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Vision 2024: Shaping the Future of Safety Culture & Leadership with Dr. Josh Williams

Vision 2024 Shaping the Future of Safety Culture and Leadership



We encourage you to join us for another engaging conversation with Dr. Josh Williams, a seasoned safety culture expert for over 25 years and partner at Propulo Consulting. Josh highlights five key, big-picture safety themes for 2024: structured governance and executive commitment, SIF prevention, human performance, why observations still matter, and attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets. You’re sure to gain indispensable insight as Josh provides a clear vision for successfully shaping the future of your organization’s safety culture and safety leadership this year!


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 safety guru, public speaker, and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. 

Happy New Year, and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today, we have a very special episode. It’s hard to believe how 2023 flew, but we have Dr. Josh Williams with me, joining me for a conversation on Vision 2024 some key ideas to shape the future of safety, culture, and leadership. So, as you’re exploring some topics to level up your strategy for 2024, we’re going to introduce five core themes. Josh, welcome to the show. Why don’t you give a quick introduction to yourself? This is not the first time you’ve been on the podcast.

Thank you, Eric. I appreciate doing this again. We always have fun doing these things, and I’ve been doing this safety culture and safety efforts for 25-plus years. I got a PhD years ago with a guy named Scott Galler, who is one of the foundational folks in the safety culture and behavioral safety space. I’ve been lucky enough to be with Propulo for five-plus years here and like doing these podcasts. This should be fun.

Okay. Well, the five topics we’re going to touch on today are work structure, governance executive commitment, and ideas around how you can level that up. We’re going to touch on CIF prevention. We’re going to talk about human performance. We’re going to talk about why observations still matter and how to level those up and then close off with attitude, beliefs, and mindset. Quite a few areas and themes, big picture ideas to look at for 2024. First, let’s touch on organizational structure, governance, and executive commitment. I think this is an area where a lot of organizations have huge potential opportunities. What does it mean? It’s one. Where does the safety report go? How do we make sure that safety has the attention of the right levels of executives, ideally reporting to the C-suite? That’s number one. Really making sure that safety is visible. We’ve seen too many organizations where safety is layered into the business or… We’re spread out across different functional areas, which simply doesn’t work. The second is really around governance and the importance of executives and how executives weigh in on safety. At the end of the day, employees know if the executives aren’t talking about safety on a regular basis, they can’t hide it.

We were doing some work in one organization. The executive team was not having a daily, weekly, or monthly conversation around safety. Frontline team members said that. They said senior executives don’t care. They saw it because they weren’t seeing the executives day in and day out in the field interacting with them. It does matter. So, four things to look at when you’re looking at the role of governance and executives is one, are they setting a vision? Are they motivating people around safety across different levels? Are they really looking at clear governance around safety, really trying to build a learning organization? The second one is are they showing personal commitment and role modeling safety? Are they really spending time in the field, visibly felt, role modeling safety, and really explaining the balance between safety and production? These are really key elements. We’re going to touch on something about listening to her soon. Decision-making is, are they looking at safety on a regular basis? Is the CEO and the top management team looking at safety, the safety culture strategy, and adapting it on a regular basis, ideally monthly or every second month? Are they talking about safety performance? But also, the strategy is to drive improvements.  

So, key areas to focus on. And then, the element of transparency and accountability, are they open to sharing successes and failures? It is a key area, really, in terms of how executives show up for safety. One area that I know, Josh, you talked a lot about is Listening tours. I’ve done this a lot with senior groups, getting them to go spend several days in the field listening, understanding what’s going on, but really there to listen about what are the things that are getting in the way of a perfect day for safety. Seeing some organizations do this they even bring people from different office functions that don’t normally understand their role with safety, people in HR and finance, and having them spend some time in the field. But what’s important is debriefing after. What are the things that you do in your corporate function that impact a perfect day in the field?

I think it’s a larger issue to me, Eric, of leadership and culture and establishing norms of excellence. For me, and I’m a big college football fan, and I’m not a huge Alabama fan necessarily, but you’ve got to respect any of your sports fans out there. What nick Saban has done over the years is not only to get to the top of the mountain top but to stay there for a long time. I was watching a game a couple of years ago, and I took notes, which means I’m pretty nerdy, but I was interested in what he said post-game in the press conference. He was talking about his team’s performance after beating New Mexico State 62-10, and he’s angry, and he’s thumping the podium, and he’s saying we didn’t play to our high standards for most of the game. We didn’t get any better this week compared to what we were last week. That leads to bad habits, which leads to trouble when you’re playing more competitive opponents. He finished with, you’ve got to play to your own high standards every day. I think there’s a lesson learned there in terms of safety leadership, which is we’re playing to our own standard of excellence, and the numbers take care of themselves on the back end.

Do everything right on the front end; things take care of themselves, but you’ve got to be vigilant. You’ve got to be focused on this every day. We’re going to talk about huddles in a minute. We’re going to talk about observations in a minute. Eric just mentioned listening to us is a great way of doing that. We’re staying sharp every day. And one of the things that I think is really important is what’s the scoreboard. So, in this case with Nick Saban, the scoreboard looks terrific, 62-10. But there were some underlying things there that weren’t quite right. And that scoreboard may not be so pretty next time if we don’t clean things up. One of the challenges, I think, is that we get so enamored with these numbers. It’s like our recordable rate went up 6.2 % and went down 3.61 %. I’ll go to a site and watch some of these presentations, and it’s like 12 slides of statistics on injury numbers of various things. I’m like, Good Lord, people are falling asleep. We have to be focused on not killing people. I think it’s high time, and I think we’re starting to get some momentum there.

The issue is stiff potential, serious injury, and fatality potential. We got to be looking at that. That should be our primary focus. Now, the little things matter, too, but sometimes we just go way overboard. The air precursors that predict smaller things are not the same ones that predict these catastrophic events that alter people’s lives forever. Bee stings don’t predict fatalities, you know what I mean? But we got three bee stings last month, and that’s not an exaggeration. That stuff people get dinged for, and we just get too enamored with the numbers. I think one of the things we should consider moving into 2024. There’s been some momentum there, but I think I encourage all of you who are listening to focus on the potential for really bad things to happen. That’s not to be negative. It’s just let’s keep our eye on the prize. Quick example: if you’re getting out of your vehicle and spraying your ankle, then it’s a recordable injury. It’s not the same thing as falling off a scaffolding 20 feet up. It’s a different deal. One thing can really change your life forever. We need to make those distinctions. We need to do things like risk registers with the top three or four things that are really seriously dangerous.

Pay attention to them with near misses. Pay attention to them with incident analysis. Pay attention to them on the front end with listening tours, learning teams, and peer checks. The sift prevention, I think, is really important. We need to keep our eye on the prize in terms of the big picture. Before we transition into talking more about some HP themes, some human performance themes, just a consideration. When we’re looking at this, we need to look at the big picture holistically. When I first started in this industry, it was all about attitudes. We’ve got to change our attitude. And then behavior-based safety comes along, it becomes a commodity that’s bought and sold and all this stuff. It was all behaviors. HP brought in more systems focus, which I think is a good thing. The problem is it’s not one or the other. It’s all of them. We need to focus on improving attitudes, behaviors, and systems so that we can do our best job to decrease the probability of something really bad happening to somebody. So, as we start talking about HP and human performance, one of the good things I think is that it has brought more attention to the system.

One more quick football analogy. I’ll turn it back over to you here in a second, Eric. But I think it’s important to consider the environment you’re in impacts what you’re doing. We all think we’re Clint Eastwood on the Wild West, Monolithic, whatever. We are shaped by our environment more than we realize. For example, Randy Moss, a wide receiver, one of the top five probably in history, was with the Minnesota Vikings years ago. Their culture wasn’t great, and I like the Vikings, but their culture was poor, and he had all kinds of problems on and off the field. He gets traded to the New England Patriots. At the time, the top in the cultural team, whether you like them or not, had their act together like Alabama football. All of a sudden, he’s a modeled citizen. He changes overnight. Maybe he grew up a little bit, but maybe he got into a better system. The same person in a different system operates differently. That’s why when we start talking about human performance and culture change coming up here, we’ve got to be really mindful of what we are doing with our systems to encourage the best behaviors and attitudes out of our people.

One last thing on the CIF prevention side: I think a lot of organizations are starting to look at it, but you need to be obsessed with a lot of the little details. As you said, the predictors are not necessarily high-frequency events. Hopefully, they’re not. But part of it is really understanding the near-miss is really getting a lot of visibility to it. I think when you look at Aviation, in 2010, there were 62,000 near-miss reports for 700,000 commercial flights. That’s what we’re trying to get a lot of potential things and then understanding which ones are going to be important, and then addressing those through the risk register that you talked about.

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 and re-energize your BBS program. Enhance supervisory safety capabilities or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered. Visit us at

You touched quite a bit on systems, HP, and human performance in general. I think the key component is really looking at the system besides the equation. But, like you said, it’s not about just doing HP. A couple of things I think I want to propose on the HP side is that HP is really about culture change. It’s not a thing, it’s not tools, it’s not training. Yes, those things are part of it. But I think that’s where a lot of organizations miss the opportunity on the human performance side, is they think it’s a thing, it’s a training program they need to do, rather than looking at it’s really culture change. And it’s culture change. I would even propose that it’s really the evolution of cultural models that we’ve seen in terms of ownership around citizenship. Some elements where I’m looking at a bigger piece, I’m driving continuous improvement on an ongoing basis, but it’s really about shifting the cultural norms. I think that’s what organizations really need to start looking at in terms of driving change.

Yeah, you know what? And the thing that interests me, and I really, like I said, I am happy to see more emphasis these days on system factors. The first response when somebody gets hurt shouldn’t be, would they do wrong? How did they screw up? The first question should be, where did the system fail? And in some cases, it didn’t. And it’s just a matter of personal accountability and responsibility. But our first instinct should be, was it the time pressure, lack of training, not enough people. There are a million things that are contributing factors when things go wrong, and that’s where our focus should be when these things happen. Let me just talk about a couple of principles of human performance. I think it will advance our dialog here today. But some of the fundamentals are things like workers trigger, late in conditions that already exist in the system. It’s like the stuff in the system is not where it needs to be, and it just so happens that workers may trigger some of those issues. Things line up a certain way, like the VP explosion years ago. It’s like all these little events happened at the same time, then you got that awful explosion.

And again, I like this quote: Safety should not be viewed as the absence of events but rather the presence of solid and consistent defenses against human error. And within this framework, human error is a predictable outcome of human beings operating in flawed environments. Again, we don’t want to take this too far. And sometimes people get into this thing where it’s like there’s never any accountability anywhere. That’s crazy. The nice thing about tightening up your systems is if you’ve got your systems really good and you still have someone operating outside those parameters, whether it’s repeated violations or egregious things, the discipline or punishment associated with it, it’s easier to do when you know you don’t have a ton of system factors contributing to it. So, you don’t want to take it too far and say there’s never any accountability. You’ve got to have positive accountability throughout your organization. But again, we want to try to stay away from that blame when things start to go wrong. And I also want to point out behaviors still matter. And this behavioral safety stuff, look, and I did years of research on this, did years of implementations on this.

I’ve seen some really good things and some not-so-good things, but behaviors matter. The National Safety Council said years ago that 90 % of all injuries are due in part to at-risk behavior or human error, but 80 something % of those risky behaviors are influenced by the system. I think both those percentages are low. I think it’s higher than 90 % of risky behaviors influencing incidents, but I also think it’s higher than 80 % that system factors contribute to these risky actions. But behaviors still matter. We still want to look at it. We want to set up behavioral expectations for leaders, for supervisors, for employees. This is our expectation here. This is what we do, and we’re holding people accountable for those behaviors. So, the challenges with, I guess, with behavioral safety and the way it has become a commodity where you can get all kinds of crazy stuff going on there. The checklist got way too long. They got way too complicated. It became a pencil-whipping, check-the-box exercise. Instead of asking the four or five simple questions, maybe seven or eight, like leadership listening tours. When we’re doing these listening tours, we should be asking things, and this could be part of a behavioral safety process as well.

We could have some associated behaviors. We’ve had great success with organizations that had behavior-based safety programs that were dying or dead, and we revamped them because there are some good benefits there. But in addition to looking at some high-risk behavioral categories, we’ve got things like, what scares you about the job? Where could somebody potentially get hurt? What can I do as a leader to help make your job safer? How would you do this job better moving forward? You’ve been here 25 years. You know the ins and outs and subtlety of this job. What do you want to do? By transitioning it, making it more simple and more conversational, and also advertising improvements when people bring stuff up with these behavioral observations or human performance observations, do something with it. Make changes, make improvements, and advertise it. All of a sudden, you’ve got more discretionary effort from your folks because they see stuff’s getting done. So, we’ve got to be really mindful, I think, when we’re talking about human performance and system factors that we look at it holistically. We’re also looking at attitudes. We’re also looking at behaviors because they still matter.

I think a couple of things as well on the observation side I would add. So, I agree with simplification. The other part is building this into your operating system with huddles. It’s a weekly huddle where, maybe even once or twice a week, you’re reviewing themes, you’re directing to particular risks that you want people to look out for. And you have those cascading across the organization to senior levels to really bring life to changes and what’s happening. It’s not about the checklist. One organization I’ve been working with, the huddles became something where they directed focus to key areas, which is really good. When you said direct to something, you could see a 300 % increase on the weeks where they said, look at this particular risk. And then you’d see the risk was high, and then it would decrease. So, they’re going after risks one at a time, week by week, looking, I think, across the system to see if those teams are happening in more than one location to make sure we’re addressing it. The other part is making sure that in those observations, yes, we’re looking at the behaviors, but we’re also looking at some of the system factors, some of the hazards that are present, the controls that are in place, because that can also inform some of the elements on the CIF prevention side as you’re going out, you’re looking at behaviors, but you’re also looking at system factors as you’re there.

Yeah, and what I like about that, too, Eric, and I’m glad you mentioned melding them together because we should be… That old expression, it’s not an observation without a conversation. We want to ask people what’s going on here. We’re learning through these conversations about what’s happening out there, and we can make adjustments and improvements, tighten up the systems, and become a more high-reliability organization by getting and using that feedback from folks in a more, again, holistic way.

And closing the loop, like you said before, is really, really critical. Observations matter, but the way they’re done in many organizations, system-focused from an IT standpoint, is not the way to do it. I think we’ve got to really make sure there are conversations flowing up and down the organization so that the change can be rapid. I’ve seen it in several organizations where we do it with huddles. Very rapid change happens because people are escalating issues all the way to a VP and fixing them. The last piece I think is really important to look at is attitude, beliefs, and mindset still matter. At the end of the day, I go back to my days when I was in aviation. The degree of safety ownership that people were taking was not coincidental. People felt responsible for 200 300 lives on a particular plane. And so, there was a very strong degree of ownership. A lot of organizations talk about hearts and minds. That comes through training. You can get people to reflect, like, why do I stay safe? Who do I stay safe for? And then really to influence from leaders, which is a higher order skill that you want your supervisors and your leaders to continuously reinforce and influence why you stay safe so you’re making the right choice that influences your behaviors.

Obviously, as you said, the system impacts it as well. But you really want people to start putting more ownership around and really reflecting and getting awareness around where is it that as a human, I’m more likely to make a mistake? If I’m fatigued, if I’m distracted, I have the awareness and tools to deal with it. But it also gets into how I design my work environment, the job, and how I create professional orientation. If you look at pilots as an example, there’s a lot that goes into the uniform to the stripes that goes in. It’s really about creating a strong professional orientation as you graduate. Really key. But you got to blend it with focus on observations. You got to blend on focus on behaviors and also on system factors. And I just want one thing, we didn’t talk about this earlier, but I think I want to jump in with recognition just for a moment because the attitude piece, they can shift, they can be influenced if we’re doing the right things and treating people right, and I think one of the best ways of doing that is appreciating the good things that we’re seeing. I think a lot of the frustration sometimes you’ve got people 20, 30 years asking, When’s the last time someone thanked you for something safety related. They laugh. It’s been 20 years. Recognition works. It influences future actions. If I’m being appreciated for something, I feel good at the moment, but I’m more likely to do it next time when nobody’s looking and it’s free. It doesn’t cost money. It takes time, but it doesn’t cost money. I think just wanted to throw that out there in terms of the attitude and mindsets, belief systems. We can influence that stuff by treating people right. Recognition, I think, is underappreciated. We should be doing it more often.

Thank you, Josh. To all our listeners, Happy New Year and Happy 2024. Hopefully, this gave you a couple of ideas in terms of how to level up your strategy for 2024.

Thanks, everybody. Thank you.

For listening to The Safety Guru on C-suite Radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the past. 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 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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Dr. Josh Williams is a partner at Propulo Consulting. For more than 25 years, Josh has partnered with clients around the world to improve safety culture and prevent SIFs. Dr. Williams earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Virginia Tech and is a behavioral safety, human performance, and safety culture improvement expert. Josh is the author of Keeping People Safe: The Human Dynamics of Injury Prevention and co-editor of Keys to Behavior-Based Safety. He has published more than 150 book chapters, government reports, white papers, blogs, and articles in leading journals. Josh has also delivered hundreds of presentations at leading national conferences and is a highly regarded public speaker. He received the Cambridge Center National First Prize for his research on behavioral safety feedback.




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Scoring a Touchdown with Safety Culture with Dr. Josh Williams

Scoring a Touchdown with Safety Culture



“Improving safety culture is vital to long-term performance excellence.” We are very excited to have Dr. Josh Williams join us on the podcast this week to dive into how to bolster safety culture as he shares his insights into the five core competencies of safety leadership. Forward thinking leaders must continually consider ways to enhance safety culture. Explore ways to improve the effectiveness of your safe culture by visiting to complete the safety culture self-assessment uniquely created by Dr. Josh.


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 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 extremely excited to have with me Dr. Josh Williams, who’s probably one of our favorite guests on the podcast. He’s a great resource in terms of safety culture, safety leadership, and observation programs do a lot of work in this space. Josh, welcome to the show once again. 

Thanks, glad to be here. 

So, tell me a little bit again about your background and how you got interested and passionate about safety leadership, safety culture, the behavioral side of safety, and so forth. 

When I was in grad school, I was getting a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology, and honestly Eric, I was kind of bummed out. It just felt very theoretical. There’s a lot of statistical stuff. It was good, but it didn’t feel practical. And I had the chance to work with a guy named Scott Galler, whom many of the listeners may know was at the forefront of safety culture and behavior-based safety. He and a guy named Tom Kraus, formerly of BBS, really started behavior-based safety or at least popularized it. And it was great because we were doing real stuff with real people and I just immediately enjoyed it and the mission of two things, one, trying to keep people out of harm’s way, but also getting leaders to listen to folks a little more when making decisions. It just felt right. It felt like we were fighting a good fight and I’ve been doing it, I guess for 25-something years now.

Welcome back to the show. So, let’s start a little bit by talking about safety culture, why it matters, and you’ve authored a great quiz on safety culture. We’re going to talk about some of the themes within it that allow listeners to reflect, to see how they’re doing around safety culture and whether should they go deeper in terms of understanding how to drive improvements. But let’s start first in terms of why safety culture matter. 

Culture is everything. It really is. I’m going to struggle with a sports analogy here. I’m not a huge Alabama fan or a Nick Saban fan necessarily, but you’ve got to respect what he’s established. That Alabama. He comes in and just completely turned around a proud team that had fallen on hard times for many years. They were cycling through different coaches. He came in and it was an immediate turnaround and it stuck. I was watching the game a couple of years ago and I’ll make this as quick as I can, but I was just kind of flipping through channels and I see the score. Alabama beat New Mexico State 62 to ten. 


And they’re doing a press conference and Nick Saban is irate and he’s kind of containers anyway, but they’re asking him questions and he’s not happy. Why aren’t you happy, Nick? These are his quotes I went through and kind of went back and forth and wrote down almost verbatim. But these were his comments. We didn’t play up to our high standards for large parts of the game. We didn’t get better this week compared to last week. And when you don’t get better, you start developing bad habits and bad habits lead to problems down the road, especially against better opponents. And then his final comment was you’ve got to play to your own high standard every day. And that stuck with me because you know as well as I do, a lot of times we get called in because you have a rash of injuries and all we’ve got a problem, we’ve got to fix it. And people get so tied into these injury numbers and injury rates. The flip side is sometimes you could be doing really good on the injury numbers, but complacency is setting in. The normalized deviation is setting in. We haven’t seen it yet because nobody’s gotten hurt.

But the point I’m trying to make is playing to your own standard, having a culture of excellence in everything you do, doesn’t mean you’re perfect, and it doesn’t mean things aren’t going to go wrong. But you play to your standards and not some number, whether it went up or down last month, last quarter, this, that, or the other. So, I hope that makes sense to the listeners. It’s just that safety is part of who we are and how we operate, and we want to establish that culture of excellence it takes effort, it takes vision, it takes looking in the mirror. Safety culture assessments are big in large part because it gives people an opportunity to see where I am good. Where am I not so good? What’s the plan to get better? 

I think that’s a really important element and really getting a good view, talking to people about what was happening. What are the themes, how do we address them it, and how do we drive improvements? So, tell me about some of the themes in the quiz that you authored because I think it’s a good tool for listeners to have a quick scan to say how’s my culture? Not doing an assessment, just doing a quick scan self-reflection in terms of where I could get better. 

Yes, a lot of its own leadership, having that ownership mindset at the leadership level, it’s not EHS’s job, it’s everybody’s job but mine as a leader. I’m setting the tone for everybody. Active participation from employees. He talks about employee engagement. That’s the big buzzword. What’s this big mystery? It’s not that much of a mystery. Listen to your people, be responsive, and then advertise improvements based on their feedback. That’s how you get involved. It’s not some secret. It just takes effort and energy. Learning culture with close call reporting, making sure incident analysis is system-focused and not blame-oriented. And then other things like making sure rules make sense, they’re practical, having the right tools and equipment, et cetera. But leadership is really, in my mind, where a lot of it starts. And if I can just let me go through a couple of things really quick here. In terms of leadership competencies, we did a bunch of research looking at what are good predictors of effective leadership. And in terms of safety leadership, five core competencies come through. I’ll go through each R1 quickly. 


The first one is active caring. And of course, my mentor, Scott Gellard, used the term active carrying many years ago in reference to something that happened at ExxonMobil. People in a room, we’re asking questions. Why aren’t we doing X, Y, and Z ah? Nobody cares. Nobody cares. Then he started talking about it, that people care, but they weren’t doing something about it. So active caring is not just being a good guy or a good person. Active caring is going out and doing something. Quick example, I was working at a steel mill, not at an I was consulting for a company that was a steel mill, and they had an awful plan. Manager, old school, crack the whip, scare people off, rule by fear. It was a mess, and they fired them, which was a smart move. They bring in this new guy named Bob. And Bob’s, the first order of business is to set up meetings with everybody in this facility, and everybody is unhappy. 30 minutes. Meetings called 30 minutes with Bob. And not a sexy name for the meeting, but it got everybody in there, and he just asked people, what do you need? What can we do? 

And it was an immediate change in tone and immediate change in culture because this guy comes in and says, I want to hear from you. How can we get better? And so active caring is having the right intentions but doing something about it. Walking to talk, of course, is setting the right example and making sure you’re doing what you say you’re doing. So, for leaders, it’s being out in the field, listening to people, talking to people. Something as simple as wearing your PPE. I’ve seen that too. We’re going to do a couple of stories here. But we were at a facility, and this is 20 years ago. I’m dating myself, but we’re working with this company, and they are struggling. I mean, they can’t even get PPE. People are fighting over hearing protection glasses. So, we’re making some progress. And then they interviewed the CEO who was talking to Morley Safer. It was a big show, like 20 2016 minutes. One of those, anyway, he’s in the middle of operations with four trucks flying around talking about profits and how they were successful financially with no PPE on zero during operations. And we’re like, oh my God, that was it.

All the progress excuses me, with PPE out the window immediately. So, walking the talk is not just having nice corporate messaging. It’s doing what you say you’re going to do. Here’s another example in terms of leadership and listening to your people and how you’re treating them. I’m in a big facility that creates these small little bearings for vehicles. I think I didn’t remember now, but this is again, many years ago, and they had a guy who cuts his head open, and they’re doing an incident investigation, and the plant manager is in there and he asked the guy, why didn’t you have your hard hat on? That’s a requirement. And the guy says to him, I thought I did. I had my baseball cap on it. I followed my heart hat and is telling the story. And the plan manager stops the, quote, investigates, goes on a PA system and says literally to everybody, attention all employees. Baseball caps are no longer allowed in the building. You have ten minutes to return all baseball caps to your vehicles, and effective immediately, they’re no longer allowed in the building.


Anyway, people are like, what’s going on? They go to their cars and trucks and whatever, throw their caps and come back in. They’re not happy. They’re grumbling about it. And anyway, so the next day they come in, and most people, and of course not wearing their caps, but one little section of this big building, this big factory, they kind of did a mini revolt. They came in, no baseball caps, but they had on cowboy hats. One guy had a football, one guy had an authentic Mexican. Sombrero from Tijuana, the little tassels come down and they’re their jobs doing their work. And it was their way of saying, this isn’t right. And the point manager was smart, and he kind of pumped the brakes on that and they had some discussions and made some changes. But it kind of goes to show you people don’t like being told what to do. And oftentimes you have an injury and all of a sudden, what do you do? Okay, we’re going to retrain the employee. We’re going to throw a new rule out there. Then all of a sudden, you got 61 million rules. So, I think you got to be careful with how we handle that. 

Again, watch the knee-jerk reactions. Listen to your people, and just be smart about implementing new things and building and living. The vision is the next one. So, you’ve got a vision, you share that vision. People feel that vision. It’s legitimate, it’s real, it’s authentic. Recognition is another part of it. Number four is reward and foster growth. When we provide appreciation and sincere recognition, two things happen. One, I’m more likely to do it next time. That’s why we give our kids allowances. It’s like, you did good, here’s a financial reward. Now the reward and recognition don’t have to be money appreciation. I think the default recognition is not a program, although it can be good. Default recognition is just appreciation. People working hard under difficult circumstances, they got a lot going on in their personal lives. There’s a lot of stuff happening when you see people going beyond the call of duty, in particular for safety, mentoring a newer employee, etc. E. A little pad on the background again, goes a long way. People appreciate being appreciated. So, the last one is driving thinking and speaking. People that are on the job, doing the job know what’s going on. 

And if we listen to what they’re saying, it doesn’t mean we’re going to do everything they recommend. But people understand what’s going on and we’ve got to drive that ground-level engagement and participation to be successful. Another quick example is Eric. The same steel mill I mentioned earlier had a problem lockout tag out. They called it lockout tag out tryout. And the challenge was people weren’t doing it. And in a steel mill, if you’re not locking something out, you can get hurt or killed in that area. It’s dangerous. So the supervisor is like, okay, well, we’re going to if we don’t, they start threatening people. One of the employees had a suggestion to get a team together and talk about the issue. Just, let’s just take a step back. And when they did, they found where you were locked out was not in the appropriate place. The rules for lockout tag out were convoluted and hard to understand different opinions on how to do it. By simply getting together, they shortened the process of how it was done. They made everything closer to the person to make it easier to save time because they had ridiculous production pressure. 

But the solution was made from an employee’s suggestion to change the system. Don’t just come down with a heavier hammer. So, driving thinking and speaking is a big part of getting that engagement and improving the overall safety culture. 

It makes a lot of sense, and a lot of focus in terms of leadership as a key lever to drive improvements in culture. What are some of the other things? Leadership obviously really is the key lever to drive change around safety culture. But in some cases, culture can be also a legacy. Could be something that comes from the past. 20 years ago, a CEO did X and it’s still in the present memory and it’s still shaping the behaviors, the choices, and the attitudes of people.

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 

100%. And the first thing I’ll say is the system. So, if you want to look at it holistically. Big picture. If you’re trying to get more predictable results with your incident rates, it doesn’t fluctuate out of control. If you want to get more control over that and also improve sift prevention, three things to look at are one mindset, and attitudes. Number two, your behavior, what people are looking for. Number three is the system. And for many years, particularly in the house Ion days of BBS, the system was taking a backseat. And if we don’t focus on the system, we have problems. So, systems are things like when things go wrong, our first response should be, where did the system fail? Don’t blame somebody. Where did the system fail? It could be excessive time pressure. It could be we don’t have enough people for this job. It could be we don’t have the right tools and equipment readily available to do it. It could be we got a bunch of boring online training. When I first hired on, I don’t remember any of it, and now I’m throwing the wolves out there. Those system factors are big, and I think organizational leaders are well served to focus on tightening up those systems as a close call, reporting behavior-based safety. 

These are systems and when the systems are running smoothly and we’re getting ongoing communication up and down the organization, everything else works better. And by the way, it’s easier for leaders to hold people accountable. We talk about positive accountability. You don’t want to be heavy-handed, but you also can go too far the other way and let everything slide. And when your standards drop, the injuries pop up too. My point on that is, as a leader, if I know my systems are tight and most people are doing the right thing, when you have outliers that are repeatedly not doing the right thing or doing egregious things, it’s easier to punish, quite frankly, because we understand we’ve got our system. It’s not the system that’s the challenge. We’ve got that figured out. So, I think system factors are a big, big part of it, I would say on the other side too. On the behavior side, we know from National Safety Council 9 that 5% of all injuries do in part to add risk behavior. That doesn’t mean blaming people now, but it just means risky actions. You’re increasing the probability of something going wrong, basically. And if we can minimize risky behavior, that can be done in a lot of ways.

One, engage people more behavior-based safety. I just mentioned we did a study with NIOS many years ago. Picture this, Eric, me and a bunch of other grad students are going into this environment doing training with these guys, looking at us like, who are you, youngsters? We’re going and doing this training with two different groups and they’re not either one is really happy, but we do our training, and then we implement a behavior-based safety process. So, you’ve got if you’re familiar with behavior-based safety, folks, the cards, you’ve got various things like proper tools and equipment, body position, things like that. Anyway, one group was given a card and said, go use it. The other group, we work with them to create their own card, how it was going to be used when it was going to be used, and where it was going to be used. That group that had their own card that they created themselves, we call it the ownership group used their card seven times more.

Seven times more. 

We were shocked. If we had gotten double, we would have fallen out of our seats seven times more. Said very clearly, employee engagement matters. And I think people want to get more involved, and they want to speak up with each other more too. On one of the surveys, they used to use years ago, one of the questions is, should you tell somebody if they’re being risky? 90% of people are saying, yeah, you should tell them. The next question on the survey is, do you, do it? And it was like 660-something percent.


So, to me, that’s an eye-opener. I want to get involved, but our culture is macho. You do your thing; I do my thing. Don’t tell me how to do my job, all that nonsense. So, we want to do it, and sometimes we’re reluctant to speak up. So, I think part of that learning culture we talked about too, is making it acceptable and normal to speak up with each other. It doesn’t have to be a supervisor or safety when they see something that doesn’t quite feel right. So, there are just a couple of thoughts there. Make sure we don’t get focused on one thing. Focus on attitudes and behaviors and the system.

I love that safety culture is something that’s widely discussed and accepted. How do you measure it? The right way.

The wrong way is to give somebody 150 items, as a survey, and everybody goes to fill it out. That’s the wrong way. Surveys are good, but they’re a good tool. But they’re only one tool out of many. So of course, when we do our assessments, we focus on talking to people and interviewing people, whether it’s in groups, whether it’s one on one. But we’ve got questions that we’re asking on important things like learning culture and leadership, things like that. But people will tell you, and we use a survey to supplement that. But that gives us an overall picture. When we do it. We’ve got our maturity model, and it goes from disengaged a citizen, and there are various steps in between, but it shows you where you are, where is your starting point, and what’s your baseline. Because if you’re trying to get better, you got to know where you stand. And those assessments do a good job of that, and it also affects what you can do. So if your maturity is low, you don’t want to be trying to shoot the moon, doing all kinds of crazy stuff. You need the basic foundational stuff to try to get better. If you’re further along, you’re more advanced.

You can start doing things like human performance, or we call it Bhop, behavioral safety, and human performance. Those kinds of things are more achievable if you’re further along the road. So those assessments are really good. The other thing I’ll say on that too, and I’ve seen this with other organizations that kind of do what we do is sometimes that’s the end of it. Here’s your 1165-page report. Enjoy it. Also, if you have any questions, we’re here for you. And that’s it. Of course, we do. Planning all that information you get, all that is ammunition for your plan, like, what are we going to do? And that’s where you get groups together. We recommend getting hourly folks involved, field folks involved, and union folks involved. We’ve got a union at some levels, and we plan it out. All right, so this is good. Got to keep doing that. This is not good. Got to get better. What are we going to do? And line it all out. And sometimes, as you know, we’ll do five-year plans with it. It could be simple, it could be complicated, but what are we going to do?

What are the three, or four big things we got to get done? Who is going to do it? When are we going to do it? Where do we need to help? What potential resistance is there? And by lining everything out, very specifically, going back to Nick Savin. He didn’t roll into College Station to play Texas A and M winging it. Let’s see what works here. They’ve got the plan, and they’ve got contingency plans if plan A is not working. So, part of the preparation for getting better is to understand where you’re at and get a smart strategic plan.

Moving forward, a couple of things just come to mind based on what you just shared. So, one for me is it’s not a safety culture assessment if you don’t have a combination of surveys with interviews and focus groups kicking the tires in terms of how the work gets done at a site level, and then finally, also looking at artifact reviews, looking at how is a culture shaped by system items. Any thoughts on that? Because to me, that’s the part is a lot of people do one part of this and think it’s a safety culture assessment, but it’s only by looking at all those three elements can you really assess the culture. In my mind, 100% a part of it.

That too is talking to executives. Sometimes there’s a heavy focus on field employees, which is good. We’ll do system assessments with executives like we’ll do artifact reviews. You say close-call reporting is good. Show us what you’re doing. I don’t mean that to be challenging. But sometimes reality and perceptions aren’t always the same. So, I think speaking more to executives and getting some tangibles in terms of stuff that you’re doing also gives you a more complete picture.

Okay. The other part that drives me bonkers when we’re talking about surveys is an obsession with benchmarking. I want to compare myself with everybody else in my industry, and I get that, for example, in employee engagement surveys. But because of the nature of surveys in safety culture, I’m not saying there’s no value in it, but my challenge is too often I’ve seen a company that has lower maturity from a safety culture standpoint, have higher scores and a really good maybe have lower scores because as you get better, you start becoming more self-critical. And if you know very little about what you could look like or should look like, you might look very positive.

Yeah, I’m with you. I mean, I think benchmarking is a nice thing to have, but people take way too much faith in that. As I said, I’ve seen the same thing. Some awful organization, they get a bunch of vests and they’re like, oh my god, they care about us. You should have had vests 15 years ago, man. It can be misleading. And sometimes the really, really good organizations are more critical because they have the mindset of excellence, and they may raise themselves lower than they really are. So, I get your point there. I think it’s nice to have, but I’m more interested, frankly, in various iterations of the survey. Like five years ago we were here, two years ago we were here. And I think that’s something that’s smart too for companies. It’s not a one-and-done deal. You do an assessment, see how much you’ve progressed, do another one, two, or three years later. It doesn’t have to be as intent. It can be on a smaller scale, but that to me is more interesting. And also, comparisons between groups, whether, for instance, managers are telling us this, employees are telling us something different, and the scores on the survey may be quite different sometimes the higher you go anyway, so that’s one issue. 

And also, different groups. Maintenance is saying this, operations are saying that. And so the scores are interesting when they’re different, but also the comments from the interviews in the focus groups. So again, I think the best benchmarking is within your own organization, and also from the time one to time two to time three.

And I think the points you bring up there I think are important because it’s looking at even between-group differences. You have an overall culture, but you could have a microculture within a particular environment. We had somebody on the podcast that had a serious injury, and he came from an organization that had, by all accounts, a fairly, fairly mature safety culture. But in his specific area, there were a lot of challenges from a leadership standpoint, and people showed up in a very, very different, noncongruent way from the rest of the organization. So, understanding those differences, as you said, I think is incredibly important. The other element is longitudinally understanding how we’re shifting. I love pulse surveys as an indicator of how we’re making progress, even with higher frequency. So, as you’re driving improvements to check or is it landing with employees, are we actually seeing the impact? If I’m doing leadership training, am I feeling my leader showing up in a different way?

100% and that’s hard. I can add more really quick here too, in terms of how our leaders show up. Executive coaching, I think, is a big one. And just from experience, when we’re able to get into higher levels of the organization and talk to people, at the executive level, it’s different and it doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but that sets the tone. And again, I think sometimes with assessments, in particular, we miss the mark as we only talk to the EHS director, which is a very important position, but there are a lot of things that are also happening at the C-suite level that we need to address. So, I think executive coaching, when it’s paired with assessment-type work, is really good because you’ve got a strategic plan, and you need help from the top to get there. I don’t care who you are. So that’s something I think to consider as well.

And it also relates back to your story when you’re talking about Bob, who came into me, is when a new leader comes in and needs to show change, it’s very important to have a good strategy around what signals are you going to share. Because we talked about how culture can be based on something that happened 20 years ago in the organization that’s still in the present memory. So how does a leader come in and send some very intentional signals to show things have changed? I am going to show up differently or we’re going to show up differently.


So, great place to start. I love your quiz. so that’s a website. No gimmicks, no catches, completely anonymous. It just allows you to ask a couple of questions, 15 questions in total. To give you a bit of a sense in terms of where you’re at, should you consider some improvements, what are some of the areas of focus? So it’s definitely not a safety culture assessment, it’s just a personal self-reflection to see how my organization is doing. So, I encourage people to go and visit their website, try it out, and get a few simple insights. And Josh, I’m sure they can always reach out to you if they want to have more conversations about, what does it mean, how do I make improvements, and how do I know where I’m at?

100% and I’ll give you more sports analogies.

So, Josh, thank you so much for joining us. Once again, I really appreciate you sharing yours. Wisdom around safety leadership, safety culture, and again, recommend anybody to go to the website No gimmicks. Just a good self-reflection quiz to say how am I doing? You’ll find links as well to all sorts of other quizzes that Josh has authored that help you look at different facets of safety culture, safety leadership, learning organizations, and so forth to see how you’re doing. So once again, thank you so much, Josh, for joining me today.

My pleasure. Thank you.

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

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Taking your Safety to the Next Level: Integrating BBS and Human Performance with Dr. Josh Williams

Episode 30 - Taking your Safety to the Next Level: Integrating BBS and Human Performance with Dr. Josh Williams



Behavior-based safety, human performance, cognitive psychology… It can be overwhelming to consider so many competing safety approaches. On this week’s episode, Dr. Josh Williams returns to advocate for a well-rounded approach to safety. Josh shares practical HP tools for learning from workers’ first-hand experience and taking a proactive approach to preventing SIFs. Don’t scramble to improve your organization’s safety once it’s too late!


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

Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to welcome back to our show Dr Josh Williams. Dr Josh Williams is a recognized thought leader in safety and safety culture. He’s a winner of the Cambridge Setter First Place National Prize for Behavioral Science, well over 20 years working with organizations in helping them improve their safety, build strategies around safety culture and assess how they’re doing. Amazing to have you back on the show. Josh, you’re also with Propulo Consulting as a partner and an incredible thought leader in this space.

So, Josh, why don’t we start out with a quick introduction. I know you’ve shared this story a little bit before in terms of how you got into the safety space and what captured your passion around it.

Well, I appreciate that, Eric. Thank you. And apologies to the listeners. I’ve got a little allergy attack happening here, so hopefully I don’t sound too awful. But I was in grad school getting a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology, and I was a bit frustrated. It was very pie in the sky. Theoretical. I don’t mean that disparagingly for food or the research, but, you know, I want to real stuff. I wanted to get out in the world and do things.

And I was lucky enough to meet up with Dr. Scott Geller, who I think is in my mind is the fountainhead really for safety culture in the space. And he was doing really cool stuff going, you know, above ground mines, going to manufacturing facilities and doing stuff. And it was really fun. It was interesting. And I felt like I was making a difference. So that was kind of my introduction to the safety side. I had not even thought about safety as I kind of got into to grad school, but we were doing a lot of a lot of neat things.

And so, once I finished up, I signed on with this group and worked with them for a bit. So, it was it was really it was really interesting to feel like you’re doing things to not only improve culture and communication and leadership, but hopefully keeping bad things from happening to good people. So that’s kind of where it all started many years ago.

He said, well, we’re obviously talking today about how you keep those bad things away from happening today. Specifically, we’re talking about two concepts, human performance, and this other theme, which is been really an integration of themes around behavior-based safety and human performance. You’ve authored two quizzes. So one is that human performance leader dot com. So, it’s a quiz on how are you doing for a human performance standpoint in some ways and tactics to drive forward, as well as a Microsoft assessment that’s available on

Let’s start first in terms of understanding why we need to talk about a human performance, so we know 90 percent or so of incidents, occurrences of a safety infraction happen because of some form of at-risk behavior, a behavior. B, safety has had huge leaps of impact in terms of it. But tell me about some of the missing pieces and why human performance needs to be part of the equation.

Yeah, and let’s start by giving behavioral safety its do. Look, this has been around for decades. Injury rates have dropped twenty eight percent over the last ten years. Part of that is due to behavioral safety in my mind. Look, the National Safety Council had that estimate. I think you mentioned 90 percent of all injuries are due in part to at risk behavior. And it’s a numbers game. It’s a probability game. Well, you know, it’s like going to Vegas if you’re there for an hour.

That’s one thing. If you’re there for two weeks, odds are you’re going to lose money. It’s just probabilities that Gabriel Sapience in part is founded on. If we can be safer, more often, we’re reducing the probability of incidents, as Tiger Woods just got in his third car wreck. I mean, there’s some risky behaviors happening, so. Right. So, the challenge, though, Eric, to your point, is that, quote, 90 percent of all injuries are due in part to risk behavior.

That in part piece is important. That’s from the national scene. So, I think it’s higher than 90 percent. They have to be in part pieces. Systems matter. We are a function. Behaviors are a function of environmental contingencies, which is just an academic way of saying we operate differently depending on the system we’re in. And give me a moment to Randy Moss for you. Sports fans out there was all in all kinds of trouble and all kinds of legal issues.

For years and years and years with the Vikings and with the Raiders, who were a highly dysfunctional organization at the time, this guy spent his entire career in and out of trouble until he gets traded to the Patriots. I’m not a Patriots fan, but they have tight systems. They’re a championship organization. And. All right. From Randy Moss is a model citizen, literally doing all these things for the community. I mean, maybe he had a midlife epiphany or maybe he got into a better system and turn things around.

Now he’s on Fox News or Fox Sports or whatever as an analyst. But this guy, same person in a different system. Right? He was totally differently. The system matters and I think too long on the behavioral side. We got into these quotas and these checklists, and these did you do your cards thing and forgot the big picture, which is fixed systems to influence behavior. So that’s why the system matters. And I’ll just say two quick things on human performance and the rise of human performance and the integration of that with behaviors and mindsets.

First, fix the system. Second, quit blaming people when things go wrong. And then really, I think the HP side has been really good for safety and I think it’s helping a lot of people stay safe.

That’s excellent. But human performance is not a new thing. I remember when I started the airline industry many, many moons ago, this was a common topic of conversation. Can you tell me a little bit about the history behind it and some of the themes that drove this re-emergence? Because now we’re talking about a lot in the safety space?

Well, I mean, they were talking about with fighter pilots in World War two, you know, how do you change the cockpit to set it up to reduce air in stressful situations? I mean, the I industrial psychologists like myself many years ago talked about leadership in selecting leaders and training leaders, but they also talked about setting up the planes so that you don’t unintentionally do something bad. So, this has been around for a century. And there’s been various iterations, as you know, and certainly it was a big part of part of this many years ago.

And there have been other folks that have focused on the human performance side. But there’s been a re-emergence in my mind over the last maybe five years. And I think part of it is we’ve got a little sideways on the behavioral side and didn’t always do it right. So, I think I think the bottom line, Eric, for me is that concern I have now, frankly, on the side is there’s a lot of theory and just quit blaming people saying I’m all in theory, but it’s also getting segmented.

When I first started out, cognitive psychology was the thing and there were all these cognitive consultants talking about ownership and personal things, reflection, and those, but that sort of gave way to the behavioral people who were saying, look, we’re talking about your feelings, let’s do stuff. And you’ve got the human performance, people saying we’re talking about behavior because you’re blaming people, just fix the system. And the truth is, all those things matter if we’re not talking about you can a feeling that affects what I’m doing.

And if we don’t talk about systems, we’re just we’re missing a big piece of it. If we don’t talk about behavior, we’re missing a big piece of it. So that’s why what we call BEHA, which is kind of behavioral safety and human performance with some cognitive elements, too. That’s why it’s important if we don’t look at all three of these, you’re just incomplete in your efforts to get better. So, I think we need to be looking at all three of those.

I think a really good point, because it shouldn’t be a battle of philosophies and it shouldn’t be one thing or another. It should really be an element of how do we battle injuries, how do we battle safety, how do we make a tangible difference around it? And I agree with you, all these things matter. The mindset you have around your level of safety, ownership matters, the behaviors and how you shift those behaviors matter and the system hugely important overall.

So, tell me about some of the basic tenants that bishop or human performance bring to the table.

I think the main one, there’s a bunch. And again, if you go to some of those quizzes, there’s more information there you can take a look at. But the main one, I think, is we are human beings, and we make mistakes, whatever that whoever their years go to areas, it’s just so true. And the first point in my mind is, is we are efficiency machines. Human beings are efficient. We look for the easiest, fastest, most comfortable, most convenient way to do things.

That’s why I mean, why do you speed on the highway? Why does McDonald’s exist? Because fast food gives me food. And so, we’ve got to understand that. That’s so that’s part of the quit beating people up over stuff. Look, you put yourself out in the field somewhere where it’s 100 degrees, there’s six million things going on. Your production schedules are ridiculous. You don’t have enough people. And then you start telling me, be mindful of my behavior because I sprained my ankle.

Are you kidding me? So, we just have a little need, a little more sensitivity. First, we’re naturally inclined to be risky. And second, the system encourages it. And that’s where that’s where I think we sort of missed the boat there for a bit. I mean, time, pressure, insufficient training. We’re doing all this computer-based training. But look, I need hands on training. I need job specific training to what I’m doing.

But we’re throwing some computer thing at me that’s not helping. We don’t have enough people. Sometimes the conditions are difficult. You know, procedures may not make sense. You’ve got some blanket policy you slapped on there because somebody got hurt. But that doesn’t really apply. The excuse me, the biggest picture really is getting input from people doing the work. And that’s through close calls. That’s through other safety suggestions, through other means. We’ve got to and we’ll talk about some tools, hopefully, if we have time.

But the system is encouraging, and human nature is encouraging. And so, we really have to take a step back and look at how do we improve our systems, how do we improve our added our mindsets, how do we improve our leadership? How do we improve our behaviors? Because that’s really when you start seeing serious. There are two things there. I think, one, you’re going to see a better stability and performance where you don’t have this.

That’s a huge yes. Although we had five record bills last month, we had done six straight months of it. Yeah, because your systems aren’t very good or the scarier thing, which is that if potential all of a sudden there’s an explosion like BP where, you know what, eleven people or fourteen people get killed in a blink of an eye. They had given a safety award the day before, but they had lots of things lined up wrong at the same time.

The Challenger explosion, another one. So be careful because sometimes we have a false sense of security because our systems are poor and then all of a sudden something really bad happens. It kills a bunch of people.

Yeah, I think it’s a really good point. You brought up this theme around Tool’s. I think there’s a lot of people that are talking about human performance from a from a branding standpoint, but they’re not talking about how you actually go out and do something with it. What are some of the tools that you can leverage? Can you maybe share some of the ideas around what can somebody who buys into this element or in human performance do?

This seems to be a cultural component. And then there’s a tool-based component. Let’s maybe touch first on the on the tools and then we can talk about how leaders can start shifting as well, their approach to drive some of the cultural elements.

Yeah, right. And keep in mind, Deming said this years ago, don’t blame people for problems created by the system. So, when we started trying to fix the system, getting a. Input from people that are on the job doing the job is our first order of business, or at least one of the first. So, a couple of tools first tool will start at the top. First of all, listening tours where you’ve got executives, you’ve got senior leaders spending more time out in the field actually talking to people and not look, some leaders are great at doing that.

They’ve got a good feel for what’s going on out in the field that talk to me. They have a good relationship and that’s wonderful. And look, these people are busy. There’s a lot going on. They got a lot of things on their plate. But carving out time to go out in the field and talk to people is smart business. It’s good for you. It’s good for everything. So, one tool, I’ll call it listening tours where we have a little guide and it’s not coming down as a leader saying you’re doing this right, you’re doing this wrong.

You need to do A, B, C and D, it’s really asking questions. What’s going on out here? What are you struggling with? Help me understand what you’re doing. It’s about listening. It’s about being curious about what people are doing. It’s about asking how they’re doing on and off the job. And we provide a little guy with four or five things just to kind of reminder. But it’s just getting people getting leaders out in the field and better understanding what’s going on and trying to establish relationships.

The second tool, I’m going to call it a space, a pure check. And this is unlike a behavioral safety card where you’re you know; you’re checking a bunch of things. Hard to get know this, that yes. No, this card. And there’s no quotas with it. There’s no names on it all. It has questions like, what do you need to do this job safer? What scares you about the job? How could somebody get hurt?

What do you need? What would you do if you been doing these twenty-five years? What would you do differently on this job to keep you and other people send them to questions? And if we’re in, the nice thing is we’re having better conversations with people because we’re asking them questions. And on the back end, we’re getting information we can use to make things better, because if we find people are telling us, you know, we have a scaffolding issue over here, well, good, we can go fix it.

And if we do a good job of responding to concerns, fixing things and advertising improvements, it’s better for safety and it’s better for culture because all of a sudden people realize they care and they’re doing stuff. So those would be the first to learn.

If I can add on the on this on this last one you just shared is to me, this is also an element of I don’t necessarily know, quote unquote the truth, that there may be a safer way that I haven’t thought. And I’m pushing, thinking, and pushing critical decision making at the frontline level to reimagine how could we do this better as opposed to cabbing, pontificating about I know how to do it. I’ve got my checklist and it’s either yes or no, but there’s no alternative.

Better way to do it.

Absolutely, well said, absolutely.

So, you’re going to add a third one and I cut you off there.

Well, learning teams is the big one where you get a group of folks and they go out and, you know, like a pre incident analysis, borrowing that from talking on you, different language. But the idea is instead of just reacting once an incident occurred and trying to be more system focused and focusing on potential serious injury and fatality potential down the road, send people out before an incident occurs to see where something could go wrong here. So, learning teams are going out, appear to stay safe.

Your check is generally for a particular job. Somebody is doing a learning team. You’ve got to pull is going out, walking around, doing a tour and saying, you know what’s going on. And they’re asking questions. They’re talking to people they’re making notes of. And there’s some really good ideas. I mean, there’s so many creative ideas out there about restructuring the work and the flow of the work. I mean, there are smart people out there, and if we talk to them and give them some voice and power, they have some great ideas for better, safer, more productive ways to do the work so they can be more productive, make more money.

Everybody’s happy. So, giving power to those learning teams is that there’s a bunch of three-way communication time outs. There’s a laundry list, but those three in particular I like.

And so, what for from a leadership standpoint needs to change. Where do you start from that leadership standpoint to make impact the whole burning platform thing? And, you know, it is big. And I’d be curious to get your thoughts on this, too, Eric, but to me, the primary understanding from leaders needs to be the need for change. I’ll say what I said earlier, but you are not going to get stabilized performance. You’re not going to have predictability because everyone’s so focused on trial.

Are rates going up this month? They went down last month. And it’s going up and down and up and down. And I don’t know why. And all of a sudden, we had a flurry of incidents. So, you’re going to get more stability and performance, less deviation around the mean, whatever those rates are, because there’s stability, there’s predictability by tightening up systems, we get more predictability. Second one is the potential reduction, because look, I mean, we you and I both for many, many years have seen these really bad things happen where all of a sudden, a serious injury happens.

I’ve got way too many stories of talking to people that have been involved in incidents or safety leaders that have to make those phone calls to people’s homes when somebody dies on the job. I mean, it’s sudden, it happens quick, and it catches everybody off guard. And then all of a sudden everyone scrambles and tries to make improvements. We need to reinforce with leaders, do it on the front end before that really bad thing happens, because those dangers are out there and some of these places we work, there are so many things I can get you seriously in a hurry.

So, the burning platform is the issue with leaders like, look, you got to understand, making money is good and the safer we are, the more money we’re going to make anyway. I mean, this is not this and we’re dragging along. It’s embedded in who we are and how we operate. If we really like Paul O’Neill did all those years ago to improve safety, he came in, revolutionized how safety was looked. It’s part of the character.

It’s not something we do. And lo and behold, profits soared. Now, there are some things he did. I might do a bit different, but he’s for or for sure came in with. Safety is part of who we are. And we are not just doing this as a slogan. So, I think understanding it, feeling it, that personal ownership is there and creating that burning platform for leaders is step one. And then we start talking about tools and other things.

Yeah, I think that makes sense. I think there’s this whole element of our own philosophy has quit blaming your employees that that needs to be thought through shared with leaders for there to be some real sizable impact because it’s a different way of showing up. I think it makes a ton of sense. But there is a there’s a difference there. So, a lot of the debate I here is because a lot of people are dogmatic about everybody’s safety or about human performance or like you talked about cognitive psychology, applied to safety.

Do you need to say, let’s go do this thing or do we just suddenly start infusing the thinking, the philosophy and not necessarily even branded?

So, there’s an interesting question, and I would argue that sometimes we do too much flavor of the month where there’s something there’s a bunch of fanfare and then something else comes along. So, my hope is that human performance elements are embedded naturally with an incident analysis for sure. I mean, we need to do a much better job of looking at system factors, contributing to incidents and also what are the potential for future incidents. So that’s close call reporting. Same thing, other mechanisms for getting employee concerns and safety suggestions that stuff should be happening naturally.

So, you don’t need to buy a widget called Human Performance. Yeah, having said that. I think some I think the training and education and tools are useful and what we do when we go in and work with folks, for instance, someone who’s got a behavioral program, but it’s turned into a quota system or something. We don’t abandon behavior-based safety altogether. Bihar, where we update the car to have more open-ended questions, to generate better conversations.

So, we you know, to me, we embed some of the human performance elements and systems that are already there. We’re dovetailing we’re not scrapping something and creating something. Sure. So, I think it depends on the depends on what you need with what the organization needs. Sometimes a human performance implementation is smart or a big limitation of smart. Sometimes we’re just tweaking what you’ve already got.

And I like your approach around Bishoff in terms of really integrating the behavior-based safety elements that work well have been proven to drive down injuries with some of the elements of human performance in terms of truly making an impact. And I think that also needs to be augmented by some leadership capabilities and leadership thinking in terms of evolving how we approach safety. A great place to get some ideas around it. Just a quick self-assessment that that you’ve created at a human performance leader Dotcom.

So human performance leader dotcom free self-assessment doesn’t capture anything personal about you, just for you to self-reflect in terms of how you’re doing, how your organization is doing around it, plus that the mini self-assessment that you’ve created at under the self-assessment pages. So, Josh, really appreciate your thinking on this. I think it’s just such an important topic. I think it’s really the future around safety is bringing a lot of these capabilities together to the table.

When you share a lot of the stories, it reminds me of so many things that even the quality movement have been talking about. There are so many similarities around it, just different names. But fundamentally, it’s the same core principles around how I go do listening tours or Gemba walks. I speak to people, have an open mind to think that that maybe there’s a safer, better, higher quality way to get it done. And those who are closest to the work are most likely to want to do more.

And it’s a proven way to tap into people’s discretionary effort. So, Josh, any closing thoughts on the topic of human performance and this integration between mindset, behavior and most importantly as well, adding the system because all of these things interact with each other, they’re not in isolation?

Yeah, I guess my final thought, you know, leaders have a tough job, whether it’s a supervisor or a higher-level leader. It’s there’s so much going on. And with covid hitting and people scrambling there and worries at home with kids and all this stuff, I mean, look, everyone’s scrambling. And my final thought would be if we can infuse some of these HP elements and do a better job of getting and using feedback from people doing the work, the benefits everybody makes, it makes life easier for those leaders and it certainly makes life better for our employees.

So, it’s to me, it’s a helpful way, which is good not just for safety, but for everything.

Well, thank you so much, Josh. Always a pleasure having you on the show. Thank you for taking the time to come back and share some thoughts and insights around human performance. Really encourage people to start thinking about how I can include some of these principles, these ideas into my safety program. It’s been proven if you look at performance in the airline industry, you look at performance in the in the nuclear industry where these capabilities are deep, deep, deep, embedded.

It’s a proven tool kit, the looking at the system, as is demonstrated to drive results. Thank you, Josh.

Well, thank you, Eric. I appreciate it.

Thank you.

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

Please read more in Josh’s related blog about Human Performance (HP):

Please read more in Josh’s related blog about Behaviour Based Safety (BBS):

Take the following self-assessment to gauge the current effectiveness of your Human Performance efforts:

Take the following mini-assessment to gauge the current effectiveness of your Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) process:

Additional online Self-Assessments are available at

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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



New Year Special Episode – SAFETY’S TOP 21 FOR ‘21



Happy New Year from The Safety Guru! Are you ready to charge up your Safety strategy for 2021? Listen in to a special, must listen episode: our top 21 predictions for safety in 2021 with Eric Michrowski and Dr Josh Williams. We identified our Top 21 predictions on what to look out for in Safety in 2021. Our list is based on emerging themes in all our interactions with senior leaders.


Safety’s Top 21 for 2021 1. Mergers and Acquisitions: As the pace of mergers and acquisitions is likely to pick up in 2021, there will be increased attention on integrating Safety Cultures and conducting Safety Culture due diligence, something that isn’t sufficiently front row center today. Doing this well on the front end will help prevent unforeseen cultural challenges for years following the M&A. 2. SIFs and SIF Potential: When you track macro data you can see the significant progress that has been made in reducing injuries over the past 10 years and unfortunately the insufficient progress around SIFs. More and more organizations are starting to realize that actions to reduce SIFs and Potential SIFs are often different. Based on our leadership interactions, we think that 2021 will see more attention being placed in reducing SIFs and Potential SIFs. 3. BeHop – Combining the Best of Behavioral Safety and Human Performance (HOP): Rather than finding ways of integrating new ideas, organizations too often abandon what was working before. That’s the case with Behavioral Safety and HOP – we’ve seen some great ways to integrate the best of both worlds to increase impact and we are seeing more organizations trying to integrate the best of both worlds. For example, instead of checking hardhats, observations can be focused on checking themes such as “are you OK?”, “what would help you do the job better?” and focusing more on the conversation, not the cards. 4. Virtual & Flex Work: Whether you like it or not, it’s here to stay in some shape. Based on a lot of current research, employers who don’t embrace it could face significant retention risks. This shift brings a lot of positive opportunities when properly embraced. Safety teams need to think about how to better adapt to this new reality – from observations, to conversations and personalization of messages. 5. Mental Health: Particularly with COVID-19, studies have shown a significant increase in the rates of depression and anxiety, particularly for those 30 and younger. People are feeling isolated and alone. So mental health is becoming a more common area of focus for safety teams. Both the mental and physical side of safety are so critical going into 2021. 6. Digitization: You can’t turn a page in the newspaper without reading about new apps, tools, technology, robotics… This brings a lot of new opportunities for safety leaders from data to process improvements that reduce hazards and we think the pace of change will continue to increase significantly in 2021. 7. Re-Engineering: A greater focus on removing the hazard. That’s ultimately the best way to impact SIFs. For example, can we send a robot into a confined space or can the work at heights be performed by a drone? With advances in the IoT (Internet of Things), robotics, we are expecting greater advances. 8. Big Brother: With these technological advances (i.e. cameras on job sites, sensors…), there likely will be an increased perception of Big Brother watching. While some of these advances are very positive, organizational change considerations will need to be front row center otherwise we risk seeing people dialing down on their safety ownership. 9. Ownership and No Blame: One of the most positive attributes of Human Performance (HOP) has been the focus on removing the focus on blaming the employee and focusing more on how the system failed. There is a need to combine that with elements of cognitive psychology to increase safety ownership. 10. Rethinking Safety Training: 2021 will continue to see a large generational shift in most workplaces. With that shift there is a need to rethink safety training and safety leadership training: bringing new technologies and micro learnings and moving away from the old classroom approach. We are talking about generations that grew up with iPads and technology day in and day out – there is a greater expectation on more interactive and real time training. 11. Big Data & Predictive Analytics: With advances in technology, Big Data and Predictive Analytics are increasingly becoming incredibly helpful tools to understand where our hazards are located. This can be used to analyze observations or even in some organizations the hazardous jobs that will take place. But at the end of the data, someone still needs to take action which is where Safety Ownership is so critical. 12. Generational shifts in the workplace: As we mentioned in #10, we can expect a greater generational shift in the workplace. This will bring issues and challenges around knowledge transfer and knowledge management. That will need to be a significant area of focus in 2021. 13. Too Much “Lean and Mean”: With more organizations having to reduce operating costs, we are seeing an increase in themes around “not having enough people or resources”, “burnout”, “scheduling challenges”, resulting in an increase in production pressure. Balancing Safe Production messaging and finding the right balance of “lean and mean” will be essential to safety in 2021. 14. Developing Safety Leaders Beyond the Classroom: While leaders often want to have the right impact on Safety, they don’t always have the insights needed to drive higher impact. 360s have provided too little insights as they don’t tie the impact of leaders to front line workers. We see greater use of better 4D insights increasingly being able to help leaders and leadership teams understand how to improve their leadership skills and impact together with Safety Leadership Coaching. 15. Increasing Safety Leadership Commitment: Too often organizations rely solely on training as the lever to improve Safety Leadership and Commitment. While it’s definitely a great tool to leverage, sometimes what’s needed is simply to bring existing safety leadership knowledge to life every day. We’ve seen great success focusing on building commitments, habits, and even micro habits to make safety real. In lean times, this can be a great lever to drive rapid impact. 16. Safety Supervision: Often Supervisors have the greatest ability to influence the Safety Ownership of frontline team member. Yet it’s often the level of leadership that receives the least investment. In lean times, this can be the best area of investment – to increase safety coaching and influence skills. 17. Safety Implications of Returning to Work: We’ve got a large portion of the workforce that hasn’t gone into an office for over a year. As they return to work, there will be lots of safety hazards that they will need to be re-accustomed to. That will require focus for safety leaders to draw back attention to the hazards that exist. 18. Psychological Safety: To drive Safety impact, team members need to feel Psychologically Safe to speak up and to feel comfortable calling out unsafe work, stopping work or escalating issues. We’re seeing more and more organizations drive the right emphasis and drive meaningful change and set up systems to get input from people that are on the job, doing the job. 19. Learning Environment: We’re hearing more and more about learning environment. That’s a good trend, we’re going to see more of it in 2021. From safety suggestions, to close calls, to learning from incidents. Additionally, the more involvement and participation from team members, the more the learnings will stick. In a NIOSH study, the participants that were involved in designing their own observation card were 7X more likely to use it than those that were given a great card designed by another group. 20. Emphasis on Brain Science: We’re learning more and more about how the brain works. We know about our capacity to process seven units of information at a time. We’re learning about some biases that get us in trouble like the fundamental attribution error (if I make a mistake, I blame the environment; if someone else makes one, I blame them). That’s problematic with injuries because if I get hurt, I’m more likely to look elsewhere for blame and if I am a leader, I’m more likely to blame the employee. Another example is Confirmation Bias, which can get us into trouble because we’re not always open to new ideas and new thinking. Focusing on an understanding of how our brain works allows us to get rid of some of those biases and increase impact. 21. Health & Safety is More Important than Ever – Make it Count: In 2020, Safety Leaders became essential to help keep businesses open. In most organizations, Safety has gained significantly in terms of executive access. It’s a unique opportunity to capitalize and influence the strategy for the years to come – presenting a balanced view of improving Safe Production. Those are our Top 21 trending themes to drive greater impact on Safety in 2021. Happy New Year!

Safety’s 21 for 2021 Key Topics

1. Mergers and Acquisitions.

2. SIFs and SIF Potential.

3. BeHop.

4. Virtual & Flex Work.

5. Mental Health.

6. Digitization.

7. Re-engineering.

8. Big Brother.

9. Ownership and No Blame.

10. Rethinking Safety Training.

11. Big Data & Predictive Analytics.

12. Generational shifts in the workplace.

13. Too Much “Lean and Mean”.

14. Developing Safety Leaders Beyond the Classroom.

15. Increasing Safety Leadership Commitment.

16. Safety Supervision.

17. Safety Implications of Returning to Work.

18. Psychological Safety.

19. Learning Environment.

20. Emphasis on Brain Science.

21. Health & Safety is More Important than Ever – Make it Count.

For more information on this topic, please read the related blog Safety’s 21 for 2021 at Propulo Consulting.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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For more than 20 years, Josh has partnered with clients around the world to deliver customized, sustainable solutions to improve safety culture and prevent SIFs. Dr. Williams earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Virginia Tech and is a behavioral safety, human performance, and safety culture improvement expert.

Josh is the author of Keeping People Safe: The Human Dynamics of Injury Prevention and co-editor of Keys to Behavior Based Safety. He has published more than 50 book chapters, government reports, white papers, blogs and articles in leading journals. Josh has also delivered hundreds of presentations at leading national conferences and is a highly regarded public speaker. He received the Cambridge Center National First Prize for his research on behavioral safety feedback.

A sample of Josh’s recent projects include delivering a series of motivational presentations, conducting comprehensive strategic planning sessions, and managing safety culture assessments and improvement activities.

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



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


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

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