedules the FOD walk down as a mandatory formation or deems it necessary to safety, “all hands” may be required to participate unless excused by disability or illness. It may not be as desirable, but that is sometimes what it takes to get folks out of their offices and work areas. It is much better if they want to go. Our challenge in the FOD business is to promote awareness and cooperation in such a way that participation is desirable to workers, not commanded.

What do we know about human nature? People will walk a mile for a small gift, they like to rub elbows with important personalities, are competitive by nature, and love to win. That’s our formula! Let’s make the Annual FOD walk down an occasion.

First, offer a gift: a FOD logo cap or T-shirt for all attendees. Second, offer personalities: pilots and managers. Third, the competition: All attendees break into four teams to compete for retrieving the most FOD by weight and the most FOD by volume. Prizes are awarded to all members of the winning teams (examples: coffee mugs, lunch passes, $5 gasoline coupon, etc.).

This is another Public Awareness Campaign. The goal is to get everyone excited and eager to attend. Advertise, advertise, advertise. The advance advertising should state that casual clothing and comfortable outdoor shoes must be worn (no high heels). If your site has an intercom system, announce the FOD walk down every day for a few days prior to the event. On the day the FOD Walk will take place, announce it one hour prior to start. If no intercom, post reminders and have announcements made at crew/staff meetings and on the company intranet.

The Supplies Needed

  • Heavy duty trash bags to pass out to all attendees (have extras).
  • A megaphone to communicate with the crowd.
  • A large industrial scale to weigh the FOD.
  • A large flatbed truck to haul away the bags of debris.
  • The gifts and prizes (coupons may be given at the scene for distribution later).
  • A camera or photographer to take photos of the event and the winning teams.
  • Maps of the site divided into the four competition areas.
  • A stopwatch.

The Agenda

  1. When assembled at the determined meeting time and location, divide the congregation into four groups of equal number (as evenly as possible).
  2. Pass out maps and trash bags.
  3. Announce the importance of personal safety. Be sure to have a nurse or first aid kit available as accidents can happen, such as stepping in a hole or getting cut on sharp metal or glass.
  4. Let attendees know that the activity is limited to twenty minutes and start the competition with: “Get ready. Get set. Go.” Use the stopwatch to count down time and use the megaphone to announce the time remaining to the teams.
  5. When the teams have returned with their findings, determine visually which has the most volume and weigh all the bags to determine which team gathered the most weight.
  6. Have the teams load their bags onto the flatbed truck after being weighed.
  7. Announce the winning teams and pass out prizes or coupons.
  8. Assure that photos have been taken throughout the event for a display in a highly visible location at the facility.
  9. Thank all attendees for their participation (Site Manager or Commander).

Be prepared to get more FOD than you ever imagined. In the spirit of competition, people sometimes get very motivated to win. They may pick up large rocks, pieces of lumber, metal fence posts or anything heavy to try to get the most weight. It is probably a good idea to announce you won’t count rocks and metal over one pound and humorously warn everyone not to dig up or remove signs or permanent fixtures on the facility. Approach this as an opportunity for everyone to have some fun; the collected debris will deliver the message without lectures. You’ll see that your Annual FOD Walk can indeed be enjoyable and rewarding.

Want to learn more? Contact us for guidance on developing your FOD control program.