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Diversity as an Accelerator for Safety Outcomes with Bryce Griffler



Today, we are in conversation with Bryce Griffler who shares the impact of intentionally bringing diversity of perspectives and opinions into safety activities and teams. From union involvement, to people with diverse backgrounds and experiences including people that might come from a totally different part of the business, a well-rounded team is bound to find better and safer ways to do the work. These strategies consistently improve the quality of conversations and solutions, driving to safer outcomes. He shares easy strategies to make this happen in your business. This episode shares some very important ideas which are too often missed.


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. My name is Eric Michrowski, and today I’m very happy to have Bryce Griffler with me. Bryce is a seasoned health and safety leader who’s worked across multiple different industries, spoken at many different conferences, and has a very interesting themes he’s going to share with us today around involving labor, increasing the diversity of employment, of opinions and increasing diversity, inclusion and that link to safety. So, Bryce, welcome to the show. I’d like to have you maybe start out by sharing a little bit about how you got into safety and a little bit about your passion around it. Sure. Thanks. Thanks for having me, Eric. So, I very first started pursuing a formal education, actually in engineering before working for a government defense contractor. I was in contract and systems design and several engineering functions, and I’m glad I have that background. After several years in engineering, I began to transition into what’s called product safety, which tied very nicely into my formal training in human factors engineering. But I later came to find out that’s what really prepared me to be. The type of safety professional that I am today is this foundation and in private, through design, which is very much at the forefront of what industrial health and safety engineers, our health and safety professionals are looking at today. But I have the privilege to have that foundation earlier. And so, it was just happenstance. I was actually looking to leave my company when a position opened up in industrial, environmental, health and safety. I had no formal training, knew nothing about safety regulations. I didn’t hold an ocean 10-hour card. I ended up being a great fit, mostly just because of my engagement, my people skills. And I always admired what emergency responders did, the equipment they use, the processes they used. It was it was like choreography to me and finding ways to plan for things that can’t be planned for to the fullest extent. I think that’s what attracted me most to giving this whole safety thing a shot jumped over to the dark side. So that’s kind of why I do think a lot of professional’s kinds of fall into it in a very unique way. I would say if you look at the majority of professionals, a majority of them do not start at the age of nine, thinking one day I’m going to grow up and be a judge or a safety audit or something like that. So, like others have that unique story. And I’m glad I took the journey that I did to get here. That’s phenomenal. And I think one of the pieces that really struck me from our prior conversation and you touched on it is around the people skills, but it’s this element of the criticality of involving labor at the table in how do you make that happen. And this is something I think is so critical. I’ve seen it time and time again in terms of when you bring labor to the table; great things can happen because this is the best place to collaborate. So, can you share a little bit about some of your experience around it and in some ideas around how do you make that happen in organizations? Sure. I don’t really call myself a safety person. I really define myself as a people person, and I think that’s really important. You’ll see why as we continue to dove into this. I think one of the things the concepts that really captures this is, is that I can I can send you to a training class on NFPA. I can go get your OSHA 30-hour card. Those are things that we can teach you. And that’s great. And its critical knowledge to have what I can’t simply send you to a training on is how to engage the right people, how to go out of your way to find people who are going to help your organization get better. I can’t send you to a webinar on active listening and you are immediately good at types of skills and the skill of stepping outside your comfort zone to find different opinions and people with different backgrounds and values from you. And so, you’re right. I think one of the biggest pieces here then is engaging the labor representative, the operators. When we talk about people like these two main categories of people that we in industry have to get better at bringing to the table. The first one is, is that worker, the labor representative, the operator. And I think we do a good job about talking about this. We just don’t always put our money where our mouth is. But maybe it’s a safety infraction and investigation, or maybe it’s contract negotiations for a collective bargaining contract. But unfortunately, it’s too often tempting is in order to move things along quickly, we’ll just call safety’s blessing or that one guy who used to be he worked in OSHA, he’s read the book a lot, a call him and the plant manager. Let’s get out of process. Let’s fix it. And that’s fast. And some in some ways efficient, but without the person on the floor who does the task today, you’re missing a huge piece of information and they may not willingly come to you to offer that information. You really have to go out of your way to make sure they’re there. If you go to if you go to your manufacturing floor and you ask the supervisor in that area where’s our next injury going to happen, you probably won’t get a solid answer. Maybe you’ll get the or we’re not zero injuries here today. But if you earn the trust of your workforce and you approach a worker again, you have to have that trust with them. You approach them and you ask them what is the next century is going to happen. They’re going to be pretty close to being spot because they know, they understand and they know where that those risks are and think differently than you do just because they did not go to an OSHA 30 hour or sit in on that one and see webinar does not mean they don’t understand the hazards associated with their task, where they’re processing who. What an amazing person to make sure you’re bringing into that process for an investigation or something like that. I think that’s a phenomenal point. There’s a guess that I had on the show, Dr. Josh Williams. And one of the stories he shared was in one organization, he had asked everybody, where is an injury going to happen? And he put it put it on this cue card. And he said 70 percent of people had the exact same answer and they knew we need to go fix this theme, which had to do with scaffolding. And there was certain process that that wasn’t adequate. So, I love your point about connecting, understanding, hearing from people, but I agree with your point around building trust. Absolutely. And you get strange looks sometimes when you ask about where the next injury is going to happen. Sometimes the worker will tell you they won’t. And so, again, this is where it ties back into being more of a people person, which so many professionals are, and changing the question to something maybe more like, OK, what do you have any grandkids? OK, sure. To talk with them a little bit about. You know, if we were to hire your grandson as a welder here today, what’s the first thing you would tell him to make sure he does or does not do what he steps on this floor and all of it? The conversation changes. And so maybe the words like hazard and risk don’t mean much to them. But when you when you make it personal and they know their job inside out, that is just a wealth of knowledge and information that we might not be capturing when we’re trying to improve our processes. I completely agree and I love the way you position that, because that’s a really easy way to relate to people and people typically have an answer to that. That question, the scary one, is sometimes when I’ve asked leaders that same question, saying if you brought your loved one to work, what’s the first thing you would tell them about working here? And then I say, so. So, do you ask that you say the same to your team members and then they have this puzzle look and then I get scared? Absolutely. So maybe challenge those leaders as they walk around. Maybe they follow you as the safety professional. And if you are a leader yourself, follow around your safety professional and maybe try asking some of those questions. Challenge your senior leaders to ask some of those questions, have them observe you. They all of a sudden will have more questions that they’d like to ask. And that’s great. I like to see that. And of course, the follow up after that is key. Great point in a lot of what you’re sharing is really about getting diversity of opinions and getting more perspectives, can you share a little bit about that? Because I think that’s a lot of the richness about the conversations, we’ve had in terms of getting more perspectives at the table. And too often we tend to be in isolation. I see leaders in in safety, in operations, running, trying to run this from their office. But it’s really about getting perspectives. Can you share some thoughts around it and some of the successes you’ve had around it? Sure. That that D word diversity can be frightening and is sometimes a loaded word, and it certainly doesn’t have to be. And so, we talked about how that first category, that first group of people, and that is the labor representative, the worker, the operator. And again, on paper, we’re very good at making sure we involve the worker and participate, have them participate in assessments. So, and we’ve done we’ve talked about this before, but the other kind of overall category of people that I see is absolutely critical that we bring to this proverbial table are everyone but the usual suspects. Yes, the usual suspects may be the person who went to the same school. We have the same alma mater. We worked with them for 15 years. We worked with them at a previous company, or they’ve been in this tire industry for thirty-five years. Maybe someone who grew up down the street from you. Those folks are what I define as the usual suspects, and they are. Don’t get me wrong, they are absolutely critical. Their opinion and what they bring to the table is invaluable. And there’s another piece to that. So, when we bring the usual suspects, we bring those people, we bring the safety manager, the plant manager and the operator, that that’s a start. But where do we proactively step outside our comfort zone and seek those operators, those analysts, those employees who have opinions and backgrounds and values and cultures that differ from our own? And it’s not comfortable. I talked about the big bad, the word diversity, which is a loaded term, it does not at all trivialize or diminish the people who are like us or you. It’s just that the solutions that we get when you bring together a diverse team are simply astonishing. Absolutely. The cost savings, you see the reliability and of course, the engagement that you get from your greater workforce is one hundred percent worth that little bit of discomfort. And it’s OK to admit that it’s uncomfortable because it is right. It is human nature that we flock to people who are similar to us because diversity is not how we look. It’s not just gender or race. There’s more diversity of thought, culture, background. So, when we bring those right people to the table, I can tell you kind of three to two overall high-level benefits. One is reduced risk and reduced risk because these this team, this diverse team is able to focus higher on the hierarchy of controls. We’re able to do better at that with engineering, control, substitution and even eliminating that risk because we have that innovative team that’s thinking outside the box, whether the overall other overall high-level benefit there is a stronger bottom line. That’s probably a conversation for an entirely different podcast. But we have plenty of data and anecdotes to show to demonstrate that a strong safety culture and strong safety performance brings to higher profits and more revenue. And. And so finding those people going out of your way to finding the people who are who are either different from you or doesn’t have you different from the people that we normally bring to the table to produce those solutions. So maybe we never thought about calling that brand new electrician that we just hired to the investigation. Maybe it seems silly to request that a finance analyst join one for corrective action hire team meetings. But you don’t know what they may have come from, you don’t know that maybe one of them actually was an apprentice in a shop, one had a father who was an electrician for 30 years. One developed and built an entire dashboard infrastructure for his last Fortune 500 company. What amazing untapped talent are we not bringing to the table? I love your comment on this and a couple of things that come to mind. One is, really when you look at the most creative firm probably in the world, which is idea that’s come up with the mouse, that’s come up with a lot of key concepts. One of the things that’s really interesting when you go behind the scenes is they’re bringing people that have nothing in common to find solutions to problems they have. They’ll bring a doctor, a psychologist and neuro physics and people from all over the world put them together and say, solve this problem for me, which is essentially kind of where you’re doing. And they’ve come up with incredibly creative ideas because everybody’s looking at things from a from a different vantage point. My biggest frustration is and actually I was talking to somebody on that exact topic yesterday, is I see so many leaders talk about diversity, but I see so little in terms of real action and real results in terms of how you make that happen. A few people talking about it in the safety space, which is, I think one of the areas that really attracted me to having this conversation is I think it’s another top topic in the safety in the safety world, really looking at things from a broader perspective. Can you share some ideas as to how you’ve been able to operationalize that, how you’ve been able to bring more diversity to the table in real, tangible ways to improve safety? Sure. Diversity is one thing and we do talk about it a lot. You’re right. And so, kind of the next piece to that is the inclusion of diversity in our two different terms. And the way I like to describe you’ll hear others describe it in this way as well, is diversity is going to the homecoming dance where been is being invited to go to the homecoming dance. So, if I go into a boardroom and I see people all with different 10 years with the company, all with different backgrounds, maybe different genders and different races, that’s lovely. But if it’s the three people who have worked at the company for 30 years and they all are from the same area and those are the ones at the table and those are the ones talking, they don’t really get to take credit for having a diverse team. And so, step one is, is you talk about leaders talking about it, certainly want to make sure you have their Buy-In. Plenty of data. Catalyst has done a ton and shares a ton of studies around diversity, inclusion and productivity. A lot about having a diverse board and what that means or for revenue. One thing that they shared is when companies establish inclusive business cultures and policies, they’re more likely to report an over a fifty nine percent increase in creativity, innovation and openness make thirty eight percent better assessment of consumer interest and demand. So, wow, talk about getting senior leadership by in as to why diversity is important and then using that, harnessing that to leverage an improvement in safety, which really has that public facing optics behind it is critical. So, once you have that leadership mean, there’s a couple of ways that we can make sure that we’re doing right. If I’m interviewing for a new safety specialist or maybe as a professional, I’m asked to sit in on the interview for a new plant manager or an operations manager. There’s a great time to make sure that we are really leveraging a diverse talent pool. When you’re interviewing when you’re reviewing a resume. Are you subconsciously kind of leaning towards the person who has the same alma mater or the person who comes from the same industry as you? We do that again. It’s very natural that we do it. Then during the interview process, are we making some judgment calls about perhaps how their dress made from the physical background? Right. And the sun calls, are we or you passing some judgments there or are we actually doing our very best to compare apples to apples, asking similar questions where we can actually behaviorally questions and then seeing if we can find the person that maybe has never worked in our industry before. But they sound like a great people person. They sound like they’re extremely knowledgeable and have great critical thinking skills and. The bullying can think on their feet and so definitely step that hiring process is an excellent opportunity to increase diversity, inclusion within safety. If you hire that safety specialist who has only ever focused on OSHA regulations and that’s all the certifications you want, maybe you want to kind of broaden their search a little bit. I think the interview process is an excellent opportunity for sure. And I think the element I would add is also really reflecting on other unintended and you’ve touched on it, but are there unintended biases that are in this election process? Right. So, there was this this famous study that was done in a symphony where they were always getting men through the selection process and then they put a screen. You could only listen to the music. And suddenly, that shifted dramatically in terms of their hiring practices and the diversity that came in. So, are there some unintended consequences even in some of the screening questions that we’re asking or like you talked about in terms of your prior experience, that that maybe limits how much how much diversity you were getting at the table? Absolutely. No, you are one hundred percent. Right. Some organizations have taken to removing names from resumes. And because we do pass judgment on that and then I have seen organizations as well who require a diverse interview panel that is a global grade nine, a global grade 11. I would like a female. I would like a male. And I would like somebody who is a director in a completely different culture. And that definitely helps. Certainly, when I’m interviewing, I request somebody from H.R., I request somebody inside my function, somebody from outside my function, just whatever I can do to try and squash that bias because it happens. You’re one hundred percent right, Eric? And it’s not something it is not something we have to feel guilty about. It is a natural reaction. We’re just trying to acknowledge that wherever we can acknowledge that bias, which is going to be there, we all have that unconscious bias and kind of circumvented or overcome it to make sure we’re getting that top candidate. So, I think the hiring process, whether it’s for safety professionals or for operations professionals, is an excellent opportunity to seek those individuals who will bring that diverse perspective to. And we all have a diverse perspective. Right. That’s the concept of diversity. I think the other hot spot that we can look at and make sure that we’re increasing diversity, inclusion within safety is just pause and take a moment and look around during your investigations, during your risk assessments, during your business reviews. Who is physically at the table, perhaps prior to covid, who’s sitting against the wall, who maybe have the opportunity to speak but elected not to? You would be shocked at the number of people who have some outrageously beneficial effect to share, who for one reason or another do not. And so, there’s two anecdotes that that come to mind. The first one is that a previous organization, we made it a point when we’re developing corrective actions to bring facilities engineering in the early on, don’t develop the crash and then go to facilities, engineer and bring them in early on and help them help them help us. And one particular individual from an entirely different industry brought forward a completely different approach. Whereas we were looking at which I will admit we were looking purely at administrative controls can we do to change the process and we have to hold employees accountable. What can we do? And finally spoke up and said, you know, there’s a technology that does this and we all just kind of looked at each other. He said the manufacturer makes it like, holy cow. How could we miss something like that? We have combined years’ experience in the room. You know, who knows how much. And here this new guy has been for under a year, like, you know, we could stop. And so that’s certainly confirmed that our approach was bringing in. Were you whereas you wouldn’t think to necessarily bring in a facility engineering resource that early into your actual development? Wow. So, it was eternally grateful for that. The other and perhaps more recent and relevant one is around covid. And we all had to be extremely innovative as this pandemic transpired. And so, one particular individual is actually the operations director. We’re sitting here just coming up with these outrageously complex solutions, right? He’s a quiet guy. You know, he’s listening. He doesn’t have his phone. He doesn’t have his computer open. You know, he’s listening, but he’s quiet. And so, we’ll have this back and forth in the room and we have the sightly, what about this and how about this distribution? How do we get the distribution of masks with the different? And he said, well, why can’t we just use this as a kiosk? And we all just kind of look at each other and it was this moment of. How did we miss such a simple solution right now and maybe we’re all tired, we’re all tired, but oh my gosh? And I tell you what, this particular this director, time and time again, just kind of wait for that small lull in your conversation or just drops a bombshell and you just look around like, wow. And so, I, I will tell you, that is the kind of person when you talk about increasing diversity, inclusion, I every opportunity I have is one of the first people I call to get to join my tiger team to join an investigation, because I know almost every time you bring a different perspective to the table. Love it, and I think you’ve shared such a critical message and unfortunately, we don’t hear this enough, but really tangible kind of ideas and perspective, it’s really about getting more perspectives, more eyes, more lenses at the table and making people feel welcome included both in terms of who you’re bringing on your team, but also who you’re bringing in to solve different problems. I think this is such a critical component. And as I said before, my frustration is the amount of talk in the lack of action and tangible results in it. And it sounds like you’ve driven the action, and you’ve seen the results from it, which I think is phenomenal. And I can only implore others to do the same to experience because I would agree with you that is so critical and to get the last layer of improvement. So, thank you so much for coming to share your ideas, your insights and some of the results you’ve had, frankly, by bringing that diversity, that inclusion to your teams. Any closing parting thoughts you’d like to share? This is a lot. Again, there’s so much data out there, but it starts with just these small steps. It starts with looking around the room. It starts with when you go to kick off the investigation, you look around those who are gathered around the incident location just to make sure it’s those small things. This is not going to change overnight or you demonstrated the more others around you will emulate it. And it’s just those small things that end up kind of snowballing and making a huge difference. I would agree. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this and wishing you continued success and in the impact, you’re having around safety, but also in sharing this message, which is so critical. Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me here. Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your team. 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Bryce Griffler, CSP, M.Eng. is an Environmental, Health, & Safety Professional and Thought Leader with a background in heavy manufacturing and warehousing. Bryce considers himself a “recovering engineer” after serving in engineering roles for 6 years. He prides himself in his ongoing advocacy for stronger inclusionary practices within organizations, helping to improve the bottom line, employee engagement, and even safety performance and culture.

Bryce gains additional practical work experience through teaching American Red Cross and National Safety Council Lifeguarding, CPR/AED, First Aid, and first Responder Courses. He also serves as the Membership, Awards & Honors, and Nominations & Elections Chair(s) of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) Emerging Professionals Common Interest Group (CIG). Bryce loves cruise vacations, and has a love-hate relationship with running. Bryce holds a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia and a Master of Engineering in Advanced Safety Engineering & Management from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.