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Making Safety Communication Magical with John Drebinger

The Safety Guru_EP 53_John Drebinger_Making Safety Communication Magical

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True leaders understand companies that are safe are more profitable and more productive. John Drebinger, professional magician and safety speaker, shares his insights with large companies through genuine inspiration, fun magic, and educational safety messages. In this engaging episode, he emphasizes the importance of giving employees a personal reason behind safety. People often don’t buy into the safety vision of an organization without the why. Through honest, subtle communication and intentional actions, leaders can convey the importance of safety messaging in a way that prompts everyone to take personal ownership.

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies, ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost. For the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops, 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 really excited to have John Drebinger on the show. He’s a safety motivational speaker, and also a trusted adviser to senior leaders on communication strategies. He’s worked with over 400 companies at 30 years doing this former magician has exceptional reputation in terms of shifting mindsets with all the organization he’s worked with by being fun and engaging. So, John, welcome to the show. 

Hi there. 

So, John, first tell me, how do you go from magician to passionate about safety and working with all these organizations driving amazing outcomes? 

Sure. Well, I still am a professional magician and still an active member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California, and proud to be that that’s an organization you have to actually audition to become a member of. And I’ve been with them for over 25 years. But anyway, the way I started in the safety business was I was doing magic at a restaurant in Stockton, California, and two restaurants I would do one night a week and go table to table. And some people from Pacific Gas and Electric were sitting at the table. And then they said, hey, we could use you as a magician at our safety kickoff. Back then, they used to do these huge safety kickoffs. They were safety Giants back then. And they would do these huge safety kick offs. The year before, they had a Dixon jazz band. They said, if you can use magic, safety is the magic word. We can tie that in. I said, that’s great. But at the time I was doing corporate magic. I was doing trade shows for companies. I would work their display and tie their product into the tricks to illustrate a feature of their product, the product name, whatever they wanted to get across. 

And so, I thought, well, I can do the same thing with safety. So, I said, send me one of your safety manuals and send me how you hurt people. Last year statistics, they did. And I wrote three magic routines tied to three different tricks that taught their concepts. And so, they had me at the Modesto fleet operations kickoff. And that was my first introduction to safety. I remember arriving, they had a truck that had been destroyed. Apparently one of their drivers was following a semi that had a forklift on the back of the semi, and the forklift was in an extended position. And when they went under a bridge. It flipped off and landed right on the roof of the guy’s cab. Luckily, didn’t kill him. He was there all bandaged up, and they had the truck as a message to everybody, hey, don’t follow too close. But anyway, so I did that meeting at the time. Another strong thing they used to do was they would attend each other safety kickoffs. And I highly recommend that the companies to find out the businesses, even if you’re in different fields, if you’re in a manufacturing company and there’s other ones in your neighborhood, go visit their safety meetings, see how they do stuff and get other inputs. 

So, you have other ideas and concepts you may not have thought of. Well, these guys had the smarts their safety people from all the different divisions would visit each other’s safety meetings. Well, immediately after the meeting, they’re going, hey, can you come to our meeting? And my answer was, of course, you pay me, I’ll go anywhere. That’s fine. So, they started having me go up and down the whole system, and I kept creating more and more safety message in the presentation. I did a lot of safety awards banquets for them. They used to do award banquets every year for their safety people and so forth in the different divisions in the company. And so, in those when it was families like spouses and the worker. And so, for that, it was probably 70% entertainment, 30% safety. But then when I was speaking at locations, it was pretty much 30% magic and 70% content with safety. So, over a period of time, the Los Angeles chapter of the National Safety Council heard how effective I was. And Joe Kaplan, who was then the President executive of the organization, asked me to develop a full day course for him on safety communication, which became my first book, Mastering Safety Communication. 

So that book came out, and we pretty much took that course national. And then the business took off from that point. Once I had the book and we started going to national safety shows, and all of a sudden people see me and saying, hey, we have to have you at our location. And it started a whole new career. And then since then, of course, I’ve become a professional member of the American Society of Safety Professionals, learned a whole lot more about the safety side of the business. But I think my real calling has always been how to get people. There are so many companies that are so focused on getting employees to understand all the safety procedures, rules, policies, and they’re great at that. There are very few times where somebody gets injured and they can honestly say, oh, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do that. That virtually never happens. The training in these companies is fabulous. The part they leave out is and I hate using the word motivational because it’s so cliched, but they don’t give people the reason why they should do something a certain way. All right. You need to explain to a young person why using hearing protection is important. 

And when I’m giving a talk, I will say something like, hey, and I’ll talk about my grandkids. I’ll say, you guys, your 20-year-olds out there need to use your hearing protection. First off, you love listening to your music. You want to be able to listen to whatever music you want to when you’re 60, 70, 80, 90 years old. But someday you’re going to have kids, you’re going to have grandkids, and you’re going to miss out on hearing the sweet sound of that grandchild. If you can’t hear well. And I’d tell a story about a guy who used to be at a Rotary meeting I’d go to, and his hearing was horrible. You’d sit across the table from him less than 3ft away, and you had to yell. It was, hey, Wayne, how are you? And he’d go, what? And I’m not even screaming as loud as sometimes I would. And I guarantee you, Wayne, with all his grandkids, has never heard the sweet sound of their voice because this hearing is so bad. You need to give people the reason why. And a lot of leaders leave that part out. They tell people that safety is important, safety is a value for the company, but you need to give people a personal reason why for them if they would want to work safely. 

And the same thing for leaders when we talk about leadership, why is it important that you, as a first line supervisor, hold safety as a value? And that’s tough because you get somebody that’s been promoted. They’ve been doing a task now. They’ve been promoted because they’re great at their task. They’re now a supervisor. They’re leading other people. But they also know that one of the biggest factors is production. And they’re so focused on that. And they haven’t been with the program long enough to understand how important safety is, how you never want to be in the position where you found out somebody got hurt under your leadership, that you find out that when you have an injury, it does grow up production and cost. That safety actually has a huge impact on the effectiveness of any organization and its profitability. And because they don’t have that experience and that knowledge, it’s one of the things a lot of times upper-level leadership forgets to instill in those people. You’re not giving those young leaders, the men and women that are now leading. You’re not giving them a reason why safety needs to be of value and a very important principle to them in what they do and what they’re evaluating that their team’s doing in a given day. 

And because you leave out, that why they don’t do it. It’s the same thing where you teach somebody, hey, you need to lift properly. I remember I worked at Scout camp, and we’d throw mattresses onto a truck. We had a whole bunch we had to get rid of and we’re throwing them in a truck. And somebody says, hey, you need to lift Propulo. And I’m like, I’m a football player, I don’t need to do this. 

That nothing. 

I’m strong enough, right? But you have to make sure that people understand in an effective way that, hey, this is for down the road. It’s not going to affect you now, but later on, unless you give them that personal, why for them, whether it’s leadership, why safety should be important, or the worker, why they should put the guard on this device, why they should have their hearing protection on without that, they’re not going to do it. They just think, hey, what’s the point? And a good example of all the stuff we’re dealing with COVID now and everything else, people are so confused because the messaging has been so bad is, okay, do I need to wear a mask? Is it important? So, you need to think in terms of why is this important? And of course, that brings up a whole other topic you could go into and spend days on. But honesty is very important. Leaders need to be honest with people. That the reasons why you do things. I think that’s another problem with what’s occurring. There’s been so much misinformation about stuff. In the beginning of the whole COVID thing, they told everybody, oh, you don’t need to wear a mask. 

And the reason why they told them that was they didn’t want to run on masks because they needed them for the hospital workers. But that was an outright bit of its misinformation, and it had a reason behind it. But all of a sudden, the people that gave that information out had no credibility because they’ve already proven, I’m willing to tell you an untrue statement in order to get a behavior out of you. And leaders do that in safety. Leaders and corporations do that. You need to be honest with people, hey, we need you to do this because it’s more profitable. We need to do this because we don’t want to see you get hurt unless you’re honest with people. And people figure that out really quickly. There’s an inherent ability to figure out when somebody’s not being honest with you. So, I think those things are critical. And I think it’s so true. I’ve been seeing that when a leader expresses their personal why safety matters to them with stories an example, it becomes even more powerful because it feels more genuine. You’re more authentic, right? 

By the way, one thing I didn’t tell you before the call if you would like and you can edit this out or not or leave it in. But if you would like, I would be glad to provide anybody listening to the podcast a free eBook version of my book. Would you watch out for my safety? 

That’s fantastic. 

And all they would have to do is if they email me, John@drevenger.com. That’s John at Drebinger. D-R-E-B as in boy-inger.com. Mention the podcast and I will send them a link where they can download a free copy of that book. I’ve sold over about 45,000 copies of that in print. My first book, Mastering Safety Communication, word about let’s see 90,000 copies on it. So, both have been pretty good best sellers. But since they’re listening to your podcast, if they’d like, they can just email me and as a courtesy to you, send them a free copy of that and they can read that on you can read that on a Kindle. You can get a PDF version of it. You get a mobile version for Kindle and an EPUB for any other device. So, they’re welcome to that. 

Excellent. So that’s a great offer. Thank you very much, John, for offering that to the listeners. Maybe if we can touch on because you touched on a lot of the executive safety messaging piece, can you share maybe some techniques on how you’ve already shared quite a few. But any other thoughts in terms of how executives should message around safety? We talked about why matters being more personal around its authenticity. Any other thoughts that you think executives should really think about and look at themselves in the mirror and say, am I doing this to improve my safety performance? 

Well, one of my favorite formats is companies that will bring me in, and I’ll spend part of a day or a couple of hours doing a leadership session on safety. And a very good example of this, I was at one company, and we did the session with them the day before. I was doing all the employee talks at their different sites. And so, what was great about that is the leadership found out how important their role in what they do and what they say is the very next day because they had attended the session that I did on the importance of leadership, there were leaders actually going out throughout their facility, making sure that everybody was at the meeting where I was speaking. They said, hey, you got to make sure you’re here. They made sure people shut down what they were doing and came over and listened to it, where there’s a lot of times they’ll go to places. And there was one location that was really unfortunate for the supervisor involved. But the CEO of this one oil company was following me around. I was actually going around the different control rooms and stuff at the refinery and doing short little presentations. 

And when we got to one and the safety person had done a great job scheduling every little supervisor knew when we were going to get to their spot to have everybody ready to go and everything, well, we got this one spot, and the supervisor had purposely sent everybody out to do tasks at that moment. So there was virtually nobody in the room to hear the presentation. Oh, my, the safety guy was really disgusting. And he shared that with me. So, before we left that little section, I asked the CEO. I said, hey, give me a minute. Come on out. Let me talk to you. We went outside and I explained to him how good a job the safety guy done on scheduling everything. And that what had happened here was the person had sent people out on tasks right before we got there. And the CEO happened to be there because their company had two guys who were in the community and saved somebody’s life, did CPR and save the guy’s life in town, and he was there to help give them an award from the community and recognize them. So that CEO had flown out specifically for that had coincidentally going around with me, and I shared that. 

He said he was very pleased. He said, I’m glad to hear that. And I’m sure later on had a discussion with a supervisor that probably wasn’t the most comfortable moment in their experience. And by the way, that’s a significant factor when upper-level leadership pays attention to those kinds of things. I was speaking at the Johnson Space Center back in 2001 when George Abbey was the director, and I spoke for an entire year. I was there three days a month for the entire year to hit all the NASA employees. And it was a full day program called Safety Through Everyone’s Participation. And George is absolutely committed to safety. And he’s known as Mr. Abbey. And one week I showed up, and there was supposed to be 150 people at each session of the three days. And one day there were like 75 people. And I asked the safety person, I said, what happened? She said, I don’t know. Their managers apparently didn’t get them there. Well, Mr. Abby came in the room, saw how empty the room was, and everybody was signed up. By the way, it wasn’t a matter of like who showed up. 

They knew who was supposed to be there. Apparently, the next Monday senior managers meeting held in Mr. Abby’s office was a hell fire and brimstone session because the rest of the year there wasn’t a single session with 150 people in it. So, he was able to convey to his team that this was not something that people had an excuse to miss. And that was pretty significant. In fact, one of them to give you an idea at NASA, when they do a flight ready, when they’re getting ready for a launch, everybody that’s got their regular tasks during the launch may have additional duties. And one day when I was speaking, there was a launch coming up two or three days later. And I said, how many people here have launched responsibilities? And at least two thirds of the people raise their hand. And that really pointed out that even in the midst of a launch being at that safety day was that important and that Mr. Abbey wanted to make sure they were there. They understood that. And it was clear from the leadership, from the top down, this is not something you put aside, because he understood that’s the foundation of making sure everything happens. And he was focused on employee safety. We’re not talking about flight safety here. 

Sure. 

Which he was very much a proponent of also. But anyway, the key thing there was that the leadership making sure that other leaders understood this is important. This isn’t something you set aside. I spoke at Boeing years ago, and their safety person was smart enough. He contacted the President of the company and said, hey, you have a monthly manager’s meeting. Can I have 2 hours of that meeting? And the President said, sure, no problem. And so, he had me come in for those 2 hours and do a talk on leadership and safety. But he knew if he held a safety meeting about leadership, that a percentage of people would come to it and a percentage of people would have other excuses than things to miss. He knew nobody had an excuse for missing the president’s meeting. It was like, everybody is going to be there. And the President understood that he needed to lend that authority to safety. But I absolutely love it when I see leaders that I’ve taught their expectations. Everybody understands expectations when it comes to production and the things you’re getting done, holding people accountable, and it’s like, hey, you guys are meeting your production goals. 

You’re meeting this. But they need to do the same thing when it comes to safety. And it’s not safety performance, it’s not. How many injures did you have? Is everybody attending the safety briefing? Is everybody doing this? Tom Walters, President with the ExxonMobil, was sitting in a room. I was doing a presentation for them at Exxon Mobile. And afterwards, no less than five employees came up to me and said, hey, did you know the President of the company was here? And I said, yeah. I said, I’ve interviewed him, and he’s very committed to safety. And I had actually talked to him. I went over and said Hi to him when he got there. And he said, yeah, it’s a meeting for safety, for the employees in the building. And I work in the building. To him, he was going to be there for that reason. But what was powerful was the employees noticed him being there, and they were impressed that it’s like, wow, because he could have easily not bother to be there. P.G and E back in the days when they were safety Giants, I was speaking at the Abbot Canyon Nuclear Power Station, and one of their senior vice presidents, former Admiral of the Navy Ben Montoya, was there, and they had a policy whenever they had local safety kickoffs, somebody from the headquarters building in the executive offices had to be at each of the safety kickoffs and be there for the whole day. 

And Ben was so focused on safety. I’m part of this full day thing they have. And I stayed and listened to the other speakers. At one point, Ben stood up in the middle of the meeting and said, Excuse me, ladies, and gentlemen, but I have to leave for a moment because my number has come up with a nuclear regulatory Commission on having to take a drug test. And so, he had to go out and do the urine test. But he was so committed to safety, he didn’t want to have anybody think he was going out of the room to take a phone call to check on something. In other words, something else was more important than safety meeting. He let everybody know that this was something they all had to do. If their number came up, you don’t get to go. I’ll do it later. When he came back in, everybody noticed when he came back in the room, but they knew he didn’t leave because of something like somebody made a call that he needed to follow up on or they understood safety was very important to him and he was going to be there with them for the whole day. 

And that’s the kind of leadership that really conveys the message of how important something is. And so, I’ll coach leaders on the how to. I’ll also spend time sharing with them things they may be doing that’s undermining their message. I’ve had leaders that I know are committed to safety, that they’ll tell me stories and part of their history and everything, and I understand they are absolutely committed to safety. And yet when I interview the employees, they don’t think the leadership is committed. And so, I’ve discovered over the years there are things that undermine a safety message or even subtle communication skills where you’re not getting the safety message across. I always tell leaders; you need to tell people safety is important. Safety is a value in the midst of a crisis, when all hell is breaking loose, when the production is behind schedule, when everything’s going wrong, and you say, hey, Bob, we got to get this done by 04:00. This has to be done. I don’t care what you have to do. It’s got to be done at 04:00. That’s the moment when you have to say, and they need you to do it safely. 

In fact, I even use the illustration I teach, I teach leaders to say, look, when you do this, Bob, Shirley or whatever, when you’re doing this task, I don’t want you to do anything you wouldn’t want your own kid to do. And that’s what we call in communication and archetype. You don’t have to have kids to understand that’s a very high level of performance that I wouldn’t want you to do anything you wouldn’t want your own kid to do. But they need to share. That not just at the safety meeting, where the safety leaders will stand up and say safety is number one, which, by the way, it isn’t. That’s another thing I teach leaders, stop telling people safety is number one. It’s not you’re in business. If you’re in business, your job is to make a profit. And without that. But safety is how you do it. You make your product with quality, you have integrity, and all those are all the values of how you do something. They’re not what you’re doing. And so, you’re in business. Same thing with government agencies. When I speak at NASA, it’s, hey, you don’t waste any money. 

You want to spend all the money you can on your next mission, on the next space discovery that you’re going to make on your next trip, getting to Mars, getting to the moon, whatever it is you want to save every dollar you can, you don’t want to waste that on somebody getting injured. I mean, aside from somebody getting hurt, you’re wasting resources that could accomplish something. And I spoke in Oklahoma one year to the people that handle all the welfare and dealing with people that need homes and everything. I said, you guys don’t want to waste money on injuries, car accidents and other things like that that could be going to social services to help the people and your clients that you’re helping. Every dollar you spend on an injury isn’t going to that person that really needs your help, the counseling or whatever it is you’re providing them. And true leaders understand that they get the companies that are safe, are more profitable, they’re more productive. And the same thing with organizations that are working on a budget, nobody has more money than they know what to do with. That’s just not the case. 

Never seen that problem. But you’ve shared a lot of great ideas in terms of how to peers through different levels of management, because a lot of the challenges when I speak to executives is I’m committed to safety. But how do I make sure that message goes across the organization? And a lot of it, I think, is the signals you just shared, the CEO President showing up, demonstrating this is important, demonstrating why they’re there. Small signals tend to have a big impact in terms of piercing through. 

Yeah. And people say, walk your talk and everything else like that. And they think in terms of like, okay, are you wearing a hard hat or safety glasses when you’re in a facility? That’s not the key thing leaders need to do. For instance, a good example was the Boeing meeting where the President had the safety guy take part of his meeting. I used the illustration marketing. If you look at your market and companies all go to places and people attending a safety meeting is optional, whereas attending a marketing meeting isn’t. And I go, you’re telling everybody what’s important. 

Absolutely. 

Or maybe not optional. But if somebody on the teams feels like, oh, I had to go do such and such, that’s why I’m not at the meeting. I couldn’t make a safety briefing because I needed to do X, Y, or Z. If that same excuse would work for the marketing meeting, their salesperson meeting, their production, whatever other meetings there are, I’m fine with that. But if that wouldn’t work in those situations, you’ve got a problem because people aren’t agreed. You’re not applying the same importance to safety. That’s the other key thing people get that the first level supervisors, the people that would say, oh, there was something more important. The person that sent all the workers out when we were supposed to be at their little control room, they believe those tasks they were going to do was more important than the safety message they were going to hear. And you just need to let people know these are all equally important. 

In that case. Exactly. 

Making a quality product is critical. In that case, I always tell people quality is easy for a manufacturing company. If you let quality go down the Hill, the marketplace will get rid of you. You’ll be gone in a heartbeat, of course. But with safety, that’s not the case with safety. You see disastrous things happening. I’ve seen over the years leadership change in companies. We’ve had clients where their safety focus was incredible. We see a change in leadership, and they’re the type of company that would bring in somebody like me to teach their leader stuff. They’d bring in speakers like me to talk to employees and do motivational talks. I do one talk called Ensure Your Safety, and that’s focused on overcoming, getting people to not take shortcuts, taking personal responsibility, how to refocus when you get distracted, because that happens day in and day out. Other talk I do what you watch out for. My safety is about how to share safety. When you see somebody doing something unsafe, how do you do that? Well, people that bring in speakers like me and other speakers, all of a sudden somebody comes in and says, oh, we don’t need all that stuff. 

I literally over the years, I’ll tell my marketing person, I go keep track. I said, they’re going to have a major injury or a major incident down the road. And sure enough, they do you read about some fire or whatever? People in my Church, there was a fire over in the Bay Area at a refinery probably 15 plus years ago, and three people were killed. And somebody in my Church said, all they need to have you speak over there. I said, those guys will never have me speak there. They’re not committed to safety. They never have been. I’d already heard stories about them. I said, they’ve killed people before and they’re going to kill people again. And I actually bumped into a consulting company in Teams. I was having lunch with somebody, and they had mentioned that that company had actually hired them to come and analyze this one incident. And they contacted about six months later saying, hey, what do you want us to do to implement all this? And they said, no, we just needed the report, and they weren’t following up. So, you can spot places. Of course, in one of my presentations, I go when my kids were growing up getting a job, I wouldn’t let them work someplace where safety wasn’t a focus. And I make the joke. I said, yeah, if they got a job with a company that wasn’t safe, I’d call up the supervisor and say, yeah, my kid is stealing from you, get them fired. But anyway, the point being is I could spot the characteristics and the things that made it obvious that safety wasn’t a value to those people. And I’m not going to have my family members working at a place like that because eventually somebody’s going to get hurt and it could be them. 

Absolutely. You mentioned you talk, and you teach around executive messaging for safety. You teach around personal responsibility. I’d like to pivot a little bit on your third topic that you teach is really around how to share feedback and how to receive it, which I think is so critical. 

Sure. 

Because at the end of the day, that’s one of the best ways to drive improvements in performances is having good conversations around safety, around feedback, when maybe you’re doing something unsafe. Any thoughts you can share with our listeners around some of the techniques when you see unsafe work? 

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 www.propulo.com. 

Yeah. Years ago, I was reading a fellow safety professional book, one of the things they pointed out that people had done a lot of studies on how to when you see somebody doing something unsafe, how to go and correct them or do an intervention so that they would feel comfortable, so that afterwards they’d feel empowered and all that good stuff. They said, the problem is nobody had studied how to make the person doing the intervention feel comfortable. And because of that, people don’t intervene. And that’s the other scary part in the field of safety. You talk to most safety professionals; they’ll tell you that a huge percentage. I don’t know what the true number is, but I know it’s way beyond the majority of incidents. Somebody gets hurt and people will say, yeah, oh, I’ve seen them doing that before. I’ve seen them do that. I’ve seen them do that dozens of times. Or we’ve always done it that way or basically, that behavior that way of doing the job or that hazard had been noticed? Oh, yeah, I noticed that bad step for a long time. It’s like, well, then why didn’t anybody say anything? 

There are so few incidences where somebody gets hurt and nobody saw that coming. And that’s tragic because you can argue, you can get into debate and safety. Are all injuries preventable? Well, certainly if somebody has seen the hazard or the behavior before, that’s 100% preventable. But the problem is people don’t know. And there’s a full 45 minutes to an hour presentation. I do would you watch out for my safety? And the book that I offered them if they want has the content of that end. But it’s the talk I do, and I generally take about an hour with it with employees. And I go into five reasons why people would want to watch out for each other’s safety, because I focus on the standpoint. You want to get people to want to do something. You want to get executives to want to focus on safety, to want to make sure safety is of value. And sometimes people call it a priority. But I like the term value. You want to give people to want to use the safety glasses or the hearing protection, even when nobody’s watching that they naturally don’t like. I’m putting these on because I want to put them on, not because I have to, not because it’s a rule or anything else. 

I want them to want to do it. In fact, my goal whenever I talk to employees and leaders is I want your people doing this stuff when they get home, when they get home and they’re doing something in their garage, they want to put in their safety glasses on because there’s no rule that says they have to. But I want to put them on. I post a picture on Facebook a few weeks ago. I was doing some mowing before we got our first rains here in California for the fall. And I had my hearing protection on my headsets on. And somebody, a safety professional, as a friend on Facebook posted, nice touch with a hearing protection. But I wear that because I want to protect my hearing. I want to be able to hear my grandkids. I want to be able to enjoy music. So, I approach that the same way I go into Why would you want to watch out for other people? And I talk about five basic reasons, two of which actually benefit the person. First, when I start with this, I said, you want to watch out for other people because when you start watching out for the safety of other people, your own personal safety awareness goes up. 

You become aware of hazards to you that you wouldn’t be aware of because you’re now looking out for other people. You’re going to see stuff other people won’t see. I say that about safety professionals. We tend to see things other people don’t see too many safety professionals ignore them. It always drives me crazy when I see at a safety convention, people Loading the exhibit hall or something and lifting him Propulo. And I’m like, or when the traffic signal changes and they’re crossing on the red or after the little flashing red hand comes up and it’s like, hello, we’re in the safety business. We do it because it’s the right thing to do and it’s a better example. But anyway, so I talk about why you’d want to watch out for other people. Then I get into when you see something, the reasons why people don’t. And there are three reasons I talk about in the presentation that people don’t intervene, one of which is they don’t think anything’s going to happen. I think that’s the primary reason people don’t point a hazard out to somebody. It’s like nothing’s going to happen in our life’s experiences. 

It won’t. I mean, think of all the safety violations, all the shortcuts that are happening today in the workplace and all the people that are texting while driving, all the things that are happening that people shouldn’t be doing and nothing bad happens. I mean, how many times you’ve seen people driving down the road with their phone very engaged, not paying a whole lot of attention? Somebody cuts you off on the road and you look, and you go, they had no clue I was there. You avoided hitting them. And you literally know for a fact they had no clue you were there for that person. They’ve been doing that behavior all day long. And how many people have they not hit? So, our human experiences and nothing will happen. In the talk I mentioned, I could be having lunch with you, and I’d be looking. Maybe I see somebody in the white staff step and climb up on a chair to change the light bulb. And I think, well, man, you shouldn’t do that. It’s not safe. You should use a step ladder. But in my life’s experience, I have yet to see somebody use a chair as a stepladder and fall off it. 

All right. So, I know you shouldn’t. I know it’s not a good idea, but personally, I’ve never seen a result in an injury. So, I could look at that and think, how would I feel? So, I actually go back in the presentation, I point out the fourth reason why you watch out for other people, why you’d want to watch out for other people is having no regrets. And I point out to people, I go think to yourself, if the kid fell off that chair and fell just wrong and got hurt, how would I feel knowing I could have prevented it? If I feel bad, then I go say something. I’m doing it to protect them, but I’m also doing it to protect me. I’m not going to feel bad. Oh, shoot. Something bad happened. Once again, the main reason, I think is people think nothing will happen. So, I say the way you handle that is you ask, if it did, how would you feel that you didn’t say something and protect that person. The second reason people don’t watch out for other people’s safety is or intervene is it’s uncomfortable. It’s not comfortable going over to somebody and saying, hey, that’s not the best way to do this. 

Or there’s a hazard there. And it’s because people self-talk. They say negative stuff to themselves. They think, well, that person must know that, or they’ve been here longer than I have. And it’s like in the talk, I do a whole the second reason people need to watch out for other people is people get distracted and they have this cognitive failure. Your mind misses something. You could be the most experienced working in a facility looking at a hazard and not actually see it. As a magician, I can make that happen on purpose. In my presentations, I’ll do two or three tricks that tie in the message. If I’m doing a full day presentation, I’ll do tricks every so often. Even if they don’t have something tied in the message, they’re just for breaking things up. Keeping the meeting interesting. 

Sure. 

But that second reason it’s uncomfortable. So now you got it. The key is and the third thing I point out is they don’t know how to safety meetings. I can’t tell you how many places I’ve been, and the leadership will say, be your brother’s keeper, watch out for each other. Everybody gets that. I understand. But how do I do it? Well, that’s what I teach people. And I guarantee you there are very few people that teach straightforward what I do a simple technique on how to point safety out to people in a way that the person pointing it out feels comfortable. By the way, it’s also comfortable for the person they’re sharing it with. But I see the person over there, I’m at a grocery store, I’m at a hardware store or something, and I see somebody near a hazard. I feel comfortable, perfectly comfortable going over and saying something to somebody because of the technique that I’ve come up with that allows me to do it. And one of the techniques is similar to the title of the book. It’s, hey, would you like me to watch out for your safety? And I do magic in the presentation. 

But that’s a trick question. When I say to somebody, hey, would you like me to watch out for your safety? 

Nobody’s going to say, no. 

They’re curious. It’s like what’s he up to, what’s he thinking of. Sometimes they’ll go like, oh, yeah, I shouldn’t be doing this because they are doing something they know they shouldn’t be doing, but they generally will say yes. And of course, now I feel comfortable because they’ve said, hey, they want the input. As a professional Speaker, I’ll hear somebody else speak. I’ll be at Church. I was visiting a Church downtown Sacramento. My son just moved there, and it’s about 20 miles farther from where I go to Church. And so, I wanted to go there and meet the pastors. I went to Lutheran Seminary for a couple of years. I couldn’t pass Greek to save my life. So, I continue on the lay Ministry. But I was talking to one of the pastors. I don’t give unsolicited advice, but I said to him, I said, hey, I’m a professional in the speaking field and I do coach. I said, “would you like it too?” And I said, “sure, the same thing.” It’s similar to saying, hey, would you like me to watch out for your safety? It’s like, hey, there’s something that might help you that would be useful. 

And I said, Great. And then he asked some more questions, and I gave him some more input. But people are curious. They want that. But you ask them nicely. There’s another technique I teach, very simple, just the simple phrase. As you know, you see an experienced worker over there. I’m new on the job. I’ve been here for two weeks, and this person is over there. I just got done with all the training, and you’re not supposed to be doing that or whatever. And the simple phrase, hey, as you know, there’s a power supply under there. As you know, there’s a hazard right behind you. If that person is having it is distracted. That moment, they’re thinking about their kid’s softball game that afternoon. They’re distracted because their car has a breakdown that they weren’t counting on. And they’re thinking about that. They don’t see that hazard. I’ve just protected them. But I’ve said, as you know, which presumes they know what they’re doing, and that way they feel comfortable. I feel comfortable. And so, I cover that in the presentation. Then I also go into how to respond. And the key there is, of course, to make the person appreciate that you appreciate their input. 

And I go into some great stories on that. Actually, my closing magic trick is I’ll borrow a dollar bill from some of the audience, and then we record the dollar bill serial number. It then gets torn up and ends up inside of a lemon back in one piece. And that’s my closing effect. But while I’m doing it to cut the lemon open, I’m wearing safety gloves. And I tell a story about a guy who, after a presentation, I had left my gloves at home that particular trip, I threw them in the wash. I left the gloves behind, and he came up to me after a presentation. So, I noticed you were cutting that lemon. He didn’t have any gloves on, but he walked up first, and he said, hey, would you like me to watch out for your safety? And I said, yeah, you bet. That’s the other cool thing about the technique I teach that’s cool people use it instantly and some companies have a good time with it. I call and the safety guy say, yeah, we’ve got everybody walking around going, hey, John told me to ask you if you want me to watch out for your safety. 

They’ll refer back to that. But either way it happened. So, he said, yeah. I said, sure. And he said, let me get you some gloves you can use the rest of the week while you’re here. And he got me these cool gloves. And I tell the whole story about the gloves and somebody else a few weeks later pointing out something to me and how I respond and what I do to let people know I appreciate that. And also, the communication barriers that you can set up. 

Sure. 

I was wearing gloves. The first guy gave me in another presentation, another guy came up and said, hey, would you like me to watch out for your safety? Because they were leather gloves with a Kevlar lining. And he didn’t know they had a Kevlar lining. But he walked up and said, hey, he offered me a pair of Kevlar gloves that would protect me better than the leather ones. I said, that’s great. I never told them the other ones had a Kevlar lining because I didn’t want to steal his moment here. He’s using what I taught them. He’s watching out for me. And later on, and I point out the presentation, it’s about making sure that the next person is watched out for it. If I just said to him, hey, don’t worry, these have a Kevin lining. Then later that day he might have seen one of the more experienced people in a place doing a job and thinking, oh, yeah, Bob knows what he’s doing. He must know about that hazard and then not say anything. And the person gets hurt. And of course, I use the magic to illustrate the points to keep it interesting. 

I also really believe an important element, and this is part of how I got into taking this nationally with teaching people communication skills and safety was so many safety meetings. Everybody say how boring they were. I was at one safety meeting as one of these big safety kickoffs, 350 people there. There was a guy on after me that was talking about something. And it was incredible, great information about how to stay healthy or whatever else. It was so boring. I mean, I was trying to stay awake, and I was interested in what they were talking about, taking notes and everything else. I finally had to go to the restroom. I got to go to the restroom and realized that the 350 people, easily 250 of them were outside taking a break. They had walked out of the meeting, and I said, no, you guys should be in there. This is really good stuff. And they go, buddy, so boring, we can’t take it. And I couldn’t argue with that. And so that’s part of the mission I took on was teaching safety people how to make safety interesting, how to get the that’s another thing I do. 

My happiest situation is where a company will have me come in and teach communication skills to the safety teams of the leadership, teach values to the leadership, and then have me do the employee talks later in the week, because then I get the whole spectrum where they get the whole package together. And that has a huge impact on how they do things. But yeah, it’s interesting still, I go to safety conferences and sit on other speakers. And it’s funny, some speakers actually have a negative impact on when they’re like some of the safety motivational speakers, there’s actually a negative impact on the audience. And it’s one of the challenges one of the challenges I have with what I call experiential speakers, somebody that got hurt, and then they’re telling how they got hurt. And, hey, don’t be like me. And it’s like there’s not a success, I’m sure, in your business or anything else, when you want to study how to be successful, you study people that are successful, not the failures. You study the people that are doing all these amazing things and how they got to where they did, what did they do. 

And in safety, too often we spend time as safety professionals analyzing what went wrong and what the root causes are and everything else. But that’s not the important part you share with employees. The part you share with employees is the reason why you’d want to do it years ago, I’m sure. I know you’re familiar with, but they had on TV a lot of the scared straight programs where they would take young kids and send them through a jail to talk to the prisoners and everything else. It turned out the people that went through that program had a higher incidence of crime than the kids that didn’t. 

Oh, my goodness. 

Yeah. Because scaring people doesn’t work. You tell people all this bad stuff will happen. And unfortunately, it doesn’t motivate people. And part of the reason is the element that any safety professional will tell you is most people believe it won’t happen to me. 

Almost everybody you talk to who’s gotten injured will say the same thing and convinced it wasn’t going to happen to me. 

Yes. Famous last words or the other one people say is, oh, I’ll be careful. And they do that when you hear an experiential speaker and they’ll go, wow, that’s amazing. They may even cry listening to the story that the person tells. And I’ve heard I’ve had speakers that I’ve worked with tell me, oh, yeah, they have the audience in tears, and that’s fine. But the problem is all the audience members are thinking, yes, but I wouldn’t have done that or that fatal flaw they made. Well, I would have been more careful. I would have seen that thing coming and avoided it. When I text, when I’m driving, I’m more aware of what’s going around because they’re different. That’s the fallacy. And the whole thing of you tells people like, okay, this is the person how they get hurt. You don’t want to do that. And it’s like, yeah, but that’s not going to happen to me because I’m better, I’m more skilled or I’m aware of that hazard. So, it wouldn’t happen. 

Which is the biggest risk. 

None of which is accurate, but that’s what people believe. Therefore, those motivational talks don’t have the effect. You need to teach people the positive techniques that actually get a result in people doing something safely, wanting to wear the personal protective equipment, wanting to do what they need to do. I far prefer. There was a guy who spoke at Con Edison. I was speaking there, and he got up and told the story and says, you know, the safety guy has been bugging me for years to make sure my shirt is tucked in. And some of the things he was talking about. And he says, I finally started doing it. And he says, three weeks after I started doing it, all of a sudden, one of the utility things they were working on, there was a fire that came flashing up out of it. He said, had I not had my shirt tucked in, I would have been severely burnt. Now there’s a story of somebody that was doing something the right way and it protected them. I’d far rather hear that than the person that got injured and why you shouldn’t do that. And I’m also a certified hypnotherapist. I studied that for communication. But when you have somebody talking about how they got hurt and how you shouldn’t do that, subliminally, they believed nothing would happen to them. A lot of the unconscious messages, they’re just terrible. So, it’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t have the impact you really want to get. 

But I think you bring an interesting point, even this element around that the gentleman with the shirt is another utility I worked with where they started using campaigns about people that made the right choice. So, for example, there was a storm rolling in. They decided to reassess the hazard, step away, and Lo and behold, lighting struck that particular place where they would have been. And they realized if I hadn’t done this, I could have had a worse result. And those types of messages are sharing what you should do and the positive impact, which I think is really good. 

As a hypnotherapist, I can tell you the unconscious message there is much more powerful because you’re reinforcing somebody did what they should do, and this is the payoff they got. And by the way, when people hear that, they don’t go, well, that wouldn’t happen to me. It’s like, oh, that’s pretty cool. It protected them. 

So, John, I really appreciate you coming on the show, sharing your thoughts. You have some great insights around the executive safety messaging, how you Pierce through different levels of leadership to connect with frontline team members as well as some great techniques around how to address something unsafe. Really appreciate you sharing your offer around the free eBook you’re going to send. So, if somebody wants to reach you, what’s the best way to do that? 

John, they can always reach me at John@dreaminger.com. John@dryinger.com our office phone number is area code 2097-4594-1929-7459 four one nine. Our website is drencher.com so it’s www. Dot D as in David. R as in Robert. E as in Edward. B as in Boy. I as in India. N as in Nancy. G as in George. E as in Edward. R as in Robert.com. So, dressinger.com and if they send me an email mentioning the podcast here the book offer. Would you watch out for my safety? Then I will send them a link. If they don’t hear back, be sure to call our office if all of a sudden, their email got caught in my spam filler or something because they should get the responding email within about 48 hours. So, we’d follow up on that and it’s been great talking to you on any more time you want to get together. I’d be glad to. This was a great experience and appreciate what you’re doing with it. 

Absolutely. Thank you so much, John. 

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

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ABOUT THE GUEST

John Drebinger Jr., acclaimed international safety speaker, author and trusted advisor, has been delivering his dynamic safety presentations worldwide for the past 32 years and is known for injecting humor and passion to engage audiences to help people work safely.
Contact John Drebinger Presentations: (209) 747-9645 or john@drebinger.com

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