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Making Safety part of your life with Jason Anker

Making Safety part of your life with Jason Anker



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And any thoughts on that theme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for the invite.

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 Eric Michrowski.

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

Connect with Jason at and



Safety Leadership: The Holy Grail of Safety with Michelle Brown

The Safety Guru_Michelle Brown



Everybody talks about the importance of leadership to drive Safety Performance. In this must-listen to episode, we explore tangibly how leaders need to show up to drive safety outcomes. To be a great safety leader, you need to care deeply about your people, understand your personal WHY for safety and regularly demonstrate the value of safety through your actions. Michelle Brown shares her insights about transformational safety leadership and actions to shape, develop and improve these skills to become better safety leaders.


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-Suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops and The Safety Guru public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Michelle Brown, who is a chief operating officer at Pinsight, one of the leading and most sophisticated platforms for leadership assessments and development that delivers a lot of great leadership essentials for organizations that want to make sure they’ve got really their top talent in the organization. The reason I’ve got Michelle here, she was probably one of the most influential thinkers around safety leadership that I’ve come across over the years in terms of what she’s thinking, how she’s influencing a lot of leaders. And I wanted to have a conversation with Michelle around leadership and the role of leaders in shaping safety and safety culture. So, Michelle. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much for having me. Eric, it’s absolutely delightful to be back talking with you and about a topic I have so much passion for. So, tell me a little bit about that passion because you got into the safety space a long time ago, touched a lot of leaders across that journey. Tell me about your passion for leaders and for safety. You know, it’s a bit of a funny path and probably not a linear one. My first career was as a clinical psychologist. I was working in health care settings. I was working mostly with children and families and certainly nothing to do with safety at that point. But what became really clear for me is that incredible relationship, that dynamic between a parent and child, is incredibly transformative things that the parents do. They say the way they act has a huge impact on how children behave, grow and develop, think and feel. And over the course of my career in clinical psychology, I had the chance to transition into working in workplaces, bringing a lot of the same fundamentals of psychology and decision making and job relationship dynamics. And I just sort of landed, if you will, in working with safety. And what I thought was not a hugely taught connection, in the beginning, was an 11-year incredible career, working with some extraordinary organizations and absolutely inspiring leaders, and had the opportunity to blend that passion for psychology with my absolute fascination in the way of leadership and team member dynamic that’s phenomenal. So, you’ve worked with a lot of leaders globally, seen some phenomenal safety leaders. What are some of the key themes that were consistently visible across all those amazing leaders? You know, the amazing ones, the ones that stand out, the ones that I would sort of leave a day of work with and just think, wow, you know, they really get it. You know, I think the thing that I observed with leaders that could have a really incredible impact that could really, you know, shape a culture that could really move people to think differently and feel differently and behave differently. These are the leaders that were incredibly self-aware, you know, when I say they got it, but they really understood that their role mattered, that it wasn’t just that they had a position of authority or that with the boss. But I think they really kind of got the awesome power and responsibility of being in a position of leadership. And they took it very seriously. You know, they had colleagues that I used to work with that would tell leaders, you know, the good news is, is that you have more power than you think. And the bad news is that you have more power than you think. And I think it’s the leaders that were really incredible for me to watch was the ones that really understood that power and that responsibility for people and their safety. That’s amazing. So were there any other themes like one of the parts that I’ve noticed and I know we’ve talked about this before, is the importance of there’s a desire to leave a legacy, there’s a desire to do something with that power, that ability that I’ve got to shape other people’s lives with. Was there something there as well? Yeah, we often, you know, we come together and. You know, when we work together and talk about those leaders that were really, we just had such optimism for their journey and their ability to create change often because they would start at the core of people, you know, I have you know, I can list off some extraordinary leaders that I’ve had the ability to sit with and work with and support. And it’s always talked about their love of people that they really understood that that safety, the people’s ability to work, to go to work, to do good work, to feel productive, feel engaged and to be harmed free at the end of it was really starting at their desk that that, you know, safety, leadership and safety management was very rarely done with a pen or a policy, but it was their words and their actions. And, you know, when they got that and they could really understand that their words and actions were going to make a big difference. You know, many of them really wanted to harness that power. They wanted to do good with that power. And some of those leaders were coming from positions where they really had been confronted with either a terrible workplace event or they saw the tears in children’s and spouse’s eyes when they had to tell a spouse that know somebody that wasn’t coming home from work or that were critically maimed, that they felt that serious impact of their actions. And I had often called them legacy leaders, that they were really conscious of wanting to leave that legacy and do good and make the company better and safer through that leadership. Interesting. And so, the ultimate question is, can that leader be made, or is that somebody who comes that way? So, can you harness some of those skills in those capabilities and a leader, or are you better off finding somebody that you’re recruiting for that skill set? Well, that’s such a good question. You know, this is at the heart of I think most organizations struggle when they’re trying to create change in safety, culture, and safety outcomes is, you know, who takes the lead on doing this? Where are those leaders, not managers? So, I use that term deliberately. And how do we build them and cross them? And I kind of have a bit of a theory about the effectiveness of safety leaders, that it’s sort of you know, if you sort of an equation of the effectiveness of safety leadership is that that passion and that why multiplied by the skill. And so, I think you have to have both to be most effective. I think some of the most effective leaders have really got that clear. Why I’m clear in their head, they understand the awesome power and responsibility of their words and actions. They have a deep passion to do well for people that have a deep passion to never have to bring news to a family. They have a deep desire to make people’s lives better, and they know that they can do that with leadership. So, I think that’s part of the equation. The other part of the equation is absolutely skill, that leadership skills like riding a bike, learning a language, learning a musical instrument is a set of skills, things that we can all learn with focus and practice. I think the big difference is, is that if you don’t have a driving long and a deep desire to be included, to be an effective leader, you’re probably less likely to invest in developing those skills. But I, I certainly can be effective if I really focus on developing the skills. But that does the multiplying effect of that passion and desire as well. Hmm, interesting. So, the other element you’ve often talked about is this concept of transformational leadership. Can you talk a little bit more about what that is in a safety context? Yeah, I think that this is where this notion of skills really comes to the fore. And the debate I’ve had so often with organizations when thinking about, you know, they have a desire to create change in safety. They’re unhappy or unhappy with their lost time injuries. They’re disappointed with the number of people that are getting hurt or harmed in their workplace. And, you know, they want to at first bring in more groups. They want to manage safety well; they want to manage injuries, or they want to manage risk. And they first want to do that through policies and consequences and harm and. Training and telling, and, you know, they desire to manage a ride like that where a lot of people stop, but then that’ll get you a little bit of the way, but not all the way into a sustainably strong, self-sustaining, strong and positive safety culture. And I think this is why, you know, my background in working with families and that through did between parent and child was a natural blend for me to be jumping into Sipi leadership. Because what I think those leaders struggle to contend with is that relationship between the leader and the team members that died in itself is also transformative. There’s a wide array of literature out there that says that the parent-child relationship, that dynamic in itself, is transformative for both the parent and the child, the way they interact, talk, and behave with one another. But the same is true for leaders and team members. You know, next to our parent’s relationship, the relationship I have with my managers and my leaders is probably the second most important relationship and the transformative relationship we have to have in our lives. And I think we all have a story or two about, you know, a bad boss, but also a great boss that helped us with our esteem that we you know, we’ve opened up our opportunities. We grew new skills, we developed empathy. We you know, we grew as humans inside the you know, the leader member, the boss subordinate relationship. And so, if we want people to grow and make great choices and to manage risks and to speak up when they’re unsure, you know, all the behaviors that we want team members to employ, you know, those behaviors come out of safe and productive and trusting relationships with these leaders. And I think, you know, that’s kind of when I come back to that, the notion that legacy leaders, those leaders that really get the awesome power that exists in that did, they’re the ones that want to harness that. They’re the ones that are paying attention that sure you can’t manage safety just with a handful of policies that you pop in a bonder and hope people read and follow it. It’s not how it’s done. It’s done through leading. And if I can deviate just for a moment here, I think that the current circumstance for whenever folks are listening to this session today, we’re talking about a time in the middle of a global pandemic where the hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives. And I think while the debate has been this has been a pandemic about science, I think that this is a pandemic about leadership. Sure. I think we felt the impact of leadership, you know, how leaders’ message and what they message about how they communicate, what they role model, what they pay attention to, what they know, what they measure, what they don’t. This, I think for all of us, we’re seeing, you know, the impact of leadership in how it transforms our perceptions, our decisions, our choices, our feelings, what we do in our lives and in our backyards and our in our decisions is impacted by leaders and the health outcomes follow. This is sort of a meta-study for what goes on with safety inside organizations, what leaders talk about, what they don’t talk about, how they talk about it, what they pay attention to, what they measure, what their role model. These are the transformative elements of safety, leadership, and in leadership literature. We call these transformational leadership behaviors transformational safety, leadership behaviors because they are the things that transform other people’s actions. Ways that people can really change the way that their team members and their organization think about things, feel about things and then behave and the choices they make interesting. And when you bring up the pandemic, it brings up two thoughts to mind. One of them is a number of leaders I’ve spoken to talked about how in the span of six months, they did more to empower or they had more impact, more positive impact in terms of their safety culture than they could have probably imagined in six years because they had to demonstrate active care. They did all the right things versus others who threw their hands in the air and thinking, oh, this is all happening to me. And the other piece was really interesting. I was reviewing some work with one organization, and it was really interesting is despite the pandemic, those leaders who spent a lot of time on the floor connecting with team members, interacting with them, those who previously spent a lot of time continue to find ways to spend a lot of time connecting with their team members. But the interesting piece is those who spent less than 40 percent of the time doing it, that drop; they found excuses not to be able to do it. It’s a choice that you’re making. And I think they set it right; there is the choice you’re making about where you invest your time as a leader. And I think that there’s some interesting, you know, other research similar to what you’re saying, that, you know, great leaders produce great outcomes, poor leaders that don’t do a lot of this investment in these skills of transformational leadership has poor safety outcomes, but even mediocre kind of wishy-washy leaders that sort of dabble in a little bit of safety leadership, but not consistency. We very frequently they don’t have mediocre outcomes. They also have poor outcomes because people find them inconsistent and in genuine ways there. With your guidance and I think this a talking with some other colleagues in this space recently where they’ve said, you know, this pandemic has been a real macrocosm, if you will, of how much leadership influences health and safety outcomes, that this is not a medical crisis. This is like a leadership issue. And yeah, I’d say it’s I think we can all study this one from a how do you make a change in safety performance? You pay attention to the leaders that have got it right here and around the world and in leading to this pandemic. Absolutely. So, what are some of the things that leaders can do to become better safety leaders if they want to take action the way they want to make a difference? What are some of the things that you’ve seen really work in that space? Yeah, I think the first thing is if leaders, I think you should do a little self-reflection on why they want to do this. And this comes back to this notion of those leaders who have consistently, through their career, really worked hard and struggled through even when it’s tough and to get in touch with building a legacy and having a positive impact on people. And so, I think it’s it can be a useful exercise for leaders to tap into a Y for the Saudi leadership. Why do I want to do this? And obviously, I’m going to say that motivations like bonuses and pension and getting fired probably are not going to be massively sustainable for you. But it should sort of, you know, tap something meaningful for you. Sure. For me personally, when I started working in safety leadership, it was because I saw an ad in the newspaper back in the day when ads where I was running the newspaper, and it said, you know, to travel the world while you’re changing it. And I said, yes, I want to change the world. I want to have an impact on people. And I have this you know, I wanted to finish every day seeing someone have an aha moment and or hearing the stories of people saying, you know, that story you told all that research you did or that thing that you mentioned really made a difference for me. And I always thought, you know, if I can change the trajectory of someone by one percent, you know, you know, in terms of vectors, that can be a big difference down the line. So, I think leaders should probably start with getting in touch with why is safety leadership important for them? How does it along with their personal values and what they want to bring to the world? So, I think that’s a starting point. I think it’s a phenomenal starting point. And I’ve certainly done it with a lot of leaders. And it just struck me that everybody good at this always had an incredibly. Wider to surface, there was always some motivation, sometimes it was around Soviet leadership attributes. I was around a great father, mother that had this lasting legacy, or if you said it was somebody got injured in the traumatic event and they would never want to see that again and they realized the role they had as a leader and. Absolutely. Do you in your experience, or do you think that that is also required? Do you think that that is a foundation piece to effective safety leadership with the leaders you’ve worked with? I personally have not found a leader that didn’t have a strong why that was able to communicate generally their desire. In theory. I’m not sure if you could fake it like an actor or learn a script and create your way. But I think the problem is you wouldn’t have the passion behind it. You may be able to have the words in in your messages, but you wouldn’t be able to truly have the drive behind your actions because it’s unique that the leader is I’ve seen that have this why it’s incredibly powerful and they can relive it like there was one there was one zero I was talking to you and his wife had to do with when he was an early supervisor in his career, and somebody had passed away on his shift and he could relive it moment by moment, the drive. And it was the longest drive of his life to see that supervisor that person’s that employee’s wife. And then he can recount 20, 30 years later walking down the path, and then his wife coming, running towards him, thinking that he had arrived for there to congratulate them on their newborn. But instead, he was there to deliver a horrible message that the husband was never coming back. So that ingrained in him. And he could relive that moment basically step by step, like a movie. And it could mean it was such passion, and it shaped all his actions. But the thing is, you can’t make that up unless you’re Hollywood. But the problem is you still need the drive to take action to do something with it, which you can’t script. And I think that’s I think it’s a really good point about not being able to script. And I think it’s when you are really operating from that position of personal values and personal mission and legacy, that it sorts of fuels you consistently, that you’re not sort of a fair-weather safety leader of, you know, I only show up to the safety meetings and, you know, that’s like stand down. And, you know, after an event or, you know, I’m the only kind of vocal about it on Safety Week or, you know, I think that it’s the consistency of folks that have really tapped they’re why that keeps them going and keeps them faithful even when maybe it’s not a good run, or there’s been an injury and, you know, they’re not going to throw in the towel and say, well, this isn’t working. This is a journey. It’s like safety is like health. You don’t just jump on the treadmill once a year and say, well, that’s it, I’m good, I’m healthy. Now, you don’t eat one salad, and the rice is run on your health. It’s a daily activity of activities. And, you know, I think it’s important for the safety leaders that are listening in to this instance is, you know, you don’t have to be confronted with a traumatic event to find out why. You know, I think there are plenty of leaders that have unfortunately walked through those fires metaphorical and literal, and have come out with a deep understanding and a deep desire to never do that again. Desires and their values are never to repeat that situation. But there’s also leaders there that also have a tremendous amount of fuel and passion because of the opportunity they want to harness that it isn’t that they’re trying to avoid an injury. They’re also really invested in saying, you know, like great safety. Leadership also has some remarkable byproducts that, you know, this is spillover. A great safety leadership is, you know, employees tend to perform better, and they’re more productive, and their quality of work is higher and their well-being is better. They’re more engaged. They stay in their roles longer. You know, all of those sort of business outcomes aside, that people are happier and do better work great. And that’s great for, you know, our communities and our workplaces and our society at large. And leaders, just with their words and actions, can and do so afterward. Yeah, absolutely. So, I think that’s the first thing that that leader, if you want to do this well, you can really sit with this to get in touch with their own. Why does safety matter to me? Why does my safety matter to my team, and what does it mean in the alignment of values? So, I think that’s the first journey for leaders to start to walk. Yeah, I would completely echo that. I think it’s a personal reflection. Like you said, it doesn’t need to be a traumatic event. There could be just a deep desire to make the world a better place to change people’s lives, whatever that drive is. But there’s got to be something that’s there in your thoughts, in terms of leaders, in terms of once they’ve got defined their way and they clear on it, what would be the next step then? I think it’s a process of looking at the things you could do, you know, like the actions one can take, you know, the why and the purposes is really going to be the few, you know, the energy and then the actions are what turns that energy into an impact vector and thrust, if you will, like, you know, like you got to do something with that passion. And I think your story about even just being observant of how much time you are spending with your employees, it’s very difficult to have an impact on them if you never see them, never talk to them. I don’t really, you know, like I said, a great email. And I hope that really change the world. It doesn’t get like that. It’s all right. Leadership invites human to human, not email to email or not, you know, of speech to the audience. It’s very human interaction and so requires an investment of time. And so, from a really very practical level, like check your calendar every week, like being conscious of how much leading opportunities you have and they can sneak up on you like a leading opportunity can be in a meeting. There’s an opportunity to role model there to see some impactful things there to show care. You know, you might just be in a meeting, but that’s an opportunity for Sipi leadership. You might be doing some task reviews. Well, there’s great opportunities there. So, check your calendar in. How much time are you putting aside for investing in safety, leadership, and being cognizant of how you want to show up to each of those opportunities? So, you’re actively planning your behaviors ahead of time, and rather than getting caught short at the end of the week and thinking, oh, golly, I’ve got to go do a quick safety walk, hand out a couple of like safety pats on the back. And then I’ve done Friday for the very best. Go and do a quick take five out there, and then I can take off my safety leadership activities, and it’s now probably not going to get it done. So maybe intentional with their time. And then I think, you know, it’s as easy as really looking at the transformational leadership skills. And I keep coming back to that one because it’s a great model for redirecting leader’s attention away from the tasks that really do feel like our responsibilities. Check these schedules, budgets, all you know, the management of projects and productivity, transformational leadership really says, you know, you have an impact by just doing something role-modeling, just being the person that wears the PPE consistently just by being the person that wears their mask consistently, by being the person that does a range of things. That’s plenty of stories. When I was in the field with so many employees, and they could say, you know, a lot of things about their safety leaders just by watching them, you know what I’d say? You know, describe the safety leadership around here. So many of them were full of stories of this person, spoke at a meeting about safety. But then I saw them blow the stopwatch up. You know, as I was reading through the stop sign, leaving the office. And so, everything they say is B.S., you know, it being consistent with your words and actions that really can make a huge difference. And so just role modeling, those behaviors that you would want for people even above and beyond, and even when nobody’s watching, even on the weekend, when you crossing across work, making it part of who you are is pretty important. So, role modeling is, I think, really key. Its people see the actions of leaders, and if they’re not aligned with their words, it can tip over quite quickly. It’s an interesting comment you make is in conversation. Recently, I was talking to somebody who had interacted with a leader that had worked with the late Paul O’Neill when Alcoa is going through his great transformation in terms of safety and safety culture. And the part that struck me as one of the stories of that person, I have met this person personally, but. So, it’s secondhand knowledge, but one of the stories that was shared that was the most impactful to them that Polonia was real at, that safety was real for him, is they had heard early on in his career, apparently there was a fatality at the site and a CEO. He pulled everything out of his calendar, and he was there not to yell at people, not to be angry, but to learn how we fail. He was asking people to understand why we are failing, really role modeling, the learning organization. Well, what’s interesting is we’re probably talking now 20, 20, 25 years ago. And that’s the story that stuck to that person’s mind. It’s how they prioritize that safety was real to them. And as a CEO of a huge company, I’m willing to put everything to put my mind where it matters. Absolutely. You know, I think that folks that have had the opportunity to work alongside or around great safety leaders have those real stories about those moments that matter when, you know, those leaders made a tough choice in the instance when they didn’t sort of follow the traditional path of how things might get managed. But they’re prepared to be vulnerable and here uncomfortable things and to have uncomfortable conversations in the effort to get them to acknowledge that this isn’t a journey, it’s not a race we’re going to win. We never get to declare victory over safety. So, we have to continue to be vigilant about it and be tough about it and to examine ourselves and be rigorous and uncomfortable and I think yeah, I think for those people who have had the opportunity to work alongside great leaders like Paul O’Neill would certainly have boatloads of those great stories. Great. And I’d love to share. Finally, in terms of communicating, how does those leaders communicate? Is there a common theme around how they communicate, the stories they share, the insights they share with their groups? Yeah, you know, I think this is a lovely one to think about, you know, being that we’re chatting in a podcast here that, you know, a fundamental form of human communication, the way that we transmit knowledge and meaning, more importantly, how we transmit meaning to one another is through great storytelling skills that, you know, I can think of very few PowerPoint presentations that have really struck me. You know, I’m not going to be on my deathbed telling my grandkids about an extraordinary spreadsheet that really felt like, you know, we don’t have those kinds of experiences. But, you know, humans communicate with one another when they’re mindful that they’re communicating with other humans and how human brains work, that we are inherently social human to human beings, that we are people that care about being safe and care about meaning and purpose, and that we are filled with a range of needs and desires and complexities. And I guess that when people communicate with the idea, first of all, in mind that they’re communicating with other people, other humans. And so, I think, you know, one thing that great safety leaders can work on is there I’m going to say communication skills, but sort of more their storytelling skills here, the way they craft a narrative, the way they build a you know, a message that has impact, a message that can land for individuals. You know, I think there’s some great people that have distilled this into some to some easy points and thinking of Senex Golden Circle and says, you know, when you’re trying to tell people about what it is you’re trying to tell them, start with why and not necessarily the why for you, but why. Then why would someone want to listen to this thing that I’m talking to them about? And, you know, what should they remember that’s important and what should they do with this information? So, it’s important that, you know, I often think where leaders can go wrong is that they believe that their job is to sort of be the voice-over track to a corporate message. You know, they’re the voice over to a spreadsheet, or they’re you know, they’re just adding a couple of additional words to a document that they don’t really understand the again, the awesome power they have within them to change people’s minds about things that with a good message, a good story, people can say. Oh, yeah, I’m going to do something different today. Oh, yeah, I think I’m going to take a different approach to that. And so, I think the ability for leaders to be really thoughtful on how they communicate the message they want to communicate but to just really hold this idea in mind that those humans communicate through stories, really through graphs or stacks or, you know, the corporate words and PowerPoint presentations that, you know, things that we’ve relied on to look like we’re getting the job done. But at the end of the day, that’s good management work. Leading work is when the message that I have sent is landed for someone, they’re nodding their head. We’ve had a connection. We’re meeting the minds. We have a shared idea about an experience, or there’s an emotional reaction where someone will sign Ops is in their brain who connected together. And they will quite a little bit different, like quite literally, that they are a little bit different because of the message that they’ve that I received. I think that that’s really where leaders can craft some incredible power and love that message because the power of stories is so, so important. I think it also links back to the way if you’ve got a strong line, you can articulate and it’s a story or even if there’s a few different stories around it, I think it also makes it much more powerful. But how do you make that long-lasting? How do you make it beyond that one experience at one moment where I had a great story, great example, no disrespect to Tony Robbins, phenomenal speaker, but I went to a presentation? It’s life-changing. It’s amazing. And then you walk away. It’s the same thing next day. How do you make that stick? Yeah, I you know, I am so glad you asked that because I know I’ve been to plenty of safety conferences and had some great inspirational speakers. And you think, oh, well, we did see you guys later. What do I do with that? And, you know, in my own leadership practice, some of the values we have is about taking care of customers, deep customer care in a number of levels. And so, we have a cultural practice in at the beginning of every meeting about customers. We take a couple of minutes to acknowledge to one another a moment that we’ve seen, however small or large, where we’ve been demonstrating that value. And it serves as a moment for some storytelling, not presenting like a chart of how this might have improved our input. You know, I’m saying, you know, I talked with Kelly and we had this conversation. She said this and I did that. And this is what happened. And, you know, so we tell a true story. We get a chance at that time to reinforce small behaviors, small attitudes. And, you know, we’re not talking about hitting targets and goals. What we’re talking about the attitudes that we bring to our interactions and the behaviors that we express. I went above and beyond. So, I you know, I went just did this additional layer of risk. So, it’s our chance to, again, sort of notice and pays attention to the types of behaviors that are important that contribute to our ultimate goal. It’s a time where we pat each other on the back and get some social support and active care and check in with one another to need help with that. And well done. What a great example. You know, what became, you know, what was a bit of pulling teeth in the first months, probably even a year, maybe even 18 months of me doing this now has become a habit, a habit inside our team and our companies where we tell stories about what’s important to us. And that’s, I think, turning that leadership passion and those transformational activities into organizational habits. And they look small, and they can look geeky and kind of funny. But we couldn’t have a meeting that it just feels off. If we don’t start without burdens of storytelling, celebration, pats on the back, sometimes calling out ourselves and tooting our own where we did something well, but ultimately living our values in the things that are important. So that’s I think with communication and communicating, the impact can become so sustainable when it becomes part of your habits, not just this once-a-year safety meeting. Yeah, I think that’s incredibly powerful story. And I think that’s also the element of the safety moment when you start a meeting in a lot of organizations is you have known. But what I love is what you’re sharing is really about stories, not some random safety moment that you just pop through. You’re really getting much more into thinking of how did I show up? How did it? It back the customer in that instance or so forth, so really checking into your attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets around safety. Absolutely. And it’s the less of the moment of, you know, what I caught someone doing wrong or an issue I have fixed, which I’ve had plenty of safety moments where like, well, I saw this problem and I fix it. And there’s some great stories. There were opportunities where people have closed the gaps, but they also should be moments of celebration that we want to sort of pat each other on the back and say, hey, well done, your part of who we are and what we do and how we do things around here. And, um, but it becomes part of the fabric of the organization then, not just an event that happens. And we get used to noticing when we’re doing great things, paying attention to one another, caring for one another, rewarding and recognizing people for the great things they do. It’s a great opportunity to start an upward spiral of safety, leadership and strong safety culture. So, I think it’s really good design. I mean, it’s really the elements of even appreciative inquiry we’re back into as an organizational change vehicle is all about how do you get those the stories to start surfacing? I think what you’re sharing is how do you get into a daily, weekly ritual where you’re reflecting. You can even follow in with some powerful questions, I think, to see how your leaders are showing up in a particular way, not an interrogation, but through stories. So instead of one of the questions was, I often prefer asking is rather than saying when was your last observation, which is a binary response, you say, what have you seen from your last observations? What concerns you? Where do you think, the next potential incident is going to happen next injury? Because it pushes people to actually observe, to think. And at first you might stare, but eventually people are going to have to do something with what they see. Absolutely. I love that idea of being thoughtful about the questions that we’re asking that binary like how many safety observations would be done? When was your last year? OK, those are just numbers, right? There’s a simple thing you can put on a spreadsheet for sure. But this is I think the point you’re making is leaders have the opportunity with their questions to engage, thinking, to actually engage the neural networks that people have in their brain that are in charge of decision making in analyzing information and making good decisions and solving problems. And if you get people thinking this is the old adage, you know, sign-ups as a firing, sign-ups as wiring, the more you are having of those conversations on a repeated basis, the more that becomes the way you are. You’re inadvertently wiring people’s brains for risk awareness and for safety problems. And that’s just so cool by changing one word of how many safety observations to what were your safety observations? What did you observe? A small change in the way we ask questions. What concerns do? Exactly what positive change have you noticed over the last month in your observations? I think there’s a quote that somebody shared with me, which I think is phenomenal. This is what interests my boss fascinates me. So, if it’s interesting to me to ask those questions and it’s going to be fascinating for me, and then I think that’s how you cascade your message around safety and safety culture. Absolutely. That’s very true. Well, thank you so much, Michelle. It’s been a phenomenal conversation. I think your passion for safety, leadership and now passion for leadership in general in terms of how do you get the best talent and organization, had your influence, how they lead and how they shop is so powerful. I’ve definitely influenced me in terms of safety, leadership and my thinking around it. So, thank you for coming. Thank you very much, Eric. And it’s just such a great joy to be thinking about and talking about such an exciting topic like what we do here. Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your team. 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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Michelle Brown is the COO of Pinsight, a HR software solution providing businesses with critical insights into their current and future leaders. Michelle is also a professor at the University of Denver, specializing in organizational behavior and leadership. Michelle has degrees in both psychology and business, and uses this perspective to ensure the scientific methods used at Pinsight are translated to practical and effective solutions for HR professionals, businesses and their leaders.



Holiday Special – The Top 10 from 2020: Key Insights from the Safety Guru

The Safety Guru_Holidy Special



A year in review. The Safety Guru’s Top 10 themes and ideas from our 2020 season! Get caught up with the ideas that will help you leave a legacy in 2021! Happy Holidays! 


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

Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru, I’m your host, Eric Michrowski. It’s hard to believe it, but 2020 is almost coming to a close. Our show started broadcasting this year, this tumultuous year in 2020 as a passion project to improve the world of work. I wanted to bring ideas to leaders and executives who are committed to making a difference. Ideas from a diverse set of thought. Leaders from academia and from real world practical application does not speak technical safety, not push a set of ideologies not to pitch something, but rather to bring a collective of insights from inside and outside the traditional world of safety.

That’s why we’re live here on C-Suite Radio, the largest business network in the world, and their listenership keeps growing. I have two awesome episodes to cap off this year. Today, I will share a reflection of the top 10 ideas I heard from my guests on this podcast. In 2020, the next episode on December 31st, we will ring in the New Year with safety is twenty-one four 2021. The top twenty-one ideas to shape your safety strategy for 2020.

One must listen to episode with one of our top guests. None other than Dr. Josh Williams. So now let’s start with a year in Review 10 inspiring ideas for safety leaders. Number 10. It would be hard to end 2020 without talking about mental health in the workplace. We had two great schisms insights on this important topic. First, Dr. Madison Hanscom introduces the impact of mental health in the workplace. She shares an alarming stat, including the disproportionate impact mental health is having on a younger generation and the impact on safety. She highlighted strategies for leaders to speak about mental health and remove the stigma. The second guess we had was Kathleen Dobson, who talk more specifically about the disproportionate impact on the construction industry. She talked about the importance of checking in with people. Kudos for the work in trying to increase a dialog on mental health in construction as she presented a World Mental Health Day topic number nine, Dr. Stephanie came to talk to us about some research that was being done in the health care space, particularly as covid-19 hit the industry at an alarming rate, an industry where the focus was dominated by focus on patient outcomes but didn’t often speak about safety from a worker’s standpoint. She talked about the huge toll, the exhaustion within health care workers as a number of health care workers were often being reduced despite the huge impact of covid-19 in most wars, some truly alarming and considered concerning data points. And we’ll try to check in with her in 2021 to see an update on her research. Next, we go to number eight. As the world was marking Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we spoke to Brian, who spoke about his book The Long Blink, which tells the story of a driver shuttling a truck across Ohio and having a long blink with a cocktail of meds after a first shift, falling a short night’s sleep and permalink altering the life of a family, he shares the quest of the father and taken to try to legislate more, focusing on safety and how, unfortunately, given the nature of the industry, it’s unlikely safety will truly improve with a greater focus on legislation.

Food for thought as you travel across the interstates. While some progress has been made, too many people continue to die on the roads unnecessarily every year, and it’s time for safety to really drive into the driver’s world. Number seven. And speaking of distracted driving, in a long blink, we had Rebecca present top ideas to proof sleep and to improve safety outcomes, a topic we heard a lot of in 2020 as work life boundaries got stretched and people were having trouble sleeping. She shared some tangible ideas from her research in the space of sleep and strategies to get more of it. Yes, less alcohol, less computers before bed, and of course, many more ideas. And also, the importance of leaders speaking about this topic to reduce injuries, i.e., the person who got evicted the night before. I mean, the conversation I had with the leader recently, and it was only uncovered because the leader showed active care. Can you imagine if that worker was using some heavy piece of equipment?

Could have been very easily a. Kudos for that organization for having had that leader actually killed. Then we go to number six, we have to talk about safety. Communication is such an important topic that we even dedicated two episodes to too many businesses. Just mail it in regard to safety communications. First, we had Dr. Josh Williams speak to the importance of one on one with employees, how employees who feel listened to put in more discretionary effort. And he also speaks that he created a free quiz with no catch to help leaders see how they’re doing at Zero Harm Leadership Dotcom.

A self-assessment to help think about how are you doing and how could you get better at safety communication? Well, we also had Dr. Archana, who speaks about the importance of upwards communication, the lateral communication. In other words, how do you get ideas from key members to leaders? How do you get them to collaborate more with each other to prove the rule of safety? So, so critical key things. And we go to number five. Chris came to talk to you about making safety personal while I’m staying safe, both at the frontline level and the leadership level, introducing themes like pictures of loved ones, introducing a personal conversation from leaders on the importance of safety. Such a simple idea, but something I’ve been passionate about and advocating for a very, very long time. I wish more people helped make safety real for everyone. We need the discretion for people to stay safe. We need to stop blame, stop getting people to just mail in their safety. We need one hundred percent from each team member and an extra hundred percent from the company. So that were 200 percent in for safety. Then we go to team number four.

We are back with Dr. Josh Williams, who came with another great set of ideas around safety incentives for year organize. For years, organizational leaders have used safety incentives to try and motivate safety. The rationale was that providing financial rewards for not getting hurt might motivate employees to try harder, quote unquote, for safety. In reality, this often this current encourages non-reporting. Plus, people are already motivated and should be motivated to avoid injuries. Effective incentives should be focused on proactive safety behaviors and efforts.

Rewards should be symbolic and safety. Feel genuine appreciation. Recognition trumps every other incentive and remains the most important. And yet, here’s another free quiz. No cash, no gimmick. Human Performance leader Dotcom, which explores this theme of safety incentives with self-reflection in terms of how are you doing and what you can do to drive improvement, then we go on to theme number three with Bryce Griffler, who spoke to the importance of diversity in safety, how diversity and inclusion is about, bring different perspectives and opinions to the table, starting with maybe a union leader to non-traditional leader that came from a different part of the company, maybe in it to the person that has a completely different background.

Imagine the power of ideas, the most innovative company in the world powered inside your business to improving safety by tapping into diverse and inclusive group and increasing the diversity and inclusion within your safety team. I wish more people spoke about spoke about this. Then we go to theme number two. Now, this was powerful breathily a couple of weeks ago, shared some tangible, sorry, articulate a tangible leadership equation for safety. Wow, what a story.

Two leaders, one had a two point four and another one of zero point five. The first one had only improved by fifty three percent over a few years, the other one by eighty six percent. So, one was a wow success story. The other one was OK. What was the difference between those two leaders? Three key themes. The first one is the wow leader had sixteen items that were articulate with tangible themes and objectives for the team members, things like inspections, corrective action, safety projects and the way rated at twenty percent.

The not so wild leader only had four themes only we did have five percent NEC’s. The commitment theme of leaders. The leader that wow spent 15 hours per week speaking about safety on the shop floor, reinforcing safety, interacting with team members in safety talks four times more than the leader that did. Wow. That leader only spent four hours per week. They were mailing in. A third theme is one leader showed up at seven a.m., six a.m. Stanishev meeting.

So showed up after the starter shift meeting. That was, of course, the non-wild leader versus the wow safety leader showed up at five thirty-eight y five thirty because they started each day. Thirty minutes with our leadership team to talk about safety operations, and then she joined the start of shift meetings to be present. At that point, three key items showing true leadership have been met with real results when it comes to safety. And then we go to number one theme for this year.

I absolutely love the name to Dr. Josh and bring brought to the table. He called it BeHOP: the Integration of behavior. Behavior safety, human performance. Essentially, too many safety leaders have a dogmatic approach to safety, very strong ideology. Who cares? The world at business need results, not ideologies that are fighting with each other for airtime. It’s time to stop fighting, stop fighting between BeHOP and cognitive psychology and any other tool that helps safety.

There is no silver bullet. If there was, we wouldn’t have a show here saying that behaviors don’t matter, and people have no free will makes no sense. Yet some people say that to articulate that our ideas make more sense, he brings some very pragmatic ideas about pushing through a plateau and safety performance and bring ideas from some of the key performance tools to reduce if to behavior-based safety. Some cognitive ideas really bringing different themes from different perspectives to give you real results.

Wow, I love his pragmatic approach to making a difference in safety. What a great set of ideas. Those are my top ten for twenty. Listen in on December 31st as we look forward to the top twenty-one for twenty-one. The top twenty-one safety ideas to make a real difference in twenty twenty-one. Are you ready to leave a legacy? Join us in 20 or 21 as I have another phenomenal lineup of guests and ideas for you.

Hey, and if you know somebody that should be on the show, let me know. Let’s make safety fun, simple and useful for executives and leaders. Let’s make a real difference. Happy holidays from The Safety Guru. Thank you. Happy holidays.

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.

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Leaders Owning It for Safety! with Brie DeLisi



Today we are in conversation with Brie DeLisi, Associate Partner with Propulo. Safety Leaders know that Leadership Matters to drive the right Safety Outcomes. In a must listen to episode, Brie helps make that statement real. She demonstrates through her research what Owning It means for safety and how it translates into tangible outcomes. If someone needs convincing on the importance of investing in your leaders, listen in!


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

Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Brie DeLisi, she is our associate partner with human performance and business transformation, with years’ worth of experience around safety, safety, culture. She’s done a lot of incredibly powerful work with a lot of different organizations to assess, understand their safety cultures and drive meaningful impact across them. And I’m really excited today because we’re going to talk about a really important topic, which is really around the critical role of senior leaders and how they could drive effective impact in terms of a strong culture.

So, Brie, welcome to the show.

Hello. Thank you for having me.

Excellent. So first, I’d love to hear a little bit about how you got started in this career and some of the goals and experiences that you really had that got you to where you are now.

Yeah, absolutely. So, it’s kind of funny. When I originally picked this field, it was because I had a very strong desire of making. I wanted to help people and I wanted it to be sort of scientifically based. And it was a little bit tricky figuring that out. You know, did I want to go in the direction of the medical field? Did I did I want to go into some of the sciences? And I ended up landing on occupational safety because it felt like such a tangible way to help improve people’s lives.

Yeah. And then it was kind of funny because as I progressed into my you know, I studied occupational safety and health initially, and then I went into the aerospace industry to actually practice occupational safety. And something that I found out pretty quickly was that I was not going to be able to make the impact that I wanted to from a health and safety perspective, because I kind of realized that just as a safety professional, I’m not the one that’s really influencing employees on how to work safely.

I realized pretty quickly that it was the leadership that influenced safety the most and how I could go about influencing that. So that was kind of a turning point in my career for me.

That’s amazing. So, tell me a little bit about that and what kind of triggered that thinking, because I completely agree leaders have such an important impact, how they show up, how they speak about safety, whether they’re part of the conversation or the delegate that has such a significant impact. Tell me a little bit about how you got to that realization was the AHA for you.

So, the AHA really came about when I was, I was actually working with two facilities and noticed that one of them, the one that I worked with, you know the most unfortunately was had terrible safety performance. And I was looking at the other facilities sort of, you know, an hour down the road from us that had much better safety performance. And I just couldn’t understand, you know, we all worked for the same company. Why? And we and we had to follow the same requirements.

Why was there such a difference? And it really started to dawn on me when I was taking, I was actually getting my MBA at the time and I was taking a course in later habits. And I started looking at the leader habits between my facility general manager and the general manager. And for both facilities, this was the senior leadership, the manager, the general manager at the other facility as well. They had completely different leadership styles. So, I decided to take it upon myself to do a little bit of a study between the two facilities.

And tell me about that. What did you find when you started peeling the onion behind the two?

So, the process that I took was I had to be a little bit discreet about it because obviously one of them was at my site and it was the poorer performer when it comes to safety requirements. So, I had to be a little bit discreet. But what I did was I looked at a number of items. I took a look at, you know, I had the opportunity to see, you know, my gym’s schedule, how she worked throughout her day.

And I was also quite close with a lot of folks that were on her leadership team, so. They would give me insights as well, and then and what I did was actually pulled artifacts from both locations, so I pulled people, offered up their performance evaluations for me to review. I had the opportunity to look at sort of the leadership practices on both sides. I also looked at some of the inspections there, their audit performance, and then also, of course, their injury rates.

And I did also have the pleasure of being able to interview the senior leader at the higher performing location. She was very gracious in allowing me to sit down and talk to her for two hours about what she. Implemented from a safety perspective and how she emphasized it, and I had some really interesting findings as a result of this study.

And so, tell me more. I’d love to hear those findings. This is really exciting themes for somebody who is passionate about safety. Should be no surprise behind it. But the problem is often it doesn’t get quantified, right?

Yeah, absolutely. So, part of it was I had sort of my qualitative and quantitative sides of this. So, I’ll start off with the qualitative side. So first off, I started looking at sort of leadership practices. And one thing that I found on the for our poorer safety performance facility are our GM there. She would arrive at 7:00 a.m. when the field shift started at 6:00 a.m. So, she was coming in an hour after main operations had already started.

Another thing that I noticed was that she only had staff meetings about once a week and there was no expectation from those staff meetings that those discussions be carried out with the rest of the employees as well. So, it was a very sort of isolated event. Interesting. She didn’t go out into the facility that much. And also, some feedback that I had gotten from employees was that people would be, you know, breaking safety rules right in front of her and she wouldn’t do anything.

She didn’t say anything at all. So that was sort of the one thing that I felt kind of from the leader habit side for her. And then on the flip side, at the higher performing location, that general manager started her day at five thirty in the morning and the field started at six 30. So, she was there an hour before and the main shift started. And what she said was there was an expectation that all of the other all of her leadership team was to be there at five, 30 as well.

And she began every day with a 30-minute staff meeting. And in that staff meeting, they would discuss everything from safety to operations to finance to whatever perhaps quality was included in their just what were the high priority items. And then there was an expectation that that information then flows out to the operations for their start of shift meetings at six thirty. So, it was this continuous flow of communications from the senior leader down through the field. And with that, she also was very engaged with safety.

So, whenever she went out onto the shop floor, she would make a point to talk to employees about safety feedback that I had gotten from their health and safety managers that they had at that location and said that she was the one that was driving a lot of safety conversations with operations. It wasn’t the responsibility of safety to have those conversations. He viewed it as the responsibility of leadership. So those were kind of the quality or the qualitative sides there of sort of how they as leaders showed up differently.

I think this is phenomenal. I think the start of shift, meaning it’s talked about so often in terms of safety, in terms of operational performance, it just shows up in terms of that that element, the transparency, the showing up part. Was there something between the two leaders? And I don’t know if you actually looked at this in terms of that triggered why safety was so critical for her?

Yes. So, this was actually quite interesting at this higher performing site when she had started in as GM, the most alarming metrics to her. And this was in comparison to the rest of the company, to be perfectly honest, their safety performance was terrible. It was actually worse than the site that I was working at the time when she first started as GM. And there was a change also in operations where at that time the head medical staff at that location started reporting to her as well, because they lost that that middle management.

And it was coming to light to her that they had a whole bunch of gaps in their safety systems, in their emphasis on safety. And she had a really good understanding of also honestly what it was costing the facility. So, there is the human side of it that she totally respected. But she also had firsthand views as to how much these injuries were impacting the company, both from a financial and a personal perspective. And on the flip side, at the at the poorer performing location.

You know, she had been in that role for 20 years at that point, and it was kind of, you know, at the at the beginning of those 20 years, you know, safety was not the highest priority. OSHA was kind of at that point, it was definitely requirements for OSHA. Compliance was good enough. Injury rates didn’t matter quite that much, and there was just no motivation for her to change.

Wasn’t it? So, it was not something that she was passionate about that really resonated, it sounds like, versus for the other leader. This was something that was very personal, which is consistent. I’ve definitely seen that all great safety leaders I’ve seen there’s always a very strong personal motivation for safety. It’s not some metric, it’s not a piece of paper. It’s something tangible. It’s about people making sure that you’re not harming them, that you’re returning them back to their families in the same shape or better than when they came in the morning.

Yes. Yes, definitely. And then also on the flip, so that was the qualitative side on the quantitative side. This is what I found very interesting as well, was I actually got access to performance evaluations for the leadership teams, for both of these GMs. And then I also had access to their calendars. So, I got to see how they actually scheduled out their weeks. And a couple of very interesting findings came in. So first off, for their time personally at the poor performing location, the average amount of time that she spent with any touching safety whatsoever, whether it was in meetings, reviewing metrics, having meetings with the health and safety manager, all that came out to about four hours per week now at the higher safety performing site that GM spent 15 hours per week touching safety in some way or another, whether it was in her staff meetings and safety would always come up in her staff meetings.

It was always in that sort of shift, meeting those 30 minutes every single day. And then she would also block out time on her calendar every single day to walk the floor and talk other toys about safety, among other things. But safety was always a pressure conversation. So, she was spending 11 hours more per week focusing on safety. And then on top of that, there was the expectations of their leadership teams. What were their what were they holding their leadership team?

So, I got to I got to look through some of some folk’s performance evaluations. And at the poor performing site, they had four items listed on the on their performance evaluations, and it was weighted at five percent of their entire performance evaluation. All safety items were only six percent. And those items were incredibly vague, like reduce injury rates and follow safety requirements. There were no tangibles there. It was very vague, whereas at the higher performing site, they had 16 items for safety on their performance evaluations and the safety items were weighted at 20 percent of their performance evaluation.

So that meant she there was an emphasis, 20 percent of their performance evaluation. They had to perform for safety and it included specific tasks like conducting inspections, corrective action, completion time, completing safety projects. It was very tangible and accessible for these managers and supervisors to know what the expectations were of them and that would matter for their bonus that they were going to get. And also, it was fabulous that it was tied to mostly more of the proactive and leading indicator types of behaviors.

It wasn’t focused on just reducing injuries.

I love both of these data points four times more, almost four times more time spent talking about safety, leading for safety. That’s huge. I have for four years I’ve been telling leaders, just build a pie chart and say whatever your number one priority is. If you if you keep saying it’s safety, the safety actually represents the biggest chunk of time when you spent or is spending more time on financial is more time in in meetings, on other topics because people notice it.

If you’re spending fifteen hours in a week, people say she’s serious about safety. It’s important to them and therefore maybe it should be important to me. Same thing with you with the weights in terms of that. The importance. Five percent is like, whether I do this or not is not that important, 20 percent is starting to get my attention. I need to do something. And you’re guiding what that looks like. Love it. This is this is phenomenal stuff.

Yeah, absolutely. And after so looking at all of this data and looking at the differences, I’d also like to share what their actual injury rates. Sure. It was. So, they had at this poor performing location at the time of this study their total recordable incident rate or their trial was two point four. So that means two point four recordable injuries for every hundred employees. And over the course of the two years, so it was from 2012 to 2014, they experienced the fifty three percent reduction in recordable injuries, which I will say is quite commendable.

That is sure. That is a great it’s a lot of people would love that.

Yes, yes. At the higher performing location, they experienced an eighty six percent drop in their total recordable incident rate. And that meant at the time that I had talked to them, they had a zero point five try R, which was totally different circumstance. Yeah, completely different. And I will say the two years at the beginning of those two years in 2012, the R who we call now our high performer, they were twice as bad as the location that I was that I was working at.

And they managed to turn everything around in a matter of two years. And it really, really was quite impressive.

This is phenomenal, and I think you’ve really captured so many of the key variables in terms of how leaders not just show up, it’s not rocket science to improve safety. It’s where you show up, what you do, what messages you send. So can you can in your words, what would be the major takeaways from the work, the study that you did here and exactly the same company, same environment. So, in theory, you should have the same culture, but so, so different, right?

Yes. And what I really got out of this was two major learning. So, the first one is that the emphasis that a leader puts on safety will directly correlate to a reduction in injuries and are very important about how that emphasis is placed. So, if it’s a, you know, yelling at people saying reduce your injuries, that’s going to get you very different results. But when you put an emphasis on let’s be proactive, let’s have conversations, let’s make this a learning that’s going to directly influence your injury rates.

So, if you’re if you’re an organization that’s looking to lower your injury rates, you know, take that that proactive and. Almost excited approach to it. I don’t I don’t quite know how to phrase that. I think she was she was happy about it. She was passionate about it and made it very clear to her employees that this was something she genuinely cared about for them. So that was my first learning. The second learning is that, you know, both of them in theory had this had the same management systems.

But the way that you use your management systems, those effective management system practices are crucial. As a leader, you need to be specific about your expectations of your management team and your supervisors. What exactly is it that you want them to do? We don’t want to just say reduce injury rates and follow safety requirements. We want to ask them how are you going to show up as a leader and prove that safety is important to your teams.

And with that, you know, how much time am I spending in my personal day? If safety is such a priority to me, how much time am I spending out in the field? So, we’ve got we’ve got these fabulous management systems out there, but they are only as good as the effort that you put into them and the clarity that you put into them.

I love it. And I think this this element that the tangibility of is showing up. Obviously, we’ve got to show up the right way. Like you said, I need to show active care and things of that nature and make such a difference. And yet this is a choice that day in and day out. I keep emphasizing with leaders and it’s probably the hardest thing to really get in is like show up consistently, own your safety own in terms of the expectations, make it real.

Show to other people that the safety matters to you, right?

Yes, absolutely. And you need to own it as much, if not more, than what you want your employees to own it. They are they’re only going to match what you are role modeling to them. IT leaders don’t understand that sometimes the influence that they have, they are the number one influencer on how their organization performs. And that doesn’t just include safety. That includes quality. That includes your operational performance, your finances. Everything falls under that.

I couldn’t agree more. Fantastic story, fantastic research, data points. You’ve shared the criticality of the role of the leader and can only ask everybody to really start thinking and having a personal reflection. We’re coming into the New Year. It’s time to the New Year’s resolution. This is the time to start thinking of my showing up the right way. Am I spending and misspending the amount of time that I need to spend showing that safety matters day in and day out? Or is it something I’m fluffing off to somebody else? I’m only doing the bare minimum. This was almost four times more time spent on safety, and I’m willing to bet that her performance overall was probably even better, not just from a safety standpoint, but across all the other metrics.

You know, I would be willing I don’t have the data in front of me, but I am willing to bet that you are probably right on that.

Brie, thank you so much for sharing a story. I think it’s a very, very powerful story. And thank you for all the good work that you’re doing to help organizations improve their culture, help leaders realize how they can make a difference. It’s you’re fighting a good fight. Thank you.

Well, thank you so much for having me. It was wonderful having this conversation.

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

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Brie is an expert in Occupational Safety and Health, specializing in client safety culture assessments and transformation. She has many years of experience in the Aerospace industry, working for United Technologies Corporation and Lockheed Martin with roles ranging from direct front-line technical support to corporate headquarters program management. Her occupational safety technical experience includes risk assessment, root cause analysis, injury reduction project management, compliance audits, training and program development. Brie holds a B.S. in Occupational Safety and Health from the University of Connecticut and an MBA in Management from Indiana University.


Are you feeling sleepy? Why sleep is so critical to stay safe! with Rebecca Brossoit, M.S.



Digging into the latest research in sleep with Rebecca Brossoit M.S. to understand the impact on safety. Exploring strategies to improve sleep and drive the right outcomes for workplaces.


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 the Safety Guru public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.

Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. My name is Eric Michrowski, your host. And today we’re here to talk about incredibly important topic related to safety, which is around sleep. I have with me Rebecca Brossoit, who earned her master’s in industrial organizational psychology from Colorado State University and has a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in sociology for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She’s currently in her final stages in her Ph.D. in psychology and has done a lot of research on employee C’s sleep, health, safety in nature and the exposure in relation to recovery from work stress.

So, I’m really excited to have Rebecca with me. Welcome to our podcast.

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Excellent. So, your background seems to be really focused on workplace psychology and works. Worker’s sleep. How much sleep do we really need? Is it true that everyone should sleep at least eight hours each night?

Yeah. So, although eight hours is mentioned, a lot is the ideal number. Experts in the sleep field actually recommend that adults should consistently be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Hmm.

And good to know. So how much people how much sleep do people actually get to?

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t getting enough sleep. A study that was conducted by researchers at the CDC. So, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about a third of Americans are actually sleeping less than seven hours each night.

So sometimes sleep is so sometimes they sleep enough between seven and nine hours, but they don’t feel like I get a good night’s sleep. Why would that be. 

Hmm. OK, so seven or nine hours is the recommendation for the amount of sleep that most adults need. But this recommendation only captures sleep duration and there are other ways to conceptualize sleep beyond just the duration of time spent asleep. So, aspects of sleep quality are also important.

Interesting. So, what is sleep quality?

Sleep quality is what it sounds like. So, it’s how good the quality of your sleep is. Insomnia, symptoms like having trouble falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep throughout the night. Those things reflect sleep quality. Other experiences like waking up, feeling well rested, refreshed or restored are also aspects of sleep quality.

Interesting, and which is more important, the amount of sleep you try to get or the quality of your actual sleep in your opinion.

Good question, but I can’t pick one. They are both important.

I see. So, I have a really busy week and I’m not able to get seven to nine hours of sleep. Can I just catch up on sleep over the weekend? So that’s something I have to do all the time. What’s the risk for me?

OK, so this pattern of sleeping where you don’t get enough sleep throughout the week and then sleep in over the weekend is sometimes referred to as binge sleeping. So, this is a great question, though, and one that researchers are still trying to fully understand. Some studies have found that it can be useful for people to catch up on lost sleep by sleeping and on the weekends and that it may actually be helpful for health-related outcomes. However, many other researchers believe that people who have sleep, debt or an accumulation of poor sleep over time can’t truly make up for that lost sleep.

So, the jury is still out on this. And ultimately, though, catching up on sleep is probably not as beneficial as consistently getting between seven and nine hours each night and having similar bed and wait times each day.

Interesting. So obviously, I live a really busy life. I’m sure a lot of our listeners do the same and have the same challenges. And sometimes it doesn’t seem like sleep should be prioritized over other things. So how important is sleep really in terms of our well-being and also what we’re able to accomplish?

Yeah, so I can relate to sometimes feeling too busy to prioritize sleep. Yeah, definitely. But sleep is really important and should absolutely be prioritized. Insufficient sleep, we know from a lot of research is associated with things like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, reduced immunity and early mortality. So, it is super important. Also, getting enough and getting high quality sleep is related to mental health, wellbeing and the relationships you have with others. It’s also linked to how people perform and act while they’re at work and how they perceive their work.

OK, so you’ve got my attention. Sleep is really important for your health. The last part made sense to when I don’t get sleep or the sufficient amount of sleep, I’m in a really bad mood and can’t get anything done. Probably some of my team members will tell me exactly.

OK, so think about a time when you didn’t sleep well and you are exhausted the next day. Maybe it felt harder to pay attention and perform well at work. Or maybe you were moody when you were interacting with people. Not getting enough or good sleep tends to just make things harder. So, the way I think of it, I care a lot about my work and I care a lot about my life outside of work and believe that prioritizing my sleep will help me be happy and successful in each of these areas of my life.

So, you mentioned that sleep can impact work outcomes. Can you talk more about that? What should organizations company care about when it comes to the worker’s sleep?

Sure. So, there’s a lot of research that has shown that workers who don’t get enough sleep or who get low-quality sleep are at risk for a variety of work-related problems. For example, workers with poor sleep are more likely to get in accidents or be injured while they’re at work. There are even estimates that 13 percent of work injuries can be attributed to sleep-related problems.

Wow. Why is it that sleep influences things like workplace safety?

Good question. This is actually something I explored with my colleagues in a project on construction worker safety that was published a couple of years ago. So, have you ever gone to work and not been able to pay attention to your tasks or other people may be made mistakes or couldn’t remember how to complete a task?

So of course, who hasn’t?

Yeah. So, these experiences are known as workplace cognitive failures. And we explored cognitive failures at work as a link between sleep and workplace safety. And what we found is that one of the reasons construction workers with poor sleep quality reported having more injuries at work and being less compliant with safety protocols is that these workers were also experiencing more cognitive failures. So, lapses in their memory, attention and action while they were at work, that’s really interesting. Are there other reasons why organizations or companies should care about their employee’s sleep?

Yeah, there are a lot more reasons. So poor sleep is linked to worse job performance, being less engaged at work, being less likely to help out your coworkers, and also being more impatient, avoidant or rude towards your coworkers. Insufficient sleep has also been linked to things like unethical or deviant behaviors at work. So, things like cheating or searching the Internet for things that are not related to work, something known as cyber loafing, or even claiming credit for someone else’s work.

And beyond all of these things, workers with poor sleep also tend to report more burnout from their work, lower job satisfaction, and are more likely to think about quitting their job. So, all of these things are really costly to employers. One study estimated that it cost companies over two thousand dollars per employee with insomnia because of lost work time and reduced performance.

Well, that’s a lot of money. What can companies do? But this is something that is beyond what the company should be working or looking at.

Yeah. So, the reality is that one of the main reasons why people experience disrupted sleep is their work. And there’s research on how work hours working overtime shift work schedules and the stress that comes from work can have a negative impact on people’s sleep. However, there is a lot that organizations and companies can do to improve their employee’s sleep.

Like what?

There are a bunch of options. So, in a study that I recently published with my colleagues, we found that nurses and certified nursing assistant with more schedule, control, experience, better sleep, and they were also more satisfied and less likely to think about quitting their job. Similar findings have also been found in another research, too. So, one option would be to provide employees with flexibility and control over their work schedules.

That makes a lot of sense and definitely very consistent with a lot of other research that I’ve seen in terms of giving freedom and flexibility in terms of work scheduling. But what if the work schedule can’t be changed? What other options might exist?

Yeah, so broadly, employer related insurance that provides accessible and affordable health care coverage to employees is one-way employers can help. Likewise, wellness programs are also mutually beneficial for employees and organizations. 

So those are great ideas. What about if an employee came into work and was totally exhausted? What should an employer do with them if the employee is about to start a shift doing safety sensitive work like operating a forklift or machinery? One thing the employer could do would be to simply reassign their job tasks or duties that day and to ensure their safety and the safety of their coworkers. More generally, though, leaders, supervisors and managers can be role models to their employees.

For example, instead of bragging about how little sleep they get, they can talk about how it’s important to. Prioritize sleep, and they can encourage their workers to have healthy sleep behaviors. This idea is known as sleep leadership and it’s been effective in military settings and is likely useful in other contexts, too. And supervisors and managers, they’re in a position where they can help employees modify their schedules and their workloads, which can have a positive influence on their employee sleep.

In addition to this, some companies, particularly those with shift workers, tend to have spaces where workers can go to take short naps during their work break. So, this is another option that could help prevent sleepiness or fatigue throughout the workday.

I love your example in terms of sleep leadership. I think that’s a really good example in terms of your role modeling, what good looks like. So, if you’re if our listener is an employee rather than an employer, what can they do to improve their sleep?

Yeah, so if you’re an employee but not the employer, there are a lot of things you can do. So, as I mentioned earlier, striving for seven to nine hours of sleep each night with consistent bed and wait times is one thing you can do. In addition to this, similar to housekeeping, food, diaries or logging, fitness can increase your awareness of your diet and exercise. Tracking sleep may also be helpful for some people. You can do this with a wearable tracker like a Fitbit or simply a pen and paper and just keep track of when you go to sleep, when you wake up and how long you sleep each night.

That’s a really good idea. A good example. I think there’s even apps that help you with doing that on an iPhone. I think they’ve added some sleep apps on that side. So those are really good ideas. Is there anything else people can do?

Oh, yeah, there are a number of other things people can do to improve their sleep. Something even as simple as just reducing the amount of caffeine you consume later in the day can be helpful. Things like exercising can be really helpful for sleeping better, though. It’s not helpful if it’s done right before bedtime because this can actually make it harder to unwind and fall asleep. Other things like refraining from working in bed can be helpful so your brain can associate your bed with sleeping rather than working.

Another thing that can be helpful is having a relaxing bedtime routine where you do a similar calming activity to unwind before bed each night.

What about alcohol? Does that help you sleep because it’s a depressant?

No, alcohol makes it easier to fall asleep. This is a really common question that people tend to ask a lot. But what alcohol does is it makes it easier to fall asleep, but it actually disrupts important sleep stages like REM or rapid eye movement sleep. So, you should probably skip the nightcap and opt for something else. I like sleepy time.

I see people wearing those blue light glasses, those help with sleep.

OK, so the idea behind the blue light glasses is that electronics emit blue light and this type of light has been linked with problems sleeping. So, it makes sense to think that glasses that block out some of the blue light would help sleep. However, this is a hotly debated topic right now, and there’s disagreement about whether the blue light glasses really help some people think they do something they do, but it’s just a placebo effect and others think they don’t have help at all until we know for sure.

And easier and more affordable way to improve sleep would be to simply refrain from using electronics like your phone, laptop or television close to bedtime. Instead, you could try using fewer stimulating activities that are free from blue light. So, reading a paperback book, meditating, listening to music or a podcast or do other things like that to unwind before bed.

Hmm. And what if your boss is emailing you late at night and you feel like you need to respond?

Good question. Feeling an urge to immediately respond to a work-related email. Describe something we call Tella pressure in the research, literature and research has found links between this idea of Tella pressure and the experience of pressure in your sleep. So, setting expectations about the use of technology outside of work and outside of work hours and preferred response times to things like emails is another way that supervisors and managers can help their employees get better sleep.

That’s a good point. And I’ve heard some leaders also share some guidance around what their expectations are and see more and more people as well using the Dilates method. So, they could be sending the email. But if they want to make sure somebody doesn’t jump on something right away, dilator, perhaps the next morning.

Yeah, that’s a great example.

So where should employees or employees go if they want to learn more about sleep?

There are a lot of options. Primary care physicians are a great resource for people who have concerns about their sleep. But for more general information, the National Sleep Foundation, an American Academy for Sleep Medicine, both have helpful articles about sleep on their websites, another resource that might be helpful for employers as a recent white paper on why poor employee sleep is bad for business. This was. Sponsored by the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology, also known as SIOP, which is the field that I’m in and can be found on their website, that was super interesting. 

Thank you so much for coming on our podcast. Definitely a lot of important themes that too many people prioritize. I know, especially in these really challenging times that we’re in right now, a lot of people are starting to try to get more done, myself included. And sometimes that puts pressure against the quality of our sleep or as you said as well, the duration of our sleep. So really important topic. And I’ve seen in a lot of organizations where it becomes a subtle theme that starts emerging within the workforce and becomes really dangerous, just like people driving drunk or we’re coming to work drunk is you don’t necessarily have the ability to focus on the work that you have in front of you.

So, thank you so much for coming in to share some of these data points and try to share and popularize a lot more of that information for people, because I think too few organizations. But sleep on their corporate agenda, huh?

Yeah, I agree. Thank you so much for having me.

Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite Radio. Leave a legacy to 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.

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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Rebecca Brossoit earned her M.S. in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology from Colorado State University (CSU) in 2017 and she is currently in the final stages of her PhD in I/O Psychology at CSU. Her research interests include employee sleep, health, and safety, nature exposure in relation to recovery from work stress, the work-family interface, and workplace interventions. Becca has published research related to the use of physiological measures in I/O and OB research, the interplay between work, nonwork, and sleep in a person’s life, the impact of poor sleep on construction workers’ safety, the role of fatigue for on-demand drivers (e.g., Uber drivers) in the gig economy, and the influence of schedule control on healthcare workers’ sleep and job attitudes. She is also involved in a sleep and work-family intervention study with service members and leaders in the National Guard.