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Distracted Driving: Making our Roads Safer with Brian Kuebler, Author of The Long Blink

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October is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. What better introduction to an excellent conversation with Emmy Award-winning journalist and author of The Long Blink, Brian Kuebler, who exposes the staggering cost of the American trucking industry’s rising crash rate through the intimate struggle of Ed Slattery, who is left to piece his family back together after a trucker fell asleep at the wheel and killed his wife and maimed his son. He brings awareness to the critical importance of safety on the roads and the role that the trucking industry can play to improve safety as we explore the rapidly growing dangers we all face from the passing lane each and every day.

For Distracted Driving Infographics: https://www.propulo.com/infographics/

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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 well-being 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 Ops and The 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 Brian Kuebler, who is an investigative journalist who’s also written a very interesting book that’s worth picking up and reading The Long Blink. So, he’s here to share a little bit more about the story. And it’s just a very sad story about a trucking accident that reveals a lot of information he this month, because as you’re probably aware, this is the Distracted Driving Awareness Month. So, Brian, welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. So maybe if you could share to start out a little bit about how you came to know about slavery and a little bit about his story and how that came about in terms of your interest in what you would discover there. Sure. This this this crash happened 10 years ago in 2010. And at the time, I was an investigative reporter for the ABC affiliate in Baltimore, Maryland, and is living in the suburbs of Baltimore. It was it was a big story here when the when the crash happened because his wife, Susan Slattery, was it was a very well-known and very well-loved professor at the Stevenson University here in Baltimore, mathematics professor, a brilliant mathematical mind on the track to become Dean and so on. And so, when the when the crash happened, it was it was a huge outpouring here in Baltimore, made it a big news story. Then the crash happened in Ohio. Susan Slattery took her two boys and couldn’t go along because she had to work. He was working as an economist at the USDA. And so, the family went to Susan’s family reunion over in Lorain, Ohio, in the Cleveland area. So after about a couple of days there, she and her two boys were driving back to Baltimore, and that is when the crash happened and it immediately killed her and it permanently disabled and named their youngest child, their oldest child. Peter suffered a lot of very physical injuries, but he was able to make a full recovery. Matthew, to this day, still wheelchair bound and has a traumatic brain injury that filled it with the rest of his life so that, yeah, when that story happened, it was those families that that are that are very well known in a community where no matter how big of a city or small town you live. And they were involved in Boy Scouts. Susan had a bit a lot of extracurricular activities with different fundraisers and stuff, you know, and was an economist, the USDA, they were very well-loved family in the area. So, when the crash happened, my boss at the time approached me to ask me to do the story on it. And in full disclosure, I was and I am a Chronicle sports guy, you know, of a gritty kind of crime reporter in a gritty crime city. So that that was this wasn’t really on my radar. But my boss at the time believed that I was the right storyteller for it. And so, I you know, I met Ed over the phone at first. You know, they were you know, they spent about a month in Cleveland and the family had just gotten back to Baltimore at the time that I hooked up with them. And Matthew was going through intensive physical therapy at Kennedy Krieger Institute here in Baltimore, which is partnering with Johns Hopkins. And you’re listening right now. And that’s where I met the family. And we kind of started our journey from that point. And that was my first long interview with Ed, where I really began to realize kind of what this family had gone through. And then I had followed them over the course of the next few years to tell their story through the different chapters. And eventually, you know, Ed said to me, hey, I want you to write a book because I really want my story out there. Right. And then we kind of came together on that. And the long link is the is the product of that came out late last year. And so. Yeah. And so, this is a story out there. And he wanted it to be out there as kind of a book to show people what can happen on the roadways with large trucks and kind of, you know, where you go from there as a family. And so, it’s phenomenal. And I think the part that really touched me is how and correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like that is decided to really do something with the tragic events and try to make permanent change in and around road safety, around accidents. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? Because that’s a theme. This is one incident, but there’s so many other cases of significant accidents that kill people on a regular basis on the roads. So, if you can maybe share a little bit about how he’s gone into that space, what he’s trying to do, and maybe some learning, some from that front. Sure, sure. Listen, as a journalist, you know, there are very few times in my career where, you know, I have met somebody or have told somebody a story where that person has the internal fortitude and the strength to take this trauma that has happened to them, turn it on its head and use it for good. And, you know, it’s so it’s so rare. I mean, a lesser man like myself, if this happened to me and my family, I would crawl up in a ball. And I don’t I don’t know what I would do. You know, right from the very first moment I met him, he was looking through the trauma on the other side of how can I make this? So, it doesn’t happen to other people. I mean, I listen for this book and I wrote it in a very narrative way. This isn’t prescriptive nonfiction where you’re reading fact after fact after fact. Right. I mean, this is a real story to tell, because it is one of those people that we develop, obviously a friendship over the last 10 years. It’s just it’s one of these people that that I find remarkable. And he’s a he’s a good man. And you could tell a story through his perspective. And allowing me in this whole time is really able to narratively build this so that my point was to write it to a reader kind of falls in love with it or identifies with it, and along the way learns, you know what, this what this issue is. This is at its core, this book is about surviving trauma, losing the love of your life, raising two boys who you know will never be the same again. And then finally and then finding like that forgiveness and a purpose to create that new life for your family. And that’s what this book is really about. And in order to do that and really, you know, once you got past the I mean, he’s still alive today. He hasn’t been able to really mourn Susan because of all the work he’s done since the crash, I’m sure. But, you know, he once he got past his immediate health crisis and Peter’s immediate health crisis and building a home that is now, you know, it’s a universally designed for Matthew’s wheelchair. So, there are no impediments for him. And, you know, kitchens that the cabinets come down to his level with the stove top comes down the level. There are no the rugs or something. So, there’s no lifts in the house. There are pocket doors out. It’s a beautiful home that he you know, he took some of the money from the settlement and built this this beautifully, universally designed home. So, Matthew will be set for the rest of his life. And so, once you get past all of those chapters, he really started getting involved in the Truck Safety Coalition, which is an advocacy group on Capitol Hill, that that at least once a year doesn’t very hard lobby like to use the word lobby. But advocating for truck safety in the halls of Congress has told countless representatives and senators all the ones in Maryland obviously are super familiar with the story. One of the one of the one of the one of the quotes for the book, it was from Dutch Ruppersberger, who’s a congressman from Maryland. So, I mean, these are some of the lawmakers that he has, he has identified with. And they will sit in their office and tell his story because he knows that if it’s told the right way, it can change minds. And so, he lends his story and his pain and his trauma. He wears it on his sleeve so other people hopefully won’t have to. And, you know, he’s very involved in that. In fact, he’s even calls victims of truck accidents after they happen to the family, surviving family members to tell them what they need to do next to the super involved and how his daughter, his oldest daughter, is involved, too. She’s on that coalition now on the board, and she does a lot of work for them as well. So, it’s definitely a family affair. It was a phenomenal story. Can you touch a little bit, particularly as we’re kind of thinking about distracted driving, this wasn’t really a distracted driving, is somebody, as I as I recall, that kind of dozed off? Can you share maybe a little bit about the case for safety in the trucking industry? Because that’s an industry that, unlike a lot of other industries that struggle in many ways in terms of how do you drive safety truly into how we operate? A lot of organizations have subcontracted work to a point where they’re removing a lot of the responsibility for some of the elements. Tell me a little bit about what is the case for safety in the space. Well, fatigue is a form of distracted driving, and so that’s why it applies to this month as well. And what we’re talking about, I mean, the truck driver here. So just a quick rundown. You know, most tractor trailers that your listeners will see, it’s a one you know, just one tractor trailer going down the road. Right. Some of them double will be hitched to there’ll be there’ll be the two sections to it. Right. And in some states, there are you could have you could have three trailers to one truck. And all of those states are Ohio. And it’s surrounded by states that are not that don’t allow those trucks. So, in order to maximize volume, these trucking companies will trucker that they hire will go to the edge of the state on the east side, pick up a third trailer, drive it across the length of Ohio, drop off that trailer on the on the west side, and then pick up another one and drive it back east. But that’s what this particular driver did every day. That was his route to pick it up and drive across the state of Ohio, pick up, drop it off, pick up another shift, three Ops, they call them and drive them all the way back to the other side. And so, when he got into the crash with Susan, he was toward the end of his drive time. So, this is not an example of a trucker that is fired his books, although that happens or is driving over the limit because obviously that happens as well. This was an incident where he was on his first what they call first night back. So, if you if you have a schedule and you’re working five days a week, by the second day, you’re adjusted to it and your kind of sleeping in a certain pattern and so on and so forth. But on the Sunday night into Monday, your first night back to your shift, obviously these drivers want to spend and maximize time with their family. This particular driver had a farm, a lot of work to do on the farm. And so, he’s spending Saturday and Sunday. So, when he goes to bed on Sunday, you know, you don’t get that full night’s sleep before you your back and you’re at work. So, I mean, he even admitted in all the paperwork in the clip and the crash reports, he only got about three and a half hours of sleep. So that first night back is always very tough. And that’s a big issue with the safety community around trucking in the United States is that first night back on a shift and that’s when this happened. And so, while he was in his drive time limit, he was still only operating on a few hours of sleep. It also come out in the settlement in the court case that he was on a various number of narcotics that have side effects that could lead to drowsiness and drag out a while. And he had a driving record that was that was suspect as well. So, all of this kind of combined into him and him and he a bit of this on the scene that that he dozed off and Susan’s car was merging for construction on the Ohio interstate. And he fell asleep, blew past the signs and, you know, read the book. There’s a whole chapter about what the other witnesses had said, what it looked like, what it felt like, what it sounded like. And it it was it was a horrific and violent crash. And he squares up, hit Susan. And it is amazing that Matthew survived that crash. Susan had almost an impact, or at least I’d like to hope it was on impact anyway, that she didn’t suffer for hours or so on. But it was just a tough, horrible crash. And so, when you’re talking about distracted driving and you’re talking about this issue, there’s a lot of issues in the trucking industry that that that safety advocates are pushing for a lot of different not laws, but the regulations and different technologies that can keep that can keep drivers driving without the fatigue issue being such a such an impediment. I mean, there’s been a study done for upwards of 30 percent of drivers reported fatigue in their careers. And so, it’s a real and the more trucks that are on the road, the more stuff that we’re relying on our packages from Amazon, or especially now when we’re when everything is getting delivered to us. There is this industry is exploding and there’s, you know, and is on the front lines and it’s going this is what happened to me. This is what happened to my family. It happened quite literally. And during a long blink is what is what this guy, this driver had. It was later what he thought it was. And this and it can ruin your entire family. And so, this is kind of what he’s trying to put out there with the storytelling. Phenomenal story, and this is an industry that is highly with a lot of players in it. How do we drive change in an industry of that nature? Because when you’re dealing with oil and gas, for example, there’s a couple of companies that control the vast majority of the work. How do you do it in an environment like this? What’s been his experience to bring success around safer roads essentially for everyone? Right. So, it is important to say that there are some very good trucking companies out there that are adopting the latest technologies like what you would get in a new car without even asking for the you know, it’s involved in the package of a new car. You buy the delayed, delayed avoidance system, the automatic braking, all that kind of stuff, you know, is in trucks now, too. And a lot of a lot of the cutting-edge companies, these big massive companies you want to avoid the liability of fatigue, are loading their trucks with that. But there are some there are so many companies that don’t that don’t abide by that as well. So, there is the capitalistic argument that like, hey, you want to avoid spending. I mean, any settlement. Got his family forty point eight dollars million from the Express Lines, which is one of the largest trucking companies in the country. And that was the largest settlement on record at that point. So, they call that a massive mega settlement. And so, I don’t think that it’s been top since. But, you know, you want to avoid paying out that kind of money. So, you know, a lot of these companies will adopt these of these safety regulations by themselves. But, you know, capitalism can also push toward the toward the idea of making more money. You know, that’s kind of how our system is built. Right. So, I mean, most long-haul truckers are paid by the mile. And that’s a problem of many safety advocates say, because you’re going to drive longer and faster in order to make more money. And the incentive than safety is in the back seat of the front and center. Right. And so, what does it do to truck safety coalition is that they try to use these personal stories and to sit down and talk with these lawmakers in Washington? These aren’t laws. They’re passing their regulations. You know, there’s the Department of Transportation, the federal Department of Transportation has a whole section dedicated to tractor trailers. And so, there are regulations. Those regulations have been hollowed out and rolled back in the last few years. I don’t want to get into politics, but under the Obama administration, the truck safety coalition made some gains. They made some very important gains about sleeping, about RTM sleep for drivers in that first night back issue. But I spoke about earlier making sure that you get RTM sleep between most restorative sleep between one and three a.m. There were all these different kinds of regulations that that that that they passed in 2010. But then as soon as the majority party, the Republicans came back in the House, a lot of that stuff was put on hold and then it just eventually died. So, none of it really was implemented. And there’s a there’s a there’s another chapter in the book where Ed goes to Washington with Matthew to testify, he thought, on the death of one of these committee hearings run by Representative Jim Jordan, who is an Ohio representative. And he and he was not all they did was read his statement into the record. They didn’t allow him to actually testify, which really upset him at the time. And so, and then, you know, obviously, when you have these committees, the ruling party gets to stack the deck the way they want. Right. On these hearings and so on. This on this day, there were four pro trucking companies and one safety advocate. And I didn’t find that to be particularly fair and made that known. And there’s a whole chapter about and kind of quartering Jim Jordan in the hallway during a bathroom break. There’s a there’s a part where Dennis Kucinich at the time who was in the Congress was the one who read him his story into the record. And, you know, he was he was kind of cornering safety advocates saying this is a farce. How could you do this? And I mean, it’s a really interesting way that how politics is involved in this, you know, and I don’t want to get into the current climate or whatever, but the last few years, a lot of those regulations that they have been trying to enact have been rolled back and are parked, you know, I guess, or forgotten about. And that’s what the safety advocates say today, is that if we if we don’t lose any more, we’re in good shape and they’re waiting out this current climate. So that’s kind of where they’re at. You know, in the meantime, they just believe that if they can tell their story to the to. The right lawmakers that eventually they can get some real change. Some change that impacts all industry, because you can obviously, like you said, there’s some companies that are doing the right thing, then investing in the right technology, the right resources, because they want to make a difference or they’re avoiding risk. But because there’s so many players and so many different types of trucks out there. I remember there’s another incident that happened in Canada. It was in Saskatchewan where there was a there was a bus with students that was driving down. It was hit by a tractor. It was I’m not sure if it was a tractor trailer, but some truck hit it and half of a of a hockey team got lost their life. It was a horrible, tragic event. But again, same thing you knew legislation came in and then change of government and similar legislation, as I understand it, is all rolled back. So, it really a case that to get real change in an environment that’s so big with so many players, it sounds like regulation is really the one of the main drivers that needs to that to be at the forefront of this. Any other thoughts in terms of how people that want to drive change in the industry? I think this is an incredible story. Really appreciate you taking the time to write a book on it and to share a little bit about the book. I encourage people to pick up the book as well. It’s available along Blinkx, obviously, on Amazon and other book retailers. Any other thoughts that you have in terms of Distracted Driving Awareness Month? Any other thoughts around how we can make our roads safer that you might want to share? You know, it’s funny. I don’t I don’t think a lot of people I say, you know, when I started the story, I didn’t I didn’t think much about it either. You passed trucks on the road all the time and you don’t we don’t really understand how much of an issue this is. It doesn’t get a lot of press a lot. But when you look in the numbers, they’re startling. You know, since 2010 when Susan was killed, thirty-six hundred people on American roadways were killed in large truck crashes. Now you take you fast forward to twenty seventeen because they still haven’t released the twenty eighteen or twenty nineteen to deal with releasing that stuff late. But we still haven’t gotten twenty eighteen numbers so we don’t know. But through 2010, through twenty seventeen, just seven years that number has jumped by 30 percent in twenty seventeen, nearly forty-seven hundred people were killed on the road on roadways. Bye. Crashes with large trucks. It is not an issue that is getting any better. In fact, it is getting worse year over year over year since 2010 when I started looking into this. So, it quite literally is something that affects all of us. We all see a tractor trailer going by us at least once a day if we’re driving right. And so, it’s just an issue that needs to be raised awareness, you know, and that is part and parcel. I wrote the book. I wrote the book as well, again, driven by character, by Ed, and what his personal journey is to kind of take you along there. But the numbers are there are absolutely startling. And they’re not getting they’re not getting any better. You know, and also in this book, I also want to bring up that toward the end, we were able to actually have an interview with the driver. You know, the driver ended up going to prison for five years because of the of the crash, which is which is also kind of where the judge sentenced him. GITTINGS Yeah. And after a couple of years and there’s a whole couple of chapters in there about Adam Driver going back and forth and writing him in prison and he wants to forgive him. It’s this whole it’s really, it’s heartbreaking. And then after a couple of years and finally writes the judge and says, you know what, he needs to get out and rebuild his life or your building mine. And so, he gets out and that’s when we decide to meet up with him and do an interview. Because I wanted his perspective in this book because I mean, Ed believes, you know, truck drivers are victims of this, too. It’s not they’re not forgotten. They’re the ones doing the driving. They’re the ones that are affected by this as well. So, you know, this book ends in a very explosive and unpredictable manner. And, you know, we were able to sit down and talk with the driver that’s included in this book as well. It’s just it gives it kind of a different another level, another kind of understanding into people’s minds about how this issue really does really does. It ruins families, not just not just the people who are who are the so-called victims in these accidents, but, you know, the drivers as well. And it’s also important to point out that, you know, not a lot of all these crashes are not trucker’s fault. Sometimes they’re bad driver’s fault. And as far as the statistics, anywhere you want on that, but right now we’re looking at, according to the latest numbers in the federal county, is about 40, 700 people a year being killed on our roadways every year. That’s a lot. I mean, when we first started this project, Ops around thirty-six hundred a year, I would say that’s like more than a 911 every year. And I thought that was jarring hour at forty-seven hundred people a year. And you know, it’s just, it’s just it’s an issue that that I think needs a little bit more sunlight. And I hope that I’ve been able to focus a little bit of light on that with this book. Yeah, thank you. And I really appreciate you sharing this and the numbers you’re sharing, which are jarring on their own, don’t even include people that are getting injured or things where there wasn’t a loss of life. And so, it’s really something that is systemic, as you said, and needs more focus around. So, thank you very much for taking the time for sharing and really encourage everybody to pick up the book, to read more about it and to advocate for safer roads. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate the time. 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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ABOUT THE GUEST

Brian Kuebler is an award winning investigative journalist. He has been a television reporter for twenty years and has written, published, and broadcast thousands of stories in his career. Kuebler has won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for his writing ability, an Emmy, and recognized for ‘Outstanding Enterprise Reporting’ by the Associated Press. Two of those honors were awarded to Brian for the reporting of the story that eventually became his narrative nonfiction book, The Long Blink. During his career, Brian worked to develop a unique hard news, narrative style of writing that resonates with his viewers and readers.

Visit Brian Kuebler’s Website: https://brian-kuebler.com/

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Pushing through the Plateau – Behavior Based Safety and Beyond with Dr. Josh Williams

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Behavior Based Safety has brought incredible successes to many organizations but often performance pushes to new heights and plateaus. In a lively conversation with Dr. Josh Williams, we explore strategies to push past the plateau. From re-energizing Behavior Based Safety programs to integrating ideas from Cognitive Psychology and Human Performance tools to bring a holistic approach to safety improvement. This is a must listen to episode if you want to explore options for what’s next in your safety strategy!

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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 well-being 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 Ops and The 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. I’m your host Eric Michrowski and today I’m very excited to have back with me Dr. Josh Williams. Dr. Josh Williams is a partner with Propulo Consulting who brings an incredible history of success assessing and transforming safety cultures through a multitude of different industries and approaches. His experience extends across behavioral safety, cognitive psychology, as well as human performance tools. He’s worked in this space for well over 20 years. We’ve had phenomenal success across industries. He’s authored a book and is also a Cambridge Center award winner for behavioral research. Josh, welcome back to the show. I appreciate it. Glad to be here. Excellent. So today I want to talk about a really important topic. I’ve been getting a lot of questions on. This is really rude behavior-based safety. And what how do you make this more successful? So maybe if you can give a brief overview in terms of some of the background behind behavior, safety, and its early successes that you’ve seen. It’s been around a long time; I was in graduate school in the mid 90s and it was already at point of trajectory in terms of being throughout the US and beyond Canada and beyond. Lots of companies doing behavioral safety at that point. It started originally with a guy named Scott Geller and Tom Kraus. They were kind of on the forefront in the early 80s, really. So, it’s been around a long time. And the idea behind it was fairly simple. And that is most injuries have a behavioral component. And that’s what these guys were doing. What they kind of started was, OK, well, if that’s the case, then why don’t we list all the important behaviors on the checklist and see how we’re doing and go around and observe and we’re doing things more safely, more often. It’s less likely somebody is going to get hurt. So that was the logic behind it. And then there was just a mountain of research, you know, for all these interventions and all these. I’ve got a bookshelf here, Erica degrees and all these all these books and wonderful information. But when you want to get down to science and looking at behavior change, the field of behavioral science is chock full of studies, empirical studies, meta-analysis showing the benefits of behavioral type intervention. So that’s one of the reasons it’s been around 30, 40 years. Is this because there’s science behind it? So, when done correctly, it’s a powerful tool to improve culture and prevent those serious injuries or fatalities. Absolutely. And I think the topic that I most often hear, and I think it has to do with because it’s been around for a very long time, obviously, if you if you haven’t already implemented behavior based safety, in most cases, this is probably something that you really should be looking at. But a lot of organizations have implemented some great behavior-based safety is a pushed and had amazing outcomes and improvements. But often what I hear about is they push, and they plateau. So, what I want to talk to you about today is a little bit about what’s missing. So obviously great successes. Organizations have improved if they push forward. But how do we go past that plateau? What are some of the things that organizations should be looking at? Yeah, before we get to that, it’s important to note a lot of behavioral safety implementations weren’t implemented well. There was a cottage industry of behavioral safety experts who are finding checklists on the Internet and all of a sudden, they became a consultant. And you know, the reality of all this and it’s true, it diluted the success and the strength of it because a bunch of folks came on board that didn’t quite have the deeper knowledge of behavioral change. And there’s a persistent component associated with it. So, there’s a reason why sometimes it didn’t go as well as it should. And there’s a reason why sometimes people go through criticisms of behavioral therapy because it was often implemented poorly. So that’s just kind of a reality. There are two things I want to point out really quickly. First is system factors need to be addressed. And that’s what the human performance folks are, you know, seizing the opportunity and doing a good job and a lot of ways of quibbling. And people fix the system. That’s and that’s I think that’s an important contribution. Behavioral safety really was a safety culture training. You know, I mentioned to folks that kind of cut my teeth on behavioral safety what we were doing all those years ago. We were talking about Bandura. We were talking about locus of control, discretionary effort. It was safety, culture training with a behavioral intervention kicker. So that’s the way any type of training program should be. It should be more holistic, which we’ll talk about in a second. But in terms of hitting plateau’s, it’s hard to do any kind of intervention. And you know this as well as anybody. When you’re trying to change organizations, it takes time, it takes work, it takes effort and it’s hard. And behavioral safety is no different. The challenges in a nutshell, is these cards would turn into kind of tick the box activities where particularly when quotas were put in. So, we’ve got a quota due to a month. Lo and behold, you get a flood of checklists coming in the last day of the month. And I would see some of them. They would be like a checklist. It would be a photocopied check on how they did well. And I’m like, man, if you’re going to into it, you know, I mean, I remember we had to get serious talking about people that had had paid their kids to fill in lots of forms so that at the end of the month they could mail them in as they will win them, I guess. But exactly. Training your kids at a young age to photocopy. Yeah, I had a guy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one time tell me. And he kept repeating it. It’s about people, not paper. It’s about people in that paper. And he said that just enough time for that kind of stuck with me. It’s not about the paper and matter of fact, it’s not about the observations as much as it is about the conversation. So, one of the challenges of the behavioral therapy is everyone gets locked in on these cards. It’s about people talking to each other. And the hope is when it’s done correctly, if you’re doing those observations the right way, you can have people talking to each other or card. I’d rather have a good discussion without a piece of paper than fill something out, drop it off and never talk about it. So, part of the plateau is it became bureaucratic. Fill out the cards, get the cards. And people are tracking a number of cards down. They’re not looking, in some cases looking at the results. They’re not looking at percentages. They’re not looking at comments that they’re not looking at suggested action items. They’re just clicking the box. So that was a long answer. Sorry, there for a short question, but I think one of the primary challenges with the plateau becomes programmatic instead of doing it for the right reasons. And in those instances, it may be a question of reenergizing what you’ve got to get by and more involved. Because I agree so much with what you’re saying. It’s not about the piece of paper. It’s about the quality of the conversation. I would look at piece of paper as a conversation starter, but not the actual act or accomplishment that’s necessary. What’s in it for me is that the big question and there is value in charting percent safe score. So you get five or six things that, by the way, the people that are designing the card and that’s one of the problems with these off the shelf things or these online training things. It’s like there’s no employee engagement. We did research years ago sponsored by Naish, looking at a manufacturing facility, has the group got interactive training and they design their own cards and how to use it. The other half got rote training. And here’s the card and I got to do it. The people that were actively involved in creating their own cards and tools for use them seven times more than the people that did the seminar. See that it’s huge, huge, huge, huge involvement. And they had investment in it. But they’re. But there’s a lot to do there. I mean, you want to see percentage wise, what are we looking at? And it shouldn’t be a hard hat. Just checking the box. We should be looking at things like, you know, like a tiger taking off in a confined space entry. These are there some serious things there we need to be paying attention to and if we can get good data out of it. But the bottom line for employees is what’s in it for me? Good conversations, changes being made, system improvements being made versus these other efforts of trying to get involvement by quotas or incentives and. All these artificial levers, it’s like trying to manage the economy with these false artificial things that are short term if you need to have the fundamentals there. And the fundamental for an economy is the one thing the fundamentals here is simply what’s in it for me, from the employee perspective, I see value. And when that’s done, you fight less on these plateaus. There are other things you can do rotating steering teams, changing of the cards at a human performance, elements to the cards, too. But those are ways to kind of keep things fresh and make it sort of a living, breathing, ongoing thing. I love it. You touch a little bit on the human performance tools there and looking at systems completely agree. I think that sometimes organizations get focused on it’s just about the behavior and they forget about the system and how it creates any further thoughts. You want to touch on the human performance side in the integration of those themes? I think that’s a really good question. Years ago, when behavioral safety took off, there were cognitive psychologists that were out there, Michael Chertoff, one that comes to mind. And there was a lot of good information there in terms of attitudes matter. What I’m thinking matters when I’m feeling matters and the behavioral folk’s kind of thumb their nose at it a bit, particularly because, you know, they’re looking at science and numbers and data, not feelings. But that’s a mistake. And because as you and I have talked about many times, attitudes, influence, behavior and vice versa, and behaviors influence results and dismissing cognitive and the psychology of it. It’s funny, it’s coming back now in terms of neuroscience. So, we’ve kind of come back around. We named it just like the human performance. Folks are kind of renaming some of the stuff that was done by Becker and other years ago. It’s nothing new, but it’s been repackaged and marketed, and the neuroscience is a bit different than what was done before that. But there are similarities. My point to that is there’s dogmatic approach of one versus the other is just harmful. It’s a business driven. Its ego driven. It’s territorial, and it’s not helpful. We need a holistic approach. Responsible consultants are tying in all elements to try to help their clients, to try to fit their needs and meet their needs, help them out. And then this cognitive if it’s behavioral, if it’s human performance, it’s all helpful. So that’s the long answer. The short answer is there are things you can do if you’ve got an existing behavioral safety process and there’s benefits of doing that to make the card a little bit better. One of my frustrations is it becomes a check the box. There should be questions on there, like what do you need? What scares you about the job? What tools would be helpful? Are the procedure changes? How can we improve this job? What scares you? What these questions are open, and the questions and they get people talking. And if we respond to them and 17 people said there’s a scaffolding issue over here, we got to deal with it and we respond to it, all of a sudden, these cards are helping me because now I got this issue and it’s been it’s been addressed. So, it’s more open. It’s more interactive. It feels less like a it feels more conversational. So, these peer checks, which are kind of the human performance way of getting at these observations, I think the peer checks integrated with behavioral safety cards is a good solution. It’s great, great, great comments, great, great insights and on the cognitive side and any other thoughts you want to add in terms of the elements, you brought in a lot of different themes there in terms of the value. I completely agree. I think behavioral components, you obviously need to shift behaviors to get the right results. But my attitude around safety, my sense of control, the risk, my sense of ownership over what I’m doing, all critical, important elements that need to be factored in beyond those conversations. But also, they will help those conversations because the more I see what’s in it for me, the more I’m going to have put in effort and value in the conversations I’m having with appear on how to improve safety. I like to flip it around and ask you that question of think you’d have more fun answering it to me, the personal matters. You know, we’ve seen it with leaders that are switched on and those that aren’t. And if you feel it, it’s obvious. It’s obviously different to people when you’re talking about it, if you feel it versus, you’re saying it because you’re supposed to say it so that however we get to that point, that personal line, and I like how you kind of will press leaders, especially executives, what is your personal line within a few wires? Why does this matter? And challenge people to really think about that? You know, we talk about, you know, the personal fight for us, the big five, whatever, in terms of why we’re staying safe. It changes the narrative from war compliance to I’m doing this for something. I’m doing it for my family. I’m doing because I want to retire and break 80 playing golf before I die. And whatever it is, that personal feeling and the reason and the mission one is to be clear, it needs to be shared with people because as you said, that’s kind of the impetus for a lot of behavioral change efforts, is you got to feel it first. And keeping in mind behavior shift attitudes to be able to get better, my attitudes get better. So, it’s sort of the era goes both ways between attitudes and behaviors, but they’re both important. So, Josh, I couldn’t agree more. I think your point on the on the why is it important? As important one, I meet this reflection a couple of years back and I started realizing that all the leaders I was talking to that were driving substantial changes in terms of safety performance. And there was one common trait. They all had a very strong desire for why safety matter and they showed up a different way. And when you’re talking about from a cognitive psychology standpoint, a lot of people are talking about the attitude, belief, mindset of a team member in terms of how I look at risk. I would look at safety in general. I look at my personal ownership, but I start realizing that there was this other element, which was how the leader was showing up. And as you as he said, as you start pushing people to think as to why you care about safety and articulate that it creates a very strong conviction. And I’ve seen it in some organizations where you work with one leader who starts really thinking about what’s my whilst on that origin story around safety. And then I start convening with leaders and suddenly the leaders start paying attention and they’re like, OK, I need to do this. I need to actually drive observations. I need to show active care when I’m in the field. And something as simple as really thinking about somebody’s origin story, their way around safety became so critical to drive lot of the changes. So, we touch on different topics. Josh, we’ve talked a little bit about cognitive psychology. We talked a little bit about human performance tools. We’ve talked a little bit about how to bolster the behavior-based safety program that you’ve got. Maybe if it wasn’t done well because you got out of a Cracker Jack Box at some point in time, what are some of the things that that you can do to bring it to life in an organization, to drive improvements to the next level, to push through the plateau? From a big picture perspective, I was with a client years ago and they said, what’s the key to improving safety culture? And I said, get input from people that are on the job doing the job and respond to it. And she’s like, OK, what else? There’s nothing else. It’s not true. There’s more. But I wanted to reinforce the point. You’re not listening to your folks. There are all these fancy initiatives that are going out with all these beautiful conversations and posters and you’re not talking to people. So, bring in bringing it to life. That employee engagement piece is critical. You know, we mentioned I like the internal locus of control from getting broader in the 60s, and it’s as important now as it was 60 years ago. My personal ownership and engagement are key. And we talk about Ben bendir and self-efficacy. And I got to believe I can do it. There’s a lot of these factors that have not gone out of style. It still matters. So, we’ve got to get input from people, get their engagement, whether it’s with observations, whether it’s with close calls and a learning environment context. There’s a lot of system ways where we need to get that engagement. But as an employee, I’m not stupid. And if you if you’re trying and we’re trying to get efforts and you’re asking me questions, it could be procedures. It could be anything. It feels different to me, even though it’s not perfect. You’re engaging me. You’re listening to me. You’re hearing me. And I appreciate the effort. And when companies do that, it’s a night and day difference versus those that are rolling things out top down here it is not. Go do it. Failing people, it frustrates them. And it leads to things that look good on paper, but they don’t look good. And in reality. And at the end of the day, we’ve talked about this before, when I simplify safety, I always talk about you need to have great methods, procedures, policies. So, the quality of what you’ve got has to be top notch. Then you’ve got to have acceptance, people following the rules when nobody’s watching, doing the right thing, wanting to do it, wanting to follow policies and procedures. Because if you got great policies and procedures that nobody’s following it. They look great on paper. But that’s the extent of where you’re getting results. And then you need to focus attention on the job at hand, knowing of your limitations and things of that nature. So those are really the three components. And what you’re touching on is I’ve never seen people want to do something. If they had no say in this right. It’s what’s in it for me. You listen to a peer of mine; it doesn’t mean you need to drive a democracy or get a consensus across the organization. But seeking that input, such a simple thing is so key. If you want people doing things and you get better decisions and you agree. I’ve seen so many goofy blanket calls. I’ve seen people walking around with their safety glasses on, but no lenses on them saying hi to me like it’s just the most normal thing in the world because they were upset, they had to wear safety glasses in areas where they were needed. And I’ve got more extreme examples. I mean, I’ve got a bunch of goofy stories, I’ll tell you another time. But these blanket policies come down to wire people following them because they don’t make sense, because you never talk to the person that’s doing the work in the first place. So, you know, it’s just it’s just simple. I don’t know if you get better decisions when you talk to people, you get more acceptance from people because they have a say. So, like you said, and I’m getting a little bit wound up just because it upsets me sometimes because so many of these training sessions with employers for decades hearing about all these issues, and it’s just not reaching folks sometimes. And it’s just it’s unfortunate because you have conscientious leaders trying to do the right thing. And that simple stuff like you said, that maybe it’s not so simple, but the important step of getting input from folks and responding to it brings life to everything we’re doing. So, from a larger perspective, when we’re trying to reenergize behavior or see any part of that as refresher training, it’s really safety culture training, but focusing on behaviors, but also the cognitive side, like you said, also the human performance side, integrate some of the human performance elements into behavioral safety processes. We do commitment workshop with leaders after training, so it doesn’t feel like and we keep it fresh, keep it live where they talk about specific things they’re going to do, moving forward to put their good intentions into place. There’s a lot of things that need to be going on. It all starts with that belief and feeling it. But there’s a lot of things we can do from a system perspective, from a behavioral perspective to increase that discretion, discretionary effort and ultimately better safety, culture, and reduction of serious injuries. And they tell is because those shifts happen, we think everything’s fine. All of a sudden there’s an explosion kills eight people. We find out when we start doing an investigation after the fact. All these little things were out there, and people knew about it, didn’t say anything. And that’s a problem. That’s a huge problem. Is what you don’t know. Is it more dangerous in many cases than anything else? Because you’re not dealing with it. You’re not learning. You’re not getting better. And every big incident that I’ve ever heard of always started with because there was information that existed that was known but didn’t get to the point where somebody could act on it and make sure it wouldn’t get into something serious. Like any other thoughts you’d bring in. You’ve brought in a lot of really valuable ideas. We’ve kind of gone over in different directions, but great, great input in terms of how to reenergize your safety programs. I love what you’re talking about in terms of holistic approach. My biggest pet peeve in management has been anybody who is dogmatic about this one size fits all approach to everything because there is never such a thing. There’s no silver bullet and management. If there was, whoever invented it would be down in in a bunker somewhere, enjoying life on a beach next to a bumper bunk and a huge mansion. There is no such thing as a silver bullet. It’s a question of kind of combining learnings from different pieces. Any other closing thoughts? No, I’ll just echo what you just said. It’s either ego or it’s for its business interest. When there’s a usually when there’s that strong of a dogma. I’ll just I’ll say this in closing, and this may sound a bit sale you don’t mean to do, but it’s gone with what you know, what I know is assessed on the phone and find out what you got to keep doing it. What is not so good at, try to get better, get a strategic plan together. And that stuff that we help with, like who’s going to do what when? Let’s lay it out. I mean, just like you on a football game, many of us lamenting college football may or may not continue this year with a good word. As Nick Saban to an Alabama, he’s getting a specific game plan based on strengths and weaknesses and research. And there’s a whole bunch of effort that goes into planning. Organizations should be doing the same thing. So, assess plan. And when you do training and other interventions, as you mentioned, make a more holistic, people need to feel it and then work on sustain it. And that’s from leaders’ behaviors that could be peer check. There’s a lot of ways to sustain that, but that’s your that’s your path forward, I think, beyond that plateau you had mentioned earlier. Excellent. Well, thank you so much for coming back on the show, Josh, and sharing quite a few great insights in terms of the next frontier of improvements and giving great ideas to people to start charting their next step in the journey and look forward to having you another time on the show. I’m sure we’ll have other topics to explore. 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, you, your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru, Eric Michrowski.

Read more about Behaviour Based Safety (BBS): https://www.propulo.com/bbs/

Please read more in Josh’s related blog about Behaviour Based Safety (BBS): https://www.propulo.com/blog/bbs-2-0-fueling-discretionary-effort-to-prevent-sifs/

Please take the following mini-assessment to gauge the current effectiveness of your BBS process at https://www.propulo.com/selfassessment/

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Dr. Josh Williams is a Partner with Propulo Consulting, a global management consulting firm delivering significant and sustainable improvements in organizational performance. For over 20 years Josh has partnered with clients around the world to drive increased discretionary effort and improved strategic execution. He’s the author of Keeping People Safe: The Human Dynamics of Injury Prevention and received the Cambridge Center National First Prize for his research on behavioral safety feedback.

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Are you feeling sleepy? Why sleep is so critical to stay safe! with Rebecca Brossoit, M.S.

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Digging into the latest research in sleep with Rebecca Brossoit M.S. to understand the impact on safety. Exploring strategies to improve sleep and drive the right outcomes for workplaces.

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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 well-being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe, 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 Ops the 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. My name is Eric Michrowski, your host. And today we’re here to talk about incredibly important topic related to safety, which is around sleep. I have with me Rebecca Brossoit, who earned her master’s in industrial organizational psychology from Colorado State University and has a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in sociology for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She’s currently in her final stages in her Ph.D. in psychology and has done a lot of research on employee C’s sleep, health, safety in nature and the exposure in relation to recovery from work stress.

So, I’m really excited to have Rebecca with me. Welcome to our podcast.

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Excellent. So, your background seems to be really focused on workplace psychology and works. Worker’s sleep. How much sleep do we really need? Is it true that everyone should sleep at least eight hours each night?

Yeah. So, although eight hours is mentioned, a lot is the ideal number. Experts in the sleep field actually recommend that adults should consistently be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Hmm.

And good to know. So how much people how much sleep do people actually get to?

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t getting enough sleep. A study that was conducted by researchers at the CDC. So, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about a third of Americans are actually sleeping less than seven hours each night.

So sometimes sleep is so sometimes they sleep enough between seven and nine hours, but they don’t feel like I get a good night’s sleep. Why would that be. 

Hmm. OK, so seven or nine hours is the recommendation for the amount of sleep that most adults need. But this recommendation only captures sleep duration and there are other ways to conceptualize sleep beyond just the duration of time spent asleep. So, aspects of sleep quality are also important.

Interesting. So, what is sleep quality?

Sleep quality is what it sounds like. So, it’s how good the quality of your sleep is. Insomnia, symptoms like having trouble falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep throughout the night. Those things reflect sleep quality. Other experiences like waking up, feeling well rested, refreshed or restored are also aspects of sleep quality.

Interesting, and which is more important, the amount of sleep you try to get or the quality of your actual sleep in your opinion.

Good question, but I can’t pick one. They are both important.

I see. So, I have a really busy week and I’m not able to get seven to nine hours of sleep. Can I just catch up on sleep over the weekend? So that’s something I have to do all the time. What’s the risk for me?

OK, so this pattern of sleeping where you don’t get enough sleep throughout the week and then sleep in over the weekend is sometimes referred to as binge sleeping. So, this is a great question, though, and one that researchers are still trying to fully understand. Some studies have found that it can be useful for people to catch up on lost sleep by sleeping and on the weekends and that it may actually be helpful for health-related outcomes. However, many other researchers believe that people who have sleep, debt or an accumulation of poor sleep over time can’t truly make up for that lost sleep.

So, the jury is still out on this. And ultimately, though, catching up on sleep is probably not as beneficial as consistently getting between seven and nine hours each night and having similar bed and wait times each day.

Interesting. So obviously, I live a really busy life. I’m sure a lot of our listeners do the same and have the same challenges. And sometimes it doesn’t seem like sleep should be prioritized over other things. So how important is sleep really in terms of our well-being and also what we’re able to accomplish?

Yeah, so I can relate to sometimes feeling too busy to prioritize sleep. Yeah, definitely. But sleep is really important and should absolutely be prioritized. Insufficient sleep, we know from a lot of research is associated with things like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, reduced immunity and early mortality. So, it is super important. Also, getting enough and getting high quality sleep is related to mental health, wellbeing and the relationships you have with others. It’s also linked to how people perform and act while they’re at work and how they perceive their work.

OK, so you’ve got my attention. Sleep is really important for your health. The last part made sense to when I don’t get sleep or the sufficient amount of sleep, I’m in a really bad mood and can’t get anything done. Probably some of my team members will tell me exactly.

OK, so think about a time when you didn’t sleep well and you are exhausted the next day. Maybe it felt harder to pay attention and perform well at work. Or maybe you were moody when you were interacting with people. Not getting enough or good sleep tends to just make things harder. So, the way I think of it, I care a lot about my work and I care a lot about my life outside of work and believe that prioritizing my sleep will help me be happy and successful in each of these areas of my life.

So, you mentioned that sleep can impact work outcomes. Can you talk more about that? What should organizations company care about when it comes to the worker’s sleep?

Sure. So, there’s a lot of research that has shown that workers who don’t get enough sleep or who get low-quality sleep are at risk for a variety of work-related problems. For example, workers with poor sleep are more likely to get in accidents or be injured while they’re at work. There are even estimates that 13 percent of work injuries can be attributed to sleep-related problems.

Wow. Why is it that sleep influences things like workplace safety?

Good question. This is actually something I explored with my colleagues in a project on construction worker safety that was published a couple of years ago. So, have you ever gone to work and not been able to pay attention to your tasks or other people may be made mistakes or couldn’t remember how to complete a task?

So of course, who hasn’t?

Yeah. So, these experiences are known as workplace cognitive failures. And we explored cognitive failures at work as a link between sleep and workplace safety. And what we found is that one of the reasons construction workers with poor sleep quality reported having more injuries at work and being less compliant with safety protocols is that these workers were also experiencing more cognitive failures. So, lapses in their memory, attention and action while they were at work, that’s really interesting. Are there other reasons why organizations or companies should care about their employee’s sleep?

Yeah, there are a lot more reasons. So poor sleep is linked to worse job performance, being less engaged at work, being less likely to help out your coworkers, and also being more impatient, avoidant or rude towards your coworkers. Insufficient sleep has also been linked to things like unethical or deviant behaviors at work. So, things like cheating or searching the Internet for things that are not related to work, something known as cyber loafing, or even claiming credit for someone else’s work.

And beyond all of these things, workers with poor sleep also tend to report more burnout from their work, lower job satisfaction, and are more likely to think about quitting their job. So, all of these things are really costly to employers. One study estimated that it cost companies over two thousand dollars per employee with insomnia because of lost work time and reduced performance.

Well, that’s a lot of money. What can companies do? But this is something that is beyond what the company should be working or looking at.

Yeah. So, the reality is that one of the main reasons why people experience disrupted sleep is their work. And there’s research on how work hours working overtime shift work schedules and the stress that comes from work can have a negative impact on people’s sleep. However, there is a lot that organizations and companies can do to improve their employee’s sleep.

Like what?

There are a bunch of options. So, in a study that I recently published with my colleagues, we found that nurses and certified nursing assistant with more schedule, control, experience, better sleep, and they were also more satisfied and less likely to think about quitting their job. Similar findings have also been found in another research, too. So, one option would be to provide employees with flexibility and control over their work schedules.

That makes a lot of sense and definitely very consistent with a lot of other research that I’ve seen in terms of giving freedom and flexibility in terms of work scheduling. But what if the work schedule can’t be changed? What other options might exist?

Yeah, so broadly, employer related insurance that provides accessible and affordable health care coverage to employees is one-way employers can help. Likewise, wellness programs are also mutually beneficial for employees and organizations. 

So those are great ideas. What about if an employee came into work and was totally exhausted? What should an employer do with them if the employee is about to start a shift doing safety sensitive work like operating a forklift or machinery? One thing the employer could do would be to simply reassign their job tasks or duties that day and to ensure their safety and the safety of their coworkers. More generally, though, leaders, supervisors and managers can be role models to their employees.

For example, instead of bragging about how little sleep they get, they can talk about how it’s important to. Prioritize sleep, and they can encourage their workers to have healthy sleep behaviors. This idea is known as sleep leadership and it’s been effective in military settings and is likely useful in other contexts, too. And supervisors and managers, they’re in a position where they can help employees modify their schedules and their workloads, which can have a positive influence on their employee sleep.

In addition to this, some companies, particularly those with shift workers, tend to have spaces where workers can go to take short naps during their work break. So, this is another option that could help prevent sleepiness or fatigue throughout the workday.

I love your example in terms of sleep leadership. I think that’s a really good example in terms of your role modeling, what good looks like. So, if you’re if our listener is an employee rather than an employer, what can they do to improve their sleep?

Yeah, so if you’re an employee but not the employer, there are a lot of things you can do. So, as I mentioned earlier, striving for seven to nine hours of sleep each night with consistent bed and wait times is one thing you can do. In addition to this, similar to housekeeping, food, diaries or logging, fitness can increase your awareness of your diet and exercise. Tracking sleep may also be helpful for some people. You can do this with a wearable tracker like a Fitbit or simply a pen and paper and just keep track of when you go to sleep, when you wake up and how long you sleep each night.

That’s a really good idea. A good example. I think there’s even apps that help you with doing that on an iPhone. I think they’ve added some sleep apps on that side. So those are really good ideas. Is there anything else people can do?

Oh, yeah, there are a number of other things people can do to improve their sleep. Something even as simple as just reducing the amount of caffeine you consume later in the day can be helpful. Things like exercising can be really helpful for sleeping better, though. It’s not helpful if it’s done right before bedtime because this can actually make it harder to unwind and fall asleep. Other things like refraining from working in bed can be helpful so your brain can associate your bed with sleeping rather than working.

Another thing that can be helpful is having a relaxing bedtime routine where you do a similar calming activity to unwind before bed each night.

What about alcohol? Does that help you sleep because it’s a depressant?

No, alcohol makes it easier to fall asleep. This is a really common question that people tend to ask a lot. But what alcohol does is it makes it easier to fall asleep, but it actually disrupts important sleep stages like REM or rapid eye movement sleep. So, you should probably skip the nightcap and opt for something else. I like sleepy time.

I see people wearing those blue light glasses, those help with sleep.

OK, so the idea behind the blue light glasses is that electronics emit blue light and this type of light has been linked with problems sleeping. So, it makes sense to think that glasses that block out some of the blue light would help sleep. However, this is a hotly debated topic right now, and there’s disagreement about whether the blue light glasses really help some people think they do something they do, but it’s just a placebo effect and others think they don’t have help at all until we know for sure.

And easier and more affordable way to improve sleep would be to simply refrain from using electronics like your phone, laptop or television close to bedtime. Instead, you could try using fewer stimulating activities that are free from blue light. So, reading a paperback book, meditating, listening to music or a podcast or do other things like that to unwind before bed.

Hmm. And what if your boss is emailing you late at night and you feel like you need to respond?

Good question. Feeling an urge to immediately respond to a work-related email. Describe something we call Tella pressure in the research, literature and research has found links between this idea of Tella pressure and the experience of pressure in your sleep. So, setting expectations about the use of technology outside of work and outside of work hours and preferred response times to things like emails is another way that supervisors and managers can help their employees get better sleep.

That’s a good point. And I’ve heard some leaders also share some guidance around what their expectations are and see more and more people as well using the Dilates method. So, they could be sending the email. But if they want to make sure somebody doesn’t jump on something right away, dilator, perhaps the next morning.

Yeah, that’s a great example.

So where should employees or employees go if they want to learn more about sleep?

There are a lot of options. Primary care physicians are a great resource for people who have concerns about their sleep. But for more general information, the National Sleep Foundation, an American Academy for Sleep Medicine, both have helpful articles about sleep on their websites, another resource that might be helpful for employers as a recent white paper on why poor employee sleep is bad for business. This was. Sponsored by the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology, also known as SIOP, which is the field that I’m in and can be found on their website, that was super interesting. 

Thank you so much for coming on our podcast. Definitely a lot of important themes that too many people prioritize. I know, especially in these really challenging times that we’re in right now, a lot of people are starting to try to get more done, myself included. And sometimes that puts pressure against the quality of our sleep or as you said as well, the duration of our sleep. So really important topic. And I’ve seen in a lot of organizations where it becomes a subtle theme that starts emerging within the workforce and becomes really dangerous, just like people driving drunk or we’re coming to work drunk is you don’t necessarily have the ability to focus on the work that you have in front of you.

So, thank you so much for coming in to share some of these data points and try to share and popularize a lot more of that information for people, because I think too few organizations. But sleep on their corporate agenda, huh?

Yeah, I agree. Thank you so much for having me.

Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite Radio. Leave a legacy to 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.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Rebecca Brossoit earned her M.S. in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology from Colorado State University (CSU) in 2017 and she is currently in the final stages of her PhD in I/O Psychology at CSU. Her research interests include employee sleep, health, and safety, nature exposure in relation to recovery from work stress, the work-family interface, and workplace interventions. Becca has published research related to the use of physiological measures in I/O and OB research, the interplay between work, nonwork, and sleep in a person’s life, the impact of poor sleep on construction workers’ safety, the role of fatigue for on-demand drivers (e.g., Uber drivers) in the gig economy, and the influence of schedule control on healthcare workers’ sleep and job attitudes. She is also involved in a sleep and work-family intervention study with service members and leaders in the National Guard.

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Inspiring Safety Leadership and Ownership with Brad Gardner

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It’s been over 10 years since Brad Gardner lost his right arm in a workplace accident—an accident that didn’t have to happen. Brad and his wife, Dolores, have dedicated their lives to making workplaces safer in order to prevent tragedies like their own from happening to others. Listen to a truly inspirational story on the importance of safety leadership and ownership from Brad.

Learn about Safety Leadership Commitment: https://www.propulo.com/safetycommitment/

READ THIS EPISODE

Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams; their origin story puts the safety and well-being 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 Ops and The 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 am Eric Michrowski your host. I’m very excited to have with me Brad Gardner. Brad has dedicated his life to making sure that workplaces are as safe as it can be. This is following a 2003 industrial accident he was part of. But today I want him to share a little bit about some of his lessons about safety. So maybe let’s kick it off. Brad, if you could share a little bit about your background and what got you into this space. OK, I’d love to. Like I said, I’m Brad Gardner. I’m from Idaho is where I’m from, but. I was really young when I got married, I married my high school sweetheart. I needed a job. I didn’t have any money. So, I ended up taking in a little potato processing plant and I hated the job. It was just horrible. I didn’t like anything about it. So, one day I just got fed up. I said, that’s enough. And I joined the Air Force going to the Air Force. But I wanted to do was get into engineering. But they took one look at me and said, no, you’re not an engineer. You’re an air traffic controller. So that’s how I ended up doing. I was an air traffic controller in the Air Force for a total of twenty-two years. Left my first 20 years. I retired in. May of know it wasn’t August of twenty-one, and then when 9/11 hit, I was called back into active duty and had to serve another two years. So, I ended up spending twenty-two years as an air traffic controller. I was heavily involved in 9/11. I was comptroller in New York on 9/11, so I guess I really got stressed out. I mean, I was just burnt out and couldn’t do anything anymore for a while. So, I retired, moved back to Idaho and said, I’m not going to do anything but fish and relax. I found out this too much. It was great for fishing. So, I ended up going back to work. And of all things that most people can’t believe is I ended up going back to work at that same exact potato processing plant that I dated twenty-two years earlier. But, you know, at the time, it was a great job. It was very. I have to think of what you’re able to sit back, relax. Work, I loved it, it was just I really did love the job, it was just manual labor, but it was fantastic. I worked at about six months. And then. That’s when my life changed. Six months later, that’s when everything changed all at once. And on that day in 2000. Three, I went to work that morning, and it was a normal everyday morning, right? And that’s when I had my accident. So, tell me a little bit about your accident and if anybody who wants to know more, you’ve got a website where you talk a little bit more about it. You’ve got some resources. You’ve talked and presented many different places. Website is Brads helping hand dot com. But I’d love to hear a little bit about what happened, but obviously for the purpose of understanding how do we prevent these things from ever happening again. Right. What happened to start today was right off the bat, first thing in the shit that morning, my foreman came in and told me that had a guy call in sick. So, they were guys short and they had to clean some equipment. I told my supervisor, then I saw him and I said, you know, I’ve never done it before, but, you know, show me what to do, tell me what to do. I can do it. I can. And so, I went to a new job that morning and I had to create a big order. This augers about five feet across and about twenty-five foot long, and it was about the third or fourth quarter that I cleaned that morning, building up to that big. And as I was playing in it, I got distracted, I looked away and what I was doing at the time and next thing I knew, my hand was in the yogurt. Oh, my goodness. On the inside the machine. I was in the machine about eight seconds. Oh, my goodness. There was nobody buying me. I was by myself. And I knew as it was pulling the end of the auger through my mind was the only way I was going to live. I had to rip off my arm. Oh, my. And that’s what I did. Changed my life. I have no doubt in. So that’s a that changes everything, and I know when you present to audiences, sometimes you even present with your wife and you talk about kind of the impact on yourself, family and how change. But what were you thinking before that day? How did you frame yourself in safety? What was your perspective? You didn’t really like you had done a lot of different things in your career. What was your perspective on safety before that day? You know, my idea was. I’m good, I’m fast, I can think things through, right? And I didn’t have to worry about shaking because I wasn’t one of those dumb guys. Made a stupid mistake, right? That was my friend. It’s like, oh, give me a job, I can handle it. I’m good. You know, I’m fast. I could multitask like crazy and do some things at one time. That’s what I did as an air traffic controller. Of course, it is a job that does really handle a lot of information. Well, the same time, it’s probably that job. Right? And that job is nothing but safety. I mean, when it boils down to an air traffic controller is nothing but a safety guy. Yes. So, I didn’t. I always thought that second nature to me, I can handle that I don’t have to worry. And that’s really what I thought is I don’t get to worry about that. I mean, I could put my hand in your 50 times and pull it out and it’s not going to do anything. I love that story. I need that one little mistake. And that cop never. So, you know, I mean, it was just a matter of. You know, it’s going to happen to another guy. Other people make mistakes. I don’t. Right. That was my philosophy. I mean, it really was I didn’t realize it at the time. That’s where I was. That’s really what I was doing. And you know, I’ve heard this so many times, it won’t happen to me, the guy where this happened to, he’s not as good as me or something to that effect or I’m lucky that person wasn’t lucky. Or, of course, I’ve done this many times. It’s not going to happen to me. And that’s the sad part, is it can happen to anybody. It takes a split. Many people will say that was really stupid, it was, but I’m not a stupid guy. By no means, but I did it, you know, and I did something stupid, I thought I could get away with it and I could. So, what are some of the lessons? And I think I appreciate that you’ve taken that as a learning and trying to teach others to make a difference in the world. That is phenomenal. What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned and that you share with leaders in terms of making a difference in the workplace? What I did is after my accident, I went back into safety for the same company and worked in safety, and that’s what I started learning safety and start talking to people. I did some research on my accident. You found out, you know, it wasn’t just me. They were mistakes that were made by everybody all the way from the very top owner of the company. What did you do when you come out and talk to the people, it was always talking about production? We got to get to production up. We’ve got to get these things done quicker. He talked about safety. Did the notion like the bottom line, his production? But I would learn, you know, and that’s what I found out. That was a mistake that was made. And I boiled down to I wasn’t properly trained. They’d given me a job I hadn’t done before. There was a whole bunch of mistakes, including near misses, having stand near misses on a machine that never got reported. So, I started looking at it like it’s just not my fault. It’s all these people could have stopped it. I don’t blame them. And. I might have done the same thing. I don’t know, but it’s. I wish everything right now. Somebody would have stepped up and said something. Get involved, you see it, something that looks dangerous. Say something if you’re told to do something and you’re not sure how to do it. Stop them say, hey, what do you mean, what am I supposed to do here? I talk a lot about. Different things where people have made mistakes. Well, a lot of people will blame the foreman that I have a job I hadn’t done. For him, it was my brother. Well. And then he had to take care of me. He had to be the attorney that he had to take me down. He had to go get my arm out of the machine. Oh, my goodness, you won’t see any of that. Of course, I just made a simple mistake, too, but when you add up all these simple mistakes. It’s a huge consequence. And if it would have been me, it would have been somebody else later on. Right. If tell people to say something, get involved, do not let things go by, if you see something, say something. If you feel unsafe, say something. If you see somebody else doing something. It’s not safe or you don’t think looks right. Say something to try to get him in trouble, but you want to make sure that they’re safe. You don’t want to see it happen to somebody else any more than you don’t want to have to be yourself. I can tell you, I experienced. The suffering that I went through is nothing compared to what other people went through. That same day, you know, my coworker’s night, and then you break it down to your family and your wife. My wife actually, when I normally speak, reach out of her diary. Tell us what she saw that day. Tears me up every time I see it. Oh, it hurts so bad. It you know, luckily, I have a wife with I don’t know why this is every bit when I talk, I use dominoes. When I come out and speak at the plants, I use Domino’s as an example. You know, I could take Domino’s and put them up on a table and put names on the Domino’s all the way from the owner of the company to my supervisors, to my brother, to my trainers, to my coworkers and my second to the last. Domino has my name on it. Call it what it took to save my home is one person in that whole line. Including me. They would have stepped up and said something, I would still have my arm today. It is a simple but such a powerful message, say something, it goes down that everybody owns safety. It’s the workers, the leaders as the foreman. Everybody’s got a part to say and has an opportunity. And really that that sense of keep your eyes open. But I love the simplicity of something. Get involved, do something about it. Right. And that’s what I do. I talk to people now all over the world. I’ve spoken to China, Africa, Europe, almost every state in the United States, Mexico. All the same, people are the same everywhere. And when I go out and talk to them, all I want to do is get them to loosen up, get them to think about safety, and that’s what I do. And Medicaid is not. That’s all I do not say, and I loved every minute, which is phenomenal because you’re doing something you’re sharing, imparting some ideas. Can you share maybe some of the key lessons that you have for other workers like you, people that are listening, that are doing work where there could be a risk, could be a hazard. What are some of the things that obviously you talked about? Say something. Are there any other pearls of wisdom that you have that you share with them? If you don’t feel comfortable, stop, right, just think about it. I’ve talked to thousands of men and every one of them say to them up until they stop because they didn’t feel safe. He said, that’s what I want to hear. People are afraid to do it because they think they’re going to get in trouble, they think they’re going to question for it, if that’s the way that job is, you don’t want to work it anyway, right? No, just watch out for each other. You know, that’s a big you know, so it kills me near misses. People don’t want to say they screwed up and they made a mistake. But just step out the tent. Hey, guys, I did this because, you know, if you did it, somebody else, too, right? Work together, everybody has to work together, you can have zero action. Everybody works together, everyone. Be afraid to step up, say something like I said, everybody, the one thing that I want you to get out when they listen to me, just remember the dominoes, you know, and don’t watch them fall. Yes. It’s that simple. And I think when you talk about don’t be afraid to speak up to essentially stop work, I think leaders have a huge part in this because you have to create an environment where people feel safe to stop work, that they don’t feel there’s a ramification that you want to encourage those things as well, because I think that’s a simple action a leader could do to really drive a difference around stopping the work, pausing if you think there’s a hazard. Yeah, and tell your workers. If you have to tell them every day, remember, guys, safety’s number one. And they have been beat up by their actions. Yeah, and that’s too often miss, right, I say safety is number one, but I give you more on productivity. Go faster, right. Right. You can’t do that. You’ve got to. He said, you know, you’ve got to present data, you got to live that right. You’ve got to stop, stop work. Don’t do it. And when they do it, you don’t get them. You don’t get mad at them. You’ll never happen again. I had a guy come up one day, said, I won’t report in here because if I do, it goes on my record. And when it comes time for promotion, it’s points against me. Right now, I want to secure that company and told him that that’s bull crap because they didn’t know he had got out and got that information out. They had a system to do it anonymously online. They had. And the CEO of the company said, if I ever had a foreman come in here and fire somebody because they were a safety thing, you said that guy isn’t going to work for you anymore. But too often, too often, that doesn’t happen, right? I was actually just talking earlier today to somebody who is describing a CEO and a company that whenever somebody would report something is an issue, a topic, rather than say, I want to learn, they would descend and we get angry. And how could this happen? And so, people are learning was I don’t want that experience. So, I’m not going to say something. Right. And that’s what they need to be able to come out and do that every day. Yeah, absolutely. For you, you have to have their trust and the way to get their trust is you’ve got to back up what you say. I completely agree. Any other thoughts you’d like to share? I think your power, your story is so powerful. I love your example of the dominoes in terms of really showing how anybody could have stopped this. Any other pearls of wisdom you care to just share from your experiences. You’ve done so much to try to help organizations, leaders, team members to start thinking about how safety is so critical and something that everybody’s going to. You know. Everybody’s going to have to do their own thing. I don’t think there is a right way to do it; sometimes depends on the different personalities and stuff like that. The. Again, I just I keep going back to that communication, you’ve got to have those communication lines open all the time, regardless of who it is, you can’t be afraid to come up and talk. I’ve never talked to a CEO who said they would. You know, reward somebody for stuff like that, but people don’t know that, right? They just keep communications lines open all the time. And that’s what’s going to stop it. It really is. Communicate whether it’s on either end, whether you’re the listener, the talker, either one. That’s what you have to do. I mean. I just love watching when I get up and speak to people and I’ve got crowds of four or five hundred people out there and I can look down on somebody and they’re looking at me and they got tears running down her cheeks. And I know exactly what you’re going through. You know, I’ve done this. Right. I don’t want to hurt my wife. I don’t want to hurt my kids and that’s what I’m going to do if I continue doing what I’m doing. And that’s really important, I think I always say that to the people, you’ve got to make safety something that you own because you need to start thinking about why is it you keep yourself safe, like it’s really an investment in yourself into the experiences that we’re the people that you want to be around? And that’s the part where I do it for myself whenever I do anything. I’m always trying to think back to why is that so important? What experiences do I want to have, what’s important to me, and make sure that that’s what I’m focused on, what I am about to do something? Yeah, and, you know, I do it all the time, my wife now is it’s just amazing. I guess we literally stuck on the freeway. Where there’s a construction team working and my wife went over and said, what are you doing? You have no more protection or you do not have the potential. And she said, I’m going to call, OK, but you don’t get it done right now. So, what happens when she does that? They do it, but they do it. You know, one day she’s seen a guy working in a trench and all you could see was the top of his head. My wife, when I said, get out of that trench, there’s no showing here. There’s nothing to get out of there. Right. OK, I don’t have to. Oh, don’t leave me alone. I’m fine. I should go get out now or I’m going to start making some phone calls. And within a half-hour, they had Suring done on every bit of the line that they were working on. You know, my wife and I, we saved somebody’s life. Yeah, but that’s such a powerful message is you’re not going to be a bystander, you’re willing to stop, you’re going to say something which is exactly your message. Everybody has a part to say and everybody should be trying to get involved and say something and help others to keep safe. Love it. Well, I know we’re talking here just about a few minutes. My normal presentation with my wife last up to an hour and a half long. We got lots of stories to tell. And we went through a very generous it’s really cool. It’s really low. And that’s phenomenal. And then so if anybody is interested in hearing more, getting more details about the dominos and the presentation and thinks of this, the story can help the organization really shift. Thinking about the importance of safety. Your website, again, is Brads helping hand dot com. Brad, I really appreciate you coming on the safety guru sharing your story. It’s a very tough and difficult story to hear, but a message that’s so important for so many people to listen to. So, thank you and thank you for having me. Excellent. Thanks, Brad. Take care. 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’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.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Brad and his wife, Dolores, are world-renowned safety motivational speakers who share their story in order to prevent tragedies like their own from happening to others. Their delivery is versatile enough to move audiences from laugher, to tears, and finally to solemn reflection. This talented team has inspired hundreds of thousands of industrial workers from all levels of management to look at the importance of safety in a new light and energy—and they can help your team too.

For More Information: http://www.bradshelpinghand.com/

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RELATED EPISODE

COVID-19: Critical Safety Considerations for our Front Line Healthcare Workers with Dr. Stephanie Andel

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Hot off the press! Dr. Stephanie Andel shares some recent research on safety for healthcare workers in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Some concerning insights that aren’t getting the needed attention. This timely episode provides some actionable insights to protect the wellbeing of our front line workers that are keeping all of us safe.

To learn more about Workplace Safety Considerations: https://www.propulo.com/blog/covid-19-pandemic-planning-8-considerations-to-put-the-safety-of-your-teams-and-business-first/

READ THIS EPISODE

Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams; their origin story puts the safety and well-being 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 Ops and The 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 and very happy to have with me Stephanie Andel, who’s an assistant professor in Indianapolis with a significant background in safety, safety, culture and studied in industrial organizational psychology. So, Stephanie, welcome to the to the show and love to hear a little bit about some of the background, what got you into psychology. And some of the key here is that you’ve been focused on it from a research standpoint.

Sure. So, thank you so much for having me. Probably my degree is in industrial organizational psychology, as you said, which is an area of psychology that focuses upon human behavior in the workplace. So, within this large field of Io’s, psychology is a sort of specialty called Occupational Health Psychology, or OHIP, which focuses on understanding how work impacts health, well-being and, of course, the safety of employees. My research falls squarely within OHIP, so I generally study work stress, particularly in high risk helping professions such as nursing and emergency medical services, and understanding how work stress influences health and well-being of those folks.

So lately my work has really started to pivot to focus on the current pandemic course. Right. So, for instance, one of my current research studies considers the toll of the coronavirus pandemic on health and safety of nurses who are working on the front lines of the crisis.

That’s really interesting and very timely piece of research. Love to hear a little bit more about it and what got you interested in this topic, because it’s such an important theme in the in these times.

Sure. So, as you know, the virus is continuing to grow exponentially across the United States and the world. And more and more are really coming out in the popular press about the plight of health care workers who are on the front lines. So, we hear things like there’s a lack of personal protective equipment or PPE, inconsistent covid protocols and hospitals, health care providers, health care providers are living in an RV in their driveway and aligning themselves. Right.

So, they don’t have. Right. They’re worried that they’re going to infect their family. So, the list really goes on. Right. So, we’ve also seen some evidence of the physical and psychological toll that this is having on folks. There’s a number of safety issues. It’s also leading to psychological outcomes like post-traumatic stress symptoms and sometimes even instances of suicide in the front lines. The situation is really quite dire. So, we decided something clearly needs to be done to help these individuals, but the question is, where do we start?

So that got me and my collaborators are Marianna Arbon or Chanta Down. And when he said interested in hearing directly from the nurses on the front line. So, we wanted to understand what are their biggest challenges that they’re facing during these times and what is the impact that this crisis is having on both their psychological as well as physical health and safety?

This fascinating piece of work, I know I started being interested in this when I started seeing the crisis expand into Italy. And there were some really early reports of the impact and also physicians, nurses losing best friends and seeing them kind of exhausted day in and day out. So, tell me a little bit about how you got to doing this and what did the study look like?

Yeah, so we conducted a two-month long study of about one hundred and sixteen registered nurses. So, in order to be eligible for this study, we wanted to make sure we were really hearing from the nurses who are working on the front lines. So, they had to be working front lines in hospitals in the United States. And we recruited these participants through all different kinds of ways. For instance, we got in touch with many of them through Reddit and other social media websites, really trying to get those folks who were right on the front lines.

And we ended up getting participants from 32 states across our final sample in terms of the study design. Every other week for two months, our nurses received a survey in their email that asked that about a variety of workplace stressors they’d encountered that are related to the pandemic. So, we also asked them to describe the biggest challenges that they’ve dealt with or encountered during this time. And also, we had them just tell us what are their hospitals doing and we’re not doing to support that during this challenging time.

So, this this really started the survey launched in May and during this of the heart of the pandemic and data collection just wrapped up pretty recently. So, we’ve just scratched the surface in terms of data analysis. But our preliminary results are really interesting and we’ll continue to analyze that data over the next few weeks to gain even more insights.

So, so really interesting. What did you find out so far?

Yeah, so preliminary analysis really unveiled four key challenges or concerns that our nurses were consistently encountering at work during the crisis. These challenges are related to issues such as understaffing, insufficient communication, inadequate safety protocols, and, of course, as you might imagine, extensive emotional demands.

OK, so tell me a little bit more about these key challenges of the nurses have been facing this during this pandemic. And let’s start with the first one you mentioned the understaffing one.

Sure. As much as nurses were consistently reporting that their units were understaffed. So, in fact, over half of fifty nine percent of our nurses stated that their work unit needed more employees just to adequately fulfill their work tasks related to the pandemic. So, one thing that we were actually quite surprised about and we learned through the responses, is that many hospitals have had to cut hours of many nurses at the same time that the pandemic was growing. So, when we were conducting when we started this study, we just thought all nurses there had been so many nurses, there was so much work that everybody would be overburdened.

Right. It actually turned out that folks were overburdened and overworked, but it was just a few because the hospital had to cut the hours and many others largely because the freezing of elective surgeries influenced hospital finances. So, the hospitals don’t have the finances to pay everybody, even though there’s so much work related to the pandemic. So, this puts ICU nurses and other nurses who are working with the patients in very difficult positions. So, for instance, our ICU nurses reported that they frequently were assigned a patient to provide a ratio that’s much higher than normal.

So usually, it’s one provider to one patient or maybe two patients to a provider. So sure. So, thank you so much for having me. Probably my degree is in industrial organizational psychology, as you said, which is an area of psychology that focuses upon human behavior in the workplace. So, within this large field of Io’s, psychology is a sort of specialty called Occupational Health Psychology, or OHIP, which focuses on understanding how work impacts health, well-being and, of course, the safety of employees. My research falls squarely within OHIP, so I generally study work stress, particularly in high risk helping professions such as nursing and emergency medical services, and understanding how work stress influences health and well-being of those folks.
o one to one to two to one. But they were saying it might be three patients to every provider, maybe even more. And that’s likely to be getting worse as the pandemic continues to grow. Right. Because keep in mind, this was started in May and the pandemic is continuing to grow.

It’s continuing to and the ICU and a lot of states, ICU beds are at capacity, near capacity. So, I would assume this is getting even worse if they’re not increasing the staff.

Exactly, and of course, this has major implications not only for the health and well-being of patients, but also for the providers themselves.

Wow, OK, that’s a that’s something I had not heard of before, so it’s actually fascinating but incredibly disturbing in terms of the impact. I don’t know if your research looked outside. You talked to us about the states because I thought that in other places, they had put all hands-on deck to move people from elective to other areas. Do you know if that’s the case or obviously you’ve studied only the US side?

Yeah. So, we really focused on the US here. But I would suspect that given the other the way that health care systems are different. And of course, in other countries, I would imagine that they’d be able to maybe more easily put everybody on deck, all hands-on deck right away, probably easier. So very interesting. So, what was the second key concern that showed up in the survey responses?

Sure. The second key concern related to insufficient communication, self-esteem or concern arose in a couple of different ways. So first, the vast majority of nurses reported there was a lack of consistent and effective communication from upper management so that that is there was insufficient downward communication. So, for instance, many of our nurses said the hospital was constantly changing policies with short notice. One person, for instance, said they found out or one person also. Suddenly they found out from a newspaper rather than a hospital that another nurse contracted Colgan work.

Right. So, oh, my goodness. Not a lot of good communication from upper management. Second, nurses reported a lack of support for upward communication. That is when employees tried to speak up about their concerns or make suggestions for improvement. They felt that they were being consistently shut down or ignored by management. So, for instance, we had one participant who said they wrote a long evidence-based proposal to overhaul their unsafe covid ICU environment, and that was met with no response from their management.

Others said that when they tried to speak up, their supervisors basically told them that they had to have to deal with it. So given this lack of communication, it’s perhaps not surprising that the vast majority are actually two thirds of our nurses reported that they actually they weren’t confident in the way that their hospital was handling the pandemic. They also felt that these concerns were not being validated by upper management.

That’s scary because everything I’ve ever read, I mean, I’ve been in the safety space in a very long time, not specifically in the health care, but both upward and downward communication is such a critical component to the safety outcomes in any industry.

Absolutely. And more important now than ever. Are you?

No kidding. Especially if you’ve got everything else. You’ve got our understanding, all these issues happening at the same time. It’s even more critical. OK, really disturbing. Tell me a little bit more about some of the other key concerns that came up.

Sure. So, we had two others. So, the third concern that came up were reports of inadequate safety protocols to protect employees themselves. Right. So, most of our nurses were concerned about the availability of safety equipment and effective protocols. Interestingly, they were less concerned about the availability of resources that were patient focused, such as ventilators and ICU beds, which is good. However, there’s a caveat there. The study took place in May and June when the second national surgeon cases didn’t start up yet.

So, I just want to mention, however, at this time, employees were most concerned about the availability of resources to protect their own health. So, things like clear safety protocols for the employees themselves, covid tests for employees themselves and of course, the personal protective equipment or the PPE, which we’ve also heard a lot about in the news. So, in terms of inconsistent or inadequate safety protocols, one nurse, for instance, who happened to be taking she shared that she was taking fertility treatments, reported that her hospital system was still requiring that pregnant staff have to care for covid patients because it was incredibly stressful for her.

Another nurse reported that they were initially told they weren’t allowed to wear masks because of how it made the hospital look. So, of course, this varied across hospitals. There were some folks who felt their hospitals were very supportive, but I thought it was quite concerning reading some of these notes from participants saying that they didn’t feel that there was a lot of attention on their own safety and that they weren’t being prioritized, which is really scary. I mean, is the analogy that people often use around if you’re flying in the cabin, pressure depressurizes, put your own oxygen mask first.

You can’t take care of other patients if you’re not healthy yourself, which is really the so, so critical that nurses and doctors have the right level of PPE and know how to use it.

Absolutely. I think the key here is we need to make sure that we’re helping the helpers. That’s what I like to say.

I agree.

And. The final theme is the sense of emotional demands that these folks have been exposed to during this time. When we asked participants about the emotional experiences they’ve had at work, about three quarters or 72 percent reported that their work was often or always emotionally demanding during the crisis. And of course, I think it’s important to mention that these emotional demands really don’t just stop at work when they’re at the hospital. So, nurses reported that the impact of these demands are also spilling over to impact their family lives as well.

You know, they said things like their family members and children were constantly worrying that they would contract the virus.

I would imagine, you know, and they also they themselves were exhausted because they were worrying so much about their getting their family members sick. So, it’s really the emotional demands have a lot of impacts and a little bit like you talked about at the beginning, people living in RVs and so forth. There are cases where a nurse could be taking care of somebody who’s at risk patient normally right at home. Right. So, a parent or and having to live completely quarantined from the rest of the family.

So, it’s really alarming, especially when you think about the amount of sleep you need to have when you’ve got such an impact emotionally and physically in terms of work demands.

Absolutely.

So, what are the implications of these covid related work stressors on nurses, their health and well-being and overall safety?

Sure. So, we found these work stresses are really associated with a wide array of negative outcomes. For instance, we found that they were linked to physical health outcomes such as reduced life quality care to mentioned psychological health outcomes such as post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms or PTSD symptoms, as well as what we call emotional exhaustion. Yep, safety outcomes such as near accidents, near misses and of course, covid related covid exposures and family outcomes. So, it’s even impacting marital satisfaction or family conflict.

So, the pressure that these folks are under is incredible. And the data shows that this is having a major impact, impact on really virtually every aspect of their lives right now.

And we don’t even know the long-term toll of this. Right, because we’re too soon into it. But the concern that I was reflecting is if there’s multiple waves, which is what most expect will happen, will you still want to do this next wave, the third wave, fourth wave, whatever the number of waves that come back to hit or do you eventually say can’t do this anymore? But then the other part is even new. Will it impact the recruitment of new nurses?

Will people want to become nurses? Will go to learn to become a nurse after hearing what has happened, which can have a long, long term consequences in terms of health care, access to health care. If nobody wants to do the work, that’s a challenge. Same as I know when this was certain to hit in Italy and the death toll among doctor was actually quite high initially from what I understand was, was how do you replace that expertise in the amount of time that may be needed for a following wave that comes around.

And so, given these key findings that you outlined, where do we go from here? What do you recommend that hospital leaders do to better support nurses during the current pandemic?

So that’s a great question. First of all, I want to mention that, you know, it’s absolutely imperative that hospitals provide their employees with the adequate people. And of course, it pains me to have to say that. But our most priority, right next, hospital leaders need to make sure that they support and really actively solicit employee feedback from employees on the front. Lines are going to be their best resources for learning what’s missing and what’s not working.

They’re also going to have informed ideas about how to improve current protocols in order to make sure that the workplace is more efficient, safer and less stressful. So, it’s also important to note that providing opportunities for employees to get that feedback can empower them and enhance unit morale as long as leadership actually responds and tries to take into account that feedback. Right. You don’t want to fall on deaf ears, right.

So those are important. I mean, we know that from the field of safety, the whole element of safety, participation, huge, huge people need to feel like there’s an unless they felt heard, something happens with it. I agree. So, I go on. Sorry. And third, I would recommend the hospital leaders. I’m sure they’re providing consistent and clear and regular updates to employees, not just when there’s major changes, but really schedule a consistent communication is key.

This, of course, ensures that everybody is on the same page so that. Processes run more smoothly and that everyone is kept as safe as possible, but also constant communication can help, at least to a degree, and reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation that these folks might be experiencing during this crisis. This is really a profoundly isolating time. So, anything that leaders can do to build a sense of community and connection is really more important now than ever out are, you know.

No kidding.

And the last thing I would recommend is, in addition to supporting employees, physical health through proper safety protocols and equipment availability is I would say it’s important that hospitals make concerted efforts to promote employee’s psychological health as well. So, they could do things like, well, research shows that psychological detachment, which is the ability to disconnect from work-Related thoughts once the workday is over. That’s important for reducing the negative impact of work stressors on psychological help so employers can promote detachment and a few different ways.

They could provide consistent regular work breaks. They could promote detachment after work by ensuring that employees are not contacted or preferably maybe not on call after the workday is over. And they also can promote psychological health in other ways. They could acknowledge employees hard work and efforts, and they could also try to limit the excessive emotional demands as much as possible. Of course, during this time, you’re never going to completely eliminate that. But if there’s any way for employees to go to work and share the burden, I think that is helpful to kind of protect every employee.

And so, one participant in our study actually mentioned that their unit allowed them to take a break from the covid unit and swap for a shift with a regular medical unit, which I really thought was a great way to kind of spread these most emotional demands. And it’s not pulling on one specific person, which I think is quite important.

I think it’s that’s brilliant because it really gives you a chance to recharge your batteries in some ways with something that’s less draining, I would assume.

Absolutely.

Do you think the findings from this research will be helpful even after the pandemic subsides?

I really do. So, although we unveiled a number of key challenges that are top of mind for health care employees right now, these issues aren’t and are not necessarily new. Right. They’re just intensified right now due to the current pandemic. So therefore, while I would argue that all the recommendations, I gave are especially important to implement right now, it’s important to note that organizations are really always strived to incorporate these best practices, whether there’s a pandemic or not.

Ultimately, it’s my hope that this study will help to inform possible decision makers and even policymakers once the crisis is over to make the work environment safe, safer, healthier and better prepared in the years to come.

No doubt, because I think, like you said, the pandemic magnified the issues. But chances are some of the issues are in communication and so forth. Were there before. It just now becomes more acute. Exactly. So, besides health care, what other occupational groups or occupation groups do you think will be affected by this this pandemic?

Yeah, so quite honestly, it’s difficult for me to imagine occupational groups that would not be affected by the pandemic, but I think they’ll be affected in different ways. So, one group that comes to mind right now is teachers, given the pressure that’s on them, as many states are pushing to open schools back to in-person learning. Right. Right. So, I would imagine that these folks will unfortunately have your safety equipment, resources at their disposal in comparison to the health care professionals in our study.

So that, of course, has the potential to impact both their physical and psychological health. Additionally, those in the service industry who work with the public are also going to be dealing with a number of similar challenges as these pandemic rages on. But I also want to note, even folks who are not working directly with the public are going to continue experiencing numerous challenges as this crisis continues to unfold. So, for instance, many are working remotely with a lack of communication from employers.

Others are dealing with the stress of job insecurity. Others are trying to balance their work responsibilities with family responsibilities. Needless to say, these are really quite difficult times and therefore more important than ever that organizations will step up to support their employees physical and psychological health and safety.

Very, very well said, because I’ve seen this in the early days of the pandemic, a lot that worked for progressive employees that really enabled very quickly working as an example. Employees were, for the most part, incredibly grateful, and it showed very strong levels of active care for the organizations that did this really well. But as it goes on and on, the stress of trying to balance all the different things, like you said, family and so forth, it’s a lot for people to tackle.

So, I really thank you for coming on the show. But I think more importantly, thank you for doing this research, because this is this is raising like in terms of just the impact of it, I thought. Through a lot of the components that you brought, but not the depth and the breadth of issues, I don’t really think about the initial pieces in terms of long-term impact on a profession even. But I think you’ve brought some of a really, really interesting but also, I would say rather disturbing themes that are emerging as organizations are working through.

Obviously, some are doing this really well, but unfortunately, some probably haven’t been prepared, haven’t really been thinking about safety of the workforce in the same way in the health care space because they weren’t thinking the hazard was probably as dangerous as, say, in mining or in construction or in utilities.

Right, right. Yeah.

So, thank you very much for your work and for coming on the show.

Thank you so much.

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’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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ABOUT THE GUEST

Stephanie Andel is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Dr. Andel received her PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on employee health and well-being, employee safety performance, and technology in the workplace. Her work has been published in various academic journals such as the Journal of Vocational Behavior, Work & Stress, and Computers in Human Behavior. Additionally, her work has been featured by a number of media outlets such as Business Insider, Fast Company, PBS News Hour, and the BBC. 

Contact Stephanie Andel: sandel@iu.edu

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Improving our Safety Communications with Dr. Archana Tedone

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

An excellent interview with Dr. Archana Tedone exploring the latest insights in Safety Communications to help organizations improve a critical dimension to improve outcomes. In addition to sharing ideas around how leaders can improve their safety communications, she shares some evidence-based ideas around upward and lateral safety communications – how workers share ideas and how they collaborate with each other.

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 Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their 0teams; their origin story puts the safety and well-being 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 Ops the 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 Eric Michrowski. Today I’m really excited to have with me Archana Tendone on who’s here to talk to us a little bit about safety and also the elements of communication. So, first of all, thank you so much for joining us. I’d love to hear a little bit about your story and how you got into this field of studying worker health and safety.

Sure. Hi, Eric. Thank you so much for having me here. I got into this field of studying worker health and safety through some of the research projects that I started doing as a young graduate student. So early on as a young graduate student, I was involved in a variety of different research projects. And one of the projects that I was working on involves me conducting focus groups with health care professionals, nurses in this instance on occupational health and wellbeing. And one of the topics that we talked about in these focus groups was employee safety. And I noticed that during these focus groups, I kept bringing up the topic of worker safety and somehow the conversation always shifted back to patient safety. And I would have to find yeah. And I would have to remind these nurses over and over again that I was there to better understand how to keep them safe. And we’re talking about your safety, which in turn keeps the patient safe at the end.

In the long run. Right. And, you know, I just found nurses in particular in this focus group just to be such a selfless group of individuals who really prioritized their patient safety over their own. And it made me think we as human beings should really be programmed to prioritize our own safety and well-being. Right. Isn’t that one of our core functioning? So, when I realized that nurses are prioritizing the safety of patients or construction workers or prioritizing getting the job done faster or emergency responders or compromising their own safety to save the lives of others, I really wanted to understand why and how we can better protect these individuals working in these really high-risk industries who are literally putting their lives at risk for the benefit of others.

So, looking back, I sort of think I committed myself to this very important area of research around that point, and my work really focuses on better understanding the barriers to safe workplace practices.

That’s fascinating. And I think in today’s context, the whole topic of workplace safety for nurses and doctors, health care workers becoming even more of an elevated topic. And I’m curious, even if this was the same several years ago, I completely agree. I think safety has become even more important. You know, if that’s even possible, safety has always been a priority or should always be a priority. And I think in some of these high-risk industries, the message that keeping yourself safe will in turn help you reach those goals that you have, could be patient safety, could be getting the job done faster.

Right. Could be saving the lives of others. But I think, you know, there is some disconnect there, understanding that it is important to keep yourself safe to very well said. Definitely. And something I’ve even seen with other employees that where their role somehow impacts the safety of others, in some cases even utility workers, where they’re sometimes thinking more about the safety of others versus as well thinking that if I stay safe, I can keep others safe as well.

So, I want to get into some of your research. You’ve done a lot of research on safety communication. Can you tell me a little bit more about what safety communication is and why it is so important?

Yes, definitely. So, when people hear the term safety communication, they typically think of the more traditional downward safety communication. Right. Which is the top-down messaging from management to employees. While the research is showing us that focusing only on downward safety communication and ignoring other types of communication could be a huge mistake and can really negatively impact workplace safety, some other types of safety communication that are important to pay attention to our upward and also lateral safety communication.

Interesting.

Yeah. So upward safety communication captures the degree to which your employees are speaking up about safety issues, speaking up about their safety related concerns, speaking up about their opinions relating to safety in the workplace or your safety program, and also reporting things like accidents, injuries, near misses, things along those lines. So, it is important for managers and supervisors to get this information and leaders to get this information, because if you don’t have this healthy upward safety communication happening in your organization, then you’re missing out on so many opportunities to detect, correct and prevent safety issues.

Yeah, and lateral safety communication, on the other hand, captures the degree to which workers are talking to each other about safety, and honestly, this is the trickiest out of the three to improve because you as a leader can definitely work on how you’re communicating. And, you know, maybe you can implement different policies and initiatives to encourage upward communication or at least to ensure that the channel of communication is open and clear. But how do you make employees talk to each other about safety?

Right. That’s exactly ballgame game. Yeah. So, when an organization has a strong positive safety, climate and safety is prioritized and it’s really at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it’s openly discussed, then lateral safety communication becomes organic, can happen naturally. But getting to that point isn’t going to happen overnight. And trying to encourage lateral communication will likely be met with some resistance. But it doesn’t mean it’s not working, right. Yeah, I have a lot of fun examples that I’d like to share.

So, I recently conducted some interviews with some individuals who worked in an organization that just revamped their safety, vision and values. And as part of that, they wanted to increase awareness of the vision and values. So, employees were asked to start meetings and briefings with a discussion of how they’re going to embody these values in their daily work. And so, the employees, of course, when you’re asked to do something on top of what you’re already required to do, you’re going to be a little annoyed at having to take this additional step.

Right. So, they would, to some degree, start making fun of these new slogans. And, you know, so things like to be responsible or help each other work safely. And they would joke about these things. And throughout the day, they would jokingly associate these statements with events that were happening. So, you know, if they saw another employee needing help, they would say, I’m here to help you work safely as a joke. Or if they saw someone not wearing the proper PPE, they would say be responsible and so on.

And, you know, before they knew it, they realized that they were actually living the values, even though it started out as something that they were just making fun of. It quickly became integrated into their daily work lives. Interesting. Yes. I would say a tip here is that, yes, your employees may resist this, some of these safety initiatives that you take to improve lateral safety communication, but don’t let that be discouraging because it could actually be making a difference before you even realize it is so interesting. 

And it actually reminds me of some work I was doing with one organization long ago where they’ve done a lot of improvements around that downward safety communication upward was still the main area of focus. There was not enough involvement where there were employees were so excited about it. But Lateral with was probably the most challenging one because people weren’t connecting with each other was a lot of tourism that was also even getting in the way of doing that effectively.

Yep, I completely agree. And with lateral safety communication, I think another way to really help promote lateral safety communication is to identify employees within your organization that can really serve as those role models that are going to be helping you promote this type of communication and discussion. So, it’s one thing for management to ask employees to talk about safety. Right. But it’s absolutely another thing to see your peers talking about safety, bringing it up during discussions, prioritizing safety in their work and research shows that seeing peers engaging in safe behaviors encourages employees to engage in these same behaviors and to establish the norms in an organization.

And this is much more effective than just having management provide direction or tell employees what to do. And this is definitely not to say that management shouldn’t be involved. Your management should also serve as role models. They should walk the walk because if you as a leader aren’t displaying the values, you’re expecting your employees to embody, then they won’t see a need to display these values either.

Very well, because ultimately you want to get it to the group. The norm here is following the rules going above and beyond from a safety standpoint, even going above what the rules and expectations are, which can really only happen once you start having seeing how people are showing up as well. Not any other tips that you’d have for leaders to communicate effectively.

Yeah. So, when it comes to effective communication downward from leaders, I think it’s really important to have the three C’s. I would say so. Communication should be. One consistent, so especially if communication is indirect, so if it’s going through supervisors to your employees or something like that, you don’t want to end up with a game of telephone where the message gets distorted before it gets to your front-line workers. So, you really want to make sure that your supervisors and managers have a clear understanding of what you are trying to convey so they can effectively communicate that information to their teams.

And if you don’t strive to ensure for this consistency, then the worst possible scenario is employees are going to be receiving these conflicting messages from different sources, their supervisors, their peers. And this will cause them not to take the message seriously. And it also puts an overall doubt on the importance and priority of safety in the workplace if they’re receiving these conflicting messages.

The second yeah. The second thing I would say is you want your communication to be clear and concise. That’s a bonus. So, you don’t really want to you don’t want to leave much room for interpretation. You want to be very clear. Researchers found that messages that are clear, easy to understand and to the point are most effective. So, this point isn’t only about safety related messages, but this could be taken for any sort of messaging that you want to convey to your employees.

And then the third C, I would say you want your communication to be caring when you communicate, understand that these workers are literally risking their lives on the job. Right. And they’re approaching conversations with their employees from a caring perspective has been found to be more impactful than coming from a scolding or reprimanding perspective. And it’s really important for employees to feel that you as a leader, genuinely, genuinely care about their safety and well-being and really helping them understand why safety policies and procedures are in place can really influence what they end up taking away from your conversations or approach your conversation from a place of care.

I love it. So consistent, clear and concise and then caring. I think those are so important that the caring one, it reminds me most really good leaders that I’ve heard of from a safety culture standpoint are always coming from a position, and they usually always have a very strong, like conviction of why safety is so relevant or important to them. I love your comment about why I had somebody who was sharing their story in terms of my leadership story on whatever episodes he was really talking about, how you really connect to why something is important, not just telling people to do something that’s so important.

So, in terms of upward communication, what can you tell me about upward? And is it really important for employees to communicate to leaders about safety?

Yes. So, as I mentioned earlier, when leaders and upper management are not hearing about what’s happening on the floor, they’re really missing out on so many opportunities to prevent and correct safety issues. So, yes, it’s very important to have an open two-way channel of safety communication, not just one way. That’s not enough anymore. And so, an important tip to maintain upward communication, I would say, is to make sure that management is acknowledging receipt of this communication and providing feedback about what’s being done or what’s going to be done with the information received. 

So, if managers aren’t giving employees any feedback on their speaking up, then they’re going to feel like they just wasted their breath, right. They won’t continue to speak up about safety issues or concerns. You have to reward the behavior you want to see. Right. For example, if an employee raises a safety concern to you as a manager, let’s say, acknowledge that you’ve heard their concern, maybe you can check in with a check in with them in a few months, let them know what steps you’ve taken to resolve their issue.

And even if it’s something that you can’t really take action on at the moment, let them know that you’ve heard them. And although you can’t address it right now, it’s something you’ll consider in the future or it can’t be addressed for X, Y and Z reasons and tell them those reasons. So, providing this type of feedback makes upward communication more worthwhile for the employee. Put yourself in their perspective. Why would you, after working a very long, hard, busy day, go out of your way to speak up about an issue if you feel like no one is going to do anything about it or you know you’re not going to get any feedback on it.

So, providing that sort of feedback encourages them to continue on with that positive behavior that you’re trying to see.

But the very important point, it reminds me of one of my favorite stories I’ve ever heard, it was a somebody who is at a retirement party retiring from one of the big three automotive manufacturers. And his comment at the end was, you’ve paid me really well throughout my entire career. Thank you. But you could have had my brain for free. And I think that’s such a strong comment. But really talks to this piece about all he was looking for is somebody to listen to tap in to be open to his ideas.

And they could have had so many more solutions that ideas come forward. So, in your research, you’ve studied a construct which is really interesting and I’d love to hear more about it. And it’s around what you call safety silence motives. Can you tell me a little bit more about what it is and why we should care about it?

Yes, I’d love to. So, safety, silence motives help us understand the barriers to upward safety communication. So, safety silence occurs when employees choose not to speak up about safety issues in the workplace and safety. Silenus’ motives are the reasons behind the silent behavior. So basically, measuring this construct will help us answer the question. What are barriers preventing my employees from speaking up about safety issues? And so, we’ve identified four main types of safety silence motives, so we found that employees may not speak up about safety issues if they feel that relationships in the workplace could be damaged or it could lead to a negative image of them called relationship.

They safety silence or employees may stay silent because their organization’s climate isn’t supportive of upward communication called climate-based safety silence. Silence could be due to appraising a situation is not threatening or not worth speaking up about. So, this is called issue-based safety silence. You hear things like, oh, that safety issue wasn’t life threatening or no one ended up getting hurt. Right. And then finally, job-based safety silence occurs when employees are facing job related constraints to speaking up.

So, things like heavy time pressures or workload, and you might not find that all of these safety sounds motives are occurring in your workplace. So really measuring these motives will help you take the most targeted action to encourage healthy upward safety communication.

Hmm, interesting. So, what should I do if my employees do not feel comfortable speaking up about safety issues?

Right. So, as I mentioned, different actions can be taken based on what barriers you’ve identified in your organization. So, for example, if you find that relationship-based safety silence is very high, then your organization may benefit from having an anonymous reporting system, for example. So, names don’t have to be associated with certain suggestions or reports. And this could also always be a first step until you’re able to build a culture of trust in which employees do feel more comfortable associating their names with different reports and things along those lines.

If you find that climate, they safety silence is an issue, then you really want to think about why your organization’s climate is not supporting this type of upward communication. So, you could find that employees feel that there really is no Clear Channel of upward communication or they feel that management isn’t really responsive to upward communication. So, these are things that can be addressed through different manager or supervisor trainings.

Interesting. Yeah, it’s it is for somebody because I grew up in the airline industry and that’s where it got my first taste of safety. And I think that that that theme of speaking about air safety is so well ingrained in that industry and has been for because of so much focus on creating psychological safety, but also a mechanism, an environment where people recognize the value of speaking up. So, I sometimes take it for granted. This is such an important theme.

Right. You know, it’s very interesting that you say that because each organization, each even department and each team has its own strength in their safety climate. Right. But you kind of forget about it. At the industry level, some industries really work to prioritize safety more so than others. So, you know, you’re definitely right. There are some industries that have that tend to place a bit more priority on production, are getting the job done or other things.

And it could be a little harder to shift the safety climate in an organization working in an industry with such constraints. But not impossible. Definitely not impossible.

Absolutely. So, can you maybe share some of your takeaways when it comes to talking about safety?

Sure. So, I would say one takeaway is that communication should not be just a one-way channel. So, it’s not enough to have effective top-down safety communication. It’s important. But not enough upward safety communication is also a necessary component of a safe work environment, and lateral safety communication is really important as well for creating that healthy, positive safety climate that we’re striving for. Another take away is that change takes time. There are, of course, changes that really need to happen immediately, right?

If major safety is your concern, it needs to be dealt with. But what if you’re trying to change how people are thinking about safety or how people are viewing safety or how much they’re valuing safety in their daily work, then be patient. This is not going to happen overnight. This process might take time, but the research shows that having this strong, positive safety climate has so many benefits and not only in the realm of safety associated with things like lower accident rates or better safety performance, but also outside the safety realm, like customer satisfaction, employee commitment, better performance, things like that.

And it’s important to understand that, you know, investing in improving your safety climate does save your organization time and monetary costs in the long run. Right. They seem like just one small cog in the machine of your organization, but without it, that machine will come to a halt. So, it’s really in our best interest to try to ingrain safety into the fabric of your company so the machine will run smoothly. And keep in mind that these changes might be happening before you even know it.

And then I would say my last takeaway is that safety is a collaboration. Your workers are the experts in their craft. So, seek their expertise and try to better understand what they do, try to understand their concerns, seek their opinions, make them feel valued, and make them feel like a collaborator in your company’s safety program rather than just a participant. Because in the end, we’re all working towards the same goal here. Right? We all want to make it home in one piece.

We all want to be safe, happy and healthy. And we want to see our workers and coworkers safe, happy and healthy. So, getting on the same page about that point with your employees will do wonders to the quality of your communication between you and your workers.

I think that’s very well said. And such important reminders. And definitely when I’ve worked with more mature organizations from a safety climate standpoint to themes that always emerge as a very strong collaboration involvement, safety is everybody’s responsibility. Everybody sees it. Everybody wants to contribute in that way, which is phenomenal. But the other thing they talked about really in terms of those places tend to be great workplaces. There’s not a place I’ve been to that had a phenomenal safety culture that didn’t have low absenteeism, that didn’t have a good operational performance, that didn’t have good production performance.

It didn’t have all these other things working because people saw it as an intricate part of running a great business.

Exactly. So well said I. I completely agree with that statement. And that’s what I’ve seen from a research perspective. And also, you know, when I’ve interacted with different organizations and clients and things like that. So, yeah, I completely agree.

Well, thank you so much for having us for taking the time to come on The Safety Guru to share some really important themes. Really appreciate all the work that you’re doing, sharing those ideas, researching those ideas in your work, teaching. And as a professor at the University of Baltimore, thank you so much for taking the time and would love to have you back on the show when you’ve got some additional pointers, ideas or research that you’d like to share and broadly communicate to that important audience.

So, thank you so much for coming on.

Thank you, Eric. Any time.

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Archana Tedone, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Industrial and Organizational (IO) Psychology at the University of Baltimore. Archana is a workplace health and safety researcher, and a large portion of her work focuses on identifying the organizational barriers to a safe work environment. She has published numerous studies in the area of workplace safety in journals such as Accident Analysis and Prevention, and the Journal of Advanced Nursing, and has even authored an encyclopedia entry of the topic of Workplace Safety. Archana also has several years of experience working as a organizational consultant, with expertise in the areas of training and development, survey design, employee wellbeing, and workplace safety. 

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