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Communicating your Safety Business Case with Dr. Georgi Popov

Communicating your Safety Business Case with Dr. Georgi Popov

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

Call it ‘lost in translation’ when speaking to executives about safety improvements. More and more organizations recognize safety and prevention measures as an essential role that needs to be effectively communicated to upper-level management. Dr. Georgi Popov talks about safety prevention through design standards, business cases for change, and the next level of safety performance.

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized option safety guru, public speaker, and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. 

Hi, welcome to the Safety Guru today. I’m very excited to have with me, Dr. Georgi Popov. He’s a professor at the University of Central Missouri, holds a Ph.D. from the National Scientific Board of Bulgaria, as well as a master’s in nuclear physics from Defense University in Bulgaria. So, Georgi, welcome to the show. Really excited to have you with me as your professor in safety Sciences. I’d like to start out with you, maybe sharing a little bit about your story and how you got started into safety and your passion around safety. 

Well, thank you and thank you for your invitation. So, like you said earlier, I graduated from the Defense University in Bulgaria with a master’s degree in nuclear physics way back in 1019 and 91. That tells you how old I am. I was selected to go to Cambodia and serve as United Nations Environmental Health and Safety officer. It was one of the longest and most successful missions of the United Nations. So, in these days we call it EHS for short instead of environmental health and safety. So, we’ll go with that for the next couple of minutes. 

So, I worked with many different officers from different countries. They’re addressing variety of risks. You can start with heat stress. Think of 110 degrees Fahrenheit, we’re almost 44 degrees Celsius and 100% relative humidity. Think of contaminated water with biological and chemical contaminants, not to mention the variety of safety issues. Then two years later, I ended up working for Defense Research Institute in Bulgaria, where we had to develop a variety of protective clothing, respiratory protection, you name it. And at that time, I started working on NATO project, so I had to go to process a couple of times to work with other nations on respiratory protection. 

 So that was a very interesting time. And during that time, I started working on my Ph.D. in chemistry, and I successfully defended my dissertation in January 2000. Then the very next month, I won a competition to attend the Command and General Staff College here at Fort Leavenworth. And while I was studying here at the Command in General Staff College, we discussed many different safety issues, including risk management. And we have used the Army Techniques publications 519 to be more precise, we have also used the military standard 882, which is widely used in the safety field even to this day. 

At that time, there was no international risk management standard. And as you can imagine, as a chemical officer, you must think two levels up. And then in 2001, I was before 911, we were downsizing the armies. And I had to work in a private company. And I found a very interesting position with an environmental company here in Kansas City area. And there in that company, I learned the importance of the business case for safety. And the very next couple of years later, University of Central Missouri needed somebody on an emergency basis. 

Sure enough, I agreed to do that for one year. And here it is, 16 years later, I’m the interim chair of the safety Census programs at the University of Central Missouri now. 

Excellent. Well, thank you, Georgi. Tell me you touched a little bit on the business case for safety. Tell me a little bit more about why organizations need one, and more specifically for more mature organizations, organizations that have done well already in safety. And looking at the next level of performance. 

Well, that’s a very interesting question. Let me ask you that how many times you had to go and ask your upper-level managers for half a million dollars to invest in safety? And what kind of answer you’ll get? I’m sure many of you have done that. And some of you had to ask for 5 million or even $50 million for bigger projects. But while I was working for the environmental remediation company at that time, I was early career what we call now occupational safety and health and environmental professional. 

And I was thinking, okay, well, that should be easy to justify such investments, right? It’s safety after all. So, I did buy the book Job hazard analysis. I identified probably 70, 80% of the hazards, not these hazards that were at that time associated with that project. And I was so proud. As we all know, job hazard analysis or job safety analysis are not that difficult. You identify the hazards; you identify the potential consequences. You identify one control measure. Sure enough, that control measure was to put everyone in personal protective equipment, right? 

That should be enough. Next thing to do is to go and tell your manager, consider one level up from my position that, see, I have identified all these hazards. That’s what I said back then they will have to invest the money to fix the issues. So, we’re in compliance with OSHA regulations. Well, you can’t imagine how wrong I was. So, my manager told me, well, sure. Go and explain that to the CEO and that’s a midsized company. We knew each other. So, most of the OSH or BBS professionals have at some point in their career handed upper-level management a list of hazards or compliance issues that were found and all that in response. 

It is very likely that the upper-level management handed that list back to them and said, what does that mean? And that was my exact experience. So, I must explain to my CEO that, hey, if we don’t address all the issues, there is a possibility that the company will be inspected by Ocean and find a few thousand dollars for each violation. And I also listed regulations that may have been violated. Like you start with 29 CFR 1910. One, three, four respiratory protection says we need to do this and that. 

So, he told me, why don’t you go back to your office and work on a risk assessment, spreadsheet, work on a business case, and then present the findings to me. So, he also said, by the way, prepare a full cost-benefit analysis for me. So, there was an accountant during that meeting, and the accountant told me, no, you prepare benefit-cost analysis. The benefits come first for the accountant. My manager probably knew what was going to happen when I tried to speak a compliance language in the CEO’s office. 

Lessons learned for me, I realized I had to learn different language, and that’s not because of my accent. I went back to my office. I found a very interesting OSHA presentation that was titled Business Case for Safety. It was published actually and made available in 2004. And there it was. In that presentation, I found the answer why the compliance is not the way to ask for investments in EHS initiatives. Very quickly, I had to learn the business language, and I have never done cost-benefit analysis before. 

I have never done EHS risk assessment before. I quickly realized that to convince the CEO I needed to learn that new language. If you ask me, DHS professionals should be speaking in a language that upper-level management commonly uses. And in this case, that is risk reduction dollars, nonfinancial benefits. So, after you address all that, it’s more likely it will be better accepted than the compliance language that I tried. At first, to be honest with you, even the financial analysis was not sufficient. 

So, when I completed that’s what it was back then cost benefit analysis. I found out that we had to invest about $100,000 to avoid $7,000 OSHA fine. 

Right. 

So, I discussed the findings with my manager, and he was smiling and told me, well, good luck convincing the CEO with these numbers. So, I added the component of nonfinancial benefits, the personnel risk, the operational risk, the financial risk, the strategic risk for the company. So, I did my homework. And next time I presented the case to the CEO, I had benefit cost analysis, noticed that and the risk assessment completed. He looked at the numbers and said, well, why didn’t you tell me that the last time we had that discussion? 

Now I can understand it. I must admit, it wasn’t a perfect risk assessment. It wasn’t perfect benefit cost analysis. But it worked. I had to use back then very simple qualitative risk assessment process, something very similar to what I have seen in the military and, the interesting thing was the risk assessment matrix that I converted from the military standards was very similar to the one that is required by US Army Corps of Engineers. The next time we had to bid a core of engineer’s project, the CEO told me, now you go and do the risk assessments and you do the benefit cost analysis. 

And it turned out that risk assessment is required for any core of engineer’s project. They caught activity hazard analysis but includes the qualitative risk assessment matrix. And sure enough, we must justify the financial component of any project. Now, that was before 2009. The reason I mentioned that year. It is very important for me personally, because in 2009 published the first risk management standard. And with that standard comes another companion. If you will, I saw 31,010. And in that standard, you will find a cost benefit analysis, for example. 

Now notice they do call it cost benefit analysis, but our accountants like the benefit to be first, indeed. 

So, it’s interesting because I love what you mentioned about speaking the language of business. I think that’s something that’s often missed and speaking the language of regulatory versus the language or compliance towards something that other leaders can connect. So, I think a big component is what you talk about in terms of the business case for change. But it’s also how as safety leaders, we connect with different executives. Would you agree? 

Yes. Absolutely. That’s a very interesting observation. And we must do something what we call consider your audience. So, when you talk to wine employees, we must use different language. When we talk to the CEO, we must use different language. And I had a very interesting discussion with one of our local section safety professionals. And they told me, well, we think that they should send all the CEOs and the business leaders back to school so they can take safety classes. 

Sure. 

I went to ask our business schools how many safety classes do you guys take? And that’s zero. But if that makes you feel better, we’ll multiply it next year for you. So that’s how it works. But I would encourage early career professionals to become familiar with the risk assessment methods and the business case development methodologies. Notice how I mentioned the job hazard analysis before. Job hazard analysis is very widely used, but it’s not considered a risk assessment method in the latest Prevention through Design standard, which, if we have time, we’ll talk about that later. 

We converted the job hazard analysis to job risk assessment method because the original form of job hazard analysis only includes hazards and consequences and simple control measures. It doesn’t include the likelihood and risk level. And that is what I did not include in my first conversation with the CEO. He looked at that job hazard analysis form and said, well, it’s very unlikely to happen. So, he told me to use simple color coding. They like traffic light color coding. Green is good yellow, not so good red don’t even go there. 

So, when I started developing these risk assessment tools, he invited me to upper-level decision making meetings. And there I was not only thinking two levels up, but I was also talking to the decision makers. And to be honest with you, that business case for Safety OSHA presentation that was published way back when in 2004 can teach us the different terminology that is used in the decision-making process. And one of the conclusions was that safety should not be considered a cost should be considered an investment. 

So, I wish I had an effective risk assessment and business management education. I had to learn all that the hard way. But to this day, I don’t have MBA degree. However, I took a couple of continuous education courses, and you learn quickly. So, the business case development methodology was not in the EHS textbooks page then. In fact, even to this day, 95% of the safety textbooks are hazard based and compliance based. And like I told you, the compliance didn’t work for me. Think about that CEO question. 

Why would I invest $100,000 to avoid $7,000 or fine? Well, not to mention that I was told that we have good lawyers. Probably that $7,000 ocean will be negotiated down to around $1,000. So probably let me share my experience with a couple of business cases. 

That would be good. 

So, I have done many business case development projects now. And some of you probably remember that we used to consolidate trash in big black plastic bags and then we take it to the driveway and then the waste collection company comes in and they must lift the heavy black plastic bags. In some cases, in some counties, they had different colors and that, of course, teams to Ergonomics type problems. And one of the waste collection companies wanted to reduce the Ergonomic disorders and automate the process. So, think of the automated waste collection trucks that we have now that required significant investment. 

About four and a half million dollars, I think, was the figure at that time for the company. So, I had to estimate their risk reduction percentage to calculate net present value, internal rate of return, payback period and many other variables. And net present value was positive. Internal return was amazing. The problem was the payback period was four and a half years. So, the CEO didn’t like that. So, I was puzzled. I said, well, look at the net present value. Look at the internal rate of return. 

Well, here it is. Homework. Again, it turned out the average job expectancy for a US CEO is, what do you think? Two and a half years. So now I know what they were thinking. Why would I invest all that money to make my successor look good? While I look like the CEO who spend all that money later, I worked on many different cases. I should mention probably welding was one of them. Where again, we had to calculate net present value and internal rate of return and the payback period license one. 

I gave them a couple of different options the next time, not just one because they believe it or not, decision makers like options. They want to see the different variables there. You can start with, and I show them well, if we do personal protective equipment for the welding operators, it’s going to cost us that much money. But every year you must continue to invest in personal protective equipment and respiratory protection fit testing, and you name it so that net present value didn’t look great. 

You can imagine. So, the next option was put better ventilation system that created different problems. Again, that looked much better. The payback period was close to two and a half years. But the problem was that the better ventilation took the fumes away from the welded materials and the Weld quality was not that great. So, the operations manager didn’t like that. So, I gave them a third option. Why don’t you do complete enclosure and use welding robots? And they looked at me and I said, who can’t afford that? 

That’s a couple of million dollars. But when we ran the numbers, it turned out that was the most financially beneficial option. Risk reduction was greater because there is no exposure to the welding operator, two parts spray painting, but one thing that I can remember very well as a coal mine business case study in Colombia and that’s Columbia in South America. When I told our faculty members who would like to work on that, and that sure, we’ll go to Colombia tomorrow. And that’s not Columbia, Missouri, when I told them it’s in a different country. 

But I worked with a very knowledgeable individual in Colombia. He is a CEO of a consulting company. We developed a very interesting business case study where luckily, he had MBA, so I was lucky to work with him. So, we developed all these financial calculations. We are in different analysis, but at the end of the day, they found out that it’s more beneficial even financially, to install an engineering control, which is a ventilation system for each of the dozers. That’s an open pit coal mine in Columbia. 

And think about 146 dozers a couple of thousand doors for each one of them. Suddenly, you are talking about real money. But it turned out that ventilation system reduces the noise, so added benefits. We liked that project, and we developed a poster presented that poster at an American Industrial hygiene conference, won AHA award. I’m currently working with AHA and NIOS to develop interactive business case tool, and after beta testing phase, we’ll make it available free of charge. It is coming good very soon. 

This episode of the Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo consulting the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, re-energize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered! Visit us at propulo.com. 

So, these are great illustrations of the use of the business case and even how it could inform different options, different scenarios that an organization could look at. I love how you are talking about the way to connect to the account, to the CEO, to the C suite in general. But let us talk maybe about some more mature organizations because I’ve come across organizations obviously that essentially you mentioned it before. The safety is an investment. They do not necessarily look at it as something I need to do a return on investment, then maybe more willing to accept a later payback period and so forth. 

So, can you share some examples of how you have seen that show up in organizations that are more mature and really bought into safety? 

Well, I was really impressed with Alcoa, of course, sustainability report. I had listened to some of your podcasts and that was mentioned number of times. And of course, you hear about their sustainability reporting matrix. But if you look at that report, safety is front and center and left and right. And for more mature organizations, we must consider something that is called enterprise risk management. So, they will consider occupational hazards and risks, the operational hazards and risks, financial risks, and the strategic risk. So, when you think about more mature organizations, from that perspective, you see all these issues in the sustainability reporting for more mature organizations. And of course, that’s an amazing example. But they’re not the only ones many organizations will consider the enterprise risk management model. Think about safety. Where is safety in that whole model? Is it in the hazard category? Is it operational risk? Is it financial risk? Is it strategic risk? And when you picture the four quadrants of the enterprise risk management model, if you insert safety right in the middle, you will find that that’s where it belongs because it will affect the hazard insurable risks. It will affect operations. 

If we don’t have safe operations, picture that open pit coal mine in Colombia, they were able to improve operational efficiency by I don’t remember 70%. They were able to improve financial performance because the more co we produce, the more profitable we are and think about from strategic perspective, for reputation of the company. Now everyone is talking, well, the management made that decision that improved safety, reduced risk. We don’t have to use respirators anymore. So yes, I think for more mature organizations, you must consider that enterprise risk management. 

I think it’s a good point. The scenarios you shared is also that I think we had Professor Steve Spirit speak to that a couple of episodes back that you end up investing in safety, and it has corollary benefits in all sorts of other areas. As you start eliminating ignorance, you start getting better at reducing hazards. Your operation gets better, which is hard to necessarily demonstrate in a business case because those corollary benefits tend to show up from more of a cultural lens. 

Absolutely. So more than one variable to consider. And if you think that financial benefits only are the way to go based on my experience, I can tell you in some cases, nonfinancial benefits are also absolutely. 

I want to make sure we spend a bit of time on a topic that you’re very passionate about. It’s really this. And you spend a lot of effort developing the concept of prevention through design standards. Can you maybe touch on the importance of it and why organizations need to start thinking about prevention through design? 

Well, I really appreciate the opportunity to share a little bit about the updated version of the Prevention Two design standard, which was published in September this year 2021. Now we have occupational health and safety management system standards like ISO 45,001, NC Ten. They provide big picture management system implementation process. Absolutely amazing standards. However, the Prevention through design is a more specific implementation standard. It is based on risk assessment, risk management principles, and the hierarchy of risk treatment. It used to be hierarchy of controls, but we all agree that if you avoid the risk early in the design stage, you don’t have to control it. 

That’s why it’s more aligned with ISO $31,000. It is called risk treatment. And now that’s why we call it the hierarchy of risk treatment. And our profession is changing. We used to be separate safety function, separate industrial hygiene function. We used to have environmental engineers that’s kind of the Silo approach, don’t you think? And now when you blend everything together today’s, employers want us to do all the above. And that’s why, EHS, environmental, health and safety or occupational safety and health and environmental and many different variations. 

And you start adding Lin six Sigma to it and even business knowledge these days. So, with that standard, we wanted to provide guidance on including prevention through design concepts within an occupational safety and health management system. And with the application of this concept, we must make decisions pertaining to occupational hazards and risks, and they must be incorporated into the process of design and redesign of tools, equipment, machinery, substances, work processes. You name it in a way we cannot apply that Silo approach anymore. 

We must work with engineers. We must work with accountants because for quite a bit of the prevention through design initiatives, we’re going to need significant help with financial justifications. We have to educate the CEO on how investing early in the design phase will save us quite a bit of money later on. And this standard provides guidance for a life cycle assessment. And it’s a design model that balances the notice, environmental, and occupational safety, and health goals over the lifespan of a facility process or a product. 

And these standard complements but does not replace the performance objectives for existing or other more specific standards and procedures. And with this standard, we have a number of goals, and the first one is to achieve an acceptable risk level. So, what’s acceptable for one organization may not be acceptable for another? We also want to prevent notice that prevent or reduce occupational related injuries and illnesses and fatalities. And we want to reduce the cost of retrofitting because retrofitting is always more expensive than doing it right. One of the important things to mention for this standard is the terminology. 

So, we must learn to use prevention rather than mitigation, and you will see in many standards in many textbooks. These two terms are used interchangeably. However, when you start digging into the terminology, you’ll find out that prevention is before the event had occurred, undesirable event, whether that’s injury or illness or let’s hope we don’t have to mention fatalities, but we want to prevent that from happening. And if any of this happened, then we can mitigate. But mitigation is never as effective as prevention. So, in a way, the standard encourages us to become more involved in the design process and apply higher levels of controls, especially avoidance elimination reduction or control of occupational safety and health hazards and risk. 

And we must do that early in the redesign process into our earlier conversations around getting executive buy in. 

How have you seen organizations communicate and sell the importance of doing prevention of the front end from a design standpoint, which is critically important? 

Well, that’s a very interesting topic to discuss, and I wish we had 8 hours to discuss that, but not going to happen. So, we included one specific tool that we think it’s important that we can use for communication with upper-level managers. And that is the striped bow tie analysis. So, in a way, you start with the hazards, you start with the preventive measures and then you have the top event. And if that happens, that undesirable top event, then we have event three analysis on the other side of the Baltic mitigation measures and the consequences. 

So, once you put that in a visual format, managers understand sure, they can see the hazard, they can see the consequences, what might happen? And do we have sufficient preventive measures? And then you can explain you can invest your money here upfront in the prevention side, or you can spend a lot more on the mitigation side. And that is a very good risk communication in my opinion, and my personal experience is that they do understand that. And even if you look at some of the COSO guidelines and some of their publications, you will notice that they do understand risk matrix and the color code I mentioned earlier, and when you include that and incorporate that into a bow tie, which was one of the methods they mentioned in 2012 publication, it’s an eye-opening for a lot of the upper-level managers. 

Well, Georgi, I really appreciate you coming on the show. Sharing about really, the need to communicate to executives in a language that they understand, talking about business cases IRR and all the net present value, et cetera. All language of finance, which is so critical and important but also touching on this important topic of prevention through design. So, thank you for the work you’re doing in safety and thank you for joining the show. 

Well, thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity. 

Thank you for listening to the safety guru on C Suite radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack. Grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your team. Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru. Eric Michrowski. 

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Georgi Popov, Ph.D., CSP, QEP, SMS, ARM, CMC, FAIHA is the interim chair of Safety Sciences at the University of Central Missouri. He is co-author of Assessing and Managing Risk – An ERM Perspective; Risk Management Tools for Safety Professionals; and Risk Assessment – A Practical Guide to Assessing Operational Risk. Popov holds a Ph.D. from the National Scientific Board, an M.S. in Nuclear Physics from Defense University in Bulgaria, and a post-graduate certification in environmental air quality. He graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, KS. Popov is the chair of ANSI/ASSP Z590.3, vice-chair of ISO 31000 U.S. TAG, a professional member of ASSP’s Heart of America Chapter and a member of the Society’s Risk Management/Insurance Practice Specialty. In 2017, Popov received ASSP’s Outstanding Safety Educator Award.

Georgi Popov, PhD, QEP, CSP, ARM, SMS, CMC, FAIHA

Professor, GPS Chair (Interim)
Safety Sciences

University of Central Missouri
Humphreys 327A
gpopov@ucmo.edu
(660) 543-4208

Website: https://www.ucmo.edu/college-of-health-science-and-technology/school-of-geoscience-physics-and-safety/safety-sciences/fac-staff/georgi-popov/

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New Year Special Episode – 4 Safety Megatrends for 2022 with Dr. Josh Williams, Martin Royal and Eduardo Lan

New Year Special Episode_The Safety Guru

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

As you prepare to ring in the new year, tune in to this special episode featuring safety experts Eric Michrowski, Martin Royal, Eduardo Lan, and Dr. Josh Williams from Propulo Consulting. They take the time to discuss important topics such as how to return to the workplace safely, learning organization, investment in safety coaching, and the evolution of Human and Organizational Performance. You are sure to gain beneficial insights as each expert highlights a specific safety megatrend to focus on in 2022.

Happy New Year!

READ THIS EPISODE

Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suit. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized option safety guru, public speaker, and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. 

Hi, and welcome to the Safety Guru today. I’m very excited as we start preparing the countdown for the new year to have a great episode lined up for you. It’s four safety megatrends. Trends for 2022, 22 is the year ahead is two plus two. So, we have four experts with us that are going to share four key megatrends to start looking out for in 2022. 

Wow. Are you ready? Let’s go. Three, two, one together with me. 

I have Dr. Josh Williams, who’s been on our show several times. Josh, do you want to say a quick intro to yourself, everybody? 

Yeah, I’m happy to be here excited for 2022. And I’ve been doing this 20 something years, getting old. But looking forward to our session today. Thanks, Eric. 

Excellent. Well, thank you. And also have with me, Martin Royal. Martin Royal has been with Propulo for well over ten years. He’s been doing a lot of phenomenal work with leaders as part of organizational change. Martin, do you want to do a quick intro to yourself? 

For sure. Thanks, Eric. Glad to be on the show today and looking forward to discussing more about learning cultures today. 

Excellent. Thank you. Eduardo, who is coming back on the show, partners with Propulo Consulting, has been doing phenomenal work or driving organizational change more specifically, last 15-20 years, specifically around safety culture. Eduardo, welcome back. 

Thank you, Eric. Happy to be here with you and the rest of the audience really looking forward to this conversation and to helping leaders create environments where people can work safely and do so because they want to not just because they have to. 

Excellent love that. Okay. So, four topics, as I promised, looking at 2022. First one, we’re going to talk a little bit about the new normal with COVID. What is back to the workplace means how it’s impacting mental health, stress, fatigue and active care and what that means for safety. Then we’re going to talk into Behop with Dr. Josh, leading the conversation around some of the evolution around behavior-based safety integration around human performance. Then we’re going to go jump into Martin, who’s going to talk about learning organization, one of the key themes of a great safety culture and moving on. Really where the rubber hits the road. We’re going to pass it on to Eduardo, who’s going to talk about supervisory skills and how do you Hone those into 2022 to get real impact? 

So first, let me start a little bit on the new normal. So obviously dates have been changing for returning to the workplace. New variants are up in the news as we record this episode getting ready for the new Year hybrid remote work, return to work. Who really knows what’s happening? Some businesses have set on it. 

Some are still migrating. Well, what does that mean? From a safety standpoint? First, from a mental health standpoint, it’s so important. We’ve talked about another episode of The Safety Guru. Mental health is critically important, not just from wellbeing of the workforce, thinking about all the effects that mental health has taken over the last two years or so. But it also has a direct impact when it comes to safety performance. If you’re maybe distracted, there’s things on your mind. You’re not focused full attention on your job that poses a safety risk. 

And so that’s whereas a safety professional, it’s really important to start bridging that divide between mental health, which is often discussed in the HR field with the safety side of the equation. And that’s really where active care matters. If I know who my team members are, I notice that maybe somebody’s off a little bit today. Maybe I need to check in to see how they’re doing. Are they okay? I love there’s this quote in Australia where the way they talk about mental health is simply with the expression, Are you okay? 

So really reflecting connecting with your team members, knowing when something is a little bit different, something’s a little bit off and having the courage to jump in and really check in with them. So mental health, I think, is going to be hugely important as we start getting into 2022. The next one is really around stress and fatigue. We’ve talked about a lot. We’ve done some work internally on our list of the five key drivers of human error. Number one on that list is stress and fatigue. 

Stress is obviously incredibly present. Over the last 18 to 20 months, people have been mostly working harder, longer hours. There are more changes in the workplace that drives stress that also drives fatigue. If I’m not getting a good night rest, then I’m going to be more fatigue, which we know can put me in front of greater risk when I’m not fully there and fully focused, which really gets me into active care. And really that theme around something that most organizations have been talking about for the last 2030 years around safety. 

It really does matter. I talked about it before in terms of mental health. I know my team members; I know how they’re showing up. I’m more likely to be able to notice that something is different. I wrote an article just a few weeks ago. It was published in Forbes magazine. We had done a survey several months back and 80% of businesses that we had surveyed. We had talked to obviously, on the more mature side of safety, cultures reported that they had shown some improvements around how leaders showed up around active care. 

Phenomenally important. What’s important is also how do I embed that into the business? How do I start thinking about those themes, capturing the learnings and really making it real in the day to day? If you haven’t checked it out, that’s on Forbes. Forbes.com (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/12/01/beyond-back-to-normal-embedding-positive-changes-into-your-safety-culture/?utm_content=189459539&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin&hss_channel=lcp-27064223&sh=19ea9f7432e9). You can have a quick look and really around active care is really this element of self-leadership. And how as a leader, I’m building in a conversation how I’m being recognized and that has a direct correlation to outcomes. We were doing some work with one of our clients. 

And what was really interesting is we started seeing a strong correlation between outcome indicators of safety performance and whether team members had interacted over the last month around safety. Perhaps with coaching conversations. That element of felt leadership was so directly correlated to outcomes really critically important. Josh is going to talk about it very soon when we start talking about conversations he shared just this morning with me an article that talked about how having good conversations around observations can lead to 47% improvement around Sith’s and a 60% reduction around hazards showing up in the workplace. 

So, on that note, I don’t know if any of you have anything to jump in on this theme of mental health, stress and fatigue and active care. So critical as you start looking at 2022 and really bridging the gap between what’s traditionally the domain of HR and the domain of safety. Yeah. 

I mean, my experience I think we could all in this collection relate to. It is when we’re talking with folks, whether we’re doing assessments, interviews, focus groups, we’re hearing stress more and more. Ever since Kobe hit everybody we talked to; it seems like doing more with less. It’s tough. So, we feel for people out there. Everyone’s kind of in the same boat struggling through it. And the felt leadership is a big part. But we’re going to talk about human performance and how that relates to default leadership. 

And, Eric, if I can let me just jump in for a bit, human performance is all the rage right now. People are talking about hop, or we call it Bee hop. So just a quick. I’m just going to do a quick background on behavioral safety, kind of the evolution and human performance and what that means for the good conversations we need to have with folks and this notion of felt leadership, how we transform a culture. So just back in the old days, when I was coming up, behavioral safety was taken over. 

Before that, there was a lot of emphasis on attitudes and motivation. Those are important things. The challenge was, what do we do with it? Sometimes you get a one and done motivational inspiring presentation or whatever or training. But then that’s it. What do we do? So behavioral safety came in. And of all the research out there, if you want to get nerdy and start looking up statistics and research in the safety field, you’re not going to find more than you will on behavioral safety. It has been studied for decades. 

There’s all kinds of science and research showing the benefits of behavioral safety and what it did was kind of transform the focus, not just in teams of what I’m thinking and feeling, but what am I doing? As we all know, if you minimize risky behaviors on the front end, you minimize the chance of something bad happening on the back end. I mean, I hate to be cold talking about human life, but in many ways it is a math equation. Fewer risky behaviors in the front end equals less chance of something going wrong in the back and doesn’t guarantee it. 

But it makes it a lot less likely. So, focusing on behavior is smart. And so behavioral safety comes along. And there’s science behind it. And one of the biggest benefits is you’ve got checklists that are used to see what’s going on, what’s working? Well, what’s not working? Well, theoretically, we’re getting input from people doing the work, hearing what they have to say and making changes based on it’s a beautiful system. Martin is going to talk about learning culture in a moment, but it’s a beautiful system when done properly to get that input, to create a true learning culture on a regular basis, as opposed to kind of one and done training sessions. 

The challenge is it’s not easy to do so as we transition to talk about Bee hop and human performance. On the behavioral safety side, three big things happened that made it difficult to do. First are implementations being poor. It became a commodity, so people are buying and selling behavior-based safety. So, people are throwing out checklists without the proper training with no discussion on conversations, essentially saying, here’s a checklist and go use it very quickly. When I was in graduate school, we did research with funded by NIOS at a company. 

Half the group was given a card and said, Go use it. The other half created their own checklists and rules for use and other things around it. We call it the participation group. They use their cards seven times more than the people that were simply told here’s a card and go do it. And too often with behavioral safety failures, there was not a proper implementation on the front end. It was here’s a card here’s how you fill it out. Go do it. So not surprisingly, it didn’t work. 

That was the first big. The second big issue was technology, and it’s great to have technology help us whom we’re doing various functions on the job. But these behavioral checklists got increasingly long because it was easy to fill out on technology. So, I’m filling out a 50 or 60 item checklist. That’s crazy. Nobody’s doing that properly or very few people are. It became a problem became all about the cards and the checklists and the quotes you get you one in at the end of the month. 

So now that you got the system of quotas of pencil whipping and a larger problem of this black hole where we’re feeling stuff out and we never hear back. So, employees are not talking to each other first. But second, they’re bringing up issues that are important and no one’s getting back to them. So not surprisingly, behavioral safety. There were some struggles. The third issue was simply it’s hard. It’s hard to maintain something long term. So, we got to acknowledge that, particularly on the behavioral side. So, as I’m trying to go quick on the hop side, on the Behop side, we’re talking about human performance and the two big tenants there one quit blaming people for getting hurt, Demi said this years ago. 

Don’t blame people for problems created by the system. The second part of that is to fix the system. The first response when someone gets hurt is not who screwed up. It’s where the system fails. We’ve got to reorient our thinking to understand that we all operate in a context. And if we improve the system, it influences our behavior. The very quick story. I got to do one sports analogy really quick. Random lost, great receiver, troubled guy problems throughout his career on and off the field goes to the Patriots. 

Not that I’m a Patriots fan, but they’ve got a tight system overnight. He’s a night and day guy. He’s out in the community doing all the stuff for charity. Now he’s on TV doing this stuff. Total transformation. Same guy in a different system behaves very differently. If we improve systems, we’re improving the likelihood of better attitudes and better behaviors out there. So, I just want to kind of point that out really quick. Two more thoughts here before we transition over here to Martin in terms of the Bee hop, what we call it, it’s behavioral and human performance. 

There’s a lot more emphasis on people talking to each other. As Eric mentioned earlier, it’s about having good conversations, these cards that we use when we roll it out with clients. We’re talking four or five things. What scares you about the job? What do we need to do differently? What would you do differently? How can we help? These are open ended questions, getting people talking. And if we respond to that and address issues based on those comments, you don’t need incentives and all these other gimmicky things to get people to fill them out. 

They want to because stuff is getting addressed. So, the Behop is all about conversations and being responsive to concerns when they’re being brought up. And again, mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn, as opposed to occasions to punish. It’s all that just culture people are talking about in a nutshell that’s what it is. So, the last point really quick is positive accountability. Some of the concerns that people have with human performance is we’re getting any personal accountability when mistakes happen. It’s not true. We’re just trying to reorient to the first response being address the system factors and supervisors. 

It’s a tough role for supervisors who are trying to keep. They need to set clear expectations and use positive means to maintain those expectations that we’ve all agreed on. That’s positive accountability. It’s doable it’s hard, but it’s doable. So, the end of this is essentially when be hop is done properly, we’re improving Felt leadership. There are various tools like leadership listening to us. Leaders are going up asking questions. They’re not going around saying good, bad or indifferent. They’re out there asking questions, trying to learn that creates an environment of openness, which is part again of that felt leadership saying felt leadership is one thing. 

Using listening tours is actually doing it. So, there are some tools and human performance that help with that felt leadership we mentioned as well as good conversation. So, with that said, I’ll turn it over. Martin, we’re going to talk more about learning culture. 

Yeah. And I think before I go there, I just want to emphasize I think your point around Behop is really key. A lot of people have implemented some form of observation program, many of them it’s not working anymore. People aren’t using it. They’re mailing it in, don’t throw it out with a bad water. It’s time to start thinking about how do you re energize? How do you get better conversations? And I love your approach, Brad. Deeper questions to ask people to reflect on what’s dangerous, about what you’re going to do today and really start deepening those relationships, but always keeping those elements from the behavioral base safety side that does work. 

So, thank you, Josh. Martin. So, you’re going to talk to us a little bit about learning organization. Probably one of the key themes of a great safety culture. 

This episode of the Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, re energize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety, leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered! Visit us at propulo.com. 

For sure. Thanks, Eric. And I’d like to share a bit more today about my prediction for the future of learning organization, but also to combine that with our focus on discretionary effort, the employee experience and safety. Because for our listeners probably are aware that at Propulo, we focus on discretionary effort as a way for our clients to gain a competitive advantage when it comes to safety and safe production. And what we know is that when it comes to workplace behaviors that drive safety, there are those that are we call our compliance behaviors completing hazard assessment form following safe work procedures, wearing the right PPE. 

But what we found it’s not sufficient for the workforce to engage in compliance behaviors to drive exemplary safety performance. These, beyond the minimum behaviors, are more difficult to measure, and they often involve positive safety behaviors that are targeted toward achieving your safety goals, like staying vigilant in the face of changing conditions, supporting the team, sharing safety information. And of course, we won’t see any of these behaviors listed on any employee job description. But a lot of our organizations that are doing extremely well safety wise will have employees or greater proportion of employees that demonstrate this behavior. 

And what’s interesting about this Krishna effort is that it only emerges when there’s a high level of workforce engagement and commitment so that discretionary effort is the behavioral manifestation of engagement. I wanted to share some insight today around the concept of worker experience, how an organization that focuses on learning and how can we increase that discretionary effort in our workforce? Now, why is the worker experience? What does it matter? I would say the employee experience is the hallmark of learning organization because the emphasis is on developing the mindset, the behaviors and systems that are conducive to have an optimal employee experience that will encourage high safety performance and discretionary effort. 

Now for the listeners that are maybe familiar within the Its industry. So, software companies have talked about the user experience for quite some time. It’s to describe the experience of app users how they engage with the app. It’s a concept that focuses on the emotional response of users and how they interact with the features and functions Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Masters of this to create engaging users’ experience. Now, the same ideas we can take four employees in the organization. So, employee or the worker experience just simply describe how employees think and feel through every touch point during their time with the organization could be recruitment, onboarding development, performance to things like long absences of work, remote working on boarding or things like incident investigation, injury, radiation, disciplinary action. 

Why we want to look at this employee experience is simply that the employee experience underlies the commitment and engagement that we need to drive discretionary effort. And you could think about it that your employees experience with safety management system will determine at the end the extent to which they will adopt, use and improve on the system. I wanted to share an example that remind me of our clients of ours, a European zinc and silver mine that I happened to visit. I think five, six years ago and their agency team would share with us their concerns that the miners were not reporting near misses, not anything that surprising. 

We’ve heard of these kinds of concerns before now, putting the mindset aside around reporting names when you look at the process of reporting narratives at that point, it was quite cumbersome and at first we have to understand the workers operated at 500ft below ground, and there was no way for them to fill out any form whatsoever. If any incident or near misses were happening. These near miss forms were in a building adjacent to where the miners would meet before taking off. At the end of the day, the form itself was convoluted. 

Workers would drop it off in a box to preserve anonymity, which is good. But then no one would hear back from these reports or if any, corrective actions were taking place. And so, while many leaders are often tempted to blame workers for poor attitudes towards incident reporting or lack of motivation, when you look at these workers experience of the near miss reporting system, you can see it’s quite easy how someone might just feel frustrated, disempowered to submit these kinds of reports, let alone even appreciating the value of doing so. 

If we want to build on more positive employee experience around safety system, a couple of things that we can look into. One is looking at the factors. The main factor that may drive that positive experience could be the safe work procedures, safety policies, tools and equipment learning and reporting system safety communication teams, the reward and recognition system field oversight. I would even go to look at the coworkers and peer relationship, and the goal would be to determine how workers experience the system and whether the system is supporting their intended goal, which we’ll presume. 

It is about encouraging error identification, prevention and mitigation. Now, what if I’m a manager and I’d like to improve my employees experience? All right. So, a couple of things for me, I would say as a leader, I would say, start with yourself, how are your employees experiencing you? Do they feel they are treated fairly? Do they feel that you value their opinion and contribution? Do they feel they’re encouraged and supported? Do they feel that you provide them with opportunities for development? Do they feel that you hold them accountable for high safety standards, or even do they feel that you should have the concern for them as individual? 

I say that’s the first and as Josh mentioned earlier, basically, it is about going and talking to our people, talking to workers and getting that sort of feedback. But here’s the thing as a second step. So, I would say that you start with yourself as a leader. Second, is you could do the same with your front-line supervisors and also try to get that feedback is how are the workers experiencing your front-line supervisors? Same kind of question to start to get a sense of how or why are they doing the things they do? 

And are there elements around the leadership that could be improved now? Third, might be around the system that you want to gather feedback on, which often requires to get out in the field. Get the feedback. Seek to understand the experience of this system what works and what doesn’t work. My experience is we need to ask all the right questions, especially if the workers have not been accustomed to providing any input, especially to senior leaders. So, questions might be things like what gets in the way for you to work safely? 

How can we improve our approach to report safety incident or name another safety system that we want to look into? What do you think we could improve? What are the things you think about our recognition program? So, I’ll recommend you pick just a different list of systems that are more critical that you want to get feedback on and just go out there to get that feedback. Now, one thing I’ll say, though, you might need for in certain workspaces might need to build a trust first. If trust is in there. 

One of the reasons is if people have had some mistress or senior management, they may not open up. And so, we’re going to need to start building that trust, building a bit of the commitment that if the feedback is provided that’s something will be done about it. And so, as a leader, I would say the goal is not to make commitments to make massive critical infrastructure improvement, but more small improvements that demonstrate that. Hey, we listen to you, and we are going to take action to make things better. 

So, we’ll see later on a note that my colleague will Home in on the supervisor’s experience. But I wanted to share that as a learning organization at the end of the day, it’s really about looking, how are we operating and what’s the impact on our workforce? And if we want to give them a better experience, what are some of the changes we can take on? 

Thank you. Thank you, Martin. I think this whole theme of learning organization so key to safety and definitely should be an area of focus going into 2020. Eduardo, you’ve talked last time you were on the show, you talked a little bit about supervisory skills, couldn’t agree more. It’s really where the rubber hits the road. This is where safety culture really manifests itself and how you have impact is going to be how the supervisor interacts with team members. And too often I’ve heard team members saying they’ll trust a supervisor. 

They’ll do what their supervisor does. They’re more important to them day to day than the CEO even is. So, Eduardo over to you. 

Yeah, absolutely. Eric. And thank you, Martin and Josh as well. Yeah, it is really where the rubber meets the road. And I understand what you’re saying about what workers comment in teams of their relationship to their supervisor. And he or she is being more important than the CEO. Now, this is logical, because oftentimes they don’t even know the CEO. They’ve seen them on a pamphlet on a brochure. They’ve heard him speak, maybe, but they don’t know him or her personally. And they do know the supervisor. And so that person, really the supervisor is where the rubber meets the road. 

I would say for two reasons, one because they are in direct contact with the worker, and thus they are able to influence that person and they do for good or for bad constantly. And second, because supervisors are really between a rock and a hard place. And Josh was mentioning that we feel for people, and we feel for supervisors because we understand the challenges that they face between producing and keeping people safe. And it is a challenge. It’s not easy to handle that challenge, but it can be done. 

And we know from experience and from working with many, many organizations that when organizations and supervisors and other more senior leaders focus on safety, people work better. They produce more they produce with higher quality. But if supervisors are really where the rubber meets the road, we need to invest in them, and we need to train them, and we need to develop them. And unfortunately, that is usually not the case. Supervisors are usually promoted through the ranks in organizations because of what they know because of the type of worker they are and the level of performance they have. 

Which one? In one sense, it’s important that they know the job, that they know the technical aspects of the job, because they’ll be supervising people directly. But oftentimes many of the things that made them stand out as individual workers get in the way of them being effective leaders, because being an effective worker is really about getting stuff done by yourself, being assertive and as a leader, you really need to get stuff done to other people, and that requires leadership skills and leadership skills are very different from technical skills. 

We’re talking here about your capacity to create relationship, your capacity to interact with people, your capacity to listen to people, to get people thinking, to get people speaking to get people. And that discretionary effort that Josh and Martin were talking about is key. And there is no one in the organization that has more power to really generate that container, that environment where people are willing to go that extra mile, to be creative, to think about things, to stop and pause before they do the work, then supervisors, so really investing in them and developing them as leaders is key. 

Now to do that, we need to give them all these skills that I talked about. And one key skill that I think is crucial is helping them to become better coaches, because, in essence, and with the type of work that people do nowadays in industry essential, that their direct leader, that is their supervisor and be able to coach people so that they themselves can become more self aware, become better at managing themselves, really coaching people to think about the work that they’re doing and to consider what are the risks, what are the hazards that they will be facing and how they will be mitigating those risks. 

Now again, unfortunately, because these are not necessarily skills that we have. Naturally, some supervisors develop them naturally, and we’ve seen Rockstar supervisors, but many don’t. They’ve never developed them, and they’ve never been taught. But these are really skills that are essential because it’s in those coaching conversations that supervisors have with workers that you will get workers to really look at how they work, look at their behavior and really get them to think about what they’re doing so that they don’t get hurt on the job. In this regard, we’ve come up with very specific skills that we teach supervisors, and we do so both in a classroom setting. 

And this is not your typical classroom with lots of PowerPoint slides and lots of concepts. No, these are about supervisors having conversations about what challenges they’re having with people, what it is that they want workers to do that they’re currently not doing and what they can do to get workers to do this. And these classes are full of role plays where they act out that relationship between worker and supervisor and how to have those conversations. And ultimately, we even develop supervisors through field coaching, having them practice these skills in real life situations. 

And some of these skills have to do. We come up with an acronym called Dare, and we call it Dare because it really takes courage to lead in this way. First off, because we’re not used to leaving in this way, and it’s going to be uncomfortable starting out. Second of all, because we’re asking supervisors to step away from this traditionally authoritative role of I’m the boss. I’m the supervisor. I’m going to tell you what to do when you’re going to do it to more collaborative relationship. 

And so that takes certain things. It takes the ability, as I said before, to create relationship. As you’ve all mentioned during this conversation, it really takes an ability to not just care for people which most supervisors do. We don’t doubt that, but to actively show that care and to delegate work in a manner that promotes safety. Now, what do I mean by this? Telling people what to do and how to do it does not work. First off, you don’t know whether the other person heard you, and you certainly don’t know whether the other person understood you and so telling someone what to do and how to do it. 

And then we tend to ask people or supervisors tend to ask people, did you understand? And of course, people are going to say yes, I should, of course. But that doesn’t mean they understood. It just means they’re saying that because they don’t want to look foolish. So, delegating work effectively means telling people what to do, but asking them how they’re going to do it, and furthermore, asking them what risks they will be facing and how they will mitigate those risks. Second, and this again takes courage because it’s not something we’re used to the A in there is about acknowledging safe work, and this is really key. 

We know from years and years of studies in various fields that people really thrive in an environment where they are recognized, they are appreciated. They’re acknowledged for the things that they do. And yet traditionally, we don’t do that. We just focus on what’s wrong. Now, here’s the problem with focusing on what’s wrong. Many people will say, well, that’s where I need to focus. That’s where the gap is. I need to talk about what’s wrong. The problem is it’s unfair and it’s counterproductive, and it’s unfair because people do more right things. 

They do more safe work than they do dangerous work. And thus, speaking to them always about what they do wrong. What they do unsafely is unfair. And second, it’s unproductive, because if I Eric, I’m your supervisor and I come to you and I correct you, and then I come again and I correct you again, and then I come back and I correct you again. What’s going to happen? The fourth time I come around, are you going to be all happy to see? 

I’m sure I’m going to be thrilled to see you. 

Exactly. You’re going to hate me. So, it’s really important to do that. The next aspect is redirecting at risk work, and that, of course, is important. We need to redirect unsafe behaviors. We need to redirect unsafe conditions, but it takes skill to do that such that you can redirect without offending the other person in a way that not just maintains but actually strengthens their relationship and really has the other person take the message to heart. And finally, the E in the Dare acronym is engaged. And its really what Martin was talking about of generating this learning culture, where there’s this back and forth with the organization and with the people that are really the experts of the work itself, which are the workers. 

So really teaching supervisors to create environments to create conversations where people are willing to engage are willing to speak up. And that’s really what this is all about. So yeah, really passionate about helping organizations upskill their supervisors, because as I said at the beginning, this is really where the rubber meets the road. And if we get this piece right, a lot of good can be done. 

I agree. I think you tied everything together. Edward. I think the element of how a supervisor starts interacting create a safe environment, how they’re coaching links to some of the themes that Martin was talking about earlier in terms of creating a learning organization where people want to put in more discretionary effort towards safety, where we’re constantly learning from what could go wrong, which ties us back to Josh was also talking about conversations and really those coaching interactions. And really the element of how do we start looking at things from a just culture standpoint? 

How do we start removing a lot of the risk and the blaming of the employees, but still continuing to do some of the good stuff around behavioral observations, driving better conversations? And then at the front end when I was talking about really the key element around mental health, wellbeing, really bridging that divide between safety and HR, really addressing some of the impacts around stress and fatigue, and then really the active care and self-leadership. All those key pieces, I think, are really the four core mega trends to focus on in 2022. 

So really appreciate all four of you. Joining me today. Eduardo, Martin, and Dr. Josh great conversation. Great topics to explore and wish you a happy New Year! 

Happy and Safe New Year. 

Happy and safe New Year to everybody. 

Happy New Year everyone, I would say Bonne et année!  

Let’s count down together. 10 – 3, 2, 1 

Fireworks, Champagne, and Happy New Year! 

Thank you for listening to the safety guru on c-suit radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack. Grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops Guru. Eric Michrowski. 

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUESTS

Dr. Josh Williams, Martin Royal and Eduardo Lan are Partners with Propulo Consulting, the leading Safety and Operations Strategy Advisory & training firm. Tapping into insights from brain science and psychology, Propulo helps organizations improve their Safety, Operational performance and Culture.

Dr. Josh Williams: For more than 20 years, Josh has partnered with clients around the world to deliver customized, sustainable solutions to improve safety culture and prevent SIFs. Dr. Williams earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Virginia Tech and is a behavioral safety, human performance, and safety culture improvement expert. Josh is the author of Keeping People Safe: The Human Dynamics of Injury Prevention and co-editor of Keys to Behavior Based Safety. He has published more than 150 book chapters, government reports, white papers, blogs and articles in leading journals. Josh has also delivered hundreds of presentations at leading national conferences and is a highly regarded public speaker. He received the Cambridge Center National First Prize for his research on behavioral safety feedback.

Martin Royal: Martin is an expert in Human Performance & Business Transformation, coach and facilitator who helps clients create a committed and mobilized workforce to achieve their operational excellence, safety and wellbeing outcomes. Since joining Propulo Consulting in 2011, he has delivered well over 400+ safety culture change workshops and training programs centered on the development of employee empowerment, difficult conversations and leadership skills for global clients in North America and Europe. Martin supports Propulo Consulting’s contractor facilitator workforce and internal consultant team to enable them to deliver exceptional safety engagement training programs. He also supports the development and client-customization of Propulo Consulting’s various leadership and employee training offerings. Over the years, he has been involved in leading safety culture improvement engagements with various clients in industries such as aquaculture, construction, manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, and utilities.

Eduardo Lan: As an accomplished organizational consultant and safety leadership coach, Eduardo has extensive experience in safety culture transformation, leadership development, and high-performance projects and operations across the United States, Europe, Canada and Latin America. With over 20 years of experience in Leadership and Organizational Transformation, Eduardo is truly an expert in Organizational Development and Change, specifically safety culture and leadership. He has designed and led seminars, workshops, coaching sessions, and entire programs on personal and organizational transformation for hundreds of organizations and thousands of people and works with leaders and teams on identifying limiting behaviors that thwart high performance, assisting them in producing breakthrough bottom-line results. He holds a master’s degree in Organization Development and Change from Pennsylvania State University and multiple certifications in consulting, coaching, safety, ontology, MBTI, integral theory, appreciative inquiry, adaptive leadership, and mindfulness. He is a frequent columnist for multiple business and industry publications.

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A year in review. The Safety Guru’s Top 10 themes and ideas from our 2021 season! Get caught up with the ideas that will help you leave a legacy in 2022! Happy Holidays!

Special thanks to our 2021 season guests: Nick Marks, Michelle Brown, Donald G. James, Kina Hart, Tricia Kagerer, Curtis Weber, Brandon Williams, Candace Carnahan, Dr. Tim Ludwig, Alfred Ricci, Dr. Josh Williams, Dr. Mark Fleming, Gardner Tabon, Steve Spear, Spencer Beach, Eduardo Lan, Dr. Keita Franklin, Jason Anker, John Westhaver, Dr. Tim Marsh, Glen Cook (Cookie), Dr. Suzanne Kearns, Dr. Robert Sinclair and Russ & Laurel Youngstrom.

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people. First, great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized option safety guru, public speaker, and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. 

Hi and welcome to the Safety Guru. I’m your host, Eric Michrowski. It’s hard to believe it, but 2021 is almost coming to a close and we’re about to wrap up our second year producing the show for all the leaders and executives out there like you that are seeking to leave a legacy by making the workplace safer. More than any other time of the year. The holiday brings loved ones together to celebrate with those that matter the most of them. This time of the year symbolizes why my team and I do the work that we do to partner with exceptional leaders and companies that endlessly focus on ensuring that their team members come home to their loved ones every day. For that, we thank you. We extend our sincere appreciation to you for your gift of safety for each and every one of your team members. 2021 has been a year full of exceptional ideas on this show. Ideas from a diverse set of thought leaders from academia and from real world practical applications. I have two awesome episodes to cap off this year. Today I will share a reflection of the top ten ideas I heard from my guests on this podcast. The next episode first will ring in the new year 2022 with four experts sharing their top four ideas for 2022. Well, you must be wondering why four guests and four ideas whether you’re 22 is two squared.  

So now on to our top ten lists for 2021. Best episodes that I’ve heard here from our guests. Let’s start with number ten. This year we had a great lineup of safety motivational speakers from Russ and Laurel Youngstrom that talked about moving safety from the head to the heart to Jason Anker that really talked about making safety part of your life and the impact of mental health on safety. We’ll get to that soon. Kina Hart and Candace Carnahan that talked about making safety personal. Curtis Webber that touched on the importance of leadership and onboarding for safety. Spencer Beach about putting safety first, listening to yourself, John Westhaver about road safety and wide matters, and finally cookie around power line safety, his episode around looking up and living. All of these motivational speakers do some exceptional work and sharing the importance of staying safe and help influence the mindsets and ultimately the behaviors of others. For that, I thank them. 

Well, it is essential for every team member to choose to work safely because they recognize that safety is an investment into the experiences that they want to have with their loved ones. Sometimes we also need to step into the shoes of somebody who had an experience to understand that this could happen to us as well. Of this great lineup, two episodes really caught my attention. First one was around Russ and Laurel Youngstrom. This dynamic duo had a really authentic story around safety. What caught my attention was the story about a close friend of Russ who was there the day of the event who witnessed him getting seriously injured, falling from heights and yet a short period afterwards was also caught not wearing his safety harness while working at Heights. The other part is, Russ was very authentic. When I asked him about what would have prevented him from making this at the time, he essentially said that nothing could have stopped him. It was already in his mindset at the time. Cookie, you got to love somebody who goes by that name. Well, he had a fantastic story about powerline, safety and really that people were getting more easily injured when you could see the power line versus when you were digging, and you couldn’t see it really important story about situational awareness and a great app that gets people to reflect and think about the hazards of power line. 

And now on to number nine, the Happiness Index with Nick Marks, A Statistician with A Soul. What really caught my attention about this episode was the element on the focus on a pulse, a regular pulse of your business. The work he had done had identified how pulse of the workforce is a very fluid scenario, and he brought some examples from the first few months of the coveted pandemic and how a month over month and week over week, people’s perception around the workplace were shifting. So, what really that brings forward is the importance of measuring a safety pulse on a more regular basis, not even just doing it annually or quarterly, but maybe even thinking about their workforce and their perceptions in a small sample on a weekly basis so that we get a great leading indicator and may be able to impact and drive action earlier. He also touched on the importance of psychological safety and some ideas on how to measure it really key topics for 2021 and beyond, and now on to number eight safety culture. What would a year on the safety group be without conversation on safety culture? But this year we had two great professors come and join us. Dr. Mark Fleming, as well as Dr. Bob Sinclair. Dr. Mark Fleming’s episode is interesting. He touches on the topic of signal theory, which was Nobel Prize research. Essentially, he’s trying to understand what are the signals that executives can send to truly send the message that safety matters here. Point he brings forward is that sometimes when an executive will walk around, they’ll say that safety is the number one priority, and the team members are really trying to understand. Is that signal true or not? A couple of the key items is about how can executives present more powerful impactful messages when they do spend time and field because that time and feel is going to be limited. A great episode for senior leaders to think about their messaging and sending the right signals across the organization. 

The other thing he touches on is really the importance of fixing things, but also of helping people solve their own issues around safety and how that sends some very reinforcing positive signals. Dr. Bob Sinclair also came on our show later in the year, and he was talking about some of the links between safety, climate and ultimately behaviors, which is the whole reason why we’re focused on safety climate and safety culture, but also touched on the importance of complexity of rewards too easily. You can drive the wrong impact by having the wrong metrics, but at senior levels, if you don’t have the right indicators, then you may not be prioritizing safety the right way. So great episode. Very complex theme touches on it. The other element he touches on, which I’ll get to very soon and more details is around supervisory skills and how that’s a critical, critical place to begin a journey around safety culture. Really making sure that your supervisors are maximizing every single interaction to drive meaningful impact because ultimately that’s who find my teams members speak to the most and are probably the most influential in the day to day. Of course, number seven goes to Human Factors with two great guests this year. 

Let’s start with Dr. Suzanne Kearns. She teaches aviation safety, and one of the things she touched on is really around how in the 70s and 80s, the culture was really around finding the air within the pilot. Post an investigation. There were a series of very high-profile aviation accidents that were primarily caused by pilot error during the 70s and 80s and really start challenging the industry to think about. Is it really about challenging the error of the pilot, or is there more to play with? One of the most interesting examples she brought forward was around Eastern Airlines. 

If you remember the crash where there was a faulty light bulb that changed the attention of the crew, and they didn’t realize that they disengaged the autopilot and flew their aircraft straight into the ground, something that should never have happened. So, she really talks about how you need to lurk look at the environment and the situation touches on human performance, really as a scientific discipline of why people make mistakes. One thing I really loved about her conversation was around the Swiss cheese model. She touched about how we have multiple layers of protection, but each one of them has holes in it. 

And if those holes line up, that’s where an accident can happen. So, the concept is an accident itself is actually quite rare, but those leading conditions that could allow it to happen are more frequent. So, she really focuses on how you start looking for those leading conditions and driving real impact. And then there was Brandon Williams, from fighter pilot to airline captain, who recently just got promoted as a captain. He touched on four critical themes in my mind. One, he touched on the concept of just culture learned, touching on some of the items that Suzanne Kearns also discussed. 

But he also talks how that drives in your misreporting and creates a learning environment and the critical importance of it. He touched on the importance of situational awareness and tools and tactics that can help increase worker situational awareness, which is often why things go horribly wrong. I loved as well how he touched on the concept of accountability as peer accountability, as opposed to sometimes the negative view of accountability, which is where we start blaming people. I love this concept of peer accountability from his episode, and now we go to number six, where we go to Steve Spear, who teaches operations management at MIT. What I loved about this episode is he touches on the importance of really creating a learning organization if you want to drive safety. He touches on the concept of seeing problems, how that becomes a capability where people are constantly obsessed with finding opportunities to drive improvements, and then, Secondly, how they start solving them nonstop, trying to find even little things, really touches on the theme that we touched on before around human factors and human performance, really trying to solve those leading conditions. And finally, really about how do we share and disseminate that knowledge. 

He touches on three stories that are incredibly powerful. First one, he has first-hand experience around Paul O’Neill’s work at Alcoa and really how Paul O’Neill did some phenomenal things around safety, truly, by driving the importance and the focus and within the organization. From his initial meetings where he talked about how we’re going to fix everything through a focus on safety, to try to make sure that he knew about every single incident within 24 hours in days prior to even a Fax machine, and how that drove really this sense of ownership, accountability across line leaders. 

And finally, that if somebody wasn’t on board, how he took an action. Second one was really around US Navy, and he talked about some great examples of how you make sure a new team member comes on board and can be anywhere in the world and yet make the right call right decision. That was a great story. And finally, I would touch on Toyota, which was another example he brought on, which is really around the onboarding of a leader and really how it’s really about coaching great episode, lots of great insights about creating a learning organization, which is really the crux of driving safety performance. 

This episode of the Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, re-energize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered visit us at propulo.com 

Now on to number five. We had Professor Dr. Tim Ludwig who joined us. The safety Doc meets the safety guru. His book, Dysfunctional Practices That Kill Your Safety Culture, has amazing resources and ideas on things that you could do and probably are doing that are making things worse around your safety culture. First thing you touched on is really stop blaming your employees. And he brings a lot of really good examples of leaders that think that our employees aren’t doing the right things and blaming them. 

Again. Linked to the earlier topic around human performance. He talks about some of the theory around behavioral change and how do you make that tangible and real in the business? And does it really change from day to day through coaching interactions? And how do you actually make a change and then really the importance of the environment in which you’re operating in great book, but also great episode and now on to number four Mental health. We had four experts bring up the topic over the year, but two really caught my attention. 

The duo of Jason Anker and Dr. Tim Marsh that worked together Jason Anker from more of a motivational standpoint in terms of his experience. And then Dr. Tim Marsh from some of his work and his research around safety culture. And really the key theme and what I loved about those two episodes is how they were able to directly link the impact of mental health and safety. Often people touch on the topic. They were able to connect the dots and essentially unfortunately, a lot of organizations the mental health side is being handled by HR and the safety side by the safety professionals, and what he’s advocating, what they’re talking about is really these things are often interconnected talks about the importance of active care and how active care is an incredibly important theme to start surfacing that maybe somebody is not as okay as you think today and that could be a precursor to an injury really driving that link. 

Such an important theme really important for safety leaders to start thinking about the impact and how they can collaborate with HR around driving mental health within their business and now on to number three. Safety supervision. Such an important topic I mentioned before, Bob Sinclair mentioned the importance and why it’s so critical for your supervisors to really have the right skills. Eduardo talks about how often supervisors are the ones that got the least investment in teams of leadership skills often get promoted from the craft because they were really good at the job but weren’t given the tools around influence, particularly around safety. 

And if you want to make a real difference for safety, that’s probably where you need to start around upgrading the skills of your supervisor. What I love about Eduardo talks about the four core critical behaviors that you need to drive in the core skills you want to bring forward, which is around how you delegate work safely, how you acknowledge safe work. So really the element of recognition and how that plays an impact in terms of ultimately in terms of the outcomes, how do you redirect unsafe work, which is probably the most challenging one? 

How do you get difficult conversations nailed? How do you help coach a team member so that you get real lasting impact and behavioral change? And finally, around engaging your team around safety to get more participation, more involvement? Great episode, tangible ideas around safety supervision and how do you make it happen within your business? Definitely has to be an area of focus going in 2022. Now on to number two safety leadership. What topic could be more important than safety leadership if you want to drive meaningful impact? 

Well, this episode was around with Michelle Brown, who dedicated her career to helping leaders. She speaks a lot on the impact and the key elements of transformational leadership and some of the experiences she’s had with some of those transformational leaders. Really about how do you leave a legacy? The power of questions and really, ultimately, the impact of what interests my boss will fascinate me. And how do you use that as a positive to drive safety culture change within your business? Incredibly important topic around leadership as well connects with some of the topics we heard earlier around Mark Fleming and his conversations around signal theory. 

Two episodes that really touch on the impact and the importance of safety leadership, and now moving to the number one idea from my episode in 2021, we had Dr. Josh Williams introduce the concept he calls Be Hop. He brings ideas to help take your behavior-based safety to the next level. We all know that BBS has probably had the biggest impact around safety performance, but unfortunately, a lot of organization it plateaus, and often it plateaus because BBS doesn’t address themes such as safety ownership. The human performance items I talked about doesn’t go deep enough around coaching doesn’t focus sufficiently on critical observable actions. 

Basically, the higher risk items that people should be observing. Key performance indicators tend to drive the wrong impact, so too much focus on mailing it in by driving up the number of observation cards. Often BBS programs lack in terms of organizational change. Don’t touch organizational systems don’t drive safety participation, and there’s still blame. As we heard from Dr. Tim Ludwig. So, Josh proposes a couple of key ideas to help introduce and integrate behavior-based safety with some of the human performance tools we talked about before to drive real, tangible impact and push. 

Plus, a Plateau and performance Bee hop a great tactic, very different from traditional observation programs. If you’re looking to make a difference, listen to that episode. There you have it, folks. Those are my top ten for 2021. Listen in on December 30 as we look forward to the top four safety megatrends for 2022, the top four safety megatrends to move and power your safety performance into 2022 and then join us in 2022, as have another phenomenal line up of guests and ideas for you.  

Once again, thank you for the work that you do helping workers come home safe to their loved ones for the holidays. Hey, and if you know somebody that should be on the show, let me know. Let’s make safety fun, simple and useful for executive and leaders. Let’s make a real difference. Happy Holidays from the safety guru. Thank you. 

Thank you for listening to the safety Guru on Csuite radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack. Grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your team’s. Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru. Eric Michrowski. 

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Eric Michrowski is a globally recognized thought leader and guru in Operations and Safety Culture Transformations. A highly sought-after Executive speaker on the global stage, he has led executive training programs, coached the C-Suite, and connected with thousands of Fortune 500 senior leaders. He has been featured on TV, in articles, and Podcasts, hosts syndicated show on the premiere business podcast C-Suite Radio and has an upcoming ForbesBooks book to be published next year. His approach is anchored in evidence-based research and practical applications in Human Performance, Process Excellence, and Organizational Change. He brings over 25-years hands-on experience in Operations Management, Culture & Business Transformations, and Safety having worked across a broad range of industries. Across his work, he has achieved substantial improvements in Safety, Operational and Financial Performance, and Employee Engagement, always by incorporating Epic Cultures to maximize results and sustainability.

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RELATED EPISODE

Moving Safety from the Head to the Heart with Russ and Laurel Youngstrom

The Safety Guru_Russ & Laurel Yongstrom_Moving Safety from the Head to the Heart

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A special episode in honor of December Family Month features an excellent conversation with Russ and his wife Laurel. Their message is a strong warning that one split-second decision can change many lives forever. Russ is a work-related paraplegic, and he touches on the dangers of an “it won’t happen to me” attitude in the workplace. He reminds the listeners that accidents can happen to any of us, especially when carelessly ignoring safety precautions. Laurel discusses how one careless act has affected every aspect of their lives. Listen to a truly inspirational story about the importance of safety ownership from Russ and Laurel.

READ THIS EPISODE

Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized option safety guru, public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. 

Hi and welcome to the Safety Guru today. I’m very excited to have with me Russ and Laurel Youngstrom, both are safety advocates and keynote speakers. They do a phenomenal job at sharing their journey as a couple and really speaking to move safety from the head to the heart. I love that quote. So maybe if you can start a little bit about telling me about your journey and what happened on that day and then we’ll take it from there. 

Yeah. I used to be a commercial painter. I woke up that morning, gave Laura Let his goodbye, looked in on our son, Spencer. He was sound asleep in his little bed. He was two and went to work, stopped off, got my four shots of Espresso and a Maple bar, and I was the first one to work that day. But I saw the clipboard. I signed it immediately, and then we had a quick safety meeting. I don’t remember. And then our goal was to power wash the outside of the paper mill. 

And I always work with a really good friend of mine. We had a new guy with this, so we got all our rigging set up for a swing staging scaffolding. We started off at 180ft supervisors, Foreman. They all came up and inspected everything. So, we started power washing, and I unlocked my arms almost immediately. That’s just me. 

Okay. Next thing, somebody got our attention and it was time for lunch. The weather was really bad, really terrible. So, we wouldn’t have lunch. We got ready to go back to work. And the paper mill stopped nine of us and said, you have to come to our safety meeting. It’s like, okay. So, I walked up a flight of stairs, got a Snickers, bark up a coffee, turned the chair in front of me around and put my feet on it and listened to some guy with a laser pointer and completely ignored it. 

We went back to work, started power washing, and I had that funny idea. We’re being watched. I looked and our safety guy drove a little too far on the back side of the building where we can see the front of his truck. So immediately I hooked up and we never got caught. He was there for about 20 minutes and finally left. And then we started hard watching again. And it was time for the end of the day. And I took it up on myself to say let’s put it on a 30-foot platform and try it off overnight to the handrail. 

Okay. A friend of mine agreed. So, we came up with my little plan. I did have my harness on at the time, and my safety line was in a bad angle that I didn’t like. Sure, my safety line went right by the friend of mine. He put his hands up and said, no, I told him to F off. So, we both climbed up on the handrail. 

And right. When I climbed up, I looked down. I could catch myself. I wasn’t worried at all. And then I got a signal from somebody. The chills, the goosebumps down the back of my neck. Like, don’t do this. And by the time we picked up the scaffolding and by the time I get even blank, swung back and hit me in the chest and threw me back about 10ft. 

Oh, my goodness. 

Our hat comes off. Safety glasses come off, and it does go in slow motion. And my first instinct immediately from the gentleman that hired me years ago. He said, never land on your feet. You’ll blow your feet, your knees, your hips. That’s the first thing that came to mind. It’s like, okay, what just happened? I couldn’t find my legs at first, and then finally, I can see my legs. Okay, I’m going to land on my right side, hit roll and walk it off. Okay. I got this. 

And right before I was going to hit all of a sudden, my right leg got stuck in some Airlines and then stopped me, then budgeted me back up. And that point, I was completely lost. And the first thing I felt has young kids, watermelons, pumpkins that would never take off porches. It drove on the ground, and you hear that explosion noise? That’s what I felt in my head. The first thing that hit and then a snap. It’s like, okay, walk this off. Okay, walk it off. 

It couldn’t get up. And I tried breathing. It’s like, I can’t breathe. I tried to breathe in again. I took one last try to breathe and kept my eyes were closed and I just got warm. The pain went away. I don’t know what you call that transition, but it was okay. I was just there. Then all of a sudden, I felt someone grabbed my hands and I looked up. And it was a friend of mine. And the first thing I asked him was, how come my feet are touching my head? 

He’s like, what are you talking about? I go, my feet are touching the back of my head. He goes, your legs are straight. And then he said, I’ll be right back. I’ll get help. And so, I could hear in the background, fire trucks, ambulances people started to show up and Foreman and supervisor walked up to me, looked down on the ground and said, there goes your F and safety record or hard. 

Great way to show compassion. 

And then the paramedics were getting me stabilized. One of them said to call Airvac, and then the whole mood changed. But I didn’t realize that I landed less than 2ft from my safety line. It wasn’t at a bad angle. I didn’t care. It won’t happen to me. 

Right? 

So, it took me to the nearest hospital. I started puncturing the lungs, so I came out the other side of this machine, and this female Ninja trauma nurse lady leaned over, gets about two inches from my face and says, you broke your back in three places, served your spawn cord. You’re confined to a wheelchair. No, it doesn’t happen to a person like me. It happens to the other person. One doctor was saying how many fingers he could put in the back of my head. One was working on the punctured lungs, and the other one was doing a catheter, which is convenient now. 

And the other one was drying my blood. They don’t give you anything for discomfort in Washington until they dry your blood. And so, my blood came back fine. I made a comment. My blood came back stupid. They took me to my little private room, and then it happened. Laura walks into the room. I don’t know what to say. So, I told her what the female doctor said, and she thought I was joking because I’m a jokester you can’t tell. But Laurel didn’t believe me when I told her what happened. 

So, she pulled over. A friend of mine just never left. He’s been with me the whole time. And so, he pulled her aside in the room, and they started to cry. I started to cry. I was so thankful I didn’t hurt anybody else. But I found out later people had to go to counseling that saw the fall, right? 

Yeah. I don’t want to get too involved in certain things, but the one thing I have to admit to is that last safety meeting they made us go to where I had my Snickers bar, walked up to the fly of stairs. It was a full protection safety meeting an hour and a half before I fell. And you didn’t even pay attention to that one? 

No. I signed the clipboard. Right. 

And Laurel, tell me about your journey through this, because it must be shocking when you get the phone call. Yeah. 

Something that you never want to happen to anyone you care about. I was at a nursing home where I was working, and my supervisor came to me, and she said, you have a phone call. I thought that’s weird because I don’t get phone calls at work. And all they could tell me on the other end of the phone was that Russ had been in a serious accident, and then I had to get to the hospital right away, rehearse for things like that just react. And so, I drove. 

But I don’t know how I made it I didn’t even really know if I was already a widow by the time I got there. 

So, Russ, you knew that you should wear the harness. You knew you need to tie it in. You tied it when somebody was there. 

Right. So, when somebody was watching, you knew that you had to put it in. How come you took it out as soon as somebody leaves? Was it just for show for that supervisor? Because that happens often, right? Somebody’s watching. There’s an observation. Everything looks good. And then the person walks away and it’s a different scenario. 

I didn’t care. One of my problems is it won’t happen to me. I’m 30 years old, Mr. Tough guy. I don’t need to follow the rules. It’s going to slow me down. I would come up with excuses all the time. It’s like we’re in a seat belt. I always came up with the excuse that it’s more dangerous to unhook a hook all the time, but it was just an excuse. Yeah, I can’t say anything, except it was just my mentality. 

When we talked about it. This before you talked about risk-taking and comfort risk-taking. So, supervisor is there sees everything looks good. How do you recognize somebody like that who’s more likely to be comfortable taking more risks? Who might be more comfortable taking something off when nobody’s watching? 

I think Dyslexia has one thing to do with it being criticized by your dad or family members that you’re not smart enough or tough enough to go to college. And so, it’s almost a program to work extra hard as much as you can to make yourself feel better, that you are somebody. 

And so, what can a supervisor do when they see somebody who’s more of a risk-taker? What would be some of the guidance you’d give them to? Make sure something like this doesn’t happen to make sure that more of a risk-taker pays attention in a safety meeting. 

To spot a person like me. Always early to work. Anger issues doesn’t work well with others, except for a certain group and a person who likes to go out after work and drink. And this is just my opinion. Sure, that’s one way I look in the audience when I’m talking and I can see me after the talk, the management come up. How did you know it was him? Because I can see me in these people. And then they ask me, what can you do? What can we do to help them and you have to fire them? 

You have to let them go. You can’t fix broken extreme sports these days. Peer pressure is much worse now than it was back in my day, right. 

I think the safety programs have improved quite a bit, though, but I think that making sure that your employees know that you care. They’re not going to care about how much you know until they know how much you care and be genuine about it. Get to know people and create relationships between yourself and your employees and between your employees and each other. Encourage them to get to know each other and so that they feel comfortable telling someone if they feel like something is unsafe and the other person feels comfortable accepting that, too. That’s a big thing. 

Respond even maybe. How do you give the feedback in that particular? How does peer-to-peer feedback happen? Russ, would you mentioned before that it won’t happen to me. I’ve heard so many times. I’ve heard so many times that somebody says, you know what? I know how to do my job. It’s somebody else. The person who got injured is the one who didn’t know how to do it. They weren’t as tough. They weren’t as whatever. And these rules, whatever, don’t apply to me. How can you shift somebody’s mindset around it to say, yeah, I should do this? It matters. 

This episode of the Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, re-energize your BDS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered. Visit us at propulo.com. 

I don’t have the answer. I got the consequence, but try to bring family into it if they have kids, but you can’t fix them. I feel bad for saying that, but most people need to be let go and make an example. And the tough part about all this was a friend of mine who witnessed this whole entire thing. He got fired four years later for not using proper fall protection. But he witnessed this whole entire thing and he still went back to old behavior. I don’t have the answer. I really don’t. 

The more you can make safety relationship. If they trust you, and if they trust each other, then they’re going to be more comfortable taking advice and following the safety rules. And if they’re thinking about why they’re there, they’re thinking about the reason that they’re at work because they want to make a better life for their family. Well, they’re not going to have a better life if something happens to them. I mean, create a positive safety program, maybe some mentorship with the new guys and the veterans and create an open-door policy, make the meetings engaging and maybe let them know what it’s going to be like if they get hurt. 

What were you talking about? 

Put like, an eye patch on somebody for a half a day, making these crutches tie an arm behind their back. 

Sure, they know what it’s going to be like if they would lose a limb or lose their sight or something like that. And it’s really tough love. If you care about your employees, then you do everything you can to make sure that they want to be safe because they’re not going to be safe if they don’t want to rest is a plain example of that. 

No, go ahead. One of the tough things for me is Spencer asked me. He was about seven years old. He asked me, what do you do at these meetings? And I told Spence I go, I just tell him my story, how I got hurt. If you don’t think of yourself, think of your family. He said, how come you didn’t think of me? 

Wow. 

You just blamed up on my lap. And I held him and said, Sorry, that’s all I could come up with. But haven’t put pictures of their family, their dog, something that means a lot in their hard hat or a family board. But something that another thing, too, that we’ve been hearing that works well is sending a letter home to the family member, to the wife or to the husband. Hey, your husband been working unsafely. This is his last warning. If he gets caught again, working unsafely, he will be fired. 

And we’re all afraid of our wives. Something really simple like that. I think it’s a good idea, right? 

I think these are cool ideas. Cool messages. Really making safety personal. I love that when you talk, you often talk together, share your story from the two sides, the perspective, because I think that element, like you said in teams of your journey, but also your journey together in teams of what it means for loved ones. I think it’s a very important message for people to hear as well, right? 

Yeah. 

With all the 32 surgeries who was in the waiting room and you took care of them after they got home, you don’t think about those kinds of things until it’s too late. 

When you are on board. When you started the work, what was the experience that you got from onboarding, from setting the tone, from addressing kind of some of the expectations of how you work here and what could have been better? 

Had a really good safety program, actually. 

Yeah. One of the people I hurt the most was our safety guy. He did everything possible. We had forklift training, respirator, fall protection. We went through all the safety. There wasn’t anything that they could have done unless I got caught and fired me. And they fired me. 

He just never got caught. 

People ask me, did your fault protection fail? I go, no, I did. Our safety guy was there that day. I had two safety meetings that day. I don’t know what to say, but I feel really bad for the safety guru. After I got hurt, he snuck under the caution tape the next day and grabbed all my clothes that was cut off, and he grabbed my safety harness buckle that the fireman cut off. He put that on his desk for 21 years. 

Oh, my goodness. 

And it’s like, get rid of it, and we still argue he thinks it’s his fault. It’s like, no, it’s my fault. But there’s nothing they could have done except fire me. 

They actually had a very advanced safety program for that year for 19, 95, 25 years ago. It was comparable to the ones that they have. Now, there was a lot less safety back then, but that particular company did that comment about there goes our effort safety record. That was one individual that was the only person that was negative during that time. The company was very supportive and the owners were supportive. And the safety guru, we still meet with him, but he teams up every time he sees it. 

And I had to ask, was it cool or neat watching me fall? No, the fall wasn’t bad, but the sound of your body hitting the concrete is what got to him. 

Your friend tried to stop you. Is there anything that he could have done to convince you to wear the harness? 

No. You are not going to wear it no matter what. Even if he says, get off this job or wear the harness. 

Yeah, I had all my fault protection on me. I had buckled everything, but I just chose not to use it, right? I didn’t get scared too often, but a couple of times I didn’t feel like close to an edge and gave me a little queasy, and I would hook up. But besides that, I wouldn’t. 

You put your harness on. Why would you put your harness on? Because I’ve heard these many times as well. Somebody has it on but won’t clip it in. 

I think, probably just because it’s required and they have to get it inspected at the beginning of the job. 

Sure. 

So, at the end of the day, but also, I think if I’m hearing correctly when the supervisor was there, it’s easier to show I’ve gotten tied in. I’m okay. 

Yeah. 

I wish I could help you more or say something that would fix people. But I do believe if I would have been in that last safety meeting and had a crippled person like me come up, talk about messing his pants, peanuts, pants falling out of beds, falling out of the wheelchair in your face type person. I do believe that that would have made me think a little bit more that I don’t want to go through this. Sure, because I thought if you break your back, the one thing that happens is you can’t walk and you save money on shoes. 

That’s all I thought was. But I didn’t realize about the bladder infections, yeast infection, shoulder joints, wrist, back surgeries. I’m going to die ten to 15 years earlier than most. At the rate I’m going, I have not owned a left shoulder for almost two years. Three years. But I’m still functioning in a wheelchair. Only one person has that answer. How can I function without a shoulder? But that day everything was just right for me to fall. Everything lined up. 

I really appreciate you sharing a story. I think sharing that message just like you said, Russ, in teams of getting people to reflect it could happen to me. The same could happen to me, hopefully makes more people rethink pause and choose to take that extra step to stay safe. So, I really appreciate all that you do in this space. Russell. Laurel, if somebody is interested in hearing your story, sharing that story with their teams, how can they get in touch with you? 

YoungstromSafety.Com. Also. We have a Youngstrom Safety Facebook page and Laurel Youngstrom on LinkedIn. Also, Youngstrom Safety on LinkedIn. 

Excellent. 

Well, it’s easy. Actually, you can probably just Google us. I think we’re the only. 

And there’s videos and so forth. So, I really appreciate you sharing your story. I know it’s a tough story to share. It’s a very hard, wrenching story to listen to hear, but I appreciate what you’re doing to try to make a difference in other people’s lives as well. So, thank you. 

The day before yesterday is getting tailgated and I’m like so I pulled over and let the truck go around me and started driving. And then I got cut off by a lady. And then it was my breaking point until I saw a sign that said Baby on board and I backed off immediately. 

Sometimes thinking about somebody else’s family can help you too, to maybe be safer driving or otherwise. 

Absolutely. 

Thank you. I really appreciate you sharing your story and really sharing from the heart in teams of what happened, what transpired? Because the story you shared. I’ve heard so many times in teams of it’s not going to happen to me. I can do it. I’ll be okay. And we’re in the hardness, but not tying down all things I’ve heard unless the supervisor shows up and then magically, it’s all tied in. So, appreciate you sharing that story. It’s unfortunately not the first time I’ve heard it something similar like that, but working at heights is really dangerous. 

I really appreciate you sharing your story and it’s a very heart-wrenching story to listen. Really appreciate it. Thank you. 

Thank you. And also, too is you doing a really good job interviewing this just to let you know. Seriously good. 

I appreciate it. 

Thank you so much for having me here. 

Thank you for listening to the safety guru on C-suite radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode. 

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Laurel and Russ are the husband-and-wife founders of Youngstrom Safety. For over twenty years they have been reaching out to audiences of all industries, moving safety from their heads to their hearts. They do this by encouraging listeners to think about how an accident would impact their loved ones. Russ (a work-related paraplegic) and Laurel are safety advocates and keynote speakers. They are available to share their powerful story (two different perspectives) about personal accountability in safety at meetings, conferences, trainings, and job sites throughout the country (in-person and virtually). They have spoken to tens of thousands of workers in 29 states. From onsite, in the back of a pickup truck, to huge conference centers, their message is always the same – being unsafe is selfish! You can find them at www.youngstromsafety.com

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Linking Safety Climate and Behaviors with Dr. Robert Sinclair

The Safety Guru_Dr. Robert Sinclair_Linking Safety Climate and Behaviors

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Positive safety climate has an impact on safety performance and safety outcomes. In this episode, Dr. Robert Sinclair, a Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Clemson University and Editor in Chief at Occupational Health Science, explains the link between safety climate and behavior and how to prioritize safety in the workplace with a reward system. He also touches on the importance of safety training and the critical role of supervisory and safety leadership. Learn how to increase employee engagement and improve safety performance!

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the safety guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized option safety guru, public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. 

Hi, and welcome to The Safety Guru today. I’m very excited to have with me, Bob Sinclair. He’s a professor in industrial organizational psychology at Clemson College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, where they have a huge emphasis around occupational health and safety and the links to psychology. He’s a founding member and past President of the Society for Occupational Health Psychology, founding editor in chief for the Occupational Health Science publication, as well as that contributed to many other publications. Bob, welcome to the show. Really excited to have you with me. 

Well, thank you very much for having me. This is a great opportunity to talk about what’s going on in my field and connected to the important work that you’re doing with this podcast. 

Excellent. So maybe why don’t we get started with a little bit about your background and how you got interested and passionate about this topic from an industrial organizational psychology and applying it to safety? 

Yeah, sure. So, I went into the Marine Corps straight out of high school at age 17 because I was in no academic shape to go to college at that time. But I think during that time, I became interested in just this whole kind of experience of working conditions. Right. And so that how employers make decisions that affect their employees work lives. And when I went to college, my last year of school is majoring in psychology at a small school called the University of Maine Farmington. And my department chair basically said, hey, I think you can write you have to think about going to grad school. 

And he said, what are you thinking about doing? I said, I don’t really know. I want to do something maybe with work. And he said, well, that’s called industrial psychology. So, I applied to industrial psychology programs, and I wound up getting accepted to one at Wayne State University in Detroit, where there’s a heavy emphasis on labor and the role of unions in protecting worker safety, health and wellbeing. And a lot of the people I knew there were doing research with unions. And so, it naturally bled into kind of an emphasis on working conditions as an important topic. 

Right. And particularly with the fact that really, we spend sizable chunk of our lives working and sleeping most activity. So, it has this great potential to impact what people are doing. And so around that time, the field of occupation, whole psychology was starting to emerge and I really got interested in it in graduate school because of the professors I was working with. And so, one slice of that research was just looking at safety issues, right? And so that safety is behavior at work. And so, behaviors with psychologists are interested in studying. 

So, we got interested in this research and just over time and did more and more of it and had some opportunities to work with people up at Liberty Mutual and others looking at safety issues and from this kind of psychological perspective, and really looking at what qualities of people and what qualities of work situations affect their safety behavior. Our topic that safety climate is one of the most heavily studied concepts in that literature, something that we’ve been working on. 

So, tell me a great segue. Tell me a little bit about your work around safety climate and the linkage between safety, climate and behaviors ultimately. 

Sure. So, there’s a standard idea in psychology that’s not that far from common sense. What people believe they’re going to get rewarded for is what gets done. That’s the behavior they’re going to engage in. And people talk about safety climate. It’s really the organization’s, their sense of the organization’s priority for safety at work. One way that people talk about that is, do you feel like you’re going to get rewarded for engaging in safe behavior, or do you feel like it’s something that’s discouraged in favor of productivity at all costs? 

So, people talk about safety climate as a person’s perception that the organization prioritizes safety. And then it’s a little academic. But some people talk about that as a shared perception. So, it has to be something that there’s consensus on in the organization, and that’s what makes a climate. Other people talk about it as just your own individual sense of what you feel like is important. And so, the idea is that when people feel like that’s a priority, it signals to them that they’re valued by the organization and they should be prioritizing safety. 

So, a lot of the research looks at how safety climate links to people’s motivation to work safely, to whether they feel like safety is important to them. And it’s part of how they identify with their work. And as you might expect, then there’s a good deal of research to suggest that we see higher levels of safety performance and fewer accidents and injuries in organizations that have this strong, positive safety climate where it’s something that people believe is important. And it’s something where there’s a lot of consensuses in the organization. 

So that when you feel like everyone around you all have a sense that this is something that is who we are and what we do that people are going to engage in the safe behaviors. Yeah. 

I think it’s a great way to summarize it. You touched on the topic of how people prioritize it. You touched on the element of rewards. Rewards is ultimately an incredibly complex topic to look at when it comes to safety. What are some of the guiding principles that organizations should look at in teams of what they should reward and maybe what they shouldn’t be rewarding? 

Yes. It’s a great question. And I think was just lecturing about this in my class the other day. The whole idea is I think if you’re trying to reward a challenge with reward systems, I think is when you’re trying to set up a reward system to incentivize one small part of the job rather than the whole job, so that if you’re incentivizing just a particular set of safe behavior, a former student might email me the other day and saying that her organization tried to incentivize safety by creating these reward cards where the gimmick was that you need to nudge other people to be safe, like wear your mask is health care. 

So, every time you did that, you made a check on the reward card, and when you got to ten of them, you get three Starbucks. And this person then said she kind of took this to heart and really tried to go around nudging everybody to the point that when the nurses saw her coming, they go in the opposite direction. And then she said the other part of it was that it kind of fell apart because the employees perceived it as the company sort of encouraging them to kind of snitch on each other. 

It’s good example. And there are lots of others about problems with trying to just specifically set up financial incentives for safety through bonuses. And that kind of thing. The classic one that people talk about is that they try to do it at the group level and say that we’re going to reward the group with a bonus if you go 30 days or how many days about an accident, and the problem becomes that may incentivize people for not reporting a small injury or a small accident. That then becomes something worse over time because they don’t want to threaten the bonus of the whole group. 

Yeah. We had this conversation. I think it’s the basic notion, I think, is to proceed cautiously with those kinds of incentives. And I think to really talk to employees about how those reward systems are designed and to try to get a sense of by talking to people that are there some unintended consequences that we’re going to be rewarding if we do this? Yeah. I think that two pieces of it. One is I think the reward systems, as I said, I think it’s challenging to pull out one small part of a larger job and just reward that because that’s what people will focus on. 

The other thing, I think I don’t have evidence to say this, but I think my sense of what you can reward that’s not going to be counterproductive is safety skill development, participation, safety training, learning, knowledge about safety on the job, those sorts of behaviors. But I think it’s a really challenging issue, and I think that the way people talk about it is you can have spectacular successes when it works well and spectacular failures when it doesn’t. From my perspective, that whole idea of employee participation in the system design is really essential, and it’s frequently not used. 

Organizations have these consequences because they don’t talk to the people and say, hey, how would this kind of system work for you in this particular site? 

I think your point around really what could be the counterproductive impact, I think, is a really important one. Is there something as well in teams of what level in the organizations? Some of those rewards may be. What I mean by this is we’ve probably all heard of the examples where somebody rewards observations at the supervisory level as an example, and then you end up with people mailing it and just doing a quota system. But if that quota was at a higher level within the organization, say, at the VP level, could they perhaps drive the VP to talk about it reinforce I want quality observations without creating that undue pressure if it’s properly characterized and explained at other levels. 

Is there any research on that side? 

Not that I’m familiar with, but I think certainly I think you speak to an important issue about if safety is not incentivized at a higher level, if the top leadership in an organization doesn’t have that as a priority, if they’re concerned about what’s on the return sheet at the end of the quarter, in teams of fiscal performance, that’s what they’re going to lead to. Right. And those are the messages that they may say. You can look in all sorts of company mission statements about the importance of safety. 

I like to show my students the British Petroleum’s mission statement before the Deep Horizon accident in the Gulf, about how important safety and all that is. And then you can actually go and look at what was actually happening on the ground and that’s I think failure of leadership in a lot of ways. And I think it does go to I think if there’s a genuine incentive for top leadership in teams of safety outcomes, that’s certainly going to benefit your improve safety. But I think it’s not just in teams of the reward system. 

But I think you got to really have this as kind of deeper values that are important to the company, because that’s what’s going to be communicated. And supervisors are going to get messages from top leadership about what really is truly important here, irrespective of what we say. And I really do think we do have some research. I should say that looks at top down, where you look at perceptions of safety climate at the very broadest level of the organization that influences supervisor’s behavior and supervisor’s sense of what the priorities are and then that affects subsequently employee’s behavior. 

So, I think it is definitely kind of information flowing from the top of the organization down to the front lines. So yeah, I think absolutely anything an organization can do to prioritize safety among top leadership is, I think, going to be valuable. Yeah. 

And I’ve seen definitely both sides of the equation from leadership teams that very clearly speak about it as it’s the number one value that we have, and then priorities will never overcome it. They talk about it on a very regular basis. They bring all their senior executives across the organizations together to talk about how we’re going to drive improvements versus the other ones where it’s a priority. And maybe they’ll say it’s a top priority, but priorities can be changed, and sometimes that message will get mixed in. 

You touched on supervisory, and I think in my opinion, it’s probably one of the most critical parts around safety is really how the supervisor reinforces, because a lot of front-line team’s members. When you ask them, who are you listening to, they interact with the most with a supervisor. In some cases, supervisor is more important than the CEO in teams of their day-to-day choices and decisions. Tell me a little bit more about what you’ve seen around the importance of that supervisory role and how you can shape it to be more impactful in an organization. 

Well, certainly, I think the research is consistent with the idea that the supervisor is kind of the first line of defense and really the most important influence on safety. You can have all the wonderful value statements and missions and visions and all that. You can have all the policies and practices in place that you should have. But supervisors are going to be the ones that determine whether those actually get implemented, whether they get communicated to employees, so that I think they really are vital to building climate, and they have to believe that this truly is something that’s important here. 

And that’s where a lot of the intervention research, where people do studies where they try to make changes in organizations and see if it affects safety. Most of those interventions target supervisors, and it’s through things like communication training, through getting supervisors to monitor and set goals around safety behaviors, to seek out feedback from employees. Leadership development around safety issues. Some interventions will actually use coaching. We’ll kind of do more one on one kinds of things with leaders. But yeah, I think that really that’s been the main focus of the intervention literature is to really try to change what supervisors are doing, and if you don’t do that, you’re probably not going to have much of an effect. 

So, I think it really is a critical piece. 

And I think that it’s also one of the groups that often has a lease investment day in and day out because you see a lot of the leaders will typically have budgets around leadership development. But I’ve seen too often the supervisor gets promoted, and here’s a checklist. This is what you need to do. Or here is a handbook. Good luck with it. 

Yet. 

That’s probably the place that needs the most investment in teams of what does it mean to lead around safety? Love your comments around how you monitor how you set goals, how you coach all really critical components. Thank you for sharing some of those ideas. We’re in the midst of the covert pandemic that has brought up a lot of new challenges to organizations around safety. Can you maybe tell me about some of the challenges that you’ve seen and what organizations can do, particularly now that we’re definitely into the pandemic, but not yet.

At the end of it. 

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Sure. So, yeah. I’ve been just really troubled by what I see in the news or kind of flipping through on the Internet about all the safety issues. Right. So, I think maybe it’s a good outcome. At least, I think that safety is a little bit more at the forefront of people’s minds now. Sure, whether it will be once the pan damage is over is a different question. But we’re thinking about safety in jobs where we never thought about it before. If it’s like at a Home Depot or it’s a cashier or the grocery store, there are many more safety issues now around personal protective equipment, and all of that. 

What I’ve been fascinated by is kind of the opposite side of this of where you see employers that are going out of their way to discourage people from being safe. Right. I’ve seen examples of companies that actively discourage or even will threaten fire employees for wearing masks. We were talking before the recording, but there’s an incident I was reading about just the other day where a couple were asked to leave a restaurant because they were wearing masks, they refused to be served. So, there’s that I’ve also seen with flying that just really troubling numbers of stories of violence toward flight attendants around safety issues now. 

And it’s kind of created kind of a disturbing environment for people, I think. But again, I think it’s an organizational leadership question, right. I think there’s always going to be small businesses that have sort of odd ideas about the causes and solutions to the pandemic. But I think the large corporations are really going to be important safety leaders here, and in a way that the government can’t really, I’m a big basketball fans of interest tracking the National Basketball Association’s efforts to mandate vaccines and some of the pushback they’re getting from players. 

But it’s an organizational leadership thing. And I think that those organizations are going to play a really critical role in helping us get out of this pandemic. Absolutely. 

It also brings the entire question if you start saying don’t do certain things around PPE, could there be a lasting effect prior to the pandemic? If a supervisor would ignore somebody wearing a piece of PP, like a hard hat or gloves or whatever was required to do the job? We knew that the effect was going to be a spin off. Where is it? I draw the line in teams of what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable. And when you start putting a messaging that safety isn’t the number one priority focus, then that’s not where I’m going to start investing. 

I would imagine that would have long-term effect, although we probably don’t know yet. 

Yeah. One general thing with safety with accidents and injuries. I think one of the big management challenges is that accidents are relatively low base rate phenomena. Right. So that even in very dangerous environments, they’re not happening on a daily basis for the most part. And then if you talk about moderately safe environments like hospitals, it’s just you’re trying to manage in a way to avoid something that has a low likelihood of happening. But when it does happen, it could have potentially severe consequences. And I think it’s hard for people to Orient their behavior around things that don’t seem very likely to happen. 

A lot of the whole conversation around phobia is that some people say, well, I have no chance of getting this or a very low chance. And even if I do get it as a pretty high survival rate. So why should I be talking about the whole transmitting to other people all the stuff, right? Yeah. I think that. 

As you said. 

Then you add in an environment where people haven’t been really closely attending to the stuff in the past, it’s going to take a lot of effort to make a transition, I think, to get people to behave safely. And I don’t think from a scientific perspective, we have great evidence to say these are the five things that you need to do. But I think we can say that supervisors are going to play a critical role. Top leadership is going to drive that certainly the dynamics of employees in a group. 

If you look at how groups change, it’s, probably if you can get a couple of people to start wearing masks and environment, maybe that will be the catalyst that gets other people to behave more safely, too. So, I just think it’s one of these problems that you have to attack from lots of different directions in a lasting way. I think that one of the challenges with safety, as an example is that it’s conceptualized as in some cases, as the mandatory 1 hour of training you need to do each year for my own organization, we do fire extinguisher safety training right. 

And it’s 20 minutes Internet thing each year on the different types of fire extinguishers, and within ten minutes of completing it, I’ve forgotten what was in the training, and then I have to do it again the next year. So, I think that the true commitment to safety is something that’s more of a daily week to week, month to month kind of focus. 

It almost becomes a lifestyle choice in teams of recognizing how do I remove risks out of my day? And the more like I’m sure you’ve talked to I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve had serious injuries and how it was life changing. You realize that you may have never thought it was going to happen to you because you thought you were safe, but it doesn’t take much for one thing to go horribly wrong and to have a catastrophic impact. And that can wake some people up to say, I need to live my life where I factor that in because of those I love. 

Yeah. I think you hit on really important point is that people have this kind of invulnerability thing. This isn’t going to happen to me. It’s the kind of thing that happens to other people, right? Unfortunately, with safety is kind of classic examples. Kovit is another classic example that by the time it happens and you wake up and realize it’s too late in a lot of cases so that it’s definitely I think an interesting area psychologically to try to shift people’s sense of priorities around safety. That’s why I think this whole area of climate is so important is it’s got to become something that kind of filters through the whole organization. 

The other thing I say about it is that there are secondary benefits, too, that now we’re beginning to look at research on climate and as it relates to issues like employee engagement. I think signaling that safety is a priority signals to employees that they are valued by the organization. And we have tons of research on retention and job performance and job engagement and job stress. The sense that the company values you and cares about you as a person is a pretty critical factor in lots of positive outcomes that organizations want, right? 

I think it’s not just about preventing accidents, but it’s about really building. We now talk about total worker health is kind of a term we refer to. And that idea of total worker health is something that doesn’t just benefit the employee. It benefits the organization in the long run as well. Yeah. Absolutely. 

There was actually a gentleman I was talking to a while back and he was running a construction project at a refinery site, and they had done some amazing things around safety leadership, really creating an incredibly caring culture. And the part that’s astronomical. It was not just the injury rate that was different. Absenteeism rates were totally different by I think it was like 2030 points difference between this side versus other sites. Turnover was basically almost nonexistent. It was people who chose to go somewhere else because they had a family emergency to go back in a different state. 

So very different experience would also reduce some of the operating costs because turnover is expensive, absenteeism is expensive and so forth. So really showing the linkage between creating that great climate that you want to stay safe and other outcomes. 

Yeah, you touched on. I think one of the challenges with safety is and I’m certainly not an expert in this part, but I just read a little bit about organizational accounting around safety issues, and so the safety of the cost is accounted for kind of separately from business units. So, I can’t say in my Department of Psychology that we spend X amount of safety issues, accidents cost X amount in our budget. It’s a separate budget item so that it becomes harder to link it. I think fiscally to become hard to manage around the fiscal side. 

I think that’s a big factor in why often doesn’t get as much priority as it maybe should. 

Really appreciate upcoming on the show. Sharing some Thoughts we’ve covered a great number of really important topics, from linking safety climate to behaviors. Talking about some of the elements around safety rewards, the importance of supervisory skills, and really some of the themes that are prevalent now in teams of some of the new challenges that exist around the Kova case. But I can certainly see I’ve talked to organizations that have done magically in this. They’ve really done a huge step forward for the organizations because they demonstrate that safety came first and they use it as a catalyst to move probably one person shared, they move six years’ worth of progress around safety climate in six weeks just because of the perception, the emphasis. 

So, if you do the right things, the impact, I believe, will be lasting because you’ve demonstrated active care to level that nobody else had been able to proceed before. So really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing some of your thoughts. 

Yeah. Well, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about this. It’s a really important topic. And anybody out there that’s looking to talk about safety research and shoot me a note at Clemson. My email address is Sinclair at Clemson.edu and happy to chat about this or point you to an expert that can help you with a problem or anything else. And again, thank you for having me on and I hope you have a great rest of your day. 

Thank you, Bob. 

Thank you for listening to the safety guru on C-suite radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams, fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru Eric Michrowski. 

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Eric Michrowski: https://ericmichrowski.com

ABOUT THE GUEST

Bob Sinclair is a Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology, having previously held faculty positions at Portland State University (2000-2008) and the University of Tulsa (1995-1999). He currently serves as the graduate program coordinator for the Department of Psychology’s Ph.D. and MS programs. Dr. Sinclair is a founding member and past-president of the Society for Occupational Health Psychology and a Fellow of the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology and American Psychological Association. He is the founding Editor-in-Chief for Occupational Health Science as well as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Business and Psychology and an editorial board member of the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, and Group and Organization Management. His published work includes over 80 book chapters and peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Journal of Organizational Behavior. He also is the editor of four volumes including Building Psychological Resilience in Military Personnel: Theory and Practice (2013, with Tom Britt), Research Methods in Occupational Health Psychology: Measurement, Design, and Data Analysis (2012, with Mo Wang and Lois Tetrick), Contemporary Occupational Health Psychology: Global Perspectives on Research and Practice, Vol. 2 (2012 with Jonathan Houdmont and Stavroula Leka) and Vol. 3 (2014 with Stavroula Leka). His research interests focus on Occupational Health Psychology – the application of theories and methods of psychology to the study of worker safety, health, and well-being. His current research focuses on (1) economic stressors (such as job insecurity and perceived income inadequacy) and health, (2) building organizational climates that enhance worker safety, health, and well-being, and (3) occupational health risks in special populations such as healthcare (physicians/nurses) and military personnel.

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