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Ergonomics as a Lever to Improve Safety, Quality, Productivity, and Employee Engagement with Carrie Taylor

Ergonomics as a Lever to Improve Safety, Quality, Productivity, and Employee Engagement

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According to OSHA, implementing an ergonomic process is effective in high-risk industries and increases productivity. Join our conversation with professional ergonomist Carrie Taylor to learn the many benefits of ergonomics in improving overall safety, quality, productivity, and employee engagement in the workplace. Tune in to learn strategies to drive impact and success in implementing proper and safe ergonomics within your organization!

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. Michrowski, 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 a globally recognized ops and safety guru, public speaker, and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy’s success story begins now.

Hi, and welcome to The Safety guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Carrie Taylor. Carrie is a certified Ergonomist with 30 years of experience in the space, heads a firm called Taylor Ergonomics. Carrie, welcome to the show.

Thank you.

So, maybe why don’t we get started with a bit of background in terms of ergonomics and how it helps safety, maybe as a starting point.

Sure. Ergonomics is thought of as the art and science of fitting work to people. Most Ergonomists have studied Kinesiology, sometimes psychology. There’s another branch of ergonomics that deals with more cognitive capabilities. But the area where I practice is mostly biomechanics. So, we’re looking at physical size and strength of workers and trying to make sure that workplaces are built with those capabilities in mind.

Sure. And so, what are some of the main benefits of looking at ergonomics in a workplace? And what environments would benefit the most from an ergonomist?

So mainly, ergonomists are employed in the safety sector trying to attack the musculoskeletal disorders or strain sprain injuries that occur in the workplace. So, a good chunk of those, often about half of workplace injuries are related to that mismatch between workers and jobs and creating those musculoskeletal injuries. So, we are often brought in to help with trying to address those injuries. So, in terms of which environments benefit more, I think anyone who’s in a workplace who’s uncomfortable is probably subconsciously thinking about ergonomics and how could I make myself more comfortable. I spent most of my career working with manufacturing, healthcare, offices, distribution, areas where people are working in jobs that are either heavy or repetitive or awkward. Those kinds of hazards are the ones that we’re typically trying to tackle.

Obviously, work environments where it’s repetitive, that makes a lot of sense. What about environments where the work is different? I’m thinking, for example, utility workers that are not in a safe environment day in and day out but are dealing with lifting, they’re moving things, they’re going up holes, so there’s different hazards, or even fireman in terms of coming in and out. What are some of the applications in those environments?

Those are important jobs where economics needs to be considered. They’re much more difficult for us to assess because those things aren’t happening all the time, so they’re harder to see and they’re harder to measure. And it’s harder to wrap your head around how we can fix something that doesn’t happen all the time. But they’re very important hazards to address. Sometimes we can take a different look at them and say, okay, well, maybe it is causing people to be uncomfortable, but maybe there’s other problems that are associated with the mismatch between the worker and the workplace that we can tackle, such as maybe they’re not able to keep up with the pace of… They expect the pace of work, or maybe they’re not able to produce the quality of work that the employer expects.

You’ve recently done some work and some research around linking ergonomics to quality and productivity. Can you share a little bit more in terms of how ergonomics can impact broader organizational metrics such as quality and productivity?

I think it’s important for us as autonomous to start thinking about how else we can cost justify improvement. One of the challenges we find is that there are some cost benefit analysis tools out there that might look at if you’ve got a back injury, it’s costing the organization this many dollars. And so therefore, if you prevent that back injury, you’re going to save money over the long run. But what we recognized was that those tools don’t do a good job of estimating the other benefits that ergonomics interventions might have. So, they can’t really help you to say, okay, well, if I improve the quality of work on this job because the person is not working in this awkward sustained posture anymore, how much money will I save the organization by doing that, or if I’m able to make them a little bit faster. So, part of our research project was we wanted to be able to try and build a better tool for factoring those costs in, particularly where the injuries haven’t happened. Maybe they haven’t happened yet because it’s a new facility, or maybe they haven’t been attributed to a specific job because maybe there’s job rotation, or it’s just difficult to get those stats.

But most of the tools that are available only work if there’s injury cost that you can grab onto. And so, we wanted to build a tool through our research project that would help economics and safety professionals and whoever else is trying to implement an economic improvement to capture those other costs and try to build those into a cost justification case.

What are some of the things that an organization can look like in terms of driving the quality productivity, linking it back to to economics? Because I would imagine it can get into a workstation design if you’re in manufacturing in terms of perhaps less movement, more sustainable movements, which can also demonstrate productivity gains. If I’m thinking of, for example, an automotive, it’s very easy to show that shaven a second, or not easy, but once you shave a second, there’s a significant impact on the full production line. So, all of these pieces, is there environments where they have looked at that linkage between quality, productivity, and economics?

There’s a ton of research out there that look at specific case studies and where they’ve been able to make an improvement and capture some cost. But there isn’t a paper that helps you figure out how to do that in your own organization. I can give you three examples where we try, maybe not quantitatively, but that people will be able to relate to. As a quality example, I spent years looking at a job, looking at it, meaning I walked by it and I saw it and I knew it was a problem, but there weren’t injuries there. The job involved inspecting a part. The part was a flat piece that had contours on it, and the worker was responsible for inspecting grooves that were horizontally oriented on the top of this part. So, in order to see the grooves, they had to see if there were components in them and if they were properly placed. In order to see the grooves, they either had to bend over the part on the conveyor as it moved by, or they had to lift the part up and re-orient it so that they could see inside the grooves. Because while they were standing, there was no possible way for them to actually see the components.

So, I knew that there was a lot of neck bending. I knew that they were lifting this part unnecessarily, but there wasn’t a case for it. I couldn’t say there’s a high risk of injury. They were rotating, so they weren’t there all day. And so, after years of saying, why can’t we tilt this conveyor? I just want to tilt this conveyor. And apparently that was a big deal. And the engineering manager said, I carry, we don’t need to. There’re no injuries. It’s not important. I walked into the quality manager, and I said, I think they could do a lot better job of this inspection if the part was tilted towards them. And he said, oh, you know what? We’re actually spending X number of thousands of dollars a month to have a person at our customer’s site, reinspecting those parts because they’re slipping by. I’m like, Wow. After all these years, I just wasn’t talking to the right person. I think that was an example where we could make a big impact if we had just been working with quality more closely and trying to help them understand where it’s a human capability that we’re not designing for. So that was one example. A productivity examples. I’ve been working with a client who has a lot of people doing grinding. So, they’re grinding off long tubes, and its super quality sensitive. So, there’s never going to be a quality issue because they’re going to keep working at it until it’s perfect. So, it’s inspected all the time. But the cost of that quality is that the job is very demanding. So, they’re bending over, they’re running this grinder, they’re pushing really hard. It’s awkward, it’s forceful, and they do it for long periods of time. And so, we started looking into, well, are there better abrasive materials that they could use on these grinding guns that maybe you wouldn’t have to push as hard? And so, we started looking for that, and we brought in some vendors, and they tried some new products, and we found some abrasive materials that reduced the amount of time that it took for them to grind the tubes. And it also took less effort, so they didn’t have to push as hard on the tool. So, we were able to make an economic improvement that had a big impact on the workers’ comfort, but also had a big impact on their productivity because they were able to do the job in less amount of time.

Again, there’s a productivity example, but it wouldn’t have any effect on the quality. The quality was going to be perfect either way because we were going to inspect it and keep doing it until it was right. And the third area where we’re trying to have an impact outside of musculoskeletal disorders is an employee engagement. So, what happens when an employee is working in an uncomfortable position for long periods of time, or they’re doing something that’s heavy and awkward and they’re at risk of developing an injury, they start to become disengaged. They’re not able to work as effectively. They aren’t as happy to be at work. If they’re in customer service, it probably affects their interaction with the people that they’re talking with, their customers. So, I see this right now as a huge opportunity, I guess, for people who are implementing remote work programs. So, in an office environment, we’ve done, to date, a pretty good job of building furniture that’s adjustable. So, we’re sitting in good chairs. Our lumber back is supported. The screens are all height adjustable. The keyboards are adjustable. We’ve gotten to a good point in economics in office environments. But now we send people home and they want to be home, so they’re not going to complain about the work environment.

And so, we’ve been starting to do virtual office assessments for people working in their home offices, and they’re required to send us in a video so that we can see what they’re doing before we work through an assessment with them on a video chat. And what we’ve seen is abominable. People are working at kitchen tables on wooden chairs or on a sofa with a TV table and their arms are fully outstretched. And I think if their supervisors could see them, if we had all these people in an office working in these clusters, we would be awestruck. We would say there’s no possible way that they could work productively in that environment and be engaged and work effectively. But it’s happening and it’s happening all over the place. And I think that eventually these people are going to be in so much pain that they’re not going to be able to get anything done. So, I think there’s another huge opportunity for us there is to try and think about how are we expecting people to work when they’re in a home office environment? And how can we optimize that? How can we help them to be working in an economic environment?

So, I think those are really good examples. I think the first two, really for me, sent a message that it should be ideally part of a continuous improvement process that’s part of quality management, where people are looking at it both from a safety standpoint but also how do I improve the quality of the product that I’m delivering and really looking at it holistically because it sounds like from the opportunities you have or you’ve seen, it’s not just a cost benefit analysis, it’s also how do we improve the overall workflow so that the worker is happier, safer, but also delivering to a better outcome with its quality of productivity.

Yeah, absolutely.

What can safety organizations do to get closer? Because that tends to be a challenge in many organizations. The two parts are separate, even if there’s a lot of connections. Have you seen some areas of success around this?

I think we must work more closely with engineering. If there is a continuous improvement, a Six Sigma, a Lean program that we need to reach out to those people and offer to collaborate because the problems that they are working on probably are the same types of problems that we’re working on. I think in Canada, most autonomous come in through the safety door. When I’m called for an economic consulting project, it’s usually HR or safety that’s calling me. But we also get calls from engineering. When we’re getting calls from engineering, we know that those changes are going to be implemented because it’s in the engineer’s interest to try and optimize the design of the work. I think with safety, it’s harder because they’re reliant on legislation or injuries in order to be able to justify a change. So, an employer might make a change because it’s the right thing to do. But if it’s an expensive change, it becomes more difficult to justify. Sure.

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Your last example, the one around the economics from home, I’ve seen a lot of organizations implement that at the front end of COVID when people were sent home to do some ergo checks at home because as you mentioned, a lot of people didn’t have the right office environments for it. I think you bring up a good point that people are happy being at home, so they may not necessarily report the discomfort until it’s too late and becomes a significant issue, what are some of the things that organizations can do to get ahead of this? So, you mentioned doing the ergo assessment. I’ve seen some organizations do virtual ergo assessments, not necessarily even with an Ergonomics, but just to show me your workstation, not in a negative way, but just to say, okay, let’s understand what you have and say what you need to invest in your work design to be more productive. Tell me a little bit about some of the things you’ve seen in that area.

I think it’s important to provide employees with training so that they’re able to set up their workstation, but also the resources that they need. So, a lot of employers allowed people to take stuff home from the office at the beginning of COVID, so people brought their chairs home. They might have brought their… If they had a sit stand desk, I know some people have been allowed to take that home, but we need to make sure that people are able to work in a decent posture and get some posture changes during the day and that they feel that if they have a problem, they can reach out and get some help for it. And some organizations offered a budget, so they would say, okay, here you can have $1,000 a year for wellness. But they gave so much flexibility around how that money could be spent that people would spend it on yoga classes and things that are valuable but they’re still sitting on the sofa and working on the TV table. So, I think it needs to be a priority. I think at the beginning, we thought this was temporary, right? So, we all just did what we could to get through it but now it’s become permanent, and I think we can’t have people working at the dining room table permanently.

It’s interesting because a lot of the tools, even standing desk, have become much more affordable for home office compared to before. Because if you think about the ones in the investment and incorporating competent environments that used to be incredibly expensive, but now they’re available in a very tight budget, even in many cases, where there’s different modular elements that people can create. There’s a lot more options.

Yeah, there is. There’s a lot of products on the market that I wouldn’t recommend as well. A lot of the sit stand desks don’t go low enough for most people. It’s like anything, I guess, supply and demand. There are suppliers out there that are producing cheap quality products that when you buy it, you’re going to be disappointed. But by and large, there are some good products that have come down a lot in price as well. So, it’s become a lot more practical to set up a decent home office.

Sure. Thank you for sharing. You had some good examples in terms of connecting with different parts of the business in terms of how ergonomics has a bigger, broader impact than just on safety. One of the key elements, obviously, in terms of driving safety, but also ergonomics is a supervisor. Tell me a little bit about some of the strategies that can empower supervisors to have a great impact around ergonomics.

We found that supervisors are the middlemen between the workers that know the jobs and management who know the organization but might not have their feet on the floor as much. When we approach organizations trying to look for opportunities to improve ergonomics, we try to approach the supervisors and get some time with them. They’re busy but try to get some time with them to try and understand where the opportunities might be. So, we ask them about what jobs people are trying to post out of. So, if there’s a job that it’s an entry level job and the first opportunity people want out of it, that’s probably a job where there’s economic issues because there’s a reason why people want out of them. And we ask them, where do the mistakes happen? So, if there’s a quality issue, if a defect gets out of your department, or people are making mistakes, or if they’re missing things when they’re inspecting, where is that happening? Because again, perhaps it’s because the job isn’t designed well for them. Where do bottlenecks happen? So, if people are standing around waiting for somebody to finish something, who is it and what are they doing?

Because that might be another opportunity for us to try and fix things. And if there is a job where people are most likely to call in sick, which job is it? That day that such and such a schedule, all of a sudden, you’ve got three people absent and you’ve got to try and cover that. A lot of times, absenteeism is really a better indicator of the ergonomics issues than WSIB type of stats. Those are kinds of things that supervisors will have a better sense of, perhaps in the HR Department or the manager in the department because they are the ones who are having to try and solve those problems.

Absolutely. The other part you mentioned earlier is you did the research project trying to look at quality and economics and productivity and trying to find some of the linkages. Can you share a little bit about some of the findings and learnings from that project?

Yeah. We had a project set up that was partially funded by Sonami, and we were doing it in conjunction with college. Our original goal was to try and find partners, industry partners that would allow us to try to cost justify an ergonomics improvement that they were already working on for another reason, but try and do that based on quality, productivity, and employee engagement metrics. So, the first interesting piece that we learned was that it’s hard to get industry partners to sign up for those kinds of things. Most of our contact people are HR and safety, and so the idea to them, the idea of trying to reach out to their quality and their production people was maybe overwhelming. I don’t know. We don’t really know why we had so much trouble, but we didn’t manage to get enough industry partners to do the project the way we had originally planned to. So that was interesting. So, we pivoted and decided, okay, instead of trying to apply a cost benefit analysis tool, let’s try to build one, build a spreadsheet, and build training around how to use it. So that’s what we did. We created a course for engineers, safety, and ergo people that would help them to identify and quantify those improvements in productivity, quality, employee engagement, so that they’d be able to cost justify an ergonomics improvement.

So, we created this one-day course, and we piloted it. It went really well, so we’re going to be running it again. But it was essentially, we taught them about some of these Lean and Six Sigma tools because part of our research team had some expertise in that area. And then we helped them to apply it and helped them to try and mock up and quantify what would happen if you changed this. So, we used a board game operation, and we helped participants to see, okay, well, I can see that this is an ergonomics issue. If you’ve played the game operation, you know that it involves bending and holding tweezers, and it’s repetitive. And so, we created this situation where they had to quantify what the problems with that were and how productive a surgeon would be in that job and what quality issues, so how many times they hit the buzzer when they were trying to remove the organs. And then we were able to mock up in the workshop some improvements. So, we gave them the ability to change the working height and the reach and lighting and tools and all kinds of things and then mock up and quantify.

And so, it’s through that process of experimentation that they were able to actually put some numbers to how the how the surgeon felt about the job. So, what engagement effects would we have? And how productive was he or she? And how many times did they hit the buzzer or drop an organ when they were transferring it? And so, we were able to build a little spreadsheet that would quantify all of that and help to cost justify an ergonomics improvement using those other metrics. So, we’ve been trying to use it when we have the opportunity within our practice, and we’re looking for obviously more opportunities to use it more and fine tune it. But it’s got a lot of promise, and I think that’s the way we want to go in the future to try and help clients cost justify their ergonomics.

Improvements. sounds good. So, Carrie, thank you for sharing a lot of insights across the spectrum for economics. Important elements from a consideration in terms of safety programs, in terms of where to eliminate, where to go find some opportunities. I’d like your comments around the supervisors and all the way down to home offices and some of the opportunity’s organizations have to make sure that people are working in the right work environment. So, thank you so much for joining me today, Carrie. If somebody wants to get in touch with you. What’s the best way to do that?

Probably through our website, TaylordErgo.com.

Sounds good. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day.

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 teams, elevate your safety. Like every successful athlete, top leaders continuously invest in their safety leadership with an expert coach to boost safety performance. Begin your journey at execsafety coach. Com. Come back in two weeks for the next episode with your host, Eric Michrowski. This podcast is powered by Propulo Consulting.

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Carrie Taylor, M.Sc., CCPE, CPE, R.Kin., Principal Ergonomist

Carrie Taylor launched Taylor’d Ergonomics Incorporated in 1995, after working in the field for several years. Carrie holds an undergraduate degree in Human Kinetics, and a Master of Science degree, both from the University of Guelph. She has attained professional ergonomics certification in Canada (CCPE) and the United States (CPE), and she is also a Registered Kinesiologist. Carrie has experience in many industries, including automotive parts and assembly, food processing, small motors, offices, chemical processing, airlines, nuclear, health care, and many more. Carrie is based in our Cambridge office.

Taylor’d Ergonomics is a team of ergonomists, spread between London and the Greater Toronto Area. Our ergonomists enjoy developing and facilitating training, tackling challenging client projects, and supporting regular ongoing clients with ergonomics programs. Projects include physical and cognitive demands analyses, design reviews, office assessments, best practices and, of course, cost-justification projects.

For more information: www.TaylordErgo.com or email [email protected]  

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Safety Participation and Worker Involvement: Driving Leaps in Performance with Ken Woodward

safety participation and worker involvement driving leaps in performance

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Ken Woodward was involved in a chemical explosion at work that resulted in the loss of his eyesight, smell, and taste. Rather than talking just as a victim, he embraces what can be learned from the incident that cost him three of his senses. In this episode, Ken stresses the importance of all team members working together equally to target zero damage to people, equipment, products, and finances. There’s not just one driver to workplace incidents; there’s a build-up over time. Tune in to learn how to increase safety participation in the workplace!

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

Hello, and welcome to the Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Ken Woodward. Ken is going to speak to us about a topic that’s incredibly near and dear to me around safety participation, worker involvement. So, Ken Woodward is an officer of the order of the British Empire OBE onfell of Ayosh, as well as the Safety Council of Australia. He’s worked for 32 years in workplace safety in 89 countries following a workplace incident that took place. So, Ken, welcome to the show, really excited to have you with me today. 

I’m looking forward to it Eric. 

So maybe let’s start a little bit about your incident. I want to get into a lot of the work you’ve done around worker involvement because that’s phenomenal, it’s exciting. But let’s start a little bit about your story and the incident that took place that really got you involved in safety to this level. 

Okay. It was November 1990, chemical explosion, caustic and Hypo. I had both eyes removed. I have no sense of smell or taste. Unfortunately, the burns recovered, and my life was saved by a work colleague. And at the time I was working for a leading soft drinks company. I also investigated the loss of my eyes, how it happened, why it happened, what we didn’t do, what failed, all the lists of whys, why’s wise, but to the workplace for a very good reason. 

So, one of the things when we first connected that you talked about was that everyone could have prevented this. Tell me a little bit more about kind of the whys you went through and that observation around everyone could have. 

Prevented what happened in that investigation. I realized that it was a process that I never attempted before. So, I found the most experienced person to train me to show me how to do it. Now this guy had 58 years experience, but it was inadequate training. We didn’t validate the training, we didn’t validate the competency of the trainers, the risk assessments, the standard operating procedures. We didn’t do any of that because it’s a very simple task, it takes three minutes, and it happens thousands of times every year. So, we didn’t do that. But there was a previous incident two weeks earlier, same task in the same place. There was exothermic reaction, and he burned his face and he had to go to hospital two weeks prior. 

Wow. 

Yeah, two weeks prior. That was reported immediately and investigated by the front-line manager. His condition was operator error. He must have been. So, we have a breakdown of communication and listening. We didn’t communicate with anybody. Eight weeks before that, there was a heating up of hot pipes. There were lots and lots of circumstances where compliance to systems, procedures and processes would have highlighted it all if we’d have adhered to it, sure. But we didn’t. We’re very busy people, lots of pressure to get the job done. Normal everyday occurrences throughout the world. It is no different. 

Yeah. 

Very common.

We manage those that makes a difference. So, there was lots of circumstances. Five different departments, a couple of managers. I just picked five different departments, all of them really? And then there’s a lot of fingers pointing afterwards. There’s a faint mistake because there’s not just one driver to these incidences. There’s a build up, of course. And that build up may take an hour, it may take a year, but the flags are waving. And we had nothing in place. We had no communication of the importance of flagging these up in place. And this is in 1990. If I shared the stats with you, they would frighten you. But nobody knew them. 

Nobody? 

Nobody. I only found out afterwards. 

It wasn’t discussed, it wasn’t reviewed?

No, nothing. If we got to hear about anything that happened on our C-Suite, and you would never find out how it happened. 

Wow. 

So, in that sense, and yet when you look at it, our topic is zero. 

Sure. 

No damage to people. Equipment, vehicles, property, product, environmental, finance. Every single employee around the world manages all of those to a lesser or greater degree. So, it’s in our own interest for everybody to work together equally to target that zero. 

Right. 

But do we know how well that zero is doing? Probably not. And we most certainly don’t make sure it’s happening. 

Sure. 

So, it’s all of those elements I picked up. And I also had to go to a rehabilitation center for a year where I learned the art of communication and listening. More importantly, working together equally as a team and compliance. That’s just for me to be a blind person, to go out into a cited world. There are four major factors. I can never drop the standards as I will get hurt. 

Right. 

Or it would become very inefficient. So, my life is based on those four standards, and I took those four standards into the workplace. 

Okay. 

Now, the best way I can explain this, in 1990, we had 89 reported lingers to the government who want fatality. Ten years later, I spoke to thousands of people that I work with within the organization six major sites, watch long solutions to put it right, how are we going to achieve it, and what support do you require from your management team to do to reach those objectives? Ten years it took to get to no reportable injuries to the HSE? 

None whatsoever. 

None whatsoever. We had 13 lost time injuries. The most was two days. That’s for thousands of people. 

Right. 

We produce more, and we made the most profit we’ve ever made. 

So, tell me a little bit about that approach to worker involvement, because I think that’s a key component in terms of how you get the workforce involved in safety. Tell me a little bit more about tactically, how you went about it. 

Okay. We pulled together the executive board, the vice presidents, and we fed to them the facts. 

Okay. 

We showed them where we think we could get to. So how you can measure us. If you want to make it a KPI, that’s fine. Don’t have a problem with it. But do we have the right management system in place? Did our international safety rating system work? So, we pointed out that you may have thought we were doing a brilliant job, but we put all the facts on the table, and then we showed them how we can start to improve it. And we did say it would take a long time, and we need the full support of the vice president of manufacturing and distribution. 

Okay. 

And we want that support to be personal and on site. We created a workshop with the vice presidents. We wanted them to come up with how they’re going to do it, how they’re going to support us at no cost. We will also have no cost to reach those improvements. We don’t need money off you, because the people that can do it are the workforce. They know what’s wrong. They know the solution to put it right. They know how to do it. But we need your support to achieve it. And it’s got to be personal. So, I don’t want you to pick up a KPI, go out and check it or do an audit, go out and check it. I don’t want any of that. Just want you to go along and say, how’s it going? How’s this work? How’s that working? Keep it calm and quiet. We also put an observation process in place so that we could observe compliance. Now, that’s quite difficult to put into any company because a lot of our employees thought it’s Big Brother. 

Sure. 

Absolutely. We’re being watched. We’re going to get in trouble. So, we had to make sure that we gave an overview to every single employee in this country on why we’re doing it and what to expect. And if you don’t get any of that, here’s the number, phone me, and I will work with you to put that right. 

Sure. 

So, we gave them the support. 

Okay. 

And then after a period of time that started to die away. In fact, it didn’t die away. It started to develop because we then put it into Lucky way of explaining it. If you were to go to anybody on a shop floor and say, your son and daughter is going to do your job tomorrow, what would you warn them about? Open up the gold dust. Let’s hear it now. How would you prevent that? We’re now starting to move to the next level of continuous improvement. 

Sure. 

So, then it became everybody’s job to do that, including the vice presidents. They could do it any way they wanted to. We looked at our audit system and we looked at we asked people, you have audits for housekeeping? They said yes. Who does them? The management. How often? Well, they didn’t know the answer to that half the time. Do you ever get feedback from that? Never. Okay, if you have a VIP visit, do the standards of Housekeeping go up? Well, we’re going to know the answer because of course they do. We cleaned everything. So, we just proved to our senior team that, okay, that’s just one audit, one KPI, whatever you want to call it, that we know the answers because it keeps highlighting them. Every week we do them, which takes 157 managers that do it an hour or two to do it. We’re wasting time. We know the answers already. How do we develop that? And we develop self management teams. So, the areas that they work in, they managed. They also then continuously improved on that, where they would manage compliance. It doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter if we had the Queen to visit, she had to wear the hair net, the hard hat, if she had to, the gloves and the safety boots. 

So, it really was they were testing us to make sure we meant it and we were managing them to make sure we mean it. So, work together equally as a team. We’re fully unionized, right? So, I asked every member, every convener, every union member, tell me what’s wrong, and then I asked all of them, how many of you ever go across and do anything about it? Right. Not one. So, in all fairness, we’re almost as bad as each other. So, we said, let’s just work together on this. We then asked them later on to set the standards for noncompliance so we could all manage it together, so we could communicate and inform people we have agencies, we have tenants, so that we could actually say, look, you have to wear those, or if not, we won’t produce. We’ll stop work, right? You’re not going to mess it up for us. So, they immediately followed it and they managed each other. So, it became self managed in teams. They then took over the reporting of incidents, hazards, minor injuries. They then set a target to measure 87%, close to closure at source. We didn’t do it.

The workforce did it, right? So, everything became I mean, I can say it now simple, but it took seven years, I’m sure, of running against a brick wall. We had to keep breaking down, going over it, round it and under it to show. We really do mean it, but we could never have done it without the full support of the senior team, of course. And it was tough for them, I’m sure. 

So, you talk about these self managed teams, which is a great concept. I’m assuming that during that ten-year period, there were some leadership changes that took place. How did the approach work through these leadership changes? Sometimes new leaders come in with new perspective, new ideas. How do you manage through that? 

We had a new CEO come over, but during those ten years, there’s a guy called Bob Cameron. He was Vice President of Manufacturing distribution. He was there the whole time. In fact, we both left in 2010, years after we started. We both left together. 

Okay. 

See, I left Coke in 2001. Of the reasons we left was we were making much better profits and everybody was going home alive and with their bids. 

Right. 

And I was getting invites from major companies in the UK. I went over to America in 97 to lay out the pathway that we’ve taken, because they’re really interested in how we do it. 

Sure.

And what I got at the time was where our culture is different. It is not different. We all go to work to earn money, to support our families and our hobbies.

Right. 

We all do it worldwide. We can make excuses that makes it different, or we can make assumptions that our people are different. No, they’re not. 

Right. 

Once we raise the understanding of why we’re doing it and the simplicity of it, it’s so much easier. 

Right. 

But it is important. And I’m glad you’ve mentioned that now, because within this week, I found out now there’s new people there, and it is incredibly different to what it used to be. It is very easy to spoil it because people have their own ideas. 

Exactly. And they’ve seen something that worked elsewhere, and they think it’s going to work, and sometimes it doesn’t make it better. You talked about the ten-year journey, the first ten years. 

Yes. 

What about the next ten years? So, you left in 2000. What happened in the next ten years? Because it’s still endured. 

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Yes. I went back about 20 days for quite a number of years. 

Sure. 

It just improved. And then we got major companies in the UK going to see our companies over here. How are you doing it? We used to issue them with little booklets that said, as we take you around our sites, we want you to look for things that are wrong. Please write them down and give them to the director of the site. Right. But we want you to manage it straight away if it’s dangerous. Right.

Even a visitor, somebody who doesn’t know. 

The plan this is near the sites at all. 

Love it. 

So that’s what they did. And that has been kept up now for decades and it’s done by the workforce. We have contractors coming in and we would manage filler operators and line operators to manage the permit trees because it’s happening in their area. So, if they haven’t got their correct PPE on, they would give it to them. The supervisor will put it into the system and Coca Cola would charge the company for the personal protective equipment that they didn’t bring with them. But that was all done before they arrived. They knew that would happen. 

Sure. 

That’s part of the agreement. So, they managed them. And if they wanted to do anything or go anywhere, that was the agent for that contractor for that amount of time that they were there. So, everything went through the operator.

I love the fact that this endured well over ten years after you’d left. You’re still coming in and out, but the ability for this to be sustained on an ongoing basis is the hardest part. 

Yes. How do you get better and start managing our road footage? You start making sure that they don’t use their mobile phones. They put them into boxes underneath the car seats and that’s the only way you can start your engine, so the phone is locked away. 

Sure. 

You make appointed times that you go to stop, take the phone out and make the calls. Does anything come up? Do I need to go anywhere? These are all designed by the workforce. 

Sure. 

Simplicity and efficiency. And I don’t know the answers, but I know we can go to find them. 

Right. 

We got those answers. We cascaded into the workforce for their agreement. So, when we rolled it out, no pushback. 

No surprise there. I’ve had guests share. Dr Josh Williams came and shared a little bit about how an observation program designed by the workforce had seven times more participation than one that was designed by a consultant coming in to say, this is the best way to do it. And some additional examples where workers were involved and consulted in how to run a tailboard. Significant more involvement in participation because it’s theirs. So, time and time again, the numbers, the stats show that self employed participation and safety is so critical but often miss. What you’re talking about is really total worker involvement in participation in safety, which is phenomenal. 

I was asked by a world leading company once it’s out in the Far East. He didn’t believe the safety stats on some of the platforms under, so he asked me if I go out. I had to get paid in the dunking of the helicopter and all that to get my ticket to go out and I went straight to the rig and started to lost the workforce. And that CEO in that country was absolutely right. His instinct was something’s not right. Sure, the facts, they genuinely were not right. But why? I’ve just mentioned that it’s not because of that. We can manage safety as long as we raise that awareness and understanding of why we’re doing it. We want you to return tomorrow with your bits, we want you to retire with those bits and enjoy your pension. And more importantly, you will be secure in the future of a new people joining you, because that’s where the experience is. Yeah, but what have I learnt on that rig? A guy came up to me and he said, this isn’t safety, but do you mind listening to me? I said, no, not at all. He said, I checked the valves, I’m the supervisor and I have a team of four, and I check all the valves and the ones rusting up. 

I have to with a wire brush, brush off the rest of the valves. Now, there’s thousands of these valves on a rig, so it’s a constant process. It’s like painted a bridge, it never stops. And then painted a different color so that the painters could come round and paint it. So, I said, yeah, okay. He said, well, why can’t I paint it? And I said, It’s a very good question. Why can’t you paint it? He said, well, the painters are contractors, they won’t let us touch the paint. So immediately I thought, all right, can we get a training program so we can train some of these people up? Now, I know this means the painters aren’t going to be too happy about it, but we have a far more efficient way of doing it, because the longest was three years before it was painted. 

Wow. 

So, it’s inefficient, of course. So, they did it and they saved £2 billion that year and reduced risk, in all likelihood, that came from I know it’s nothing at all to do with safety. Yes, it is. It gives us a chance, it gives us money to improve things, so we move on. We don’t want all of it. We want what’s right. 

Yes. 

And we need to tackle that workforce and get them to understand we’re going to listen to you. 

Yes. 

We can’t do everything called wando. It will take time, but we’d like you to prioritize. And we found lots of skilled people that we didn’t know about. They were in a previous life, they were a painter, let’s just say. And we started to look at this and we said, would you like to do it? I put yellow lines around that palletizer, so no forklift truck goes in it without your permission. And it just jumped for it. 

Right. 

So simple stuff, the big stuff. We put in an RFA to the States to get a mezzanine floor across the whole production floor with five production lines on it. I can’t tell you the speed that they travel at, and they have drop down points for the workers. That eliminated for the truck impacts, but that cost 170,000 pounds.

Right. 

But it eliminated all impacts because that 170,000 was just one incident that happened. 

Sure. 

And that’s what it cost the company without the loss of production in the investigation. So those simple things we managed to get done. But they designed it. The people on that site designed their mesome floor. 

Sure. 

And if we had a breakdown in machinery, the site director used to stand on that missing floor with his arms behind his back, telling everybody to get it fixed quick because the workforce told me, so I had to phone him up, say, please don’t do that. They will do it as quick as they possibly can, but I understand why you’re doing it. So, we work together, we spoke to each other, and that is the most powerful thing I have found around the world, no matter what country, what conditions, different priorities, but the same issues. 

Sure. 

How wonderful is that? It’s just managing people, listening to them. 

So where to from here? So, you’ve driven significant improvements sustained for the following ten years. What’s the next level? 

It’s a campaign that’s now probably eight months into it we go 1% more. We’ve got the figures from the UN and from OSHA and HSC and all around the world that have been recorded in fatalities in the workplace, and statisticians have worked out what I’m going to show you now. It’s quite perfect. If all of us worldwide did one thing personally in the next twelve months to improve safety in the areas that we work in, 27,000 people would go home alive. 

Wow. 

I find that quite profound because that’s probably a million odd people attached to all that that are not going to be affected. 

Right. 

We have to go to the workforce now and what I’m going and working with at the moment is the leadership team and the CEOs and the MDS and everybody across the board to let the workforce come up with a remit re improving safety for the next two years. 

Right. 

For a member of the workforce to present it to the board for their agreement, that will show which systems it will fit into. And don’t worry, if the reporting goes up, all we’re doing then is getting honesty. 

Right? Absolutely. 

And how are you going to support them in achieving it? So, we get dual agreement and then that is communicated to everybody in their wage limits so that they know exactly how well we’re doing. 

Right. 

Or if you like, online, so that they get it personally. 

Sure. 

Within that, we’ll be praised for success. No blame for failure. 

Right. 

Because if we have to blame somebody for the health and safety issue, we have all failed. 

Agreed. 

So, Ken, thank you very much for sharing your story. I think incredibly powerful in terms of the work of participation, in terms of self managed teams, incredibly important topics. I love the changes were sustained for significant period of time because sometimes I’ve seen it work for short periods of time with a leadership team that buys in for a period of time until the next one comes in. I think it’s a very powerful story. If you’d like more details, you can go to Ken’s website. Kenwoodward.co.uk K-E-N-W-O-O-D-W-A-R-D.CO.UK Thanks. 

You very much for asking me. It’s been the first time for me and a real pleasure. 

Thank you, Ken. Have a wonderful day. 

Cheers. 

Thank you for listening to the Safety Guru on C-Suite Radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack. Grow your success. Capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Elevate your safety. Like every successful athlete, top leaders continuously invest in their safety leadership with an expert coach to boost safety performance. Begin your journey at execsafetycoach.com. Come back in two weeks for the next episode with your host, Eric Michrowski. This podcast is powerful or by Propulo Consulting.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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Eric Michrowski: https://ericmichrowski.com

ABOUT THE GUEST

Ken Woodward was working for Coca-Cola Schweppes Beverages (CCSB) in November 1990 as a production operative when involved in a chemical explosion, which resulted in the loss of his sight.  With enormous support from CCSB and following months of rehabilitation and re-training with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Ken eventually returned to work.

In 1996 Ken was invited to appear in a Health & Safety Film – ‘Fighting Against Chance’.  As a result the video ‘1 in 1.6 Million’ was also produced and this proved to be a valuable tool in Behavioural Safety training.  The Film was included as part of a training package for CCSB and this, together with Ken’s presence at all training workshops, enabled CCSB to dramatically improve their safety performance over the following few years.

In 1997 requests were received from other companies for Ken to make personal appearances and on each occasion the video ‘1 in 1.6 Million’ was shown.  Since then Ken has evolved into a motivational speaker on Behavioural Safety.

Now an independent consultant, since September 2000 Ken’s ‘Passion for Safety’ has taken him all over the UK as well as internationally.  He has been involved in the production of further health & safety videos   including the bestseller ‘Think What If, Not If Only, [2006] ‘Hindsight’ [updating TWINIO] and most recently [2007] Lessons From a Blind School.

In February 2004 Ken’s work was recognized by The Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) in the

UK when he was made an Honorary Fellow of IOSH.

In June 2006 Ken was awarded an OBE for services to Health & Safety in the Queens Birthday Honours.

In 2008 Ken received the ‘Health & Safety Champion of the Year’ at the Health and Safety Awards for his work with Mace at Heathrow Terminal 5.

London 2012.  Very proud that Ken played a small part in the first fatality free construction of an Olympic Park.

Dec 2015 Ken awarded Honorary Membership NSCA Foundation [Australia].

Contact email: [email protected]

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Stepping Up the Importance of Ladder Safety with Dylan Skelhorn

Stepping up the importance of ladder safety with Dylan Skelhorn

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE: 

ABOUT THE EPISODE

Dylan Skelhorn recalls the unfortunate events that led to his fall from heights. He shares stories of leadership that did not demonstrate the commitment to safety and how it contributed to the choices that led to sustaining serious, life-altering injuries. Far from brushing off the importance of safety ownership, his story speaks to the importance of speaking up and increasing safety awareness and the role leaders have to drive a meaningful impact. Dylan shares great ideas around ladder safety as well as an innovative solution to reduce this critical risk in the workplace. Tune in to listen to Dylan’s important message!

READ THIS EPISODE

Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies, ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost. For the C-suite, it’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized 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 Dylan Skelhorn, who is a safety motivational speaker from the UK, coming to share with us a really powerful story and a powerful story as well in terms of the impact that he’s making in the space around ladder safety. So, Dylan, welcome to the show. 

Hi, Eric. Thank you very much for having me. 

Let’s start maybe if you can tell me a little bit about your story and what transpired. 

So back in June 2011, I had a serious accident which involved a fall from height, and it was 33 from a chimney stack. Now I was standing on the chimney stack sweeping the chimney. It wasn’t really my job. I’d been sent out this day to cover somebody else’s work and I’m up on the chimney stack with no fall protection equipment. And the company I work for, the employer told us basically when I started with the job that we weren’t allowed any safety harnesses or fall protection equipment or anybody who knows ladders. And he had a special dispensation from the UK Health and Safety Executive work at height without safety equipment. Now, I was told that on the first day of going into this job, my job, I was a solid fuel heating engineer. So, I basically installed chimneys, flu stalls. The company was also a roofing company as well. Wasn’t really my thing, but I did do roofing as well for them and labor for the roofers as well. So, most of the work was at a height. And from going to this company on day one, I was showing everything the wrong way. Now, I have been a firefighter for six years before working for this company. 

So, I was used to having Sunday food and my ladder. I was used to working safely, all that sort of stuff coming into this company, it was a totally different safety culture, or they didn’t really have a safety culture. So, the first day on the job, I’m sitting out with the Foreman and I’m told to go up on the roof. I’m told to go that way. And I say, well, can you sue the ladder for me? He basically said, no, we don’t put ladders here. I asked why I was doing it safely in the Fire Brigade and he basically said that the boss is not going to pay for somebody to stand at the bottom of your ladder. And put it well, in his opinion, that person could be somewhere else making more money on another job. So, this worried me. Claiming this ladder. I got the gut feeling in my stomach. I got a little voice in my head, don’t do it. But jobs are quite scarce at the time, especially doing what I was doing. So, I sort of got on with it. And I also asked for a safety harness when working. And this is when I was told by my employer getting one vehicle, a special dispensation. 

Now, it turns out, as I thought, this was complete lies. It didn’t exist. But after the accident, he typed up a fake dispensation, put the Health and Safety Executive name on it, even put an inspector’s name on it saying that we had permission. I then took it to the HSE, and they said, we didn’t issue that. We would never issue one of these to anybody. So, my gut feeling is right, because I still had the accident. So as time has gone on, I was going out to jobs on my own and I was getting scared. Every time I was going up the ladders, we were moving underneath, and I could see them moving. They weren’t safe. It was uneven ground. So, what I started doing was I would get my van and I would park my van in front of the ladder to stop it kicking out at the bottom. Now, we all know that’s not the best, but in my opinion, I thought to myself, it’s better than nothing, you know, the ladder’s not going to move if a van in front of it. Sometimes I couldn’t put the vanilla for obvious reasons, you know, access and stuff like that. 

And when that happened, I would just take the risk. And again, I’m going out nearly every day on my own up these ladders. And I’m getting a gut feeling and I don’t want to do it. And I thought to myself, I need to speak up again. So, I spoke up and I was basically threatened. Losing my job. If you don’t like it, there’s the door. Now, in hindsight, if I could go back to that day knowing what I know now, know what happened to me. I would have walked out the door. I wouldn’t have cared about the money. I’ll get a job somewhere else. The bills might be paid late, but I’ll get a job eventually, right? That wasn’t the way I was thinking. I was thinking, well, you’ve got to pay the bills. And I would try and convince myself when I was claiming these ladders, when I’m getting the gut feeling and when I’m worried, I would say to myself, it always happens to somebody else. It won’t happen to me. I’m only up there for a few minutes. It will be fine. And this is me trying to convince myself that what I was doing was fine, it was safe. 

And like I said, I made the wrong decisions. So, on a daily accident, well, I had actually planned to leave the job. I made a plan. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m going to end up having an accident. So, I plan to leave a job. Now, I know I can just walk out of the job, but we used to get three weeks off for the summer holidays. 

Sure. 

So, we’ll get three weeks’ holiday. So, I will wait till then. It’s only six weeks away. I’ll keep my three weeks’ holiday pay. I’ll go and get a job with another company, a bigger company or a bigger site. Because my thinking is a bigger company, bigger site. If I ask for a safety harness or somebody to put my ladder a piece of PPE for protection equipment, I’m probably going to get it. Not always, maybe. But in general, the bigger companies, and tends to be the way it is. You tend to find a lot of the time the people are taking the most risk of the smaller companies because they think they’ll get away with it. So, this was my escape plan. I’ve got six weeks to work. I’ll just keep my head down. I won’t take any of these risks and I’ll get through it. And in six weeks’ time, I’ll walk out the door and I’ll never have to work like this again. I didn’t like it. Unfortunately, that day never came. As we know, I had the accident on the day of the accident. Like I said, June 20, 2011. I come into work on Monday morning and my boss says to me, John is not done for work. 

He’s on sick. I want you to go out and do the chimney sweeping with another colleague. Now, John was a young lad, he was about 23 and he used to go drinking every weekend and he continued Sunday night. He knew he had work on Monday morning, but he goes Sunday night, gets drunk and he’s fallen in sick. Usually, somebody else would go and do his job for them. I’d be on the more technical side of the chimneys. I was the only heating engineer in the company, so jobs like that never really got given to me. But because we were short staffed this day, I got sent to do this job and my employer insisted on two people sweeping chimneys. One person goes inside the house, deal with the fireplace, and the other person goes up on the roof and sweeps the chimneys from the top down the way. Now, I don’t know how it is in the USA, I presume it’s the same as the UK and the UK. Everybody sweeps a chimney from inside the house and they sweep up the way. So, there’s no work in heat involved. And as you know, if you can eliminate the best for sure, the hierarchy of controls. 

So, I don’t know to this day why my boss insisted on two people sleeping in the chimney and one of those people going up and risking their life, especially when he wasn’t prepared to provide them with a safety harness. But I insisted on it being done. So, unfortunately, this day I was the one. We’ve done about five chimney sweeps throughout the day. I got to lunchtime and this next house after lunch. It was about 15 miles from my house. Local place actually is a place called California, believe it or not, in Scotland, that’s what it’s called. So yeah, I’m up on the chimney stack. I’m sweeping the chimney ever since I signed, and I’ve just finished the job. But because I’m standing on the chimney stack and like I say, I’m not wearing a safety harness. What had happened is the corpse stone on top of the chimney stack had split into four pieces. It was really weak. It turns out the rebar inside it was all rotten. It was about 50, 60 years old and it collapsed. And because I’m not wearing a safety harness, I found the pitch of the roof. I’m approaching the main ladder and as I’m approaching it, I’m thinking I’ll grab on the main ladder when I get to it and that will stop me falling. 

And I’d already tried to grab on the roof ladder, but I couldn’t. I was going too fast and I damaged my fingers on my hand and I hadn’t got anybody sitting this ladder, like I say. And I also hadn’t tied it to the roof ladder. I was told on a ladder, of course, it was sent on with this company for insurance purposes only, not to tie the two ladders together. So, I didn’t do it. I’d always done it in the Fire Brigade for safety. I’ve since found out again that you are allowed to tie your two ladders together. It’s done for safety, you know, again, it was something I was told that wasn’t true. I just listened to it because it was a ladder professional on a ladder course instructor telling me not to do this. And the reason he gave was if you tie the two separately insured pieces of equipment together, you turn them into one piece of equipment. It’s not insured as one piece. So don’t tie them together. Like I say, since asked the health and safety executive, there’s nothing wrong with tying them together. It’s done for safety. If I had tied them together when I was going down that route when I had that ladder, I wouldn’t have felt any further would have stopped. 

The red shade on the roof ladder would have stopped me. But because it wasn’t tied, there was nobody C-suite and I hit it. It went straight over, and I went down from about 33ft on the chimney stack. It was right straight down off the edge of the gutter level and it was about a further 20ft from the gutter to the ground. But I actually landed on a garden wall on my side Castle style wall, you know, with the pillows. One of the pillars caught me under my arm. My arm was over the wall, and it caught me inside where my ribs are. So, I’m lying on the ground in agony. I can only describe it as the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. And I’m lying on the ground. My colleague heard the noise. He came running out of the house. And he says, what will I do? And I said an ambulance. And it was about five minutes until the ambulance came, Thankfully, I’m really lucky now. I actually remember all of a sudden, just the pain leaving me. And I was starting to smile, and I couldn’t understand it. And I asked the doctor when I got to the hospital, why was I smiling that day? 

I was in terrible pain, but then the pain and I was smiling. I was lying, thinking I was dying, but I was smiling. And he said, yeah, you were actually dying. He said, what was happening? It was shutting down. You were going into shock. He says, when you’re about to die, your brain knows before you really know that your body is shutting down. And what it does is releases endorphins. And I find that fascinating. Releases these endorphins, and they’re there to keep you calm because if you go into further shock, your body is just going to shut down and you die. But this apparently buys you a bit of time, so it stops you from thinking bad thoughts, scary thoughts. I’m going to die worrying. It just puts you in that calm place, and it buys you by time, unfortunately for me, because the paramedics got there quickly and the ambulance, he managed to save my life. He worked on me in the garden for about 45 minutes before the stretch of melt ambulance. And then they take me to the hospital. They get the X-ray and scanned. They bring me into the emergency room. 

Now, they puncture my bladder with a catheter by putting it in too hard and too fast. Now, I never damaged my bladder in the accident, but that’s one of the knock-on effects of the accident. When you have an accident, you get all these knock-on effects. And after the X rayed me, they came in with the exit and said that I’d broken two rugs on the right side where I had the wall. They had been punctured my right lung. And that’s why I was struggling to breathe anywhere else on that wall. The source and the impact of having that wall had snapped me into both sides of the pelvis because when I hit the wall, I sort of landed sideways. So, I snapped sideways. The two bones that I broke, one is actually a joint. So, the pubic Remus bone is down near the pubic region. There’s a blood clot in there from the trauma as well as from the blood of damage. There are clothes in there as well. Now if they want to try and remove those, I could end up having to wear a bag on my leg for the rest of my life to go to the toilet. 

It gives me the option; do you want to take this risk? You must sign a form saying that if we damage you down there, there’s no comebacks. You can’t sue us all this kind of stuff and there is a high risk that we may damage you down there. Now, I’ve got enough problems physically as it is, without having to go through that. So, I left it in place. But because I did, the pain is still there and it’s painful constantly down there. The other part on the other side, on the left side that I brought, was a sacral iliac joint, which is between, you know, the big iliac wing on your pelvis. Between that and the secret, which is just a little triangular bone at the bottom of the base of the spine, sort of tailbone right in there between there. I also broke snapped it. So, it’s about half an inch from the spine. So that’s how close I am to being in a wheelchair. If I had that wall an inch or two, either side the wrong way, I would be sitting in a wheelchair right now. Or even worse, if my arm had been inside the wall, I would have smashed my head off the wall, and I’d be lying in a coffin somewhere in a casket. 

It’s not worth thinking about. I just think I’m really lucky. Although I’ve got these injuries and these aftereffects, it could have been so much worse. When you hear people falling under 10ft and the dead, they are the most common deaths because you don’t have time to put your hands down, protect yourself. When I fell, I had time to think about it. I remember going down the road thinking, I’ll grab onto that ladder, it didn’t work. I’ll grab onto this ladder, it didn’t work. Trying to think about it right. In a way, it was probably better for me that day that I fell from a higher rate than a smaller rate. Who knows? Maybe not, but there’s no formula to false, right? That’s the thing. You can’t determine what the injuries are going to be, what the outcome is going to be. I just feel very lucky. 

It’s unbelievable, though, that your employer at the time, because most of the cases or I’ve heard the opposite, the employer is at least putting some preventative measures here. It seems like the employer was willfully lying to try to improve profit. So, from a really horrific safety culture, from what I’m hearing. 

It’s really disgusting what he did. I’m actually the third person to have a serious accident in his company. I’m the third person to be made disabled for life with serious injuries. Now, the first two accidents were before I joined the company and they were never reported to the Health and Safety Executive, and that’s why he got away with those. That’s why the HSE had been in and made him purchase harnesses or closed them down, even if telling me he’s not running a safe company, but because they were never reported, he basically got away with us. So, I’m the sort of person now, if that was me owning a company after the first time it happened, I would have been scared and thought, well, no kidding. Yeah. I’ll never let this happen to anybody again. I’ll buy the right equipment. This guy did not care. And there are people out there like that to this day, running companies that will risk your life for the price of a safety harness, $5100, whatever they are over here. I’ve purchased one for my presentations and it’s like £50.65, $70, nothing. But this guy just doesn’t want to put the money out because to him, we meant nothing. 

And like I say, not every employer you will work for or may work for cares about you. And that’s the thing. You’ve got to make sure that your own personal safety officer first. And I always tell people that I made that mistake, not thinking like that, putting money first. At the end of the day, the money meant nothing. I didn’t earn a lot of money, so why did I risk my life for it? But we do stupid things. 

Yeah. So, touch briefly, maybe on the aftereffect of an accident. You’ve talked about the physical side, but there’s a lot more than you have to live with for several years, for decades. 

Yeah. And I would say the aftereffects of an accident are a lot worse than the accident itself. The accident itself is horrible and it’s traumatic, but it’s over after it’s done. It’s done. It’s the aftereffect. And what you got to live with after the accident. And for me, it will be for life. And I’m sure for most people that have serious accidents and injuries, it will be for life. Every single day of their life will be affected in some way or not just their life. The family, the friends, their colleagues, all these people. Now, I go to the hospital after five days. They said there was nothing else they could do for me because I didn’t want those operations and risk down below. They basically said they were clean breaks; they couldn’t do anything with them. So as long as I could walk on crutches, I could get out of the hospital. So, I chose to go home. But like I said, that’s just the start of it. I’m 40%, disabled, in classes now with degenerative arthritis, my pelvis, my lower back and constant pain every second of the day, especially with the bladder stuff as well. 

So, it follows you every day of your life. Now, I was on 744 pills a month. That was a medication I was taking at the time, 24 pills a day. And some of those pills are not good for you. They make you feel terrible sometimes. You can’t even you’re walking about the house like a zombie, you know, they’re not all good for you. So, I was on noise. I’m off a lot of them, though. They are sort of the worst ones. But I’m still taking a lot of pills for paints and stuff like that. But that’s sort of the physical side of an accident. The obvious part, I would say, since you’d associate with having an accident, the pain, the pills, the physical injuries. But there’s another site unless people have had an accent themselves and they know somebody close to them, accent, there’s another site that they might not know about. And I always try to highlight this and the presentations that I do. I was stopped and followed by an insurance company because I had put a claim in for compensation. So, get something to help me later in life. I was stalked and followed. 

They followed me everywhere. And they do this because they want to catch you doing something you shouldn’t be doing. Show the judge, they throw your case out and you get nothing. So, they spend a fortune doing this. And this is sort of every day you wake up in the morning, you look out the window and there’s a car sitting across the road waiting on you. And if you leave the house, I don’t know if this is the same in the US and other places, but in the UK, this is what happens, and this is what happened to me. And they follow you every day, anywhere you went, surgeon’s appointment, doctor, lawyer, physiotherapy, they would follow you everywhere and they do this, like I said, to try and catch you. And I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But you started becoming paranoid. You think maybe I am doing something wrong, so you tend not to go out now. I had to go out for these main appointments, a lawyer, a doctor, stuff like that because if you don’t, it will be used against you in court. You didn’t try to mitigate your losses and get better, but any other day I just stopped going out. 

I wouldn’t leave the house now. Fortunately for me, I live with my parents at the time and if I didn’t, I would have lost everything. I would have lost my house. If I have had kids and a wife, I would have affected their life. I would have ruined their life forcefully for me. I had my parents put a roof over my head to feed me, put some money in my pocket. Because again, I don’t know how it is in the US, but in the UK, what happened to myself was with the benefits. I think you guys call it welfare. They stopped my benefits money not long after I got a hospital. So, I had no money, nothing to live on. So, if I hadn’t been for my mom and dad, I might have been living on the streets. It does happen to people. So again, I try and highlight that side of the accent and I say to people, you could be at work today and life is good. You’ve got family, you’ve got a nice car, you’ve got a nice house and you have an accident today and tomorrow. The bills aren’t getting paid. 

You only get paid for coming to work for one day. So tomorrow the bills aren’t getting paid. Three months’ time. When you’ve missed three payments on the house, the car, they get taken away. Your family can walk out on you. It happens to people because they can’t handle it. Their life changed. So, all these people that could be affected by your accident, something you do unsafe at work one day, can lead to that. And that’s the knock-on effect. And an accident has a huge knock-on effect on everybody. And like I said, not just the person who has the accident, your friends, your family, your colleagues, the person who was with me on the day of the accident, who was doing the job with me, he left the next day to shock. He was so shocked after what he saw. He saw me lying on the ground dying. 

He basically said to yourself, I don’t want that to happen to me. And he had a family, he had two kids and wife and good on him. I’m glad. And maybe that’s a positive to come from my accent, that he was no longer in danger anymore. He started his own business, and he does everything safe now, so maybe that’s good. My colleagues. The company eventually closed after my accident, about a year or two later, I think it was he who was basically told to purchase the right equipment, the safety harnesses. He did it to comply, but he was still sending people out and telling them to not use it because it takes too long, really. 

We think that at that stage he would have changed his mind. 

Yeah, he didn’t. He just did not care. I’m going to say he was signed, but the company was signed £20,000 a quote, which is maybe, what, $30,000? And he made lots of money, this guy, but he just didn’t care. It was all about making money for his employees. So, I think because he was getting followed by the health and safety executive quite a bit and he was sort of retiring age, he basically closed the company. So, he was saying he had money in the bank, he was retiring age, but he put my colleagues at a job. So, they were affected by my accident. Now, their families were probably affected by that. Now, I don’t even know their families, I don’t know their kids, their partners, but they were affected by that because those people lost their jobs. Whether it was financially, whether it was emotionally, I’m sure it affected those families. Like I say, those are people I don’t even know. So, I’ve affected all these people by doing someone safe at work. So, when I said earlier about think about what it is, you’re doing your own personal safety offer. That’s the way it is. 

You’ve got to be safe first. Look out for number one and then look out for other people. If you see somebody doing something unsafe, speak up. They might not even know they’re doing it. You could stop them from the accident. But the way I should have been working that day was if I can’t do it safely, I’m not doing the job. And money should never come into it. It should never have been on my mind. But that’s life. It’s the way we think at the time, a wonderful thing. But like I said, if I could go back to that day, I’d have walked off the job. I would have walked off the job the first day when I was told to claim that ladder that was unsafe, I really would. 

And how do you help leaders and team members make that same realization? Because you talk about trusting your gut. You also talk about safety as about taking pride in yourself. How do you help leaders and team members really realize that they do need to stop in those cases and really reprioritize? 

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, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered. Visit us at www.propulo.com. 

Well first, before I go into a company and speak for them, I ask them questions. So, do your employees have the authority to stop the job of the task without getting reprimanded, without being threatened myself? If they say no, then I don’t go into that company because my message is a waste of time. That’s part of the message. So, it’s a partnership. So, I basically see in my presentations that the company is allowing you to stop the task. Stop the job. If you do, you will not be shouted up. You will not be threatening to lose your job like me. You may even get a Pat on the back for it. They do not want you to have an accident, but you must meet them halfway. You must speak up now. If a company does that, people are more inclined to speak up now. I spoke up, but when I did, I got shot down, and that meant nothing then because then I didn’t want to speak up because I knew I would get shot down again. I’d lose my job. I’d get lost in my job. So, it’s a two-way thing. It’s a partnership. So, I always like to say and make sure that the company gives the authority. 

And I usually pick out a director, a manager, someday of authority in the audience. And we do arrange us before I ask them if it’s okay to say this again. If they say no, I wouldn’t pull them out. I bring it up and I say, am I right? I’ll see the director. Am I right in saying that all these guys here, these people here have got the authority to stop the job? And they’ll say yes. And I say, see, you’ve heard that. You don’t need to hear it from me. I may never be back here. You’ve heard it from the person at the top. They’re saying you can stop the job. If they’re saying you can stop the job, why wouldn’t you stop the job? And given people that empowerment and that authority to stop a job, knowing in the back of their mind that they won’t be in trouble for it, they are more likely to stop the job. I totally believe that because that’s what happened to me when I tried to stop a job shot down. If you’re not shot down, you’re more likely to speak up. And that’s how you stop accidents. 

Everybody’s got to be on the same team. And there are like I said, there are companies out there that will never allow people to speak up. They don’t have a safety culture, but they are likely never the people that would throw me and ask me to. 

They won’t call you. 

I’ve never heard a company yet say to me, no, no, you can’t say that. I’ve never walked away from a company. So that’s great. I get phone calls from people who want safety in a company. They don’t want accidents happening, which is great. They are the people I want to work with, of course. 

So, what are some of the other messages that you share? You talk about your gut feeling that day and about trusting it. And you talk about really, that safety really reframing what safety is about. 

Yeah. So, going back on what I was talking about, how it can affect not only you, your friends, your family or colleagues, all these people big knock-on effect. Safety for me is about pride and self-respect. Having that pride to stand up and say, that’s not going to happen to me. I’m never going to have an accident. I’m going to go home every single day in one piece, intact, uninjured because I care about my family. I care about the people around me. I care about my children and obviously themselves pride in that self-respect. And I always say that to the people. When I do a presentation, as you walk out of this room with that attitude, thinking I am never going to end up like him, then my accent hasn’t been for one day’s wages being to stop you going through the same thing I go through every single day of my life. And if I stop one person having an accident, then it’s worth it. I’m negative into a positive. Obviously, we don’t want anybody to have an accident. They do happen, as we know. But if it stops, just one person doing it, then I’ve been doing this for seven years now and I intend to do it for as long as I can. 

And if it just stops one person going through what I went through or being killed even or just even a cut finger, then it’s worth doing it because it stopped an injury. 

Exactly.

Obviously, like I said, we hope it’s more than one, but we can only try our best. But that’s the aim. And that’s why I didn’t want my accent to be for one day’s week, because that’s all we come to work for. One day’s wage. If you have an accident today, you may get that money in your bank, but you’re not getting it tomorrow when you’re lying in a hospital bed or you’re lying in a box. So, we only come to work for one day’s wage. And when you look at it like that, one day’s wage is nothing. We put everything on the line every single day to risk everything for one day’s wage. Why risk everything for that? It’s not enough. It never will be enough. A lifetime wage isn’t enough to lose your life or be seriously injured. So why risk it for one day’s wage? And I tell people that as well. Don’t put everything on the line, you know, it’s just a job at the end of the day. Yes, it’s important. It’s how we make a living. But it’s not as important as the things or the people outside of work. That’s why we really go to work, to provide for them, to provide for ourselves, to enjoy life.  

There are many parts of life now that I can’t enjoy and that’s just the way it is. I don’t want other people going through that. So yes, safety is about pride and self-respect. And another message I like to use is the most important piece of PPE is the human brain. The safety harness or the steel toe cap boots. The hive is vest, that sort of stuff. Yeah, they’re important, of course, here. Unless you actually use your brain first to know your stuff, that stuff on or listen to that little voice in your head telling you something like the gut feeling, unless you actually listen to that first and act on that first, you can still have the accent. Doesn’t matter what PPE are, we so the most important piece of PPE as a human brain and I would say also the gut feeling, they call that a second brain. If something isn’t right for you, what I say is stop. Take 5 seconds. Look at it again. If it’s still not right, don’t do it now. It could be 5 seconds, it could be five minutes, it could be 5 hours. We say 5 seconds just to stop and look at it again. 

But however long it takes, if you’re getting a gut feeling or the little voice in your head or just something niggling at you, you don’t feel like doing it. We’ve all heard that. The butterflies in our stomach, we get that for a reason. And if you ever get that when you’re about to do a task, stop, like I said, take the 5 seconds, 10 seconds a minute, whatever it takes. Look at it again. If it’s still not right, you don’t do it. If you can make it right, you can make it safe. Great. Get on with it. The task. But if you can’t look at it and you know what, get other people around as well. Are you getting the same gut feeling I’m getting? Two heads are better than one, as they say. 

Exactly. 

That’s the kind of thing just to look at again. But would you do all of that stuff if you thought in the back of your mind that if somebody sees you stopping a job, you’re going to get shouted up, threatened, lose your job? You probably wouldn’t. And that’s why it’s so important to have the company on-site as well. The people are told the people you’re working for, whoever’s in charge got the same attitude towards safety as the person doing the task as a team’s effort. Safety, as far as I’m concerned. Like I say, if you’ve got a boss or employer like me, it’s not going to work. My advice then would be to get out of there quick. Get a job where? Somewhere where you’re appreciated, where you’ve been given the authority to stop the job. And I talk about self-respect and pride. Now, if an employer hasn’t got enough respect for me to allow me to stop a job and not be injured, why should I risk my life to line their pockets? It’s a two-way thing. It’s mutual respect. So that’s the way I see it as well. 

Absolutely. At the end of the day, that is a responsibility from an employer’s standpoint to try to do their best to create a safe environment. If they’re not doing that, they don’t deserve to be in business. We talk about employee engagement, but employee engagement is important. But even more primary, more critical than not is ensuring that your team members come home day in and day out to their loved ones. 

Yes, if you’re sending people out to do a task or a job, it’s down to you to make sure that safe. You’ve done your risk assessment, you’ve written your message statement, you’ve looked at the risks, you’ve tried to make it as safe as possible, and then at the end of it yet, that’s okay to go and do that. That’s your responsibility. And also, like I said earlier, it’s the person doing the task to the end. If they see something that’s not right. Not safe to speak up and do something about it. The employer may not always be on the job, may always not be on the site. It’s down to you to be your own personal safety officer. 

Yeah, absolutely. So, I’d love to hear a little bit about the passion project you’ve been running. So, you’ve tried to make a difference in speaking to people around safety, but you’ve also tried to take some actions in terms of improving ladder safety, which is incredibly dangerous. A lot of people underestimate the risks associated with a ladder. Tell me a little bit about what you’ve done on the ladder safety side. 

So back before I had the accident when I just started with this company, and as I said, at the start, I was sent out to work on ladders unsafely on my own, nobody footing them. I thought to myself, one way I can try and be safe is to go online and look for a ladder stabilizer that I can put in the box on my ladder and stop my ladder moving. I went online and looked and as far as I’m concerned, everything I saw that was available, there was nothing that would actually stop my ladder moving. There was nothing that would do that. And actually, working on even ground put it at the right angle, all that kind of stuff. So, I came up with an idea for a product, and it’s called Ladder Locker. Now, I came up with the idea and I thought to myself, like having somebody fruit in the ladder, it needs to be something that uses weight, right? Most of it. But all of the ladder stabilizers I saw online when I looked with the blown away in a strong wind, so they don’t work. The problem with C-suite and ladders is, as well, as you probably know, it’s the last sort of thing you do. 

If you don’t have any other way of supporting a ladder, securing a ladder, you get somebody to put it. But it’s been proven that if somebody’s at the top of a fairly the bottom, it’s never going to hold them. 

No. 

Going to happen. It’s physically impossible. So, it’s a bit of a placebo. It’s more to make the person up the ladder feel a bit safer. But are they actually safer? Probably not. And the other problem you’ve got with that is people tend to get bored when they’re in the ladder. They walk away, they move, they start getting their phone out of their pocket and actually looking. And then the other thing is, if somebody does fall, well, the ladder is being sued. If they fall on the person sitting on the ladder, you’ve got two severe injuries or possibly worse. So, I came up with this idea. Then, unfortunately, I had the accident, and I started my motivational safety speaking business back in 2014. And I was always putting this idea to the back of my mind because I thought it was going to cost a lot of money and it’s a lot of work and I’ll get around to it. And in 2016, I was waiting on my car getting serviced in the garage. And you know how you sit and Daydream just waiting on things. I thought to myself, you know, what if I don’t do this now, I’ll never do it. 

And I don’t want to get to 70 years of age and think, what is? Imagine if I had done that, imagine how many lives it might have saved, where would it have went? So, I contacted a patent lawyer and they loved it. They said it was patentable. They thought it was a great idea. So, the patent process is very long, and I’ve now got Water weight patents granted. So, I’ve got all that. And last year, on the 20 June, which was the ten-year anniversary of my accent, I launched Ladder Locker. You can watch it on YouTube, just type in Ladder Locker and you’ll see that the product. Like I said, what it does is it uses weights, and the ladder is put on it. So, you put the ladder and it’s got an angle plate in it. So, when you put it in, you rest the ladder on this plate and you get it sitting where you want it, at the top, the land and resting. If you’ve got it resting properly on that backplate, because it’s angled at the correct angle and it’s sitting where it needs to be at the top, the ladder physically cannot be at the wrong angle. 

It’s got to be at a perfect angle, the 75.5 degrees angle that it should be at. So, it puts at the right angle. It was uneven ground. There’s a spirit level built-in. And again, as long as you level up with the spirit levels, it cannot be at the wrong angle. You then clamp the size of the ladder and clamp the front of the ladder in and then the door shuts at the front to keep it in as well. And you put weights in the back of it. And that is like having somebody put in your ladder. But the beauty of this is those weights won’t walk away, they won’t get bored, they won’t go on the phone, they are there to stay. And I just believe that this is needed. I’ve been there. I was looking for something rather moving, and that’s why I invented it. That’s why I brought it out. And I’m trying to get onto the market now, starting a new business. It’s not easy. So, I’m at the moment, I’m trying to get the proper manufacturer and software, the distribution, all these kinds of things. So, it’s taking a bit of time. 

But like I said, the reason I launched it last year, the video was I wanted to make a sort of symbolic and I put it on LinkedIn and all these other places. And I basically said you know, it’s ten years today since my accident, I want to mark the occasion with something positive. I don’t want to push poor me; I’ve had an accident. I want it to be, this is what’s come from the accident. This is a negative being turned into a positive coming from the negative. In the UK, there’s like 2 million and use estimated every day, the US will be even more. There are 2000 ladder-related injuries every day in the US, there are 300 deaths a year, 130,000 emergency room visits. I’ve actually seen that figure as 168,000, and I’ve even seen it as high as 500,000. You got all these different stats coming out, which one is true? But if you just take the smallest one, there 130,000 people go to emergency room every year. A lot of people. It costs the economy. In the US, $24 billion work loss, medical costs, legal costs, liability, the pain and suffering, not to mention the physical and mental problems that people get from these accents. 

In the UK, 40% of fall from height in the home and in the workplace, a lot of accidents, right? 480 people are admitted to hospital every year in the UK, obviously, we’ve got a less of a population than you guys. 14 deaths per year. Like I said, there are 2 million ladders used every day. I don’t know what our figure is in the US, but it’s got to be a hell of a lot more. So, it’s probably the most used tool out there. And for me, the fact that there wasn’t anything out there actually worked. That’s what worried me. And most ladders accidents are because the ladder moved. It’s not that the ladder got hit by something or something because the ladder moved, the friction wasn’t there. And 40% of those over 40% is because the bottom of the ladder moved. Six and a half percent sideways slip 4%, top 3%, the ladder went backwards. But I see this all the time still to this day. And what really gets to me is the fact that we’ve got phones in our pockets that can link to satellites. We’ve got all this technology that when it comes down to things like ladders and safety harnesses, people aren’t prepared to buy the right equipment, or the right equipment isn’t available. 

And to me, like I say, ever since I saw online that day that I look for a lot of people, I wouldn’t have bought any of them. And I’m not here to test anybody else’s product. But for me, like I said, nothing worked. So, this is why I came up with this idea. And here we are, 1112 years later, it’s taken to get there because of the accident. If it hadn’t been for the accident, I would have probably got there a lot quicker. But like I say, affect your life so much. So, I mean, that’s what I want to concentrate on now, as well as the motivational. Safety speaking. I want to get this product out there. I want to make it available to as many people as possible because the more people we can start on these actions, the better. 

Absolutely. So, Dylan, thank you very much for coming to share your story and for investing in creating a stabilizer for ladders. I think that’s something that hopefully can have a significant impact as well because a number of people that even at home are using ladders and aren’t necessarily thinking about safety because they may be thinking about it in the work environment. Definitely a significant impact there. So, if somebody wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to connect with you? 

Dylan, I have a website. My company is called safety up, safety up. So, www. Dot Safety Up. Co. UK I think if you just put safety up dot. Co. UK and you’ll be able to get it on there, there’s a contact form and you can contact me that way via email. The phone numbers are on there. I’m also on LinkedIn so Dylan, scale on and brackets its safety up and ladder locker. If you want to find me there, you can contact me that way. There’s a safety up and a ladder locker Twitter page. There’s safety up ladder locker Instagram all these sorts of things. But the best way to get me is via the website like I say safety at the UK and like I said, if anybody wants to watch the video of ladder locker, it’s on YouTube. It’s just a ladder locker if you take that and you’ll see it as a red-colored product, so you’ll know it’s the correct one. Excellent. 

Well, thank you for joining me. 

Dylan, thank you very much, Eric, thank you for having me. I really enjoy it.  

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

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Dylan Skelhorn has been working as a Motivational Safety Speaker since 2014, sharing his story to try and prevent others from having life-changing injuries which he is very determined and passionate about. His story is a harsh reminder to those in all industries and at every level that unfortunately these incidents are still happening today.

He worked as a Solid Fuel Heating Engineer for a small company that specialized in Chimney work and Roofing where he sustained his ladder collapsed from underneath him. Dylan fell headfirst down a pitched roof, knocking over an unsecured extension ladder and fell a total of 33 feet, landing on a brick wall. It had left him physically unable to work and in severe lifelong pain.

He travels the length of the UK and Ireland presenting to a lot of companies and is prepared to travel even further to share his story. He has presented to tens of thousands of people. In 2017, Dylan was asked by major national construction company Willmott Dixon to be their Safety Ambassador and worked with them full time for three years visiting all of their sites and offices and still continues to present for them. Since his injury, he has designed Ladder Locker, a product designed to stabilize ladders for safe use, which has won an award from the World of Safety & Health Asia in the Safety Category for new & Innovative Solutions.

For more information on the product, check out: Ladder Locker – YouTube

Website: www.safetyup.co.uk

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Happiness Index for Safety and Mental Health with Nick Marks

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Happiness in the workplace matters for sustainable wellbeing, safety, productivity and business outcomes. It predicts if teams and organizations are building a better future. Today, our special guest Nick Marks shares his insights on psychological safety and mental-wellbeing, two critical drivers of safety outcomes. He also addresses skeptics by demonstrating how feelings connect to data.

READ THIS EPISODE

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

Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. I am Eric Michrowski. Today I’m very excited to have with me Nick Marks. He’s a statistician with The Soul. He’s got 25 years working with organizations to improve happiness, quality, quality of life and organizations in general. A phenomenal speaker has also launched a tool called Friday Pulse. We’ll get into that very soon. But Nick, welcome to the show. And I’d love to hear from you a little bit about your passion, how you got into all of this, and how you became a statistician with a soul as a client once called you.

Yes, it’s one of my favorite client quotes. So, I think in some ways what it captures is I’ve got this slightly odd mix. And yes, I am a statistician, but my mother was a family therapist and I trained as a therapist when I was young. So, I sort of have these soft people skills as well. And it probably becomes inevitable that I become the guy that starts measuring people’s experience of life, their happiness, their well-being.

It took a long time to evolve into that. You know, I did a lot of work on sustainability, quality of life, health statistics first and then slowly moved into that area. And I used to work in think tanks. So, I used to advise the Tony Blair government and then the David Cameron government on how to measure well-being and let a lot of work there in a very exciting time in the 2000s where the British government started to take this very seriously.

And then about seven, eight years ago, I started to think about businesses and moved into that area. And so, I now have a business called Friday Pulse, which measures and improves employee experience. And that’s what I do now.

That’s phenomenal background. So, one of the themes that’s incredibly important when you’re trying to improve safety outcomes is that or even wellbeing and all of those components is this element of psychological safety within the business. Can you share a little bit about your thinking, your research and what you’ve seen around the importance of psychological safety and maybe some ideas on how to drive it forward within businesses?

Yeah, I mean, it’s a phrase I think coined by Amy Edmondson and certainly popularized by Google. And it’s really trust. It’s the it’s the you know; trust is really about consistency of behavior. And, you know, in a team when, you know, if you’re going to experiment, you’re going to be innovative, you’re going to collaborate, and you need to have the freedom to express yourself and the security that you will know that you won’t be that that that the spirit of your motivation for doing that will be recognized even if the outcome doesn’t show exactly where we are.

So, it becomes more about process and about how we do that. And I think that psychological safety and of course, you know, if you’re in certain parts of the world, physical safety, I mean, there’s still parts of the of the developing world where physical safety, workplace is not guaranteed, you know. So, but, you know, we’ve actually luckily got legislation in North America and Europe where those things are covered. But it becomes really important people’s experience, because, you know, just like if you’ve got a parent who’s very unreliable, inconsistent, that’s actually the worst type of parenting.

And it’s the same. It’s the same. Same with the boss. I mean, you know, if you don’t really know if the boss’s mood is always going to change or this or you suddenly get an earful for something which you weren’t expecting to you, even when you get praised for something we would expect to, that inconsistency is very difficult to deal with. So, it’s about consistency. It’s about reliability. It’s about support. And there’s lots of evidence that, you know, when that when people are in those environments that not only that teens going to the people, they enjoy working the more and they go hand in hand.

I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s the only cause of people’s positive experience, but it’s a very significant one.

Interesting. So, the other element is that we’ve talked about when we had our conversations together, is that this element that feelings are data. Can you can you share a little bit about and have that element? And is it real? Is it being it tangible? I know a lot of leaders I’ve talked to over the years, particularly operational leaders, doubt the reliability of that data. They don’t even necessarily see it as real, tangible data. So, share some thoughts and insights on that.

So, the expression feelings that they have for me comes from both of those sources. I mean, it’s in some ways a sort of mixture between that statistics and unhappiness. And I. Actually, this is actually the draft title for a TED talk. I was going to do last year, which obviously got canceled because of it. But, you know, my idea really is that is that are our feelings. Firstly, just from a purely neuroscience perspective or psychology perspective or even evolutionary perspective, feelings come before cognition.

So, beings, animals, organisms were in a sense a sentient before they were cognitive. And we needed to feel whether we in the right environment. So, in a sense, our feelings give us information about whether a good fit in our environment had a very, very basic biological level. So, you know, we you know, we can feel creeped out by something without really knowing what it is. The sensation is there before we’ve got the awareness about precisely what it is so we can feel, you know, we can feel secure in an environment without really knowing exactly why.

And that’s because that’s how feelings work in the organism. And in that sense, can we turn them into data? What is data? So, data can be quantitative. It can be qualitative. You know, it could be different types. I, I statistically try and capture that data, which would have just basically a very simple, good, bad signal. So, I’ll ask people things like, you know, have you felt at work this week where you very unhappy to very happy and you get into one to five scale or whatever and people can answer that question.

They can think, oh, this week, yeah, it was a good week. You know what week it was a bad week. And they give you an answer on that. And that’s what I mean by turning feelings into data in this sense, that you can put a number to it. And when you do that, you get very interesting time trend data that by asking about time specific period, you see the ups and downs. And the reality is we’re not happy all the time.

That actually would be kind of dysfunctional because you would be overriding the thing. Sometimes can be bad. The environment changes. You know, it would have been pretty weird to have been exceptionally happy in March this year.

Really? Yeah.

And, you know, and she has been really hard, hasn’t it? You know, and it’s like so it’s perfectly fine to have a goal that you want to be happy, but to also accept the fact you’re not going to be happy all the time. There are not conflicting things to want to do.

So, you touched on the march and feelings and you’ve done some analysis of data through the last several months. How has it revealed? What was the main takeaway that you saw across multiple different organizations?

Yes. So we basically we ask all across our client base, you know, that question. And we basically provide data for team and senior leaders on people’s experience of work. And we do it in real time. Real time. We do weekly in saying, you know, this is how people’s weeks have gone. So, we’ve been we’ve got 52 well, we haven’t quite got 52 measures this year. We’ve got like forty or fifty, whatever it is we’re up to now.

And so, we can see the whole trend through the year. And what we had was a perfectly normal year in January, February, March. I mean, January doesn’t tend to be the happiest months anyway. You’ve just come out of the Christmas period. So, it’s always a bit suppressed after that. People are happy after Christmas to come back. Oh, well, you know, the weather’s pretty bad and its certainly Europe, certainly in England in January, February, you know, it’s the worst time of the year.

So, you know, people aren’t most happy, but, you know, starting to pick up in March, then, you know, the week beginning on the 12th of March, you know, we suddenly had I mean, I was working in London in the beginning of the week. The underground was normal. She was normal. And by Thursday, you know, half of the traffic had gone. It was extraordinary just to see it drift away from us.

And then, you know, the next week we had our lockdown and it was very, very scary in March and it hit our data, all our clients, it plummeted. And then we still a slow climb back up again. But in those first weeks, you know, there was a lot of pressure on H.R. departments, everybody to scramble home. You know, have you got the right equipment? Can we support you? How do you do that?

Everyone is, you know, worrying about their mother. You know, the kids, whatever they worried about. Suddenly kids were home from school. There’s a huge pressure. And all of that comes out in our data. And then we basically see a slight return back to where we were over a period of several months. But then it’s never got back to quite where it was. We’re still we’re still five, ten points down. We sent our data 100 scale.

Chirikova the average was seventy. It’s now 65. So, we’ve seen a drop over that time. A significant drop, actually. But, you know, not as bad as it was in the week, you know, with the Caved strike where it’s more than fifty. So, you know, it’s a big impact and you need data every week to see that. So, you can imagine it as a graph. And of course, we see that.

And lots of our clients, they have setbacks. Teams have setbacks, individuals have setbacks, but they have a global setback. I mean, we never see again, I don’t think is just huge, huge impact. Yeah.

Let’s hope we don’t see it ever again. Yeah, I certainly hope so. I’m a CEO. I get this. There’s regular data point, this pulse on my business. What can I do with that information? Because some might argue it’s too much information. How can I use that to shift? My decisions, my actions, and even if you have some examples from the last few months how it’s helped organizations and businesses would be phenomenal.

Yes. So, the way that we help people use the data is that we feed it back to the right level of the organization. I do think that the best place to act is at the team level. I’m sure it’s the same for safety and everything is that it’s the people you work most closely with. You know, can you rely on the people around you and you work together? Can you have the same goals and collaborate? And what we basically do is feedback data, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data.

So, we think feedback you how, how what’s the score? Last week when we also ask people, you know, what’s going well for you last week, what hasn’t, and they still allow people to build on what’s gone and deal with what hasn’t. And it’s getting into that weekly flow of people’s work by doing a little and often that you make the most changes, you know, you make that you basically get them talking about their experience. And then that validates that it’s actually useful to listen to people’s experience.

And basically, everybody in an organization is kind of like a sensor that’s sensing everything around them. It’s like that that data was never collected before. You know, it’s that there’s knowledge like whenever there’s a sort of big corporate failure, when they do the investigation afterwards, people within the organization knew something was up. They hadn’t. The data is very rare that something hits, but that totally blindsided. There are people that know and, in a sense, you need to gather that data in a way and encourage people to share not only their successes, but their concerns, because it’s valid to have concerns about what’s going on.

You know, and if you collect that quickly, you can act on it quickly. And I think that’s what most organizations try and do in some way is be responsive to what’s going on. And we have a product that helps platform that helps with that. And we’ve seen lots of different examples. You know, I mean, the issue is covid and working from home was it’s so variable, the experience for people. Sure. You know, people like me whose children are left home and I, I, I live with my wife, who I not only love, I like you know, I enjoy spending time with her.

So, it wasn’t a difficult spend time with Zoya. Some people, you know, my sisters got divorced in covid. I mean, that would be a horrible experience. Yeah, well, three years too late in my opinion, but that’s a different matter. But, you know, but, you know, and other people was stuck at home with young children, which was very, very difficult. Three or four. My team have got children under the age of five and they were driving them up.

The wall wasn’t about their work. They just were a very difficult. So, there was different things that we needed to do. And of course, when you’ve got a bit of data on that, you can start thinking about how, how, how you did. And then you’ve got teams that are struggling. So, you know, I mean, my organization has not been adversely affected by covid. I mean, we’ve had to change. We’ve had to pivot.

I had to lay off some people that were doing events work, but we’ve actually recruited into other areas. So, we’d have to do some changes. And but it hasn’t been a disaster. But if your inhospitality you know, it was right the way across the board. It was you know; it’s just appalling. And if you’re in businesses depend on that or you know, so it’s how do you respond if large organizations have got sections, one sections that haven’t.

And it’s how do you differentiate your policies towards those people? And we’ve you know, we’ve got clients that have done, you know, brilliant work in this area, really, really helping people, you know, cope with it. And I mean, even in my organization, we’ve gone to a four-day week, for example, because I think boundaries between work and life so collapsed and burnout is such a big issue with people working from home and remotely.

They haven’t got that human contact. But they also, you know, just works with their sort of, you know, working for them. I’m working. I’m you probably are. You were completely you know, it’s like how when does work stop? When does life start? Becomes harder. So, I’ve actually just made a bargain with my employees that let’s work hard for four days and have three days off and do other things. And, you know, that’s quite a radical policy.

We can do that in my field. It doesn’t always work with something because it’s 24/7. So, it’s how are you how you look after you employees, I think is changing very dramatically.

Absolutely. And I think what you shared is consistent with all the organization I’ve seen. For some people, it’s been phenomenal. So, for me, the secret blessing is I normally spend almost all my time on a plane and now I get to spend time at home enjoying kind of experiences with my wife. Like you said, it’s a very different experience, but I see others who are constantly trying to balance home schooling and all of those components all at the same time and trying to do work.

And they don’t necessarily have a partner that can help, but it’s a very, very different experience. But it gives you insights on how I can lead, how it can drive change, how it can drive impact on the themes that are relevant for my workforce at this point in time when one of the themes I’d like to explore. Law is the impact that you can get from a mental health standpoint, because we know the link between mental health, mental wellbeing and safety, overall safety culture incredibly linked.

Unfortunately, not all organizations are talking about that link. More and more are trying to drive visibility, awareness to the importance of mental health. What’s your thoughts around mental health, well-being? And would you be able to gather from a pulse within your business?

So, I mean, mental health is. Still a lot of stigma around it and there’s a lot of work going on about destigmatizing it, but this is just a story from just two years ago. I know I spoke at a conference on a group called Minds at Work here in the UK who do a lot of work on mental health at work. And a fireman went off work for being injured in a fire. And he was off work for six months and 100 colleagues came to see him.

He then had stress two years later and one colleague came to see him and was still terrified of that sort of, you know, mental health breakdown, breakthrough, whatever it is. And it’s and it’s an issue that is starting to change. I mean, you know, we see it we see it being led probably sometimes. Yes. At work, but we also see it being led in the sort of celebrity world, like there’s a band, little mix.

I don’t know if you got teens who are interested into them, but one of them has decided to retire from the band for mental health reasons. And it’s not getting paid. It’s getting really supported out there is basically saying, yes, you need to look after yourself. That’s what you need to do. And so, I think we’re talking more and more about it. And it’s becoming more and more accepted and it’s more accepted in the work. But the issue is it feels, you know, a little bit frightened of it because they’re frightened of their own mental health.

They’re frightened if we stopped going forward, you know, would we fall over? I think Einstein once said, you know, life is like riding a bicycle. If you stop paddling, you fall over. And it’s just a feeling that if we don’t continue, will, you’ll suddenly collapse. I think that’s really unwise because I think when the end happens is burnout happens and, you know, burnout tends to be from people who engaged in their work, but they go the extra mile.

That isn’t the same as mental health. It’s a different issue, but it’s a problem. But mental health, I think it’s about working with people. There’s a lot of new neurologically atypical people, particularly in tech businesses and whatever like that. You know, probably 20 percent of the population are what we could call neurologically atypical, you know, and that’s a lot of the workforce. And so, it’s often brilliant, all sorts of things.

They just need some different boundaries. And I don’t really understand why. I think this straitjacket of, like, you work from nine to five or ten to six or so over time is going I mean, I he doesn’t actually work for us anymore. But I had an employee who really did struggle every few months with something. But, you know, I just used to say to him, we need two days off. You have two days off.

And I knew he’d make it up because he didn’t, he wasn’t irresponsible. He just was just, you know, couldn’t get out of bed that day. And you don’t help it by sort of saying, pull yourself together. That’s not how you do it, by being kind and compassionate to them and, you know, and talking. Yes. About the business needs. But, you know, but also about what their needs are. And it’s a sort of dance between those two.

It’s you know, it’s like employing I mean, I’m going to say particularly women, but it’s parents with young children, really. But, you know, I’ve had a lot of people have maternity leave or have children, you know, during you know, during my time working people. If you if you’re kind to them, they come back and they give you everything. So, it’s being enlightened in your leadership. And doing a mental health is the same really in the you know, it’s accepting that people’s anxieties, their panic attacks, it’s depression.

This is something that they’re living with. It’s not something. And it does get triggered by environments in that, you know, if you put too much stress on them or put them in a team that you know really doesn’t help, then, you know, it’s going to get exaggerated. But you can work with it, you know, like one of the supermarket chains in the UK. They work with a lot of people with depression. And you know, what you don’t want to do is shove them at the back of a dark warehouse because that’s basically going to make their problems worse.

If you put them in a bright light place where they can interact with other people, which might be, you know, in the car parks doing trolleys, it might be helping pack bags, it might be doing shelves, whether in the light they’re much better. If you put them in a dark warehouse, they’re not going to do well. It’s understanding what the triggers are for them, listening to them and working with it. And people tend to thrive when they feel cared about.

So, and I I’m you know, that’s definitely the side of the fence I’m on. I know that other people some people have other views on that. But I think that we can work with people from all walks of life. And if you if you respect them, they respect you back 95 percent of the time and the five percent of time they don’t. Well, then deal with it. You know, let’s assume the best. And then occasionally you deal with the things that they work.

Yeah. And I think with the pulse that you’re advocating is you’re getting a sense for themes within the business that are emerging so you can better adapt and be more enlightened. In terms of your comments before that last question I want to throw, we talked about feelings or data. How do you deal with a skeptic? Because I’ve come across. Engineers, though, say it’s not real data perception data input of that nature is not real data. How do you overcome that challenge?

Well, I mean, one engineer is a brilliant to talk to about this because they understand feedback and if you start explaining to them in analogies, they can hear about, you know, basically a thermometer, a governor in a steam engine, whatever is a feedback loop, just basically through the and steam engine, you know, where more steam goes through and it starts closing the steam. And it’s basically a feedback loop. Emotions are the same in lots of ways.

Some of them are positive reinforcing. Some of them are negative dampening, but they’re basically helping us act efficiently in the world. And so, it is data, it’s not the same data. So, you know, when you when you’ve got so-called objective data, you know, you’re counting physical things. When you have subjective data, you’re using scales. You’re using things which basically people are giving you a sense of the difference. So, when I ask people how have you felt at work this week, I give them five response codes.

Very unhappy, unhappy. OK, happy. Very happy. If I can answer that. We don’t know precisely three to the four is the same as from one to two. In fact, I can tell you, isn’t the data quite well? It is, but it is ordered. The data is ordered. And so, you can work with that data, which just you have to work with it differently. You also have to understand you’re not maximizing.

People often think that you’ll take any variable going to maximize your optimizing with subjective data. You know, actually, you don’t want people to be not you don’t want them to be. It’s unrealistic for people to be very happy all of the time. You actually kind of want to know when they’re feeling very happy and you want to know when they’re feeling happy and want to know when they’re feeling OK. And that is data is feedback and it’s learning. I mean, the whole way that organizations and us as individuals is that we learn, we learn.

So, we need to have feedback that helps us learn. And I use that’s how I use the data. And so, you know, we create effectively what we call happiness KPI for business, which is this data weekly team happiness. And it’s a people metric for people, for organizations and organizations don’t have good people metrics. They tend to have what we call lagging indicators like; you know, how many people didn’t turn up for work, how many people left us, or do we do an engagement survey once a year, which gives you a snapshot experiences really fluid.

It’s not a snapshot. It’s not even a series of snapshots. You know, you could have done a snapshot in February this year and then three months later and three months is a really frequent pulse survey. You know, your set up march, you may well, you just basically see almost a flat line. You’ve just missed the whole dramatic, interesting part, you know. And so, you know, by taking data more frequently, you get that fluidity.

And basically, our experience is fluid. It’s always ebbing and flowing. It’s you know, you can you can take people’s I mean; I measure weekly because that’s convenient. It’s good for work. But, you know, sure, you could measure people’s experience through a morning and you’d have it going up. You could measure it through an hour and it’d be going up and down your year, a lifetime. You know, there’s different wavelengths if you want to do of it.

So, it absolutely is data. It’s data that’s correlated and predicts things. We know that people who have more good weeks and bad weeks are happier at work, are more productive. We know they stay longer. We know they’re more creative and innovative. We know that they have a better safety record when they go back to that, because if you care about the machinery you’re working with or you care about your colleagues, you know, you take care and you and you avoid you deal with risks and you avoid you avoid things getting out of control, which, you know, most accidents are a series of errors, aren’t they?

And if you’ve got that communication and collaboration, well, it works out better. So, you know, it’s not only is it data, it’s useful data and it predicts future good outcomes. So, I take it seriously. It’s my opinion.

I think that’s phenomenal. Last starting point you launched recently a tool called Friday one. Can you share a little bit about what it is and how it can help businesses?

Yes. So, Friday one is, say, Friday Pulse is the business we have, which creates platforms for teams and organizations. So, we wanted to do something that was for individuals. People always ask us how can we do something on our own? So, we’ve created Friday one, which is basically a sort of an individual. These are the key drivers to happiness at work. How are you doing on it? So, if you’ve ever taken one of those tests, like six personalities organize breaks, you do them and give you a report back, that’s the same thing, but it’s context.

So, one of my critiques of those sort, the personality test, is that their context free. And actually, we change personalities, we change who we are. We change how we feel, giving context. So, our context is very specific to your work and it’s your work now when you fill it out and basically, we ask you how you doing on the five big drivers which we call which are which are about relationships, about fairness in the system, about autonomy, about learning and about purpose.

So, we call those connect, be fair power challenge, inspire. So, you ask three questions on each and some demographic questions. I give you benchmarks and you get a lovely report and it’s to help you reflect. On your work and how you doing, and that does form part of our Friday post when we do it for whole organization, but this is just a free tool for individuals to do and have fun with.

And can they track themselves in terms of time and how they’re progressing, or is it a one-time snap?

It is a one-time stop, which is why we called it Friday one. And the reason we haven’t done that is also to keep our problems of storing people’s data with a free tool. And you do get into, you know, sort of things like we decided we do a snapshot. We may we may do something tracking, but we you have to get a little bit you have to get a little bit fancier with that stuff. And so, at the moment, it’s a snapshot and you can say the PDF and do it again three months later and look at it.

But we don’t hold your data in any way. We didn’t want to get into that really. And you just go to Friday, one dot com and, you know, take the test. And it’s just that’s it’s just free and fun to use.

Love it. Well, thank you very much, Nick, for taking the time for connecting, sharing your thoughts, their own feelings and the impact on the business and great insights in terms of how people can shift from week to week, from day to day from hour to hour based on the context, the environment they’re in.

Thank you very much indeed.

Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Fuel your future. come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru, Eric Michrowski.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Nic Marks, Founder & CEO, Friday Pulse

Described by one client as a “statistician with a soul”, Nic has been working in the field of happiness and wellbeing for over 25 years.

In 2010 Nic gave a TED talk on his previous work in public policy, which has now been watched over 2.3million times. Named as one of the Top Ten Original Thinkers by the IoD’s Director Magazine, Nic’s work was hailed as one of Forbes Magazine’s Seven Most Powerful Ideas in 2011.

As Founder and CEO of Friday Pulse, Nic shares his creative thinking with leading organisations on how positive emotions drive productivity and profit.

For More Information: https://fridaypulse.com/

Discover More: https://www.ted.com/talks/nic_marks_the_happy_planet_index?language=en

 

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