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The linkage between Safety and Mental Health & Fatigue with Dr. Tim Marsh

The Safety Guru_Dr. Tim Marsh_The linkage between Safety and Mental Health and Fatigue



As we approach World Mental Health Day, tune in to identify the linkages between mental health and safety outcomes! In this insightful episode, Dr.Tim Marsh, discusses how organizations can improve their safety performance by taking a more holistic approach that also keeps leaders in tune with fatigue, anxiety and depression that could be increasing at risk work. Approaches such as developing supervisor soft skills and emphasizing the importance of actively caring are important tools for organizations to consider.


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people. First. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops and 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, Dr. Tim Marsh. He’s a professor at Smith University in the United Kingdom. He brought in the 1990s behavioral and safety culture themes to Europe, has written many books. One of his top sellers was around talking safety and coming up in the autumn, we’ll have a new book that he’ll be publishing about talking health and safety, which is really a key topic for the conversation we have today. So, Tim, welcome to the show. 

Really excited to have you with me. 

Thank you for having me, Eric. 

Let’s start maybe first about yourself and how you got into this broad field of safety and safety culture. 

Sure. After I got a doctorate in psychology, I worked with the UK Mod and looking at recruit suicidal behaviors in young army recruits. While I finished that at the University, I was at Manchester University. They just started looking at behavioral safety techniques pioneered in America by the likes of Tom Browse, BSD and so on. And they were wondering if they might work in Europe. And the first European research project was at my university. And a colleague had started off that project but had left and they were looking for somebody to step in just for a couple of months to run the project while they found somebody suitable. 

And I just finished with the army. And they thought that it was all based on construction sites. And they thought that maybe somebody would work with squaddie in the army might be able to go to a construction and not get eaten. So, they asked me if I step in and I found it so enjoyable, but interesting, I never left. 

Interesting. So, you’ve done a lot of work linking mental health to safety outcomes. And I think this is a very important topic that a lot of people talk about mental health. Touch briefly in teams of the links to the safety, but don’t draw the full linkage. Tell me a little bit about some of the work you’ve done there and some of the research in this space. 

Yeah, sure. A lot of work has been done in mental health recently, particularly in places like the UK, because we’re aware of the fact that, for example, for every person we lose to an industrial accident, we will have 35 people of working age kill themselves. It’s something like five0 plays been 150 in the UK. Those are the figures. So, we’ve been doing a lot of work in that field anyway, because, of course, it’s tremendously inconvenient and morally awful to have people kill themselves. And we spent half a waking hour in work. 

So clearly what happens in work is relevant. But recently, some of our bigger clients, a large insurance company, QBE, asked me to look into the link between mental health and safety directly. And when you look at it, the research is inconclusive, controversial. It’s incredibly difficult to tease out what’s going on and why. If you know you can have been thinking it’s incredibly complex. It’s not complicated. It’s infinitely complex. So, for example, people who are really struggling, a lot of people who are really struggling have learned that the first thing they can do is to be nice to other people and be very pro social. 

It makes them feel better. So, it isn’t a simple linear relationship. But anyway, you got problems with reporting, you’ve got problems, people feeling going to be scapegoated, you’ve got problems with confidentiality, then you’ve got problems with medication, self-medication, all that. But when you look into it as best, we can tell, there are three factors that directly relink somebody having a bad day in work, somebody who’s struggling, and a propensity to have an accident. And those three things are that the first thing is if you’re struggling, you’re much more likely to be situationally aware, you’re distracted by other factors, thoughts, emotions, and are less situationally aware. 

So, you’re less likely to be aware of the risk. We all know that situational awareness is something we really want to avoid accidents. The second thing, of course, is if you know your Hydra triangle, we all know that the better work you do at the bottom of the triangle, the small at the top with the triangle, you get the love that you deserve. Not every day. There are no guarantees either way, but as a rule, you do well. The trouble with people who are struggling is they tend to be more fatalistic, of course. 

And if you fatalistic, you’re much less likely to be proactively working the bottom of the triangle and generating your own nut. And the third factor is, of course, people who are struggling can be grumpy. They can create risk around themselves, so they’re less likely to stop and challenge somebody in an effective way, much more likely to walk past situations where I saying nothing bugger them is as they go past, much more likely to be short with other people and have ineffective communications or worse than that, destructive communications where they’re actually awkward, difficult and reasonable and generates problems in others. 

So, for those three factors, there does seem to be a direct relationship between that mindset of an 85% of all mental health issues or depression or anxiety, the serious stuff. But 85%, I think the cost of the American economy has been estimated at 2 trillion a year, which is a big number. Who’s you and that is the 85% that is depression or anxiety and depression and anxiety. In essence, depression is simply spending time thinking about something that’s already happened in a negative way. Regrets is the obvious one biting us and so on. 

Anxiety really is spending a lot of time thinking about something that hasn’t happened yet in a negative way. So, anxiety and so on and all that depression and anxiety. We all do that. We all have those thoughts every day. Of course, we do. But if we have them to such an extent that it gets in the way, then it becomes a problem. That’s all it is. And people who had having too many Ops focus negative thoughts or future focus negative thoughts that it actually gets in the way and just more likely through those three factors to have problems at work? 

Absolutely. It’s quite controversial, but I think that is so self-evidently obvious. 

It makes a lot of sense. And I think a lot of people are touching on it. You draw the direct linkage between those themes, the challenges. A lot of organizations look at it separately. So, HR may be looking at mental health wellbeing and safety is looking at safety outcomes. What are some of the things that organizations or safety leaders can do to really address this part of safety? 

Yes. I think that the number one thing safety did is control. First of all, to be aware of it, not be afraid of it. There are all sorts of concerns that if you start talking about these things, you’re impacting on people’s private lives, it’s totally inappropriate. People will then not talk about anything. And you’ve got that classic thing where it’s been estimated that something like 85% of days taken off with bad backs are actually people taking days off because they’re struggling. If you have a bad back and you’ve got a positive mindset, I quote Dane Cowell Black over here in the UK on that. 

She’s a leader of all these things. And if you’ve got a bad back and you’re in a good place, you enjoy your work. I enjoy my work. I used to play a huge amount of golf when I was a young man. I’ve got a terribly bad back, like every heavy pot you played golf before. They were fully developed on. I just do stretch exercises. I just stand up while I stretch. There is that link on that controversy, but I think so. Don’t be afraid of it. 

It’s just what it is. But I think the number one thing that safety can do is to talk to occupational health and HR. I think that should be a key metric. How well does he get on with safety? 

I think, is a really important point. And what about organizations that aren’t really addressing mental health wellbeing fully, because obviously this is saying you’re more likely to have an accident. If you’re not addressing this in your workplace, what are some of the tactics that they should be bringing to the forefront to advance the need? 

They should be looking at it. We in the UK have been quoted in figures. One person in five is struggling on any given day. Some people they know it’s one in eight, nobody pushes back on nine and ten. So, if you’ve got 2000 employees out there constructing a bridge or a hospital or laying a rolled or whatever they’re doing that as a minimum. You got 2000 staff. You’ve got 200 people who are struggling. Now you’ve got two choices. One is you can try and analyze the extent and the causes and what you can do to help or you can just cross your fingers. 

We know from the world of safety, the crossing your fingers and hoping it goes away. 

It’s not good. It’s not necessarily proved entirely effective over the years. 

I hope it’s not a good plan. 

Well, it’s a tactic. 

It does. So, one of the things when you’re talking about mental health wellbeing, it links to a lot of themes as well. From a leadership standpoint safety leader have talked about. So, for example, active care to me is also about if I know who’s on my teams, I demonstrate care, maybe I’m more likely to notice a difference today. Tim showed up and maybe you’re not as Jovi as usual or something that looks different. What’s your thought in terms of active care, but other soft skills that could be really key from a supervisor in leadership standpoint? 

Well, the obvious thing, of course, is a lot of companies over here in the UK, Shell oil and gas have a very explicit culture of care. They promote an explicit culture of care, and that’s really just a person focus just to talk to people and try and notice them. So, it’s a dialogue piece very much reflected in the whole safety differently thrust the absolute essence of safety differently, which has had such an impact around the world, of course, is you’re the solution as a worker, not the problem. 

So, we want you to be safe and productive. You want to be safe and productive, what you need, what you need for me. And exactly the same principle applies to mental health and an individual. Wellbeing, so, for example, I need more flexibility or I don’t have enough control or I have too much control. There’s a thing called wars vitamin model of mental health at work. Very influential piece, academically decades. So just been rediscovered, really, as we all turn towards it in a more commercial way. Recently, control is a classic up to nine. 

He’s got nine factors. But what he says is you have to have the right level for the right person. So, if you’re the sort of self-employed person who can only really function as self-employed because otherwise you are unemployable, you need a high level of control, give the level of control or somebody like myself who’s self-employed on my own company, give that level of control to a lot of people and they never sleep. 


So, it’s about understanding. And of course, when we’re talking COVID, a really good example is a lot of people say, I love working from home. I’ve got children and a lot of people say, I hate working from home. I’ve got children. And of course, that could be the same person on the same morning. 

Right. So, the theme of investing in soft skills for frontline supervision seems like a very important one. And probably an area where HR and the safety teams can work together as well to upscale. And any thoughts on that part? 

Oh, absolutely. And over the years, we’ve done thousands of safety culture surveys. And the one thing that always comes out is the soft skills of your front-line supervisors and managers could be upgraded absolutely every single time. So, another Web Wars vitamin model is into personal contact, of course. And what you find is some people like a little they’re quite solidary. They don’t really need people very much. Some people like a lot. But the one thing is an absolute constant is they want to have the right level of it and they wanted to be good quality. 

So, if you got somebody who isn’t particularly into personally skilled, that’s a problem for everything and always will be, that’s great. 

Thank you. Another theme as well is the element. I know when we talked before the theme of just culture and how does that play into safety, but also the element from a mental health standpoint. 

Just culture. Now you’re talking some deep and serious stuff that goes back millions of years. You know, they do say that there are two factors that seem to distinguish the most successful societies and species, for that matter. Out. One is that they have a learning focus. So, my multimillion-selling books, like Is Cow Dex Mindset to be a psychologically safe organization, and so on is all about trust. And it’s all about learning. And the two things go hand in hand. So, for me, the organizations that are best, they will have hit Diminishing returns with systems, procedures, compliance regulations, rules, training. 

They are pretty much it diminishing returns with that. But then there are two themes. The first one is learning when things go well, why have they gone wrong? What can we do about it? Brilliantly. Covered by a guy called Matthew Said called Black Box thinking if you listeners, I promise you, if you read Black Boxing and you don’t think it’s fantastic, I’ll come over and wash your car if you want to send me whatever you are. And the second one, of course, is trust. There’s a lot of studies that suggest that societies that have higher levels of trust flourish better than societies that have a culture of low trust in the classic example is Italy. 

They studied Italy. And so why is the north of Italy doing so well compared to the south? And the correlation that seemed to be strongest was that they have a culture of non-trust in the south and a culture of trust in the north. So obviously it gets complex again, because the trouble with societies that default the trust. Well, the good thing about societies that default the trust is that you set up more virtuous than vicious circles and you flourish because it’s better to have a false negative than a false positive. 

The downside, of course, is that cults and Con men take advantage of that. So, to quote, I did an article for a magazine the other day on a book came out called how to Think Like a Spy by Britain’s leading spy just retired. And I thought the line in the book that just absolutely resonated with me. He said this same thing, trust. You have to bit. You have to go from a premise of trust that’s best for everybody. And normally it works. But there will be people to try and take advantage of you. 

So just everybody verifies everything. 

Trust everybody verifies everything, especially verify everything, but verify everything interesting. So, on that topic, I think your book coming up fairly soon or Talking Health and Safety, can you give our listeners a bit of a preview of some of the teams that you’ll be exploring within that book? 

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

Com. Yeah, sure. The original Talking Safety. It was home to have a world class safety conversation with the subtitle, and the idea was a cost or commitment from a just culture perspective. So, with the mindset and assumption that if something has gone wrong or is about to go wrong, there is a reason for it that makes sense to the person involved and to have that conversation as proactively as possible, not waiting for something to go wrong, and then you default to blame and finger point doing. But to do it proactively so that it’s just a introduce yourself. 

Ask why, curiously, not aggressively. There are other questions based on things like temptation analysis. Is there anything slow and convenient? They’re uncomfortable about doing this job safely because we know for a fact if there is, some people will be tempted to cut corners and then some people will cut corners. It’s just a head coat from then on. And the bottom of how you look famous triangle fills up, and sooner or later somebody gets it. So that was the basic model. And then it costs when you find out if you do need to address the individual, for example, because there is a temptation. 

But you can’t do anything about it because you’re pulling down the factory next year, and the cost of making the changes you need is just prohibitive. Then get into coaching. Get into coaching modes rather than telling somebody you use data, you use illustration and praise rather than criticism, and so on and use all those techniques. And then you say, thank you and you go. And I think the absolute essence of talking health and safety. In the first book we said, introduce yourself, ask people how they are, and then crack on. 

Obviously, when you ask people how they are, especially in Europe, where we’re already stuffing a bit. I’m fine. Thank you. 

I think you get that pretty much everywhere. 

Yeah, I especially in Europe, of course. And so, I think the essence of talking health and safety, as well as going through mental health first aid training. And it signs to look out for talkative ones that have gone quiet, quiet ones that have gone talkative, smart ones that have gone scrape, all that sort of stuff and all those top tips about mental health. It’s just to ask the question at the end of the conversation when you’ve developed some rapport when you’ve had a decent conversation and you’ve worked together a bit just to revisit that simple opening gambit of and how are you only this time properly and mean it as opposed to just, I’m okay expecting an answer. 

This. I’m okay. Thank you. And that really, I think, is the essence of a culture of care. If you listen to people and know who they are, they’re much more likely to torture. I give you a case study if you like. I’ve got a very large client. They managed to switch off a major airport as an engineer, made a mistake, and they wanted a human error project that made that less likely to happen in the future. I was talking to so they can’t fall down the stairs teams or they can’t do this, you know, it so well, I wouldn’t worry about them falling down the stairs. 

You do realize they’re 35 times more likely to throw themselves down the stairs. And if they’ve had a really bad day, they run them up with an axe for half and ever while you’re trying to get into the security secure factory, you’ve got a real problem? 

Sure. And they said, well, any of our workers like that well, certainly will be having a bad day maybe as much as ten. But I just spoke to a guy, for example, who has just got divorced, is living on a friend’s couch, is 50 years old, but his drinking as much as he did when he was a student and is really close to the edge. And the MD said, well, how did you know that? That’s I was chatting to him. And I said, how are you? And he said, all right. 

And I said, oh, I’m not convinced you’re all right. I said, well, why did he talk to you? I suspect I’m the first person who’s ever asked him if you saw it. You want me to talk to somebody. So, I talked to me. So, Eric, the essence of a caring culture, a culture of care, I think, is really just listening. If you asked question, you are right that somebody says, yeah, I’m fine. You good. Great. And you crack on that’s not going to get us very far. 

But if you genuinely listen to the answer and hold their gaze and look at them. And obviously the trick is to genuinely care, not pretend you’re caring, but actually care, they will talk to you nine times, say the ten, they will open up and they will talk to you. And then you can have a grownup adult conversation about the fact that 10% minimum of your workforce I having a bad day and could use somebody to talk to. We can all you somebody to talk to. One of the things that we’ve been doing here with my companies, as I said, taking a genuinely holistic approach to the whole human error piece. 

You know, it doesn’t really matter what causes the human error, but because it will be multifaceted. And one of the things that we’re already familiar with, of course, is fatigue. You know, somebody who is very tired, they’ve been up for 18 hours. They’ve done a split shift or whatever, and they haven’t quite recovered. Now you’ve got the same physiology as somebody is drunk. And, of course, fatigue and mental health, two parts of a pair of gloves. Really, if you’re tired, you’re having a bad day. It’s very difficult to have a good day when you’re really tired. 

Every day is a better day if you’re broken alert. Likewise, if you’re stressed, you don’t sleep very well. The whole thing becomes a vicious circle. So absolutely, incorporating fatigue management. So, a lot of companies will have a fatigue management process because they’re aware of the fact that they don’t want their workers out. They’re drunk in inverted e-commerce. Thank you ever so much. But they might not have anything in that fatigue management that does any sort of monitoring or Proactive work about mental health. But they should the two things that go together, handing both. 

Yeah. I think that’s a really important point. 

People simply do not make mistakes very often because they can’t be bothered all because they’re stupid. Of course, both of those things are true a lot, but the majority of yeah, absolutely. But on the majority of occasions, that’s not true. They’re good people doing their best, and they make mistakes for a variety of intel reasons, often Bureau being stressed and preoccupied by issues about the past or the future. Being tired, they’re often front and center in that stupid accident. An invert ecommerce where somebody just does something daft or doesn’t see something or drops something or presses the wrong button or falls over something or drives into something or reverses into something, et cetera, et cetera. 

It doesn’t sling something properly. All those accidents start with mental health, fatigue rather than human error. As Sydney Decker says, human error is never the end point of any investigation. It has to be the start point. And mental health is often. I don’t mean you’re crazy. You schizoid free bipolar. I mean, you’re just a bit depressed or you’re really very anxious often that is an important causal element of the equation. 

Yeah. And I really appreciate the work that you’re doing in terms of the research in terms of bringing the topic of conversation linking those themes think is incredibly important. So, I really appreciate the work you’re doing and all the consulting that you’re doing with a lot of organizations to bring the topic about and address the broader theme of safety culture. 

It’s a lot of fun, actually, but working in such an important field, it’s not a niche. You can’t just find everybody who admits that they’re struggling, in fact, and that’s about 20% of your workforce, so that’s not going to happen. Doing some mainstream work that really brings good psychology front and center in important field is obviously fantastic for anybody myself. Considers himself a psychologist. Excellent. 

Well, Tim, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your thoughts. And I’m looking forward to the upcoming books around talking health and safety. 

Oh, thank you, Eric. Thank you so much. 

I have. I’ve really enjoyed myself. 

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Tim Marsh was one of the team leaders of the original UK research into behavioural safety (in construction) in the early 1990s He is considered a world authority on the subject of behavioural safety, safety leadership and organizational culture, was awarded a “President’s Commendation” in 2008 by the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management and was selected to be their first ever ‘Specialist Fellow’ in 2010. He was made visiting Professor at Plymouth University in 2015.

He has given key note talks around the world including the closing key note at the inaugural Campbell Institute ‘International Thought Leaders’ conference (Dallas, USA, 2014 as well as key note talks at major conferences in South Africa, New Zealand, Asia, India and the Middle East. In 2016 he was the key note speaker at the inaugural NEBOSH Alumni event.

Founder of Ryder Marsh Safety he has worked commercially with more than 500 major organizations around the world, including many international oil and gas, utility, chemical, transport, IT and manufacturing organizations as well as the European Space Agency, the BBC, the National Theatre and Sky. Founded Anker & Marsh in 2018 with Jason Anker to focus more closely on wellbeing and mental health issues. His work as an expert witness includes the Cullen Inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove train crash (Definition of Culture; Changing Culture) as well as with many law firms.

He has worked with media such as the BBC (radio work and selecting and fronting a box set of their “disaster” series) and has written and produced many training videos such as “Drive Smarter” and the extensive “Safety Leadership” series with Baker-media and ‘Crash Course’ (a commercial spin off of the Staffordshire Police speed and safe driving awareness course). He features in “There’s Always a Reason” and “Safety Watch”.

He has written dozens of magazine articles, many academic articles and the books “Affective Safety Management”, “Talking Safety”, “Total Safety Culture”, “Safety Savvy”, “A Definitive Guide to Behavioural Safety” and “A Handbook of Organized Wellbeing”.  



Road Safety and Why it Matters with John Westhaver

The Safety Guru_John Westhaver_Road Safety and Why it matters



About a month before his high-school graduation 27 years ago, John Westhaver was involved in a devastating car accident that left him with varying degrees of burns covering 75% of his body. This experience jumpstarted his life as a motivational speaker and safety advocate, as he continues to emphasize the importance of minimizing dangerous distractions. In this thrilling episode, John discusses techniques to practice that will help individuals become more aware of understanding the possible risks in seemingly safe situations. The importance of leadership within safety culture is highlighted and John teaches the audience how to prioritize physical and psychological conditions so that everyone makes it home safely at the end of the day – tune in!


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 on 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 John Westhaver. John Westhaver is a motivational speaker in the safety space does make excellent work around safety in the road. So, John, welcome to the podcast. I’d love for you to start out, maybe by introducing yourself and then introduce your road safety story. 

Yeah. So, my name is John Westhaver, and I am a failed car crash survivor. Burn survivor. I was burnt to the car crash 27 years ago this spring, and right now I am a professional speaker traveling around Canada. Actually, not traveling currently because of the go pandemic and the restrictions and stuff. Right. But I normally travel early. Can the US be talking about road safety and the impacts of Port driving choices? Do a lot of work with schools and organizations and companies, probably just to help people change their conversation around driving so that they become safer driver so that we have safer roadways for everybody. 

So, I’ll just kind of go into my story and why I do this. Yeah. So, I was a typical teenage kid in school, average kid, fun loving kid, good grades in school. And I had a zest for life like most of the kids. And it wasn’t a problem child. But on April 29, 1994, I was about a month and a half before high school graduation, when me and three of my friends being my best friend, Jason, two other friends, Jimmy and Aaron, we decided to go to the pool hall in our hometown. 

Now we lived in the little tiny town called Saint Stephen and New Bronson, a little border town. But at the time, there’s probably like, 7500 people that live there, so really quiet than being there. Really? 


It’s a really quiet town, but not really the time. It’s probably still there’s not really a lot of stuff for used to do other than playing hockey or baseball. If you didn’t do your sporting events like that there. But where there really wasn’t a lot to do for youth. And I was one of those teenagers that love to party, love to drive fast, never drank control. I never got on with somebody who I was drinking. But I love the party. I love to drink. And I loved the thriller Speed. 

Like most of the kids that I hung out with. And it was a month and a half before high school graduation full of life teenagers. We decided to go on a road trip to a town about 45 minutes away. Town called McAdam. We heard there was a pool hall there and being typical teenage guys, we loved pools because normally we could play pool there. There was good music there. And there were always girls there. So, we’re like, hey, let’s go check this place out. Four teenage guys were full of life. 

 Let’s go check it out. Now, the thing was, no matter what we did, we always have to have a sober driver. Okay. So that night, Jimmy decided to drive. He’s like, I’ll drive. It’ll be my thing. I have to work tomorrow. Get up early. So, I’ll drive. I’ll stay sober. I’ll be good. So, it was great because he had a 1980 Chevy Impala. Now, if you’ve ever been in a 1980 Chevy Impala, that’s a boat. That’s a big car. So, we’re like, this is good because lots of room. 

 And so, the next thing was, we had to find some alcohol now, being four teenage voices on a mission, it wasn’t normally too hard for us to find alcohol. Usually, we’d raise our parents liquor cabinet or find someone older to buy them for us. So, this particular Friday night, we decided to find someone order to buy it for us. So, booze in hand and super driver, we set off on a road trip. We crack our beer. Once we hit the highway, we get to the pool. 

All we’re having a good time. We’re floating out the bureaus playing pool. Have a great time until Jimmy, our silver driver. Great guy. Awesome. Got it. Decide to leave now. Being 14 age guys were full of life. It’s Friday night. We’re on a pool hall. There are girls around there’s music. This pool is lots of fun. We’re like, no, let’s stick around a little bit longer. Now, if you’ve ever been to designated driver on a vehicle and you’ve had some drunkards with Chevy drunkards, we everybody had some drug with you. 

 You know how hard it can be to get some of these guys to come with you. So, yes, like, hey, I’m leaving. And we’re like trying to stick around a little bit longer because we knew from McAdam to Saint Steve. And it was about a 45, 50 minutes drive. God lows. How long the walk it would have been. So, we’re, like, stick around in low music now. So, we get a choice. She needs boys. We could have stuck around and played some pool some more. 

 Had some more fun. Drink some more beer in front of the girl some more and walked home. We’re trying to figure somewhere at home or we could go a Jimmy, who was our deed. Reluctantly, right. We decided to go Jimmy because he was us did. He was the guy that was supposed to get in some safe. So, we stacked early care. We grabbed another bear. We choose each other being 14 age guys, we Peel out of the parking lot. Chester, we’re flying to the highway like any other Friday night in our home town. 

 Any other Friday night that we were teenage boys. We’re always doing this stuff, driving fast or party in, never Trisula driving, but just driving too fast. And about halfway back we decided to pull over to parking lot. But halfway back and now we jump out, take a leak, we grab another beer, we choose each other and we Peel out of the parking lot and probably 11:00 at night. And when we left our parking lot, the stereos cranked Jimmy flying on the highway we’re intoxicated. But because we’ve been drinking for a while and we’re thinking nothing can possibly go wrong because we get a DD. 

 I got everything under control and worth. Are everything’s perfect, not a care in the world. That was the last thing that I remember now. The last thing that care free teenage life. The next moment I recall opening my eyes, I’m looking up and assuming I don’t recognize. I looked around the room and I see that I’m in a hospital room. I have no idea. I am in this hospital room. I don’t know which hospital I’m in. I don’t know why I had all kinds of questions I had.  

And where are my friends at what’s going on? And I remember someone told me not to talk together. I can be okay. And I was scared because I wasn’t a sick kid. I never really experienced hospitals a lot. And so, I looked around the room and I see that there’s a vent later. On one side and on the other side there’s a machine measuring my heart rate, my blood pressure be and I’m connected to a multitude of saving devices that I look down and I am completely, completely covered in bandages from my head to my feet. 

I’m brown like a mummy and I’m scared because I have no ID was going. Now at this moment I was heavily medicated, so I didn’t feel a lot of pain. Sure scared. And at first, they wouldn’t tell me what happened. They wanted me to folks in the healing. And then as I started to heal and as I got strength and energy and found that strength to keep moving forward, they would reveal things to me that they felt I needed to hear. So, I later learned that the police determined that we’re doing what 140 km on a road that’s posted for 90 on a secondary highway number three highway from St. 

Steven to Redington secondary highway. People travel the highway all the time. Sharp corner Andersonville there and we’re just holding with you fast and or silver driver. Jimmy being eight, actually 17 years old at the time. He was young, an experienced driver, sure, but he thought he was a great driver as we all did. We also era and we all love to speed and the inability at such a young age of his driving, the speed of which were travel the commotion inside the car. 14 age guys, three of us are intoxicated the stereos cranked. 

You can just about imagine how much commotion is inside that car, how much distraction it is for the driver. And the road took a corner, took a sharp corner, and Jimmy lost control of the car, so out of control, hit the ditch, rolled several times. Our driver was ejected and killed. The car had a telephone pool exploded myself. I sustained Burns to 75% of my body and a broken arm. And my best friend Jason and Aaron were trapped on the back seat. And that’s why they had perished. 

That car had exploded those massive Bull fires where I just hit the microphone here. That car had exploded, a massive bull fire. And the thing was, this was four teenage guys in a small town, and there really wasn’t a lot of resources or small police force or able the paramedics, the police, the police were called the one to call articles that crash. It didn’t just impact us and impacted our families, our friends, our school, those witnesses and bystanders the ones that were on scene right away, the cars that came out afterwards, they tried to help out the police, the firefighters, the paramedics, everybody that attended that scene at night was impacted by our actions. 

Every choice that we made that night to get into the car, to drive, the choice to drive fast, the choice to not tell the driver to slow down, the choice to be drinking that night, every choice that we need impacted all of those people. I was rushed to the hospital to our local hospital in St. Stevens, and it would be a small town. They really didn’t have a lot of resources. So, they prepared me to be transported to a burning. It about an hour away. And when I was at the local hospital in St. 

Stephen, when they were preparing me, they called my parents. And here my parents are home asleep and the phone rings. My father wakes operations. The phone really not knowing who it’s going to be. Maybe it’s one of the kids calling to get a ride home or something or calling to say they’re going to be staying somewhere is or whatever it is. When he answered the phone, police officer introduces himself and proceeds to explain to my father that I was involved in a major car crash. They needed to go to the hospital right away, and he wouldn’t say anything else. 

He said Jessica dressed and go to the hospital. Now here. My parents had all kinds of questions, like what’s going on? How bad is a crash? Who was in the crash? Do you know what’s going on? They were not prepared. They were completely unprepared for the nightmare that they are about to walk into. So, my parents got addressed. They went to the hospital. When they get to local hospital, they were greeted at the door by a police officer that my father knew. So, he stopped him and said, before he started to see John, I have to let you know. 

He was involved in a major car crash and his badly burnt. And I looked at my mom and said, before you go in to see your son, I have to let you know he is badly Burton, horribly disfigured. I don’t know if you can handle seeing or so in the state. My father bravely went into my room and he walks down the hallway to the room that I’m in and he gets to the room, gets to the door and he looks in and he sees this person lying in the hospital bed. 

Nurses and doctors are working on this person. The person is completely naked, but their skin is charred black from the fire and the smoke and their body is swollen and blistered. Right? My head was a size of a basketball. My father’s dad didn’t even recognize it. And when I realized that it was his son, John, I didn’t recognize it instantly. He is going to survive. Is it going to be, okay? And if he survives, what kind of life is John going to live? Like, what quality of life will he live if he survives? 


My father fought back to teams and the emotions. He walked in the room and he said, I sat up right away and I started to apologize. So here I am. I’m completely burned. But nurses and doctors are working on me. And I said like, dad, I’m sorry, don’t be mad at me. Don’t be angry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be in the crash. I’m sorry. My dad looks at me and he’s like, It’s okay. Just listen to doctors. Everything’s going to be okay. He had no idea, right? 

What was about to unfold. He just wanted to make sure that I was going to be okay, right? He said the nurses and doctors worked with me for an hour, so to prepare me to be transported to the burn unit and St. John, New Brunswick. And when I got to the burn unit on bronze and that’s when they really assess the extent of my Burns. Now when you sustain Burns to a large front of your body, actually, they give you a survival rating. They say based on what we know about the burn trauma on the body. 

And this is your likelihood you’re going to survive. They look at a few different things. They look at how much of the body is burnt. They call that the total surface body area. They look at the degree of Burns they call the degree of Burns. So how deep are the Burns? So, this first to fourth degree Burns, fourth degrees to most severe goes the deepest. It Burns all over your skin, some muscles and sinned, some bones, sometimes and I had first afforded degree Burns covering 75% of my body. 

When you look at, are you a smoker? Do you drink? What a general health, how old you are. A few other factors. And they say, based on what we know, based on what we know, how the body responds, this is your likelihood you’re going to survive. And they stop my family down. And they said, based on our experience and what we know about the body in John situation, he’s not going to make it. I need to start thinking about funeral arrangements. You need to start calling family and friends and to come see him because he may not make it through the night. 

And if he does, he may not make it through the first week. And you hear my family just heard that I survived this horrific crash. Now they hold in a die. They destroyed. They’re scared. They’re shaking up. Their whole world is turned upside down. A nightmare. Living nightmare. What they did is they actually sedated me. They put me in a drug induced coma so that I wouldn’t experience the pain of the Burns. And they could work on me. So, they said they dated me. They put me to drug induced coma for about a month. 

And that’s where they were able to work on me. But when they sedated me my body in the initial stages, it kept shutting down my lost, my liver, my kidneys would fail. I died three times on the operating table. There was no guarantee that I was going to wake up every time I went for surgery, my parents were. They were destroyed. They had no idea that I would make it through. Oh, and what I want your listeners to get is every choice that I need that night to get into the car, to not tell her drivers now down, to decide, to drink, to know where my seatbelt that night, every choice that I need that night. 

But my family, friends, community, and school put them through hell like I did that at a human level. When I take responsibility for that, my choices did that sure was Jimmy driving, you know, but it was my choices that contributed this situation as well. That put my family through help and the aftermath of everything that I had to deal with. Dealing with. The burn scars, the surgeries, the dressing changes, dealing with the stairs, people staring at me because I’m a Burns of ever. You can tell them look different. 

I have facial Burns, our scars. I have scars on my hands, my body covering my body, dealing with the loss of my friends, dealing with my best friend that dies, the people that you think are going to be there forever at an early age. You never think that you’re going to lose people. And I did lose family members to death because of whatever reason. But you never think you’re going to lose your friends. And how this impacted our school. We’re a month and a half before high school graduation, and it destroyed the student body. 

I had impacted a student body for the rest of the year. The graduation was never the same. It wasn’t like the other year. And to this day, we still don’t do an annual reunion. 


It’s like nobody wants to talk for graduation. Nobody wasn’t gotten together. And if they do, it’s very low key. It’s not this big celebration like some people do. And it really did impact me quite a bit. The relationship, dating, getting into dating and getting married and working my career, being able to use my hands funny, a career that I could actually do. It really impacts the survivors. We often see when a fatal crash happens, that it’s the people that died, but it’s also the ones that survive. 

They’re the ones that really are impacted, you know, the ones that survive in the psychological damage that happens, the dealing with the suffering that accompanies that. 

And I think your story is incredibly powerful and really gets you in teams of especially the way you tell the story, in teams of how it happens. But what does it mean for somebody to truly say safe on the road? Because I think what you’re sharing is common. A lot of people don’t think about the hazards when they jump in a car, they don’t think about what could happen. What does it really mean to be safe on the road? You say about your choices, your responsibilities? What are the things I can do to really own how I show up on the road? 

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

Yeah. So that’s a great question because I said, well, this morning, when I was preparing for this and truly being truly a safe driver, is fun. The rule the road. It’s really that simple, not putting others at risk. And that includes people in your own vehicle. Really be looking at like, what behavior? Driving behaviors are you not following? Like, are you wearing your seat belt? Are you to your heads clear? Are you making sure that you’re driving the speed limit and not using your phone? Things like that there. 

I want to share something with you with your audience. One of the biggest things is we going to share your heads clear. And that’s not just alcohol. It’s also drugs, distractions, like smartphones and also your emotions, because we also talk about smartphones and putting the smartphones away. But it’s also your emotions, too. Have ever thought about how your emotions actually impact your driving in today’s society. We are so busy and so behind the gun. Sometimes we’re not even thinking about the road, right? Sometimes you’re late.  

You’re rushing through traffic with you’re only focused on not being late. Maybe you’re angry because this is the third time this week and you can’t afford to be fired. So, you have all these thoughts and stresses because you’re legitimately afraid of losing your job. And you may be angry with yourself because you’re always doing this. You’re always late. And maybe you’re angry that your partner because they just caused this big fight about something and it went way too long and now, you’re late. Your focus is not on driving.  

As you’re rushing through traffic or rushing around the corner, you rush around the corner, you hit the gases, you’re trying to spell the high the road and someone steps out in the street because you weren’t there a moment ago and you hit the brakes hard. But it’s not enough as your cars in that person, they bounce off your hood and Slam into the pavement. Now, I’m not going to finish the scenario as I want you to understand that the impacts on the world around you when you’re not paying attention to your driving and following the rules of the road and focusing on the road. 

Unfortunately, this happens way too often. Please slow down. You could save someone’s life. 

I think it’s incredibly important point. I know when it comes to me when it comes to getting into the car, the first thing I reflect on is really the state I’m in and really what really matters in terms of what are the experiences I want to have, the people that I love to really center in teams of the focus because like you said, as we’re late for a meeting or somebody cuts you off in front and really checking, even with the state and how I respond, even if you’re very focused, it’s very easy to get sidetracked to take a path that maybe you can’t return from them. 

Yeah. And I’m a human, too. I live in this world, too. I live in a busy city just as well. And I get caught up in this too time. At the time. I have a phrase I say that really has me come to be in check. And it’s a powerful phrase for me because it means a lot to me. It may be nothing to you but find something for yourself and my phrase. And I say, when I am in that moment, I say, Be the brand, be the brand. 

And the brand is road safety because I work with, I do a lot of work with the Insurance Corporation of Bridge, Columbia. So, I say be the brand. And what that means is, hey, if I want to talk about road safety, I got a broad safety. And so that simple be the brand phrase. I say it Ops me slow down. I get connected to what I’m doing now. I can’t really talk about road safety. 

If I’m being a hypocrite out of the street and then somebody takes a picture of us.  

Yeah, right. Weren’t you just talking to my kids last week about road safety, or weren’t you in the office? You how I do on road safety. 

I think you talk about being the brand. I think the other element is a lot of our listeners are leaders that want to drive improvements in safety or safety leaders. And the other element is, how do you impart this into others? How do you make sure that your teams stay safe? How do you reinforce the right teams? How are you aware of maybe some of the blind spots you might have that may inadvertently be putting pressure on somebody to just get there on time. 

Yeah. So as a leader, you can check in with your drivers to see where they are, how they’re managing the workload. They can drive safely, setting up protocols so that when your employees are driving, they are folks on the road and getting to their destination safely. Create some safe driving culture in your company to ensure everyone goes home safe. Also, create realistic time frame for getting work done. It’s okay to push the envelope for efficiency, to get things done to grow and to increase your efficiency with your job. 

But do it in a safe manner. Also agree with employees that they don’t use their phone with the driving, doing all the calling and texting and emailing before they drive or after they drive. When you’re on a call and you’re driving, you’re not 100% on that call. You’re not focus on that call and you’re not focused on driving either. Your kind of like split between the two of them. So, your work suffers because you’re lack of focus that and you’re running the risk of being involved in a vehicle crash as you’re not focusing the road. 

So, your customers, your coworkers, the work that you’re doing. Really, it deserves that focus on the call. So, if you got work to do, get it done before and create that environment with your company that you know what? Hey, take ten or 1520 minutes before you drive to do what you need to do so that you can focus on driving and the side benefit of that when your folks in the road and driving and you get a bit of a drive and you know that I can be doing this.  

It gives your brain a break. It gives your brain a break. And what happens? There is a lot of times if you have to do problem solving or running a scenario through your head, you can often do that in the back of your head while you’re driving all the time, and it comes easier. So just that unplugging for a moment. Sometimes, you know, like when you’re looking at, you’re trying to find a solution for something. It’s thinking so hard at it, and you just can’t find that solution, and then you take a break and then it’s Ops. 

Oh, I should have done that. Or I should do this. So, driving and just folks in the road allows your brain to take a break and really have that background process on your card. It helps reduce your stress as well. 

I think very important points, and I think it’s something that a lot of organizations, industries really need to think through in teams of how do I drive that culture? That environment. Would people make the sick choice as a leader? Am I role modeling this? If I’m expecting people not to take calls, what on the highway, am I doing the same myself, or am I setting the wrong message in teams of how I show up as a leader? 

Yeah. They can also hire us more like myself or to tell me to talk about road at in the impact of a failed vehicle crash, because oftentimes we’re not connected to the impacts and we drop our guard and we don’t follow the rules of the road, and we’re just not connected. And that’s just because it’s not our everyday life. We don’t live the impacts of every day. And it’s just natural to forget sometimes. And so, if you have somebody come in periodically to talk about the impacts of Throne safety. 

And as soon as I stand in front of a group there’s like, people see the real impact, and then I start talking and it just solidifies like, wow, this guy’s been through something horrific. And so, it really allows people to do. And when I present, I like to create no presentation but a conversation. So, when I deliver these talks, I like to really communicate with the people that I’m talking to and really engage with them and inspire thought and inspire case. So, what would this be like if this happened to you? 

How would your kids be impacted if you were injured at the job? Or how would your family be impacted if you lost your livelihood because of vehicle incident? And so, I want people just to think about the impacts of the choices, to really focus on being safer drivers. Now, in a perfect world, if everybody followed the rules, it’ll be super easy. It’d be super easy to follow. And if we pointed out, hey, that’s the bad apple. He needs to be punished. You know, it’d be super easy to follow the rules, but we don’t live in that perfect rule. 

So, we have to be the brand. We have to put ourselves an issue and, you know, take that stand and be that and be the willingness to stand for something different, stand for something and for the rules to be followed so that everybody goes home safe. 

I think it’s important what you do in teams of speaking to groups, to organization is very important because a lot of people don’t think that this is necessarily dangerous. 


We all drive almost every day, maybe a little bit less during the pandemic. But most of us spend time, lots of time in the car driving. And so, we figure we’ve done this for decades. We’re okay. And if you think about certain high-risk profession, it’s not uncommon that you have very high-risk profession. And there’s more injuries that happen driving than there is doing the high-risk job because your attentions on the job when you’re doing a high-risk job, and then when you’re driving, you assume I’ve got us covered. 

Yeah. I totally agree. I talked to Coalition in Texas last fall just about the transport, driving and things like that there and just live out, like how as drivers, we get so wrapped up and getting to point A or point B that we kind of forget about the safety aspect. And we need to really focus on, like, even though our job is when we get there, we still behind the wheel. That’s our job to being seen. And the financial cost of a crash. You know, the cost of the company at a brand level, like somebody drives by a crash where there is a fatal vehicle, fatal crash where there’s somebody had died. 

And there’s this company’s logo. I don’t want to say it’s like somebody’s across the side of the vehicle. There’s a social impact. A branding impact on that company is. 

And I think it’s an important point. And I think the other element is really how do you start shifting some of the industries that spend a lot of time on the road, a lot of windshield time. Take it seriously when it comes to road safety, because that needs to transpose into behaviors into how leaders show up in terms of expectations, in terms of what features you put in your cars, your trucks, whatever vehicle you’re driving on the road to make sure that you’re as safe as you can be. 

Yeah. And we really need to look at the real cost in society when a fatal vehicle crash happens, detach them a couple of times. There’s the financial cost. There’s the physical cost. When I say physical, I mean, if somebody is injured or hurt in a crash, the physical cost, their ability. Like me, I lost my use of the enemy fingers are limited use on my arms. There’s a physical cost when a crash happens. And then there’s also the financial cost to the company. And also, there’s the emotional cost. 

Like, how does this impact the people involved and the people that witness and say, for example, we’re getting back to going back to the office soon. So, most people have gone back to the office. And some people are getting back into going back to the office. And there may be some anxiety about going back to the office. And that plays a part in how you drive on that trip to work. You’re like less. It’s going to be like, Am I going to be safe and I’m going to be okay.  

This whole pandemic is really shaking everybody. And so, it just adds a different element. So, we can work with our drivers to look at what are some of the impacts of some of the possible challenges that they’re going to face when they drive. And if we can combat those and put into place strategic strategies to help with these situations, then we can make our drivers safer and we can make sure that our drivers go home. 

I think you also bring a very important point for really in teams. As people start coming back to the workplace. There’s also an element of people hasn’t had the practice. People that were traditionally maybe spending three or 4 hours commuting in big cities, back and forth between home and work have worked from home, and maybe he went to the grocery store here and there. But that’s a significant decrease in teams of windshield time. And in terms of practice of the road. 

I take my daughter to preschool and I’m kind of lazy sometimes and I drive two blocks. That’s a different commute than it is to be a difference, very, very different. 

And so, your exposure and a lot of cities have had a lot less traffic. So, a lot of the elements of people cutting you off the stress, I’m going to be late those bottlenecks even if you were commuting. Look, we’re going to look different in short order on really appreciate you sharing your story. I think it’s an incredibly moving story, very impactful. Hopefully, it helps people resonate on the importance of driver safety, both personally in teams of the choices they make, how they show up, but also as leaders in terms of how are they driving the right culture, the right environment where people making a I’d say choices that there isn’t enough. 

There isn’t too much production pressure where people feel rushed to drive a certain place. You obviously share your story help motivate people to really reflect on how they say save. How can someone get in touch with you? 

Yeah, they get in touch with to visit my website. John Westhaver. Com that’s J-O-H-N-W-E-S-T-H-A-V-E-R. Com. They can also email me John. John Westover. Com they can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all that stuff and also YouTube. But the best way to do is to visit my website or to email me. That’s the best way to reach out to me. We are booking in person’s presentations, but also a lot of virtual presentations. Because of this pandemic, I’ve actually been able to create a studio in my house where I can deliver remotely, so I can come into your company and deliver a talk to your company at various different locations, virtually from my own place. 

So, there’s no travel cost, which is great because it reduces the costs of having someone like myself come into the workplace and deliver talk. And I tell you I’m really engaging and we can also create custom packages for companies to bring safety messages on weekly level to their drivers so we can create all kinds of different things that really drive home that road safety message and being enrolling about it. My whole philosophy around all the stuff that I do is try not to preach to people because when we preach to people, the message gets lost because I’m telling you know what to do versus if I can share with you and enroll you and something possible when you become a safer driver, that’s going to drive change more and faster than if I preach to you and tell you that you’re bad and wrong for what you’re doing. 

So. John, thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing a story and really giving some thoughts around how can I choose to be a safer driver and how can I influence my teams to be safer on the road? Thank you. 

Like what we do, share this on your social and tell everyone. Thank you for listening to the Stacey 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. 

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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John Westhaver is masterful at driving home the importance of Road Safety. He uses his life experiences of surviving a fatal car crash at the age of 18, where he lost three friends and sustained life-threatening burns to 75% of his body. He has been speaking to audiences since 2002 and has impacted tens of thousands of people across Canada and the USA. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and is also a certified Virtual Presenter. On or off stage, he is a master at engaging and empowering people.

John’s focus is that road safety is everyone’s responsibility, and the choices you make in a vehicle impact everyone in your workplace, company, family and community. He motivates and drives home just how important it is to be a safe driver, not only at work but outside work. Masterful at empowering people to change their driver behaviours, John leaves the audience with lots to think about.

John works closely with ICBC (Insurance Company of British Columbia), educating youth about road safety for almost 15 years. His focus is on driver safety with companies and organizations of any size. He brings a fresh view and conversation to road safety, speaking from his experiences dealing with life as a burn survivor and all the trauma and suffering that ensues being the sole survivor. He is a living reason to become a safer driver and is masterful at driving home the importance of road safety.

His passion is helping others, and it shows. He volunteers with the Firefighters Burn Fund Victoria, BC Burn Survivor Support Group, helping others who have experienced burn trauma to navigate life after the trauma. He also serves on the board of the Firefighter’s Burn Fund Victoria, BC and the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers BC Chapter.

He has also been awarded for the work he does in the community. In 2012, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II, Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2017, he was also awarded the Coast Mental Health – Courage To Come Back Award.

Remember, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be a safe driver, and their choices impact how safe your workplace or school is. John is looking forward to driving home the importance of road safety with your company, organization or school. Connect with him today and make your company, organization or school the safest on the roads. Let’s ensure everyone gets to go home safe. Connect with John at



Making Safety part of your life with Jason Anker

Making Safety part of your life with Jason Anker



In this episode, Jason Anker discusses the work incident that paralyzed him from the waist down at just 24 years old. Mental health in the workplace is a popular topic of discussion these days, but it’s rarely linked to worker safety. How does mental health affect decision-making at work? What impact can a work accident have on your life and the lives of those around you? What can supervisors do to support workers? Anker tackles these tough questions and shares the inspiring journey of how he overcame the trauma from his life-altering incident.


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 incredibly excited to have with me Jason Anker. Jason is an incredible speaker on safety. He’s got an MBA from Buckingham Palace in the UK. Jason, welcome to the show. I’d love for you to start out by sharing a little bit about your story and then we’ll take it from there.

Hi, Eric. Thank you very much for inviting me to speak today. I suppose my story starts on January 3rd, 1993. Hmm. I was just 24 years old, married with two young children. I’m I was working as a roofing contractor on a building site. Right. It was not my job by choice, but it was a time in the 90s in the UK of the recession. So work was hard to come by. So, I’ve been a family man.

You were the cook from January 3rd and October three was the first day back after the Christmas break. I had a particularly very nice Christmas problems with my marriage. It wasn’t a great Christmas back on the road side that it was a really cold day. It was foggy, icy cold. I really didn’t want to be on site box right for the day. I pass off much like every other day, but then around. Half past 2:00 in the afternoon, things changed the way that Russia came in the work.

Mm-hmm. And when he was asked if he could try and get to our job done in just one hour, as little as daylight was fated, Sasha. So, you can imagine being a contractor on site, trying to please the client. We decided that we would attempt to get the job done. After a half hour into the job, I unfortunately fell 10 meters, 10 feet, three meters from untied unspotted ladder. Sorry to hear that.

Yeah, yeah, and Insley realize I can’t feel my legs more than the usual drama at Amherst Hospital by ambulance, initially after an X-ray, they concluded that they couldn’t actually find anything seriously wrong with me and may be suffering from a condition known as spinal shock caused by the fall. Over the next couple hours, a couple of days a week, a few weeks now I get all the sensations. Back then, I was taken for a CT scan just for closure, just to confirm what the doctors suspected.

But fortunately, the news wasn’t great. I was told I suffered severe spinal injuries and I was paralyzed from the waist down. And the most likely scenario was that I’d never walk again. Wow, you’re 24 years old, you know, right? Well, it’s just something you I expected and still these things happen to the people, then it’s not always somebody else. All right. This was actually happening to Mel. I spent four months in rehab, spinal rehabilitation, hospital, learning, the NOVA skills, you did spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair.

Now, when I first went there, I still believe I got there to not walk. But that is not the case now. I was told I’ll be doing the rest of my life. So, you have all the indignities of when banks bite on your leg and a daily routine to go to the toilet. I was 24 years old then. I spent all the hospital were focused, almost your physical rehabilitation that had all the practical skills you need rush off in a wheelchair and very little at the time was focused on mental health.

I was actually cheered by some. I still believe that as soon as I got out of hospital, I would just find a way of coping. Just today, I’ve been out of office before April 25th, 1993. I’ve been on for one day and my then wife, she walked out with two young children. Oh, wow. So, if you can imagine that, yeah, the enormous impact I’m so sure to imagine six competitively of life will go from really happy, you know, fate, 24-year-old to suddenly being told you spent last night in the wheelchair.

You’re totally incontinent. And my wife is actually talking to young children and their traumatic time. But again, looking back, we never spoke about how I was feeling. And if I asked you that roundabout way, are you okay? You always want to put a smile on your face. Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just a natural environment. People have. Yeah, I’m fine. No, no, no one ever asked me that second probing question.

Why don’t seem far. I really, it’s just that asthma sounds okay and let bull, you know, like my life was imploding. Didn’t realize the speed to I was seeing a counselor obviously trying to deal with things uselessly mismatch depressants which showed me that I started to abuse my senses like I was drinking really hard at the time. You know, you hit the debt. I think you can’t get any worse things to get worse. I quite ashamedly got mixed up in taking illegal drugs as well.

It wasn’t. I was trying to get high or it was just trying to forget all the pain. But that downforce resulted in nineteen ninety-five of unintentional overdose. So, which resulted in me being seventeen days machines and dad being advised to turn the machine off. And it was just looking back now I can’t remember any of this. I was in a mom that was live more than two years previously told us to walk over fallout from that and now faced with an impossible decision based like time machine of.

I’m watching this and I. Wow. Look, they may look at, but that’s a No. So, I spent five months in rehabilitation is very simple. The last thing that was very similar to a stroke and so can the hospital again, people thing doesn’t the trauma. How you feel that your life will pick up. And unfortunately, I couldn’t sleep. I was feeling right. And a knock-on effect was Masafumi. I was effective, I was I did not speak about how I was affected, and I suppose my talks in the UK really focused on not the accent and not rehabilitation, but the impact on your life from a decision I made at work one day, this is how your life implodes and I can always play by at that moment.

So now are you still drinking? Was a big problem for me. I’ve been off the weekends trying to blot out the problems. I’ve found a way of coping. You know, I got myself into a state church and came back to me full time. So, I focus. And I wasn’t really thriving in life. Nothing really meant anything to make sure low on battery compensation that finally got resolved at 14 years. So, a lot of people have. Yeah.

And again, a lot of people have accidents. And I strongly believe that compensation is the end of the trauma. And maybe it was I still had money in the bank and yeah, I was just really unhappy. I was on the cycle of displaying material things, cars, holidays, things that I just trying to get myself feel better. At the end of the day, when I was in the mall, when I opened my eyes every morning, the very first thing I see is the wheelchair.

I saw my dad. And go back to that moment 28 years ago, when I was still about the opportunity to speak up and it was by chance actually a chance meeting one time when I was actually drunk to party Christmas 2008 and somebody, I just approached me and asked me why I was in a wheelchair. You know, it’s not he’s not talking at a party right now, it’s important what we did was an accident and I suggest that work.

I felt that I was 24 years old and we arranged a meeting because I thought it was really not so much interested in what obviously is important to share to people. What you know is that this is what if you want if you really want to impact people and influence people to make choices on site or report on, say, facts or, you know, speak about anything unsafe on site, talk about what you’ve lost in your life, talk about the impact on your life.

You know, not be able to kick a football softball, you might say. Well, Mison, right? Yeah. I’ve got quite good to speak in its national defense as we got here. And yeah, little things like little adults try to bike. Right. Always little moments that, you know, especially as a man, as a man, because all the little moments, these things that you always remember, you never first kick the football.

The first year takes time. Lots of stabilizers off of a bicycle. You know, I sat and watched my dad let my daughter and my son have to ride a bike. And those moments all the more people. But, well, I told you guys that, you know, these 28 years since my accident and those moments. Don’t go away. So, my daughter Abby is now 31 years ago, gave birth my first grandchild. Hmm. Yeah, I have the back my grandkids on my shoulders.

Man is a little thing. And my second grandchild has just been born last week, so I got two granddaughters. So, congratulations, it is gone. And we’ll talk about in a good place because I live in less than two or three years. So now my accent, the devastating impact on my life, my family’s life and my mom and dad are by again, not my ex on a wheelchair more while I am through Avers for me in a wheelchair that, you know, mom still sees a counselor.

She still takes antidepressants. That’s it. If you talk about, I’ll push my wheelchair because you know, these emotions and so, so strong and so deep because of watching. Now, my accident happened to me and I’ve always thought that the only person I really blame is myself. You know, I was really let down by my ex and fundamentally, I made a critical error and made the journey for me. It’s been understanding why I made that choice that day at work.

Yes, I think the jury Brown since I joined partnership for 10, it’s going to cost Tidmarsh plus Tidmarsh since our joint recovery to return and new business function, not just on the safety side of an accident, but looking for from a mental health and mental wellbeing as well. Which is being absolutely crucial, so, you know, my actions actually took so much away from me. I’ve been speaking now for 12 years now and literally changed my life.

Now, I’ve traveled around the world up into amazing places since the amazing projects and always along the lines of how can we get people to say, oh, how can we safely on site always look at my accident as a. What could you say? Don’t be like me story, which are very is a lot of speakers, I’m quite friends get lost in America now because, you know, I’m a small network of speakers and we tend to be like many stories that can have the most impact.

And since I’ve changed the slant of my story a little bit, well, I do still speak about my accent. Sure. That’s the new element of looking at it from a different viewpoint, especially since I’ve been speaking out this last 18 months. I mean, the feedback we’re getting from the clients and asking public feedback we’re getting from the workers themselves. Wow. I’ve never, ever made the connection between how someone is feeling and what they did. What work.

So, yes, I think that’s an incredibly important topic, and I think that’s where we originally started as some of our conversations. Tell me more about how you’re feeling that day. You alluded to it before, but also what were some of the signs, the actions that could have prevented it even prior to that day observance?

You know, it’s such a big part in my mind. The story was told for the last 12 years has always started on January 3rd, 1993, that my ex and the date, if I would definitely time my life been totally different. If I’m allowed to take you back to the beginning of not to. And so, if you magic from school, I was very open, so my dream job as a songwriter from the school, that’s what I did.

It was the best job out of my life. You know, I work every day with a smile on my face. That’s never a day off. If it was, I was still trying to get into work, but not time to be in a recession in the U.K., I’d actually be made redundant. So being a family man, find some more work. Now, at the time, I have a friend who used to work on the power stations, on the soldiers, where they repair power stations during the summer.

And what I said before, when the demand is back and it’s fantastic. At the time, I was probably than five times more money per week as a job as a songwriter. And yet. I hated it, you know, it was not the work for me, I was away from home seven days a week and that put pressure, more pressure on the marriage, because my wife, my wife at the time was pregnant with my second child.

So, I was away from home. So, what do Monday when they’re away from home, they work hard and they spend evenings in the pub like 28 years ago that sold the culture. So, it’s affecting my fitness for a few pounds because I wasn’t playing football or soccer, as you say, I was in training set. My fitness levels have dropped and we got finished the season of House Sessions. And that’s why I had to work on the building site.

And again, it wasn’t the work for me wasn’t the important. I wanted to work inside my mind morale. The job was pretty. Hey, I hated going to turn up all the downbeat mood and I think it’s an accident. I’ll take it. The night before my accident, I was actually partying in attendance with my supervisor. I know I can I can I can remember him saying to me earlier, I mean, come on now, we must get off.

You know, we got work next time and. I will say because of my mental the way I was in my mental capacity and I was feeling the time, no, no, I won’t stop until a couple more drinks. Now, if I’m being honest, I can’t I can’t remember going on that night. I can I can better not be picked up the next day. Still drunk the night before. People say, did your health and wellbeing influence your safe choice?

I say definitely 100 percent that my mind you know, I didn’t want to be that I’m going to the next day, you know, people say, what can you remember from your accent? Which I’ll be totally honest about my accent or my ex on my daddy has been in my mind, it’s been patched together from what other people have told me. Right. My clear amendment, the only way I can really remember that day was. They installed on the bottom of the ladder when it was on, it wasn’t reported that said that safety management, we always talk about the five second go instinct that something’s not right and we just expect people then just stop and did the correct thing.

Well, I at the moment, you know, I stopped at the bottom of the ladder. I thought, this is unsafe and I still do it for the last or the first. So, eight, nine years, my presentations and I used to always try and encourage people to speak about safety, always in the back of my mind, just thinking myself. But you did stop you. You’re asking people to tie in five seconds. But actually, you actually did that.

You actually realize what you do if you stop, you know, the correct things that we say that we’re going to do. And then I know what I meant. There was some pressure on now the continuation of work, but I really don’t think that was in the forefront of my mind that time. And I can’t get it down to two. One thing that convinced me to take the gamble, you know, because I know people say it’s always up to somebody else, nine thousand, nine hundred and ten thousand jobs to get away, do it.

So, we all you know, that mentality sometimes drives people to do to do the show because the things that happened to them. But in my mind, I knew what I was doing was unsafe. And I’ve got down to that. I felt so low at the time. I just wanted to go home. So, you know, me to have coined the phrase come. But I saw them two or three months. Obviously, we push our ideas backwards and forwards all the time.

And that Tim’s always told me that if you could imagine, I would be using a blue pipe. There might have been nice pipe with different sections that you might, you know, on a time and further three hours that done. The more things are on your mind, outside work, you can check. I could cook judgment. And I said, that’s all well and good. I can understand that I was distracted to understand all the things on my mind.

I didn’t climb the ladder thinking it was safe. I’d actually, you know, I can’t use that as an excuse because I don’t do that. I was fully aware of what I was doing. So, yes, I was distracted with things on my mind. I wasn’t sleeping on, eating properly, drinking too much. All these things type poor decision. But fundamentally, I still I have that moment that this is not safe.

So, you know, we basically coined the phrase the moment where, you know, it’s unsafe. And, you know, I just think self oh, I just got the job done and uncensored and using this phrase and some of the presentations, the response to that comment, it’s been profound. You know, people just not work for the management as well, because obviously they play a role in decisions. And if they’re in that moment, sat in the office where they should visit, saw that day and they Tuesday where were to stay in the office because they’re having a bad time outside of work and they bought the old fine, get the job done.

I’m not nice to the supervisor who may himself be on some issues outside work. So, by the time he realized the instructions to the workforce, what instructions is even after the work force? I mean, if you don’t give them some of the work, force them to stay home as well, because, you know, there could be a fatality. There could be problems with the family because these are not issues. You know, the pat down, if you live by yourself and it actually passed away, it was all you’ve got when you got home at night.

Surely that could change the way you could work in the morning. I know they stay. We talk about this is really no link in how well we can affect safety for sure. You know, people say to me there’s not enough factual evidence of this. Well, I use my story. I say, well, look at my story, look at my actions, all the things that went wrong in mathematics and my mindset on that day, you know, contrary to my action. 

Ninety-five, I say 100 percent. My choice that day was made on how I was feeling. Sure. You know. Could call a response, my supervisor, change the way I feel, so it’s always about having time off. I think that the fear sometimes when we start linking safety and well-being, that there be some kind of huge cost element to this. Maybe someone just picked up on the guy in my accent, Jason, a bit different.

Maybe that conversation will, you know, take my mind a little bit and maybe so when we go back to be surprisingly good, that work is good for you. And I strongly believe, you know, going to work in an ice culture when you come to where they should feel valued. You’re part of a team. Yeah, my accent looking back. And it costs the guy I was working for the customers. This is only a small contractor.

His business didn’t survive, so he lost his business and all the guys who work for the company or lost jobs. Right. It was a recession. So obviously it wasn’t easy to come by. So, it was a knock off that we can look at the supervisor himself. He was a guy there was actually footing a of without my accent. And he didn’t blame himself. My father, by the way, because they actually thought I was down.

So, when I came down on the final time, the supervisor was actually fixing the ladder as far as I at the bottom of the hill, why do I think I was down? And that’s why I called back a lot. But now you think to yourself, that attracts people yourself from my accent. Did you blame to USA? It wasn’t for the obvious thing of what can I do for a ladder? He actually blamed for allowing me on LA.

Right. He was a guy picked up in the morning at the party before he picked up in the mall and he saw what state I was in a back seat on the way to work. So, he’s guilty of my accent was not from walking away from Alabama. It was actually. Allow me on site that you’re taking site on site. Allow me to wear that day. That’s a massive impact on his life. He moved away customers marriage. He moved away.

So, you know, this just shows the ripple effect of accident. It’s not just it’s not just in your partner’s immediate family. It’s how I saw his life change actions actually in the parliament. Those rules go out now and extend these problems that people don’t talk about.

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So, I think you bring up some very interesting points there in terms of the year prior, the role of the supervisor, what are some of the things that a supervisor can do or could have noticed? Right. Because I remember somebody sharing a story where in one day that the supervisor was walking on the shop floor, this was a manufacturing environment. And then the supervisor was talking to somebody and saying, how are you doing? What’s happening? And the person shared that they had just been evicted from the home that night.

So, they hadn’t slept properly and immediately said, well, you shouldn’t be doing this job. Pull the person off, not without pay, obviously with pay, because they’re not trying to aggravate the problems, but recognizing that person didn’t have the focus and the attention needed to take on a very, very dangerous job. So, tell me a little bit about what would you reflect on the role that the supervisor has and maybe what are some of the cues that a supervisor or a leader should be looking for?

Yeah, absolutely. Just I that the supervisor actually came forward and spoke about his concerns. That was. It was said that it was a death by accident and all his knowledge of what was going wrong. So, yeah, as a supervisor, it’s like communication. How can you potentially spot people acting differently if you don’t speak, if you have a supervisor intent on your team of people? So, you spot people acting differently. And I think you hit the nail on the head as well.

You know, it’s all well and good asking Sony for OK, because we all know, OK, well, what country we live in us, which OK, I’m fine with which they fall back to the usual question. How are you the worst possible if you ask why, why are you doing. We just didn’t instinctively reply. Yeah, I’m fine. But yeah, as you mentioned on your example, I will say exactly the same conversation the supervisor had with work because he went to approach it from a different angle, maybe taking to one side and just ask him again.

You seem so different, are you? I take some of the prodding questions in our experience first and then we’ll open about the problems. And as you say, it could be something traumatic. It could be a death to the partner or something more and more like says something about that person’s children in a day. And we all know when things like our mind is hot, it’s hard to get it off. I mean, I use a very quick so I’ve got something to show the importance of when we start this journey. And a couple of years ago, presenting for a regional airline and a guy come to speak to us at the end of the presentation, I’ll always remember it was a nighttime presentation for the engineers who actually serviced the planes. The very next day will be fine all-around Europe with passengers on it initially told me stories, but in a wheelchair, I honestly thought that you want to talk about the similarities of being in a wheelchair, but he stopped me. Now, it’s not like I said, my brother’s 500 miles away and approaching.

My parents passed away a couple of weeks ago and since the funeral, I’m not cut for my brother was in the wheelchair. So, I feel really concerned. And the presentations led me to believe that family is the most important thing. So tomorrow I’m not going to I can’t drive 200 miles and find out what’s on brother. So, he told me stories to give you some advice. Can you tell me the exact story that you’ve told me that just not time for you Chicago speech?

So, he did and it made contact over the weekend. I took your advice in my marriage. I told one story about my brother and he said that that is absolutely OK. He says, please, please, please take day off tomorrow. In fact, now you’ve told me I’m not able to rearrange shake patterns and get some bullshit tomorrow. So tomorrow it’s not just you not turned up. I’ve got some in place. So that’s a big relief for me.

But I’m not sure he said, in fact, we’re OK. It’s weather wise. See what you told me? You want to go home. I think this to me is a bit more friendly. Right? He said he said, no, I think I’m fine. I’ve offended all my issues. I think I’m fighting a shift. And the bet for me was the conversation was he then said that for the previous three evenings he got so much on his mind he remembered being at work.

Now, this guy was servicing planes flying across Europe and for three days because his mind was not on the job. He remembered being at work three days. And to me, that was a lightbulb moment. Thank you. We have to push this because. Yeah. So, the upshot was he spoke what I was feeling he was able to come to chef that night. So, you know, we’re not going to fight wars and really positive where. Well, I tell you what, I really want to get into a conversation about what may or may not happen to work.

Know I was going through his mind, you know, how many times you think about the consequences of, you know, how we’ve been working so familiar. That was the greatest connection I can say, where people say we need evidence that while the insight is collective. Well, how many do we do? We really need to go along the lines of there where we’ve been to safety for so long. Let’s wait for Madrak some time and then we work backwards.

It never happens again. Wouldn’t it be great to stop things happening in the first place? Right. You, our people are feeling is the only indicator to a society because you have that when you fight with your supervisor, because you’re in a bad mood. And I know change your supervisor or people at work start to pull out the little bit soft and withdrawn at work and work. That becomes a place where you want to control the morning, say all things about presentism, absenteeism, let’s say a production.

It actually engages work so that it’s going to give password more productive discretionary effort where you put their actual effort. And that’s where the workers will suffer and they might turn up every day. You might talk every day and you might always work out how much quality work is actually given. Exactly. So, yeah. So, you know, the cost of this is, you know, what is the cost? And the cost is normally the first on it.

It’s hard. Oxybenzone and then Macel a problem with production. Let me I find this work hole is in hindsight until we always find out the problem. The worker is suffering. But I need that vaccine. So, we have to come into a place where this is high on the agenda because, yeah, people who I’m speaking to and when we speak on the subject, only last week were small groups of worked in front of us and outside sent them introspect about how this feeling.

I would much prefer to do as well, obviously a bit more concerned about speaking up. Some of the guys were saying them among some problems outside work. And I’m bringing all into what I think to me. What more can we do to highlight that? Because there’s still some kickback and, you know, wife, well, they’re being tied in safety. I thought, well, we really, really have to start connecting the dots.

Exactly. I’m not sure exactly. I know when you speak to Ten Fuge podcast, they’ll give you the scientific reason why we need to do what we do. It’s unfortunate had my accident, but in a way, I can’t change that, you know, but I’m not in Manhattan to mix. I was always thinking what I saw, but I still want to walk. But I need a wheelchair. That’s give me a bit of a purpose in life. 

And if my purpose is that we, can we can show this connection between safety, well, it’s new for me to realize what I did. It was always about safety accidents, safety violations. I made that time. Well, for me, when I just look at it like I’m not going to I prefer to die. So, things I know we talk about. But I think for even the few of us, you can easily see the connection to mine.

Well, when I’m at that, my accident, it wasn’t nothing major. It was marriage problems, debt problems, and just the one little problem that some people can have. Yes, I’m starting to get quite difficult in most parts, Maksym, you know, all the problems, although I’m sure someone else was on my mind, but that caused me to not follow through. When I realized something wasn’t safe inside, I could cry out inside a million-dollar question.

I resigned. But I strongly believe that if my mindset had been a lot better place that I am, that I would have spoken of. This may well come out of exhaustion because I was such a bad place. Items on top of me. It was BBS last job. I get the job done. You can come home right now. You know, even some of the guys are on podcast. I agree with all your experience. How many times heard that story on?

It was all over the day; it was the most real as we all stopped for a broken violation. Do we ever, ever look for a broken person?

And I think this is the part that’s very powerful in terms of your stories really linking the importance of looking at well-being and how that impacts in a workforce safety outcome. Because if you’re focus isn’t on the task, you’re bound to accept greater risk, to maybe not focus on something that’s not quite right. But you’ve also touched on the importance of active care, essentially, really, in terms of the leader who understands, who knows their team can spot the difference.

They can ask that question. They’re going beyond the are you OK? Going a little bit deeper, maybe connecting that something’s not quite right today. But the last piece I want to touch on with you is also the element of psychological safety, which I think is another element that that shows up in your story, but also a story, an element that’s incredibly important in terms of the role of the supervisor and the leader to impact a great safe work environment so that people can feel comfortable speaking up, stopping work, escalating issues and having the right dialog.

And any thoughts on that theme?

Well, I think you saw it there and really, I think it is true that we have to, first of all, recognize that psychological safety exists. And I feel like this woman is a very reluctant to listen to their remit. They believe it’s not part of that we’re safety professionals, that this is a different area. Let’s get the experts on this and yeah, with you, with the experts. But for me, psychic safety is the next big bet, because for me, you know, when you analyze my accident, I respect the safety risk.

You mentioned the risk appetite. You know, I think, you know, the more problems you outside of where your risk appetite goes up, it’s not because, I mean, some people enjoy rationally what people do based on people. You skydive, but they all have extremes. This is the average guy going to work, you know, and I think sometimes that you can in a very good place. And the problem comes up for my engineer who like to solve problems.

So, the risk is just that you control accident. But when you look at that, the average worker, I think the appetite for risk is Ops and then they enjoy doing it. Take place. Listen, the something if you’re tired, it come to your own problems. Your mental health problems are, you know, there’s physical fatigue, management fatigue. And when you’ve got to because you’re tired and you risk appetite, actually cancel because you think I haven’t got the time to properly.

So, I’m just gone then because you’re tired and you take these risks, you then more like take the calculated risk. You might be taking these very highly calculated because you’re in such a bad place. I think for me, that’s why I cycle site safety and psychological safety. Start looking at the work and what I can do because, you know, being a nice manager and my supervisor can change how people are feeling. If I couldn’t work in a really bad makes, I had a bad day.

The first couple of conversation with my supervisor, my manager can sign up for the rest of the time and I couldn’t work. And that supervisor, you spot some just a little bit differently. I took off the day. Jason, you. Yeah. Inspired not so. Let’s go for a little chat. My timeline problems by how I’m feeling and what’s going on in the marriage. The most sort of soldier. I’ll probably feel a lot better in that moment.

And so, for me, that that is we’ve got to get across that. It is a public safety now. And the resistance we put out there, I question what is the safety world of frightened of, you know, an. A lot of conversation we don’t like get involved in this kind of stuff. Sure, I question the question is really why not? As we move, move, move, move forward to more reports come out, the more experts like turn the lie, start looking at site safety on the Internet, you know, about their work results when you come home in a bad mood, which results and that you don’t pay the kids and you probably download all of something of a couple of beers and you know why you have a bad week and then go to the sports with children.

So, then you have a bad weekend and Monday morning you’re back at work and with a mugshot on the weekend of November. So, for me, that progression of, you know, feeling down about work and your home life, the connection between the two sides, it’s a huge new area. And just because people don’t understand it doesn’t mean we can’t look at it as a huge impact on safety. Exactly.

Absolutely. And I think your story illustrates that and illustrates the importance. And as you alluded to, we’re going to have Professor Tim Tebow as well share his story and his research on this in a future episode. But, Jason, really appreciate the time you took to share some of your story and the insights around the importance of linking well-being in culture, the importance of active care, the importance of psychological safety and all of this. I think it’s a very powerful story.

If somebody wants to get in touch with you, have you spoken to them, share some insights around what’s the best way to do that?

Just through website, so much promotion across all what we take from inspirational speaking way through to coach change the expertise of Tim Miller, Global Recognized Practitioner wanting to say.

Excellent. Well, Jason, thank you very much for sharing your story, for inspiring organizations and individuals to make safety part of every day. Thank you.

Thank you so much for the invite.

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After a tragic workplace fall 28 years ago left Jason confined to a wheelchair without the use of his legs, he identified as a survivor of his accident, focusing on physical recovery and turning to a combination of alcohol and drugs to cope. He was overwhelmed by self-blame and shame and too proud to say that he needed help as he believed he was helping those around him by shielding them from his true inner struggles. Today, he speaks openly and honestly about his mental health crisis and no longer hides his feelings, preferring instead to spend his time living in the present and thriving.

Connect with Jason at and



Supporting the Mental Health of Your Workforce with Dr. Keita Franklin

The Safety Guru_Dr. Keita Franklin Supporting the Mental Health of Your Workforce



Mental health is a safety issue, yet its importance in the workplace is often minimized. Dr. Keita Franklin is a leading expert in workplace mental health and suicide prevention. This week, she discusses the mental health challenges faced by workers everywhere, relating it to her experience working with active duty armed forces. Take a listen to learn about useful practices that people at all levels of an organization, from the CEO to front-line supervisors and workers, can use to shift organizational culture and lessen the stigma surrounding seeking help.


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 for today. I’m very excited to have with me Dr. Keita Franklin, as he is a subject matter expert in workplace wellness and suicide prevention, also the chief clinical officer for Government Services. Welcome to the show.

Thank you so much.

So, I’d love to start out maybe if you could share a little bit more about your background and your passion for the work that you do around workplace wellness and also suicide prevention.

Sure, again, thank you so much for having me. I am a clinical social worker by training, and I spent a good part of my career working with active-duty military and veterans in the area of mental health and suicide prevention, particularly during the, you know, the entire ramp up for the war effort. So, it provided a great learning opportunity for things related to wellness and resilience and just really focusing on trauma and suicide prevention. And so, let’s talk a bit about how you can keep people well in the workplace. So, if you could shift to ideas, some insights into work in this space.

Yes. You know, for years, I think that we focus on mental health as a sort of we in the field as sort of a hospital-based issue. And the idea was that when people were struggling with mental health, they know, they go into a hospital setting and they get care or they get cured or something like that. And really, you know, fast-Forward, many decades, what we’ve learned is that mental health is really the same as physical health. And we have to focus on prevention. And one of the ways that you get after prevention is really outside of the hospital system. In many ways. You focus with people were what I like to say, where they work, live and thrive, really, you know, focusing on the workplaces is, I think, an intuitive place to begin because people spend so many hours in a week actually engaged at work. So, it provides a perfect forum for recognizing signs of distress and others and really providing a nice opportunity for people to get help or for people to support each other through difficult times.

So, what are some of the tactics that workplace that a more progressive workplace wants to address well-being and a broader sense, what are some of the tactics that they can leverage to make a difference?

It’s definitely a multiple, multilayered issue. And there are things that like leaders at the very top Hindoo, like CEOs, can sort of set the culture for it being OK if you’re not OK and that this is a place to support each other. They can issue policies. We can have organizations that will even have like a mental health day, CEOs that push out their own workplace balance or that let people know, look, I’m taking a day off.

It’s OK for you to take a day off. It’s OK for you to focus on your career, focusing on yourself matters. And then, you know, there are a series of things that front line supervisors can do. Definitely in the field. We advocate that front line supervisors get training and recognize signs of distress, that they know how to engage. If an employee is struggling, they know what it looks like and then they know how to help people get actual care if needed, know. And then there are also things that we recognize individuals do for their own well-being. Individuals, equally so, should know their limits, should try to continue to challenge themselves and be engaged in meaningful work, but at the same time, not overdo it, not take on more than they can handle and recognize their own limits as well.

So, I think that’s a very helpful, helpful tips as well in terms of setting the record for different culture. We’ve all read and I’m aware that covid-19 had a very sizable impact in terms of mental health and wellbeing from many different facets for both people that continue working in person and those who move to working remotely. What are some of the lessons that we can learn from what happened, some of the learnings that can help us create better workplaces as people start returning back to workplaces and to something that seems more normal?

It’s such a good question, right? Because after 12 months or more, really, I guess of covid where the workplace drastically changed. We did. We absolutely did. We learned a lot. And, you know, one of the things in the field in mental health that we saw was just great increases to call centers. So, we had, for example, people we had objects and people calling out to for help from the distress line. We had people calling in, increased people calling in for domestic violence hotlines. And so, we know that, you know, covid-19 definitely impacted people’s mental health. I mean, we also saw during Kofod, you know, just great periods, especially early on, of isolation, of loneliness, which is, you know, on the surface might not seem like a big thing on your home. You’re alone. Maybe you feel a little lonely. But, you know, across the board, one of the things we in the literature is just how detrimental loneliness and isolation can be to people.

There’s just there’s this one study, that loneliness being the same, having the same consequences to your health as. Smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and so now people getting back into the workforce. I mean, I just say that we’ve got to focus on peer support, like people helping people. And one of the biggest sorts of we call it protective factors are buffers to mental health is social support. And just the impact of having someone else you can lean on and someone that can recognize if you’re struggling and can help you get into care is critically important.

And the other thing I would tell you is that, you know, when you look at the just the prevalence rates of people, they were impacted by covid either individuals themselves that struggled with their own health care or people that took care of others like parents and grandparents and struggled with it kind of one step removed, so to speak. They’re still greatly impacted. And so, you know, now that these people are returning to work, we really were getting a group of people back in the workplace that have been through quite a bit of grief and in some cases lost.

I’m not recommending that workplace sort of turns into this many clinical mental health environments for say. But I am saying that we should focus on employee wellness with an extra level of energy post covid for sure.

All right. It sounds like a very timely message that a lot of workplaces think about how they come back to more normal work environment. But we can’t forget what happened over the last 12 months. So, I think your message here is incredibly important. What are some of the things beyond kind of what you’ve talked about from a peer support, social support? What are some of the things that leadership really put into reopening plans to make sure that the right support comes in and people acknowledge what’s happened?

I mean, I definitely think it will be like a new normal for people coming back, like it won’t go back to the way that it was before covid. But one of the things that I think leaders should keep in mind is just classic work that has been done in the field of workplace wellness. I think even long before covid. And it was just this idea of getting people involved in meaningful work and really focusing them on the mission. It can be an incredible boost or an incredible protective factor.

You know, there are all these studies in the field to talk about how people are willing to accept a pay cut or people are willing to, particularly millennials. People are willing to pay is not the driving factor. When you’re talking about employee satisfaction and workplace wellness, it’s really this idea of people finding meaning in their careers and feeling a part of a mission. And sometimes that mission can be bigger than themselves, like this idea that they know where they fit in and the mission and they feel like they belong.

You know, they we call it in the field like belongingness. It’s a big protective factor, like I belong in this group. I belong on this team. I know my role on this team. And when I do, my role is critically important for the mission of this organization. And I know that it results in this great thing is that carries the most meaning of anything at all when it comes to employee engagement and the workplace.

Well, I love that message and it’s not an incredibly hard thing to do, but it does require a lot of effort because even pre covid it was known this element of really getting people connected to meaningful work. And it wasn’t always consistently happening. But definitely, as this happens, people come back to the workplaces. I think it’s definitely something to consider as we transition to another topic you talked a lot about is suicide prevention in the workplace, and particularly when we think from it, from a safety context, it’s not a topic that’s getting a lot of as much attention as it should.

What are some of the elements that people should consider to have the right impact around reducing the risk of suicide and enabling their teams and their culture to have the right effect?

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You’re right. It’s such a good question too, because we should talk about it more. I mean, suicide is the leading cause of death in the nation. And so, it’s actually the second leading cause of death for people ages 18 to twenty-four. So, companies and organizations that have large numbers of young people, eighteen to twenty-four. And this is definitely a serious issue. And not only sort of the prevalence and how it sort of ranks and factions in terms of how it impacts our mortality as a nation.

I also offer that, you know, when one suicide happens in a unit or in a workplace or something, the literature which tells it one hundred and thirty-five people are exposed. And that’s not only like mothers and brothers and sisters, but colleagues and coworkers and it can really impact the workplace just as any other safety issue. You know, I, at one point, did quite a bit of work with the Marine Corps in the area of behavioral health. And as you can well imagine, there was a focus on all things related to safety, particularly military mishaps and airplane mishaps and things like that, and how that these safety issues would impact a military unit. And, you know, suicide was right in the mix. Not this idea of preventing suicides. And part of what makes it so complicated for companies is, is that there’s really not one reason. So, it’s not like somebody doesn’t die by suicide because they’re depressed alone or because they’ve felt shunned or they’re having some sort of individual struggle.

It’s very complex. I mean, we say in the field that people who die by suicide are often struggling with twenty to twenty-five different factors all at once the different risks. And they don’t have buffers against those risks. And so that’s part of the equation. And then also, in some cases, there is this element of impulsivity that can happen with suicide where someone is struggling and they just make this impulsive decision to end their life. And so, the workplace, again, 20 people spend 40 hours a week, sometimes more around one another who might be able to record.

For example, if someone were struggling with a relationship issue, if they were struggling with financial issues, legal struggles as a big I think a big risk factor as well, if people were struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. And so, I think within the context of all of those struggles, if we were to create a workplace where people were actually encouraged to help each other and there was a message from the top again that says it’s OK if you’re not OK, you’re still on this team, you’re still valued.

I still want to want you in our group. And we’re going to be here for you and help you with these ups and downs of life in this thing. I think where companies struggle sometimes is they’ll think that this is like a one and done kind of environment, like, OK, I’ve trained everybody. We had a training on mental health and in training alone won’t solve it. It’s part of a bigger big has to be part of a bigger comprehensive plan where training is but one element with many other elements sort of bundled together like, you know, an awareness campaign coupled with improving access to care, improving access to mental health care, equally so, making sure that people that is OK, people don’t feel shunned if they take a day off or if they have to go to their therapy once a week or something like that.

So, it’s really a bundled set of practices that together will help us keep people well and not at risk for suicide.

That’s a very important theme. If I was talking to certain professions as well that are more that have a greater risk and often professions where there isn’t as much invested in a lot of organizations around the right conversations.

No, I appreciate you for bringing that up, because definitely we should talk about first responders, police officers, law enforcement people that are on the front lines of covid, I think are at increased risk after having, you know, over a year of being exposed to trauma literally. We in the field are particularly concerned right now about the health care profession. And what does it mean for nurses, for example, who have been experiencing quite a bit of grief and loss?

I think about this my own self. I have a daughter who has just finished her first year in the nursing profession and she’s been providing care in an ICU for her first year in the profession and just sort of making sure that all of these new young nurses who have not really been exposed to the level of death that you might think somebody might be exposed to in the course of their whole career have been exposed to it. And just in just one year, because you’re also in a profession where most people choose to join it, to help others to make a difference in other people’s lives.

So, they’re not expecting to have huge amounts of in a short period of time in many cases. I had a guest who was on the show earlier. I was talking about even how many of these issues were had had enough but didn’t have enough resourcing. So, all things that were contributing to added stress, fatigue, added pressures.

Yes, absolutely, I mean, I don’t they come into the field to help, and then when they feel helpless, that can definitely add an additional layer of stress and then couple that with no time during the workday to really debrief or to check in with colleagues and be part of a broader support system because they’re just meeting that demand that’s in front of them on a 24/7 kind of environment. It can be a recipe for, you know, distress if we’re not careful making sure we put in the right protective factors and the right support around them as a safety net so that we keep them well.

And I think that is a very important point. So, we’ve talked about some of the elements that are needed from a workplace standpoint. It requires a lot more than an AP program and a comprehensive view of it. What are some of the things that a leader can do if they see some concerning signs with somebody that’s perhaps a loved one, somebody who’s close to them or a colleague in the workplace?

This is also such a good question, because I think sometimes people think that it’s very complex and that they’re just not sure what to say if they see somebody struggling. And I just offer that is that it’s not that it’s often just a very basic conversation. And I think when people are struggling, what they want most is for someone to reach out to them and say hello. And they want someone to be there for them and they want someone to say, you know, how are you?

And I often will talk with frontline supervisors about just sharing what they see and then sharing how they feel about what they see. And so, this idea of, you know, in a careful way, certainly having good relationships with people ahead of time helps. But just like, you know, I see that you may you know, that you seem run down or I see that you’re tired or you know, I see some small things in you and I want to check in.

Are you OK? And I want you to know that I’m ready for you and that it’s OK if you want to talk about it and it’s OK if you don’t. But I do worry about you and I want you to know that you’re an important part of this team and we want to make sure you’re well. So just like break the ice and have that initial conversation, you will be surprised with what people share when you ask them how they’re doing.

And you really mean the question. And like, right away, I mean, what we don’t want to happen is for people to just say, oh, I’m fine, thanks. We really want people to start to unpack and to know that it is a safe place and that you as a supervisor or a leader are approachable and that your organization is a good place to share what’s going on and to get help. Like you won’t be in trouble. You wouldn’t be there’s no punitive action if you’re not well from a mental health base like you would, there would be no punitive action if you broke your wrist on the job site.

We would help you and we would want you back. And there’s no punitive person. And equally so if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety or panic or anything like that, and this is what you’re proposing is very simple to do, is somebody to there, but just really create a forum where people can open up, which is such an important topic. Thank you. Thank you very much for all the work that you’re doing in terms of bringing awareness around workplace wellness, but also in suicide prevention.

What are some of the resources that a leader that’s looking to make a difference? The record particularly is returning from Bouvard and you can invest in creating the right environment, the right culture for the mental health and wellbeing standpoint. What are some of the resources that that are available that they should consult?

I mean, I definitely think people should have make sure that everybody in their workplace has access to the lifeline. And we can push that number out through your podcast. And this is really like it’s a crisis support lifeline for the nation. And so, it’s a one-stop shop where folks can dial in and they get right dispatched to their local area and they then have a host of resources. But it is a crisis line and I offer that we should not wait until people are in extreme and dire crisis before we reach out and get help.

And I know you mentioned a plan. Most companies have access to any capability, and that’s another resource. But again, it’s never just one single resource that house we should have. I’ve seen organizations that will have, like every small unit, every small workgroup or whatever, could have a mental health ambassador or somebody that’s trained in the skills of recognizing people in distress and that are sort of the conduit to making sure that they get the help they need equally.

So, organizations that have mentorship programs where they match people to not only help with the workplace but also how to balance all of the demands of work in the context of the broader life. So, these are just a few of the examples that I think we could people could stay tuned to in order to try to help improve workplace wellness overall.

Excellent. So, I really appreciate you. Taking the time to you, come on the show, share a little bit of some of your insights around workplace wellness and suicide prevention, but broadly speaking, really the effort that you’re putting awareness around such important topics.

Terrific. Thank you so much. And I appreciate you talking about this, particularly in the context of safety, because it is a safety issue. So, thank you for your leadership on this issue as well.

Excellent. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day!

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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Dr. Keita Franklin serves as the Chief Clinical Officer at Loyal Source Government Services. In this capacity, she leads the company’s Behavior Health line of practice. An experienced senior executive with a proven record of success, Dr. Franklin joined the Loyal Source team in May of 2020 to formalize work in the mental health, suicide prevention and substance abuse areas. Expanding Loyal Source’s already impressive service portfolio, she is responsible for designing, implementing, and overseeing contract mental health programs focused on prevention and treatment services for at-risk individuals. A compassionate leader and agent for change, Dr. Franklin is keenly focused on improving access to care and ensuring the delivery of evidence-based services across the Nation. A nationally renowned suicide prevention expert, Dr. Franklin also serves as the Co-Director of the Columbia Lighthouse Project, a Columbia University NY State Psychiatric Institute initiative focused on reducing suicide risk.

Prior to joining Loyal Source, Dr. Franklin worked extensively with military and Veteran populations serving in several senior positions within Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In her role as Senior Executive Director, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Department of Veteran Affairs, she led a U.S.-wide team of subject matter experts in the development and execution of a national public health program targeted toward advancing care for 20 million Veterans. Dr. Franklin is widely credited with implementing an innovative public health approach to suicide prevention in both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Affairs. A fierce advocate for effective mental health programs for Veterans, military service members, and their families, she has testified often before both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate on matters related to Health Care, including mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention.

Dr. Franklin earned her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Maryland and her PhD in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. She also has received executive leadership training at Harvard University School of Business and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Currently residing just outside of Washington D.C., Dr. Franklin spends her time outside of work enjoying the outdoors, reading, and writing.



The power of change: Frontline Leadership & Supervision with Eduardo Lan

Episode 35 - The power of change: Frontline Leadership & Supervision with Eduardo Lan



Front-line employees are more influenced by their supervisor than their CEO on a day-to-day basis, yet many supervisors are never provided with safety leadership training. In this episode, Eduardo Lan, partner at Propulo Consulting, discusses the importance of investing in your supervisors’ skills. Abilities like assigning work, asking questions, involving employees, and connecting with team members are often overlooked and dismissed, but they are the key to a safer, more productive workforce. It’s time to move beyond outdated “command and control” methods and ensure that all supervisors are taught how to lead effectively and respectfully to achieve the best results.


aReal 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 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. My name is Eric Michrowski. Very happy to have with me Eduardo Lan, who’s a partner with Propulo Consulting, has done many, many years in organizational change within different contexts and more recently, in the last 10 to 15 years, it’s been a lot of work driving transformations around safety and safety culture. Eduardo, very excited to have you with me today.

Thank you, Eric. Very excited to be on the podcast as well.

So today we’re going to be talking about a very interesting and important topic around front-line leadership, supervisory skills, around safety. But before we go there, I really want to understand if you can share a bit about your journey that got you into this safety world and where that passion comes from.

Absolutely. So, I didn’t start out as a safety consultant at all. I didn’t even start out as a consultant. I started out as an executive in the transportation industry. I was a warehouse manager and the company I work for and I won’t mention names. I had an old style of command and control and it was really an abusive environment where you scream at people and you were even rude to people. And I received that kind of treatment. And I dish that out. I was very young. I was like twenty-five years old at the time. And it got to a point where I really felt icky about being in that kind of environment and treating people like that and being treated like that. And I remember I was being groomed to be a director. I was a manager at the time and I remember thinking to myself one day, I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t treat people like this.

There’s got to be a better way to work and be productive. And so, I left that company and that started me on the path to really figuring out ways of managing organizations and leaving in ways that were both respectful and dignified and at the same time increased production and had a result, positive result on the bottom line. And a few years later, I became a consultant, management consultant, a leadership consultant, and then a few years later, somebody asked me if I would be willing to do some safety work, and which was really strange at the time for me because I had no idea what safety and anything about safety chert and I am the person and I told the person, look, I don’t know anything about safety, I’m not I don’t know the technical elements of safety. I don’t know what I wouldn’t know where to start. And the person told me that the type of work they were doing had a lot to do with commitment, leadership, with communication and that I would be a good fit for it. And so, I decided I decided to try it out.

And this was, I don’t know, maybe almost 20 years ago. And I soon found that it was that I was very passionate about it, that this passion I had around treating people right and had everything to do with safety. There’s nothing more important that than watching out for the physical well-being of people. But when we talk about safety, at least the way I hold it, it’s not just physical. It’s mental. It’s emotional. It’s social.

It’s everything. Does that answer your question?

Absolutely. So, you’ve done a lot of work over the years around safety. And one of the things that you are realizing was really the importance of the role of supervision in safety. Can you share maybe some thoughts and how that reflection came about?

Sure. So as soon as I got started doing work in the area of safety, I was. Basically, doing training sessions for frontline workers and we were trying to raise their risk awareness and have them have changed their mindsets and their attitudes and be more responsible in terms of safety. And it was all great work and it did have an impact. But very soon in my career, I discovered that sometimes I would go back to some of the organizations I work with, and these things were back to the way they were before and we would try to figure out what was missing, what had happened.

And one of the things that we found was that workers change the way they communicated with each other or worked and. Because of the training we had done with them, but then they were shut down by their supervisors, like, for instance, we would tell them, if you see anything that doesn’t look quite right, that seems unsafe to you, to stop the work and figure out a way to do it that would be safe. And sometimes we would find that they would do this and then they would get in trouble with their supervisors because their supervisors would say to them, like, what are you doing?

You’re here to work. Just get the work and stop with the nonsense. And so, it became apparent quite soon in my career as a safety consultant that the front-line supervisor, the front-line leader, had a huge say in how work was done and how workers behaved.

Sure. And I think in many cases in interactions even with frontline workers, the feedback that’s become clear is they often listen to the supervisor more than the CEO in terms of relevance from day to day. So, they have more influence in terms of how they show up, which is unfortunately, I think that the sad part is very few organizations and industries have really invested in in in their front-line supervision or front-line leadership skill sets.

Absolutely, so, yeah, to your first point, the supervisor is the person that is there with the workers day in and day out. So, her influence is huge on their behaviors, their mindsets. They are looking to him or to her to fit in, to be accepted, to be well regarded. And so, they will follow that person’s lead. Now, as you mentioned, very few organizations in this. We also have found. 

I also found this out very soon in my career, spend money training, developing, coaching, mentoring supervisors that they don’t see a need to do this. And I guess there’s some apparent logic to this. The people that tend to get hurt are the workers. They’re the ones doing the work. So, your logical and immediate response solution to the problem is let’s train the workers. They’re the ones getting hurt.

So, then I’ve heard that many times before.

Exactly. And the thing is, yes, in training the workers, it’s important and necessary, but it’s insufficient. If you do not train the supervisors, the supervisors will shut down anything that the workers shift or change in how they do the work. And when one issue with the supervisors, it’s typically the kind of the root of the matter. And the root cause of the matter is that supervisors tend to be to have been workers themselves, usually the most productive, the highest performing workers that got promoted through the ranks.

And here lies the conundrum in that many of the skills that got them to be the best worker, being assertive, being a go getter, getting things done, pushing through whatever issues there was, even taking shortcuts. They were celebrated sometimes for taking shortcuts. Are in opposition with the skill set that they now need as supervisors, right?

So how do you close the gap? What are some of the themes that a supervisor needs to learn? Because in a lot of organizations, when I’ve poked around on supervisory training, it’s often, I’d say more labor relations training, it’s how not to end up in a grievance over the contract or something really basic, but not on how to lead, how to influence. What are some of the things that you think need to be covered for supervisors to become more effective at safety?

Sure. So first off, I would say it covers some of the usual leadership topics. Sure. And so, supervisors don’t actually do the work. They lead people that do the work. So, their job is no longer about how high performing they can be, but how much they can get others to be high performing. So that has a lot to do with leadership. It has to do with communication, with influence, with engaging people, with getting people to think creatively and intelligently about the work that they’re going to do and with getting people to really own the work that they’re doing.

So, a lot of it has to do with general leadership training. Now, some of it and this is, I think, where a big difference can be made in terms of supervisory training and coaching and mentoring. A lot of it is very skills-specific. And so, it has to do along with how you assign work. And one of the things that we tend to do when we are the boss in terms of assigning work is we tell people what to do, and we tell them how to do it right.

So, I call it tight on what to do, tight on how to do it, as opposed to tight on what needs to be achieved and loose in terms of how you achieve it.

Correct? Correct. And then we make the really kind of crazy assertion that because we said it, they must have understood it. I mean, it’s clear I said it. I said it several times. I said it really loudly. I’ve said it many times. And we ask them sometimes if we’re gracious enough, do you have any questions or is everything clear? And if I’m your boss and I tend to be very tight, tight, tight, as you say it, and I ask you, when you’re one of the workers that that that reports to me and I ask you, do you have any questions there?

Is everything clear? What do you think your answer is going to tend to be? I’ve got it covered. Don’t worry.

Exactly. Exactly. And the problem with that is that that answer oftentimes has nothing to do with the fact that you really got it and you got it covered. It’s got more to do with the fact that you don’t want to look foolish. You don’t want to look bad in my eyes. You want to look good. So that’s where the trouble starts, because then we send them out and they do whatever they think is best. And oftentimes, it’s not what’s best and that’s where accidents happen.

And so, one of the skills that we teach supervisors is to learn to tell people what to do, because oftentimes, you know what the work task is, but don’t tell them how. I ask them how they’re going to do it right and ask them how they’re going to do it safely. And here in here, it’s a really simple but not easy at all skill, which is the skill of asking people. Sure. And if you ask and by asking, we mean not just any question, but open-ended questions and questions that get people thinking.

And it’s as I was saying, it’s this really simple skill. Everybody knows how to ask questions or understands what a question is. But asking questions is a real art. And I remember supervisor I work within a mining project that that when he got just the importance of asking people open-ended questions. So open-ended questions are questions that ask for information what, how, where instead of close-ended questions that require a yes or no answer. So, the moment.

The supervisor got the power of asking people open-ended questions, he was just amazed that what he could get his team to do in terms of thinking and really raising their risk awareness and their safety ownership in another theme, I think is that’s also important is really around coaching, because a lot of supervisors, like you mentioned, came from the ranks. Right. And coaching. Is it normally something that you talk about when you’re a frontline team member? So, tell me a little bit about the importance of coaching in those conversations.

I would say it’s huge, Eric. Unfortunately, yes. Coaching is not often considered for frontline leaders, for supervisors, if at all. It’s considered for senior leaders, but not for frontline leaders and supervisors. And it’s huge because some of the skills that will be teaching supervisors, such as asking people how they’re going to do the work using open-ended questions that get people thinking another skill that that is really important is acknowledging people for the safe work that they do, not just talking about the bad or the unsafe work and also redirecting or stopping in a skillful manner the unsafe work and unsafe behaviors they may be engaged in.

And these are all skills doing these things in a manner that really gets people thinking, that really helps people welcome the message that is a conversation instead of a monologue. These are all skills that require time to be learned and perfected in terms of understanding. They’re pretty simple in terms of practice. They’re extremely difficult because we have a lifetime and supervisors in particular of not working, not communicating with people in that manner, basically talking at people.

And so and so what coaching does is it provides a supervisor with a field coach that is an expert in that type of work assignment, that type of communication, communication, that type of engaging of people in toolbox, talk and work assignment, conversation. And when a supervisor gets that kind of coaching and the impact that he can have and the result and the safety results that can be obtained and will blow your mind, I’ve seen organizations that have really taken on and a supervisor skill coaching that have really made a huge difference in their safety records and in how the work is done.

And it has an impact not only on safety, which is the initial focus, it has an impact on quality. It has an impact on productivity. It has an impact on working environment, on worker retention. And it’s really incredible what can be done when leaders, front line leaders in particular, realize the power they have if they engage people in the conversation instead of talking at them.

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

And I think when you think about a lot of behavior-based safety programs, even historically, that have been launched in organizations. One of the things that surprised me is how little training was actually provided on how to deliver the feedback when the entire point of observations is really to trigger a conversation around what people saw, how they could do it better, or recognize the right safe choices as well. And this is such a fundamental skill set to driving safety and reinforcing the right choices, the right behaviors and shifting attitudes and mindsets.

Correct? And it’s and in my mind, it’s a lot it’s one of the big reasons, if not the reason for the bad name, the bad rap that BBS programs have gotten because they become about how many observations you do, how much your hard to fill out. Then people start gaming the system and just creating cards that were no observation existed. Or if you do, go ahead and do an observation. The feedback is so poor that you might as well not have done the observation because that interaction actually hurt that person’s level of safety ownership, given the nature of the interaction that took place.

So, Yeah, a huge part of a program like that or any safety interaction is the quality of the conversation that you’re sharing with people. And supervisors are not taught how to have no conversations.

Many leaders aren’t taught, but definitely not supervisors. And then that’s usually where you needed the most. So, I’m curious of your thoughts. Organizations often if they’ve got a limited budget around safety in training, they often will say, like you mentioned before, I want to focus on my front-line team members. Is that really the best place to start? Would you say there? Would it be working with leaders or would it be with supervision?

I think the best bang for your buck is supervision. Obviously, if you want to have a radical transformation or step-change in how in your organization, safety, culture, you need to work with all levels of the organization because supervisors don’t are not there. Twenty-four hours a day, senior leaders hold the purse strings and many of the key decisions about systems that also impact safety and workers. I mean, are their own person and they will make their own decisions.

Right. But if your budget is limited and you have to choose one place, that place is supervision and its supervision, not only in terms of training, but as you mentioned, in terms of coaching and because training is just your entry point at developing skills.

Exactly. Any examples that you can share where you’ve had really sizable impact by focusing on supervision and maybe can you share how that can help transform an organization.

Yeah, absolutely. So, I was mentioning this example of a mining project I was involved in a couple of years ago where, you know, it was they had a they didn’t have a terrible safety record, but it wasn’t great. And they needed to improve. And there was also this working environment that was very much carrot and stick people. The. People are not very happy working on that project, and they work there because they had to there was a lot of turnovers, they would go to other projects and we focused heavily on.

Shifting the way supervision supervises the work and the way supervisors engage with their crews, and we did initially with the training with them, and then there was a lot of field coaching. Sure. That impacted really every touch point they had with their crews. So, the toolbox talks, the safety meetings, the shift handover and even the day-to-day interactions. This organization was so committed to improving that they embed it. Safety cultures. Yes, safety coaches, email safety coaches in the work.

And they just lived in that worker camp and where part of the population and really shadowed the supervisors and where they’re continuously helping the supervisor up their game in the ship was really incredible in terms of how safety was improved, of how the culture was shifted. You could see it in the numbers, but you could also feel it and people would talk about it. Like, I feel like my supervisor knows me. He cares about me.

He asks me what I think I feel valued. And you could see people’s contentment around being heard and heard and seen and allowed to contribute in that manner. But more than their contentment, you could see the level of commitment, a new level of commitment that they have to doing good quality, safe work.

Right. I remember doing some work in at a mine site is similar, just illustrating the importance of the supervisor. There was in one mine shaft, there were two supervisors and the crews were working side by side. And the difference between both supervisors was stark. One was barking, yelling, telling how the work should be done. The other one showed active care day in and day out about everybody’s loved ones, why they were staying safe. And you could sense it when we were talking to people that were working down this particular mine shaft, they you could see in their conversations you could almost identify who they worked for just based on their stories and their examples.

So, an incredibly powerful and important one. Obviously, safety results were very different, very stark difference between both in terms of supervisory training and we’ve talked about that’s a good first step. Is it really different from leadership training or maybe is it more in terms of the delivery and the topics that I cover that that you should consider a difference?

I think there is a marked difference. As I said, it’s not that some topics will be part of the general leadership curriculum, but some topics are varying and skills specifically in terms of assigning work. Sure. And their field base. So, the best type of coaching for supervisors may start out in or training for supervisors may start out in a classroom setting, but very soon it goes to the field. Right. And it’s in their work environment, at their usual work meetings.

And that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where they’re having a real impact on people in the way they engage with them and the way they communicate with them in the way they involve them or not. And so, I think that’s smart and markedly different, distinctly different from general leadership training. It’s a lot more field based, you know, that’s what I would say about that.

Absolutely. I would agree with you on that on that front. But I think it’s more importantly than anything else, is really the criticality of investing in front-line supervision, training, really investing in those front-line leaders. When somebody gets upgraded from the craft, there should be something that that teaches you how to get on board. There should be more investment even beyond peer support with somebody else. There’s so much that can be done to develop that skill set.

So, Eduardo, thank you so much for sharing some wonderful ideas on this really important topic of supervision. Any closing thoughts that you’d like to share?

Yeah, I’ll take two more things. I want to touch upon something. You sat around actively caring for people. Another key point that we stress that I stress and that we stress it in terms of how supervisors can engage with their crews is really is this thing around, Karen, concern around the relationship and really key to getting people to work safely to follow your lead is their belief that you care for them. And in terms of the impact on workers, which is what we ultimately are looking for, because they’re the ones doing the work and they’re the ones closest to the risk and usually the ones who get hurt.

And, you know, we know and we’ve known for thousands of years that telling people what to do doesn’t work it. And there’s this quote that they it’s really a quote, I think, by Confucius. But they attributed now to Benjamin Franklin that says, tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, but involve me directly and I will learn and I will make it mine. So that’s the kind of training and coaching we are alluding to, teaching supervisors how to really involve people directly instead of telling them.

Yeah, I think that’s very well said. I often even talk about the theme of safety participation just as a vehicle to get people more connected, involved around safety to drive improvements, but also more likely to follow the rules. But that’s also linked to it really is the more I’m engaging you, involving you, the more likely you’re going to do the right thing when nobody’s watching.

Correct. Yeah, it’s really almost like magic that it even trumps. Salary considerations, sometimes people have such a need to be involved and to be heard and to be seen that if we as leaders now I’m speaking about all types of leaders can learn to do that, the level of discretionary effort that we get from people will blow our minds.

I think it’s a very important point. I think it’s too often most people think I’ve got promoted so I can tell you how to do it. But listening is often important piece and sometimes it doesn’t even come out. That was one of the things I learned early on in my career when people were telling you the process and the tools, I have been adequate if you fix that. That didn’t necessarily solve the problem from a perception standpoint, because often what they were saying is you didn’t engage and involve me in it.

What actually came out from surveys, from focus groups was more focused on the tools and the methods, the procedures, as opposed to you didn’t engage and involve me.

Yeah, and I think that has to do a little bit with the culture that we live in. That’s not commonplace, particularly for big, strong men, which dominate sometimes the industry to say, I want to be heard, I want to be seen, that you’re not going to necessarily hear them say that. But here’s the thing. It’s a universal human need. And if you want to have an impact on somebody else, whether you’re a senior leader, a frontline leader or even a crew member, you should be well advised to know that.

Yes, absolutely. Well, Eduardo, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on safety, supervision, safety, leadership, particularly at the frontline levels. I think it’s such an important topic. Really appreciate you taking the time to share your insights on this. Thank you.

Oh, thank you. I’m very passionate about this. So anytime. Thank you.

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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Eduardo Lan is a Partner with Propulo Consulting, a global management consulting firm delivering significant and sustainable improvements in organizational performance. As an accomplished organizational consultant and safety leadership coach, Eduardo has extensive experience in safety culture transformation, leadership development, high-performance projects and operations across the United States, Canada and Latin America. With over 20 years of experience in Leadership and Organizational Transformation, Eduardo is truly an expert in Organizational Development and Change, specifically safety leadership.



Putting Safety First: Listen to yourself with Spencer Beach

Episode 34 - Putting Safety First: Listen to yourself with Spencer Beach



18 years ago, Spencer Beach’s life changed forever when a workplace incident left him with severe burns on 90% of his body. Today, he is a safety motivational speaker who shares his story and wisdom to help prevent future incidents. In this engaging episode, Beach discusses the importance of listening to your gut feeling and speaking up. He also shares insightful ideas on how to develop a trusting relationship with employees and how to talk about safety in a way that motivates workers and increases safety awareness. Tune in to listen to Beach’s important message!


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 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 Spencer Beach. He’s gone through a life-changing event and stumble into a lot of elements around the behavioral side of safety and is now a motivational speaker around safety. So, Spencer, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Eric. Or can I call you Mr. Guru?

Eric’s just fine. And if you could maybe start out by telling me a little bit about your story and from there, we’ll get into some of your insights around safety and driving real impact around safety.

Sure. So, I grew up as a third-generation flooring installer. So basically, hardwood carpet, vinyl flooring. That’s what I did. I went on my first job when I was six years old, which I understand breaks all the safety rules. But back in the 1970s, there was a little different. And so, I grew up in the trades and when I graduated high school, I knew what I was doing and I followed my father and grandfather’s footsteps. And at the age of 29, I no longer installed floors.

I fixed them. I was a service guy on a flooring crew where we did mostly new homes. And my job every day was to drive around the city of Edmonton going from new home to new home, fixing other qualified installers mistakes. On April 24, 2003, I was sent into a service where I was told to remove vinyl flooring with the chemical because another crew installed the wrong color. The way my dad taught me is you remove vinyl flooring with a sharp scraper and a lot of sweat equity.

My lawyer at the time, he had a method where we used the chemical. It was a contact dinner and skipping a couple of steps so nobody can do what I did. Basically, it would reactivate the glue, the floor would fill up in sheets and what used to take days off to full-grown qualified installers to strip a flooring up. My employer had a service guy doing in his off time. It saved us tons of time and lots of money.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any safety in the new home industry at the time of my incident. Although the law was there, nobody followed it. So, I had no training in chemical use. I did not know I had the right to refuse unsafe work, didn’t do hazard assessments. Any PPE I had, I provided myself. It was basically for yourself kind of environment. Well, and the only rules I had was to turn down the thermostat and open up doors and windows for ventilation.

When I did this job, which I did do, I got up. I started working at about 1:00 in the afternoon and I had to do the laundry room, hallway, main bath and front entry. And I worked my way from the laundry room down to the front entry as I was working my way out of the house. And at about 4:00 in the afternoon, I was almost done. I just had a little bit of floor and behind the front door to do and I closed the front door to build access that. And when I did the garage door, which I had opened for ventilation closed. Oh, no, it’s changed. And yeah, I remember I looked down the hallway and I was just like, I’m going to be locking that door in five minutes. I’m almost done, you know, what’s the point of me getting up and we open that door again? I’m tired of doing that. Right. And so, I mentally chose to leave my escape route open or closed. And, you know, another tradesperson? Well, I didn’t know that at the time either. But there was another tradesperson in the house who had just finished the job. He came down the stairs, stepped over top of me, said goodbye and closed the front door behind them. And when he did that, all of a sudden, I heard a loud whistle and then an enormous bang and the fire erupted out of nowhere. It engulfed my oh my goodness.

It was the chemical fumes of burnt and they burnt those fifteen hundred degrees Celsius. Oh, it’s more than twice the heat of the average house fire for our American friends. That’s about twenty-one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. And so, at that moment I just went into panic mode. And now this is where I always tell groups how important it is to have that safety plan done. This incident happens if you don’t have a plan, your only plan then is get the hell out of here.

You have no route you’re going to take or understanding of what you’re going to do at. Going to be all just gut instinct, trying to get out of the situation, so I sprung up on my knees and I grabbed on to the front door handle and as hard as I could, I could not open that door. And I was a person back then. I was used to carrying rolls of carpet and linoleum and buckets of glue, and I didn’t have the strength to open that door.

What it occurred was that whistle just prior to the fire was all the air being pulled into the house through the crevices of the doors and the windowsills and fire required so much time, so much oxygen. And that created a pressure difference, which is why I could not get over the door. I had no clue what was happening, though. I just the store not opening. So, I let go of the door handle and I turned to my right.

I ran to the hallway past the half bathroom into the laundry room, and I stopped in front of the garage door, grabbed onto that door. It didn’t open. So, I just and now am trapped. There was nowhere to go there. So, I had to go back to the front entry. I tried that door. It didn’t open. So, I went back to the laundry room, door to the garage door in the laundry room. I tried that again. 

It didn’t open. I estimate no more than 20 seconds transpired. And for me to do that routine and I’d had enough; I couldn’t take it anymore. The pain was so deep. It was we’ve all been burnt. It was nothing like any burn you’ve ever had. It wasn’t a surface burn. I could feel it inside of me and I could smell my hair burning and I could. But the skin on my face felt like it was shrinking.

I just wanted it over. So, I collapse into a ball, interlock my fingers on the back of my head. I tucked my face close to the floor as I possibly could, and I gave up. I had a near-death experience, which I thought of. My wife didn’t, and she was pregnant with our first child. I thought about all the things I was going to miss. You know, I’ve been wanting to be a father my entire life, and now I’m so close to being achieving that and having the child.

And I’m going to miss it all. And I was never going to help my wife with the chores, the simple things around the house, or be there when she needed me the most when she gave birth to our child and I for them. I tried one more time and I got up and tried that garage door and it opened what had occurred because it’s a flashlight. The fumes are burning down now and the pressure difference was dissipating. So, I was able to open up that door without hesitating.

I just jumped into the garage, which at that time the garage was the garbage disposal area for new home industry. So, I fell literally into construction garbage, which if you can imagine, is the leftover siding screws to cause you to jump falling in. And on the very top of it was all the flooring I just removed, soaked in the very in the exact same go. Right now, I’m physically on fire. So, when I hit that garbage pile, it ignited another fire.

The only difference between this fire and the other one was that the overhead garage door wasn’t installed. So, I could see some. My escape was just 20 feet away from me and I just regain my balance. I scrambled to my feet as fast as I could, and I ran out of that Great Britain from head to toe. I made it almost to the sidewalk for four. I finally collapsed onto my back into the dirt. And that’s my story. That’s what happened to me.

That’s incredible. And it’s really scary in terms of the circumstances that you went through. I know one of the themes we had talked about when we first connect was really around this sense of gut feel. Tell me more about what that means for you and what gut feel you had.

So, I love the gut feeling thing because it’s something everybody has had. And quite often when we get that gut feeling, we tend to dismiss it. And I was shocked when I woke up that morning and I told Tina I didn’t want to go to work and I’m not that type of person. I was I said I want to work when I was six years old. I have two older brothers and my dad always chose me to go to work with them because I didn’t cry or put up a fuss.

I did the work. So, when I’m telling my wife I’m thinking of phoning in sick when I’m not, you know, that’s just not me that’s out of character. And the reason being was I didn’t want to work with that chemical again. Then when we were Kelkal, we’d be breathing in the fumes and the fumes would go into our lungs and our lungs would put into our blood. And hours after leaving the job, it would leave our blood on our lungs that I could taste it as if I didn’t want to taste that again.

I didn’t want the funny feeling it made in my head again. I knew this wasn’t right. But I as I said earlier, I also didn’t know anything about safety. So, my I. Was you do what your boss tells you or you lose your job and then you’re found myself. So, I took that feeling of telling my wife, you know, I don’t feel this is right. I’m thinking of phoning in sick and all that feeling down deep inside.

I put it to I couldn’t hear it anymore. I convinced myself to be just fine and I want to work and I did nothing. This is the worst part is I had this feeling that wasn’t right and I did nothing about the feeling. Even when I was at work, I didn’t change one aspect. I didn’t speak up at work. And you can express my concerns to my employer. I just you know, I was a good soldier and I just I did nothing. And I now look at that gut feeling and, you know, why didn’t I listen to it? You know what? And the reality is, is I’ve examined and that was literally that was me talking to me. And you got to think about this for a moment. If your gut, is you talking to you and then you don’t listen to yourself, if you’re not going to listen to yourself on safety, what chances are you going to listen to a safety professional or call an employer about safety?

Right. So that was one of the first things about the gut feeling is we need to start listening to ourselves. You know, if we’re told. Yeah, who are we going to listen to? Right. Right.

Because I think it’s so important. Right. To such an important message to get people to listen when something doesn’t feel right. To say something, to speak up.

Yeah, for sure. But quite often, if you’re not going to listen to yourself, are you going to speak up either? You know, there’s a mindset there and this is where, you know, I focus on people’s behaviors because this is where we’re going. There’s no rule or policy or procedure or regulation that’s going to get somebody to speak up or they don’t listen to themselves. We need to address the behavior on what’s occurring there. And what I found is when we do address people’s behaviors, the people who tend not to listen to themselves or their gut, they tend to also push back very strongly when you approach their safety.

And I had to examine that. I looked at like, why are they pushing so hard? You know? And I looked at like, what other topics in life could what I if I talked about, would they push back the same? And I felt like if you talk about people’s religion or politics, their sexuality, how to spend their money there, how to raise their kids, if you talk about these things, people tend to push back really strong for sure.

And all those topics are on me telling you how to live your life. So that’s and I looked at what also they see safety as me telling them how to live their life. And I totally get it at that moment because it has been addressed or brought into workers. Like safety is going to be a part of your job and your job is precious to you. It’s part of your identity. So, I’m telling you that you’re going to be adding something to how you live your life.

If it doesn’t, it’s not about controlling how you live. Your life also does is control hazards so you can continue to do what you’re doing. I mean, that’s an improvement. So, I’m not telling you how to live your life. I’m helping you to live your life because I’m helping you control those hazards so that when you’re done your job, you can actually go live your life.

So, how I love that comment, how do you propose or how would a leader change their story, their language to make sure that that’s really the message they’re sending?

Well, one of the things is you just actually set a tone then most people don’t realize it. But I hate the word change in our society. We use that word change all the time and change is viewed very negatively by people. We avoid change, honestly. You get a person to stay the same or go through change. Most people will want to stay the same. And safety was told to them as a change. And when they heard that and so pipefitter or a welder or truck driver, they heard, I’m going to change.

I don’t want to change. I like my job. I like doing what I do. I don’t want to become this thing. I just want to be the pipefitter. And the reality is that we didn’t change anything because at the end of the day, as much we put safety into your job, you’re still the welder, you’re still the picture. You’re a truck driver, you’re still them. All right. All I did was control the hazards, but I didn’t change your job.

I controlled the houses within your job. And that is an improvement. So, let’s use your language. If you said to workers, we’re going to change the way we do things around here, which is shows nobody reacts favorably to that. But if you said we’re going to improve the way we do things around here, people are more open to hearing what you have to say. So, language we choose and how we use it is very having a phenomenal impact on promoting or hurting what we’re trying to achieve.

Gotcha. Very important, so that gets us to vulnerable to base trust. Can you share a little bit about some of your thoughts around this topic?

So, I love Followable because trust is where my passion is taking me right now. So, there’s two types of trust out there that is predictable trust. And that’s like I said, I’m going to be here at this time. And you trust that type of person or if I borrow money to pay it back, because I’ve proven to you that you don’t have to chase me down or, you know, if you share a secret, I’m not going to go behind your back and share what it is, you know, that’s predictable too.

Vulnerable based trust, though, is the type of trust where you really are developing the relationship with the person. So, it’s more like you admit to your mistakes and politicians. Now we’re Canadian, so we’ll use Justin Trudeau multiple different offenses and he’s not quick to admitting to it. And what is occurring is people, because he doesn’t admit to it, they don’t believe in him anymore because it hasn’t gained that valuable trust with people. And that happens with politicians all the time.

And they’re really good examples to use what can occur when bond-based trust is not gained with people. But what happens, though, is always trust. If you have people and I hear this a lot when I’m out of patience before I’m about to start presenting and I’m just having conversations with the workers, it’s like the company doesn’t care and safety and here stay with them. That means that people don’t believe in the leaders, sure don’t believe in the leaders and what they’re proposing.

What chance is there that they’re actually going to want to follow along with stuff? Yeah. So the connection is not on the policies. It’s not in the regulations. It’s not in the procedures. It’s in the relationship between the management and the workers. And then that’s where you need to work on it. And that means that management needs to invite the workers into policy development instead of creating something like here. This is what we could do, this change.

Yeah. Or it also means, though, like if you’ve got an over time that maybe the management spend some time doing the overtime or they bring in and they develop that relationship. The only way you can develop a relationship with people is by spending time with them. A simple example I could use is whenever I do safety standards for companies. Right. And put management not at one table in the front of the room, mix them throughout the thought process.

They spend the day with the people, write simple things, but things that have a lot of impact in terms of showing vulnerability and demonstrating that trust that around safety. I think a lot of the themes I also hear is leaders that are talking about safety is the most important thing, but then pivot and will drive productivity. And it seems like two different messages side by side. And then people don’t trust what’s being said.

And that’s one of the problems with the safety. First, I’m sure we’ve all heard safety first. It’s Safety First was an awesome statement that has been misunderstood. In fact, it’s going to be my next safety video was on it. But the reality is, is what? Safety first. And here’s more communicating. It’s an incomplete sentence. It’s missing all the structure of a sentence, which means it’s open to interpretation. The workers are going to try and plug in what the missing parts of the sentence are. And what they did is the workers hurt. Safety is the most important thing we do. And that’s a lie. The most important thing you do. Your actual job is production because you were hired to produce. And I can prove that if you spend your entire day doing nothing but safety, your company will go out of business. It’s just that simple. You need to produce what you’re there to produce. And safety or hazards are actually a byproduct of a production.

The workers know this. They know that they spend 90 percent of their day on production and two percent of their day on safety. And yet they’re told safety is the most important thing you do. That’s what they heard was safety first. The reality is, though, in that statement, safety first. It wasn’t a matter of importance. It was a matter of priority. What we were trying to say is not safety is the most important thing you do, but safety is the first thing you do before you do anything else. Right. I think well said.

This episode of The Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and Safety Culture Advisory firm, whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, to develop strategies, to level off your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, free, energize your BBS program, enhanced supervisory safety capabilities or introduce. Leak safety, leadership training and talent solutions Propulo has you covered. Visit us at

So other topic I want to talk about is reactance you if you often talk about that topic, tell me more about what it is and what it means from a safety standpoint.

So, reactance is going back to the gut feeling instantly. You don’t listen to yourself kind of thing. What reactance is by Laman definition is when you make somebody or they are perceived to be made to do something, they will push back. And you get caught as a great example of use of it as a behavioral experiment, the same as a worldwide pandemic. But before even masks were mandated, people see they’re being told to wear masks. And there was a large part of the society that said we’re not doing it.

And they start to push back. And then when Mass was mandated, they pushed back even further and they created the most phenomenal examples on why they should not need to wear a mask. They also became experts overnight on it. And I can tell you from someone who was in isolation and germs was the one thing that could kill them. I might ICU doctors and nurses and everyone, they wore masks entering my room and my room was specially made that germ could not enter it.

The only way germs could enter some people and these professionals were wearing masks to prevent germs from leaving their body to get to me because they weren’t and these weren’t fancy. These were just normal paper masks that you would find in a hospital setting. Sure. But they weren’t. But they people want phenomenal means. You want to promote why they didn’t need to wear a mask because they push back. There’s a couple of things but reactance that we need to know. And one is everyone is prone to reactance. We’re all prone to push back. You just have to know which topic it is that you hold close to and from. For some people, if you talk about religion, they push back on other people. And gun control is a great example. You talk about gun control, especially in America. People are going to push back because it’s cost them and they’re being perceived that they are being made to give up their guns are being perceived, that they’re being told that they’re not allowed to be religious and they push back. And it’s the same with safety. They’re being perceived that their job is changing. So, they pushed back. And the way to deal with that reactance then is you need to include people in the process. When you include them in the process, the developmental process, they become more in tune to want to go along with the development because of the process, because they’re part of the development of that for sure. They were involved. It was partly their ideas.

They were listening to all things that reduce the barriers to change. We know that the more the more it’s part of a change I was part of, the less likely you are to respond negatively to it.

Yeah, I do think, though, when you talk to management about involving people in the process, they’re like, well, that’s going to slow down production and it’s going to have to pull people off for the development. But you’re going to save so much time on the back end. Yes. Having to crack this reactance behavior that in the long run you will have a net gain on the amount of time you save instead of a net loss on pulling people off the line for the time it takes to develop the process.

Yeah, there’s been a lot of research that was done on this. Just this very topic around the total time doesn’t change is just where you’re spending it. It’s either you’re spending it on the front end getting a better solution or you’re spending it on the back end trying to get people to do something that they don’t want to do. So, in many cases, it’s actually the opposite. It may be faster to involve people to go a little bit slower the front end, but then you get adoption acceptance and there’s one more benefit to it. And I have a leadership presentation. I do where at the end we do an organized session and I stand up in a box. Everyone has a piece of paper and it’s the only slide and all my presentations that have any PowerPoint bullet points on it. And in there are just ten simple instructions and I invite the very beginning. I’m like, if you have any questions, ask them, you know? But I’m also from a legal standpoint, we’ve got to get moving on here because there’s stuff to be done for today. And I go through the PowerPoint or the organic session, and at the end of it, about 10 percent of the audience, it’s always about 10 percent get what I was wanting to achieve. And what happened was I just stopped being a leader. I didn’t engage the people at in any way that was in a positive way. So, the 10 percent of people that got it were the ones that excelled at being able to take written form and understand what it was say, but that.

 This failed and the experiment failed, and 90 percent of people have crumpled up paper, I make them use the same paper and I’m like, we’re going to get a much better result. And all I do is I take the people that got what I wanted for the first time and I tell them, help the people in your group. And because they weren’t before, I have to like, go help the people. You know what it is. I want to help them. And I leave my podium and I go down and I help the audience to spend the same amount of time. And I don’t even go to the ballpoints anymore. I put the slide up, but I don’t touch them at all. And I have a 90 percent success rate just by empowering people. And what it does is that reactance. Now, I’ve cut the reactions because I help people development, but they also become my leaders and they now are on the floor saving me time on communicating to the vast majority of the people. And I only go to a few tables during the present. That second part. And I have this whole squad of people doing the exact same thing and we achieve so much more success. And the best part of the entire exercise is the room goes from stubbornness and frustration and anger to laughter and joyfulness. And people are happy and they want to be there, all because I changed how I how I lived.

I love it and I love all the themes you talk to because the very, very powerful themes that also touch to the role leaders have in creating a great environment and really reflecting as to how you show up, how you demonstrate vulnerability, how you engage and involve people in the in the decision-making process, all things that are easy, simple to do, but have a very tangible, meaningful impact in increasing adoption, acceptance of practices around safety. And I love this comment you made around. Stop telling people how to live their lives, really thinking about really in terms of how do we define how we talk in message around safety. And I like to believe that everybody’s a leader, and so you have leaders that are pulling the company along, you have leaders that are fighting the company, and the other workers are seeing them as leaders. And they’re joining in that group. And then you have leaders in training, but, you know, identifying who these leaders are. And those are the people, the subgroups that you should be pulling into your developmental processes. Take the people who already believe in the company and what they’re doing, get the people are fighting it and bring them their herd and then bring in people who are leaders in training. And when you do that, I think you’re going to find that you’ll engage the people’s behaviors and improve the roll out of your policies and procedures.

Yeah, I love it. Incredibly powerful message and simple to make happen within an organization. So, Spencer, you talk about safety to a lot of groups. You present share ideas. And if somebody wants to reach out to you, what’s the best way to do so?

Not just through my website. Its Spencer Speaks dot ca or you can just Google my name, Spencer Beach and you’ll find either a real beach in Hawaii which I’ve been through already. So, it’s pretty simple to find me. And from there I’d love to come out and speak to your people. I have a unique presentation style where my goal is I reach to people’s hearts and I found so when I’m speaking to workers, I don’t use PowerPoint because I’m motivating and motivation doesn’t require PowerPoint.

And what I found is I could use PowerPoint and try speaking to their head, but they wouldn’t hear me as loud because when I speak to people’s hearts, your heart actually talks to your head louder than I could talk to your head. So that’s my whole presentation is based on people’s hearts. I’m there to help put that safety policy that’s sitting on a shelf into the workers hands. And that’s my whole goal, is when it’s in the workers hands, that’s where safety belongs.

Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Spencer, for coming on the show, sharing your wisdom. I appreciate the time you thought through to come up with these ideas and really communicate it to the listeners. Thank you so much.

Thank you.

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Spencer Beach was a 3rd generation flooring installer and among the best in his field when he endured a horrific flash fire that left him permanently and severely scarred. After spending 14 months in the hospital and a year more of rehabilitation he has gone on to carve out a new path for his life. He has now achieved such designations as a Construction Safety Officer through the Alberta Construction Safety Association, as well completed with distinction the University of Alberta’s, Faculty of Extensions, Occupational Health & Safety Certificate program. Spencer has been an international professional speaker for 14 years and delivered over 1,500 presentations. His messages focus on people’s behaviours to improve workplace safety, overcoming hardship, drug and alcohol abuse, understanding self and self-esteem, healthcare groups and more. Spencer is also the author of his bestselling book In Case of Fire, works with the Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta to motivate injured workers, is a volunteer for the Friends of the University Hospital of Alberta, was awarded the 2013 Avenue Magazine Top 40 Under 40 for his community work and was the first recipient of the Award of Courage through Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

Connect with Spencer at

Spencer’s Book: In Case Of Fire –