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The Importance of Team-based Safety Culture with Dan Plexman

The importance of team-based safety culture

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“Safety systems and procedures mean nothing if people don’t implement them.” In this episode, Dan Plexman shares how a culture of production in the workplace led to an incident that changed his life. Complacency often enters into the minds of team members when the focus is on completing tasks rather than completing tasks safely. This National Electrical Safety Month, Dan is emphasizing the importance of team-based safety culture. Tune in!

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

Hi, and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today. I’m very excited to have with me Dan Plexman, who is a workplace safety speaker and life safety advocate. Dan, welcome to the show.

Good morning, Eric. Thank you very much for having me. Great to be here. Thank you. 

Sounds good. So, I’d love to hear a little bit about your story, the story that got you to become a workplace safety speaker.

All right. Well, the process of becoming a professional speaker on workplace safety. I think this role is handed down to too many other workplace safety speakers, not by choice. It’s just something that happened to them. And they’re sharing their story to change the world of safety. And the same thing happened to me. I was injured in a workplace accident about 14 years ago. And after realizing I wasn’t going to be able to return to work at the same capacity, I decided to get into safety and started doing some safety training, which I had been already taking safety training since the early 90s or the late 90s. I mean, so one of the safety courses I was taking was to train the trainer and teach the teacher. And part of the course was to do a ten-minute presentation from the class. And obviously I spoke about my workplace accident. And the ten minutes turned into 30 or 40. And then the teacher brought me down to the Chancellor’s office and said, this guy has to be our keynote speaker at our next safety conference. And three months later, I was in front of 500 people or 500 safety professionals telling my story. 

And I guess six, seven years later, it’s still going strong. And it’s been a great experience. There’s so many things that this experience has given me. It’s taken away a lot. But you can’t really look at the bad things in life. You have to look at things with a positive matter. And without this experience, I never would have met my wife. So that’s one thing that I really, truly cherish about being injured. And that’s how I became a speaker about my injury and my accident. My story and my story being injured in a workplace accident. It starts off like any typical Northern Canadian kid. I was a construction worker. I was raised by a working household. My mother was a nurse. My father was a construction guy. As a child, I went with my dad on the job sites. He’s a Pipe liner. And from the time I was about nine or ten years old, I was driving around the big trucks with him on the construction sites, and I really enjoyed it. And as a teenager, he was able to get me working on some boom trucks, like swamping being like a Raker on trucks and crane trucks. 

And I never looked back after that. When I became a graduated high school, I was just a construction guy and I worked in all different types of construction. I typically chase, like pulp and paper mill construction, oil sands production. Up in Alberta, I did a short, short stint in oil rigs, and then I picked up an election apprenticeship working out in the oil sands and took a job back home a few years later in Ontario with a lecture utility company. I worked for them for about three years, and I wasn’t your typical apprentice. I started the electrical apprenticeship probably around age 32. So, at the age of 35, when I was injured. When I was injured, I was a full-grown man. I wasn’t fresh to construction, but I was fresh to the electrical industry. But all the construction job sites I’d been on had the exact same machinery, the exact same type of work. The only difference was now we’re working under a live electrical line and we’re putting this live electrical apparatus together and building it. And I love the job. I love the guys I worked with. And to cut to the short end of the chase, as far as my accident goes, I was working in a man left by myself. 

I was about 20ft in the air, and I was working under live lines. I was doing a simple, simple job. All I had to do was tighten a few nuts and bolts. Okay, my accident happened on a Tuesday and the week before, we had erected these electrical towers, these steel structures to Mount some of our electrical apparatus. And when I showed up at work the next after the weekend, that was my job. Just go up there and tighten the feed nuts and bolts, and we’re good, and then I can go to the next job. When I accepted the work orders, I didn’t think anything of it. It was very common for me as an apprentice to be working under live lines and to be working by myself in the man lift. And I knew at my previous employer we weren’t even allowed to walk a man left without having a ground crew or another person in there with you. And I had complained about this to the employer I was working with this actually utility employer. And I said, like, you know, I wasn’t even allowed to do this job at my old job. And now I’m expecting to do it alone as an apprentice.

And basically, they said, well, maybe you should go back to your old employer. And I just took that as out of sort of thing. Wow. And this is probably a couple of years before I was injured. And then as the years went on because I only worked there for three years before I was injured, still doing my apprenticeship. And I complained, not really complained, but I brought this up again to my safety rep. And the funny things with the safety rep, with bringing this up to the safety rep. I was actually the safety rep for when we went out when our crew split up. So, I was like the field safety representative. And when they asked me to fill this role, I said, Great, when do I get the training? And I was actually laughed at, and I was told, this job is strictly a paper roll. Sign your name here and don’t rock the boat.

Oh, wow. 

When I brought these concerns to my safety rep, who had said this previously, I kind of knew it was going to fall on deaf ears. So, I made sure there was a group of people around, which included my Superintendent, my lead hand, my Union steward, the safety rep. And I said, I shouldn’t be operating this machine without supervision. It’s like illegal to work as an apprentice under live lines. It’s just how it works. And I was laughed at, and I was asked, what are you, a man or a mouse?

My goodness.

Yeah. And that’s exactly what I said, are you a man or a mouse? We’ve been doing this job for like 27, 30 years. Some of the guys have been there for over 30 years. We’ve been doing this job this way and for you to come here and tell us how to do it, it’s just not going to work that way. And I wasn’t intimidated in a way where I was physically intimidated or I felt like less of a man, I actually felt guilty where I just wasn’t fitting in. And that was sort of the culture of the crew that I was on, where people weren’t rude with each other and to push these unsafe work practices. It was just how it was. And it was kind of like, you’re not mad enough. Well, you’re kind of feeling like you aren’t mad enough, so you just kind of follow suit. And that’s what I did. And I had done that my entire life. I had done that my entire life. I always just accepted the job and I did what I was told. And being a good, loyal, hardworking employee was instilled in me. And that was the attitude I went to work with.

I wanted to produce, I wanted to fit in, and I wanted to be productive. Even. Like when I was 17 years old, working with my dad on one of those boom trucks, the first time I ever operated a chainsaw was with my dad when I was 17 on the job site. And he never gave me any instruction how to operate that he just gave it to me and said, fire this thing up, climb up on the trailer and cut the chunk off the end of this wood that’s sticking off the side of the trailer, so we don’t hit anything Whizzer driving. And I was 10ft up in the air, hanging on the trailer with one hand while I operated, the chainsaw with the other stretched wide open. And that was how I was taught from the age of 17 by my dad. And that’s normal. That was normal to me. And that’s how he learned. That’s how everybody learned back then. So, I really can’t blame, like put blame or responsibility on my fellow workers and just the poor safety culture that I came from that I was working with on-the-job site when I was injured, because that was the same culture that I was raised in a culture of production rather than a culture of safety.

And that’s unfortunately quite common as a teams in a lot of organizations. The focus of reinforcement is on get it done as opposed to get it done safely.

Exactly. And another human factor with my I don’t know if it’s actually a human factor, but just another statistical factor with my injury and my incident being a typical construction crew. Like you said, it’s all about production. And typically, most construction crews are running a little lean on the manpower just because when the jobs are lean, you don’t want to have to go through the layoff process when there’s too many guys. So typically, my experience, they run a little lean on the lean side just to prevent any layoffs when things get busier or slower. And that was an issue we were having where we were always running lean, but there was just so much work to be done. We were always running short and working with a composite crew. There’s electricians, there’s carpenters, laborers, machine operators, that sort of thing. And working farther up north, where our job location was, there’s not the massive amount of workers in some of these other big utility yards and job sites. So just as sometimes you’re running lean with manpower, you’re also running lean with machinery, you’re running lean with just the general tools. Sometimes you have to just do with what you have, and sometimes you make do with what you have, and the job gets done. 

Nobody is hurt. And then you go to the next job just because nobody was hurt and there was no injuries or incidents, no time loss and the jobs got done, it doesn’t mean that they were done correctly or even done safely. And I think that complacency was a big issue with my job where everybody was doing this for years and years before I was hurt, but I just happened to be the guy that was hurt.

This episode of The Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, reenergize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered. Visit us www.propolo.com.

Tell me a little bit more about the culture on that crew. Because you talked about production over safety. The feedback you got when you identify some safety opportunities was to shut you down. Your quote around or your man or a mouse is horrifying to me. What was unique and how did that crew evolve to have that culture? And were there some signs that as a leader in the organization, maybe it could have seen that something was not quite off? I’m assuming this wasn’t the culture of the whole company at the time. 

No, that’s the thing with my experience with this. And I’ve come to learn that almost every part of any job site, any accident, anything, it always involves people. You can have as many company policies and procedures, and you could have as many Unions Constitution, rules and regulations and safety protocol to follow. But it all means absolutely nothing. If people don’t enforce it and implement it, follow them. And that was the issue with my crew. The company we worked for was a huge electric utility company. There is never a shortage of materials. There’s never a shortage of money to be thrown at all the jobs we were doing. There’s no reason to be writing so lean and no reason to cut any corners. All of that was in place. All of that was there. The men, the leaders, myself, I just chose not to use them and not to follow these Propulo.com and not to enforce it. I truly believe personal safety is the most important part of every aspect of any kind of safety measure. If your personal safety isn’t number one for everybody, there’s never going to be anybody. There’s always a lot of accidents. 

It’s just how it works. And I really wish I would have enforced my right to refuse dangerous work. I should have, but I didn’t. My employer, the guys that I worked with, they should have enforced these rules, but they didn’t. I should have gone home that night, but I didn’t. Instead, I accepted those dangerous work orders. I accepted the unrealistic job expectations. And then I went to the hospital for three months. I’ve had over 30 major surgeries, 100 little ones. And there’s real consequences to not following these protocols that are in place and ensuring your personal safety.

So, when you speak about safety and you speak to team members, what’s your core message really around? Taking that personal ownership for safety?

Like I said, even though I knew what I was doing was wrong, and even though I complained about it before, I did not get the recognition and I didn’t get the respect, the recognition and things did not. The things I was asking for and talking about. They weren’t recognized or even acknowledged. So, the culture has to start from everyone. And if you’re having a hard time instilling your own personal safety, take another step up the rung. Go higher. I went from my lead hand, my Union steward, my safety rep, I went as high as the Superintendent and the Superintendent actually agreed with my lead hand when I said, or when they said, what are you, a man, or a mouse? Because it was the lead hand who said, what are you, a man, or a mouse? Then my field Foreman, the general Foreman, and then the Superintendent all agreed and said, yeah, I have to agree with that. So, at that point, I really felt there was no I couldn’t go any higher. I was talking to the Superintendent. Who else could I go to?

Sure.

There’s much more higher rungs than that. There’s probably five or six or ten other superintendents in other areas that I could have emailed or called or anything. I could have called the Ministry of labor. I could have called my local MP. I could have done something, but I didn’t. I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted to get the job done and I wanted to be part of the crew. I really liked working with these guys. I respected these men. They were my friends.

Right.

And their culture of production led to my life altering accident. It changed my life completely. But I don’t have any blame, or I don’t blame anybody because there’s no Mal intentions, just things happen. And sometimes the best intentions have the worst outcomes. And having a culture of production is just not acceptable nowadays.

So, you’ve raised the issue at a fairly senior level, Superintendent level, and everybody echoed the same message to me. There’s also an element that I got to wonder, if I’m an executive and I’m running the business, how do I find pockets like this where maybe people don’t feel comfortable speaking up, don’t feel comfortable raising issues, and where you have more of a production of production orientation as opposed to safe production focus.

The intimidation factor has to be removed. That’s how I see it, yeah. When I was intimidated on the job, I was a six-foot tall £229 and I was injured. I was a big, strong, hardworking guy and I wasn’t easily physically intimidated. I walked confidently and I wasn’t really scared of a lot of things. But physical intimidation is a real big difference when you’re dealing, like mental intimidation, emotional intimidation. That’s what I felt because I don’t really feel. I didn’t feel if I look back on it now, I do not think I was mentally or physically intimidated when I was asked to do this job, but I was emotionally intimidated. I was made to feel like I was not worthy. I was made to feel like I was letting the crew down. I was made to feel like I just wasn’t fitting in and I was the youngest guy in the crew. I was 35 years old, and I was the youngest guy in the crew by at least ten years. Everybody else was at least 45 to 65 years old and they had all been working there for at least 20 years. I was the first guy that they hired in over 13 years on the crew as an apprentice.

So, the intimidation I felt was emotional intimidation because I just felt that I wasn’t fitting in. And if that was removed, if things were a little bit softer rather than men trying to be so hard and rough, if that makes sense, I think things could have changed, right?

Yeah. So, thank you for sharing your story, Dan. I’d love to dive into some of the human factors that were present when the incident happened and hear a little bit about thoughts around what were some of the countermeasures that could have reduced the impact of those human factors, for sure.

My personal human factors are the number one thing that were involved with my accident. And the timeline before my accident is just the perfect recipe for an accident in any situation. You see, like I said, I was injured on a Tuesday. Like I said, I wasn’t there on Monday, and I took the Monday off and I took the Monday off because I was selling my rental house. And during the weekend I had like three apartments that I was painting and doing a bunch of renovations to get prepared for selling the house. And my weekend was so busy, and you also have to remember my home to the job site was a six-hour drive. So, I worked until Thursday. I came home on Friday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday I worked and then Monday I made the deal to sell the house and then the plan was for me to show up on work on Tuesday at noon and get back to work. So that’s what I did. I drove to work the morning of my incident, so I left about five in the morning. I drove for 6 hours, and I stopped at my hotel, I rested for a couple of hours and then I went to the job site.

I remember actually driving to the job site thinking I was just so tired. My mind was racing with all the things that I had done on the weekend and my mind was racing with all the things I still had to do. When I came home on the next weekend and my mind wasn’t on the job, it was about my home life. I was stressed, I was busy, I was tired. And when I arrived on the job site I was asked to go back to the man, lift you’re on before the weekend and finish installing the bolts and those steel structures. And then you can hop in your car and drive 200 km to the next job site and meet the rest of the crew. My electrical work instructions were given to me by the Carpenter Foreman. There was not a single other electrician in the yard. When I was injured, I was by myself, and I was still an apprentice working under live lines in a man left without any ground crew, no signalman or anybody. And I accepted those work orders. That’s how we did things. And like I said, I was really tired, and my mind wasn’t on the job.

So, like I said, I accepted the work orders. And then I went to the hospital for three months. And my mindset is I truly believe it’s the main reason why I was injured, because as soon as I got on the job, actually, I put work boots on. I went to the man lift, I got on that man lift, and then I safely proceeded to do my job. And all I needed to do at the end of the job was just to inspect my work. So, for you to inspect my work, I had to drive that man left with five or six inches one way just so I get a better view. And like I said, my mind wasn’t on the job when I started the work. So, I didn’t do safety circle check of the man left I was working on. It’s one of the first things you always do on any job site when you’re operating any machine, you do a safety circle check. But I didn’t. I was just too busy in my mind thinking of what was going on at home.

Sure.

And I was also just thinking of getting a simple job done and hopping in my car and driving 2 hours to the next job to meet the rest of the crew. And as I said, when I was in that man left, I just had to drive it maybe five or six inches, maybe eight inches one way. And because I didn’t do that safety circle check, I didn’t notice that that man left was parked exactly where I had left it the weekend before, but it had actually been moved, and it was parked exactly where I had left it. But it was parked 180 degrees opposite of how I had left it. And I didn’t notice that because obviously, I didn’t do that safety circle check, and I didn’t walk the work area if I would have noticed that the machine was parked 188 degrees opposite. So, if you haven’t operated a man left before, sometimes, depending on the machine, when you spin that machine 180 degrees opposite, the control levers actually go opposite as well. So left is right, and right is left. So, when I move that control lever, expecting that man left to go to the right, it actually went to the left.

And right there, that is when my life changed forever. The sparks, the fire, the bright light. It consumed me. The steel bucket, the steel man lift that I was on. It caught on paper. It caught on fire just like paper. And I was a golf. I was in a cage of flames. That’s what I was. And I really was not there mentally because I was thinking of everything else that was going on at home and I really wish I would have taken the time to do the safety circle check. I really wish I would have walked the work area. I really wish I would have refused the dangerous work orders and instilled my right to refuse dangerous work right.

Goodness. 

Another issue that was a big factor in my accident was like I said, I was 20ft up in the air. So, after I was caught on fire, I rolled out of the man left to get away from it to get out of the fire. But instead of falling to the ground, I was stopped, and I was suspended by my safety harness. So, I hung there swinging about 17ft in the air, burning alive until my thick nylon lanyard the safety harness until it burned completely through. Then I fell 20ft to the ground. While I was up there burning alive, I was awake, and I was aware, and I remember all of it. And the carpenters and the machine operators and the laborers from the other side of the yard doing another job. They heard all the noise in the commotion, and they came running towards me. They came running towards me with the best of intentions, but they came running towards me like chickens with their heads cut off. They were so stressed, and it was panic and chaos. No one knew what to do. We had a little bit of safety training in what to do if a man left his stuck sort of thing.

But there was no emergency rescue plan in place and there was no practice emergency rescue plan in place, that’s for sure. There was like nothing. So, when I was burning up there alive, one guy, all they had to do was press a single button to release the machine and I would have come down to the ground. They could have put me out and they could have put the fire out a lot sooner, but they couldn’t do that because they were freaking out. They were not planned; they were not trained and there was no emergency rescue plan in place. Like I said, two other guys are trying to reach me at 17ft with a twelve-footstep ladder. That was the best they could do at the time, and it was the best of intentions, and they did their best, but their best wasn’t good enough because they did not follow the safety protocols. They did not instill the safe work procedures that were set up by the company and set up by the Union. It was humans that failed to follow the rules, safety systems and procedures. They mean nothing if the people do not implement them.

Absolutely agree. Dan thank you very much for sharing a story. If somebody wants to get in touch with you and learn about how you can present your story to others share some of the insights around improving safety outcomes within the team, how can they get in touch with you?

Very easily, danplexman.com that’s my website and you can reach me anytime.

Very easy.

No problem. Just Google my name.

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

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Dan Plexman is from Thunder Bay, Ontario and is 44 years old. He has worked as a labourer, driver, equipment operator and warehouseman in pipeline, oilsands and general construction since the age of 16.

Starting an electrical apprenticeship in his early 30’s was a natural transition to make, and provided the perfect mix of both familiar and unfamiliar work locations and practices. Dan worked as an apprentice in Alberta and Ontario for a few years, completed a term of trade school in both provinces, and was enjoying working closer to his home town than he had in years when he was seriously injured at work.

September 30, 2008 is the day Dan’s life changed forever. 

Working alone and 17′ aloft, the manlift he was operating came in close proximity to live overhead power-lines and an electrical arc flash fire resulted. Receiving 3rd degree burns to 70% of his body before falling those 17′ to the ground left him clinging to life with a 13% chance of surviving and a long road of recovery ahead. 

Over 9 years of constant surgery, medical procedures and therapy haven’t been the only focus in his life. Besides taking the courses needed to obtain the National Construction Safety officer designation, and starting the Occupational Health and Safety University education, he also is enjoying an exciting new career as a safety and motivational speaker. 

Other than the obvious physical trauma, the subjects of creating a safety culture for the home and workplace, equipment and workplace inspections, demanding safe work procedures, standing up to peer pressure and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are very near to his heart and talking about them proves to be a healing and learning experience for him as well as the audience. 

Dan is both honoured and excited to speak with everyone willing to listen and share his experience being seriously injured in a life altering workplace accident. 

For more information: https://www.danplexman.com/ or https://1sheet.pro/DanPlexman

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RELATED EPISODE

Stepping Up the Importance of Ladder Safety with Dylan Skelhorn

Stepping up the importance of ladder safety with Dylan Skelhorn

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

READ THIS EPISODE

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

Hi, and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today, I’m very excited to have with me Dylan Skelhorn, who is a safety motivational speaker from the UK, coming to share with us a really powerful story and a powerful story as well in terms of the impact that he’s making in the space around ladder safety. So, Dylan, welcome to the show. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This episode of The Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, reenergize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered. Visit us at www.propulo.com. 

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

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

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

They won’t call you. 

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

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

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

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

Exactly.

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

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

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

Exactly. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, thank you for joining me. 

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

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

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUEST

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

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

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

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

Website: www.safetyup.co.uk

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New Year Special Episode – 4 Safety Megatrends for 2022 with Dr. Josh Williams, Martin Royal and Eduardo Lan

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As you prepare to ring in the new year, tune in to this special episode featuring safety experts Eric Michrowski, Martin Royal, Eduardo Lan, and Dr. Josh Williams from Propulo Consulting. They take the time to discuss important topics such as how to return to the workplace safely, learning organization, investment in safety coaching, and the evolution of Human and Organizational Performance. You are sure to gain beneficial insights as each expert highlights a specific safety megatrend to focus on in 2022.

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suit. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized option 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 as we start preparing the countdown for the new year to have a great episode lined up for you. It’s four safety megatrends. Trends for 2022, 22 is the year ahead is two plus two. So, we have four experts with us that are going to share four key megatrends to start looking out for in 2022. 

Wow. Are you ready? Let’s go. Three, two, one together with me. 

I have Dr. Josh Williams, who’s been on our show several times. Josh, do you want to say a quick intro to yourself, everybody? 

Yeah, I’m happy to be here excited for 2022. And I’ve been doing this 20 something years, getting old. But looking forward to our session today. Thanks, Eric. 

Excellent. Well, thank you. And also have with me, Martin Royal. Martin Royal has been with Propulo for well over ten years. He’s been doing a lot of phenomenal work with leaders as part of organizational change. Martin, do you want to do a quick intro to yourself? 

For sure. Thanks, Eric. Glad to be on the show today and looking forward to discussing more about learning cultures today. 

Excellent. Thank you. Eduardo, who is coming back on the show, partners with Propulo Consulting, has been doing phenomenal work or driving organizational change more specifically, last 15-20 years, specifically around safety culture. Eduardo, welcome back. 

Thank you, Eric. Happy to be here with you and the rest of the audience really looking forward to this conversation and to helping leaders create environments where people can work safely and do so because they want to not just because they have to. 

Excellent love that. Okay. So, four topics, as I promised, looking at 2022. First one, we’re going to talk a little bit about the new normal with COVID. What is back to the workplace means how it’s impacting mental health, stress, fatigue and active care and what that means for safety. Then we’re going to talk into Behop with Dr. Josh, leading the conversation around some of the evolution around behavior-based safety integration around human performance. Then we’re going to go jump into Martin, who’s going to talk about learning organization, one of the key themes of a great safety culture and moving on. Really where the rubber hits the road. We’re going to pass it on to Eduardo, who’s going to talk about supervisory skills and how do you Hone those into 2022 to get real impact? 

So first, let me start a little bit on the new normal. So obviously dates have been changing for returning to the workplace. New variants are up in the news as we record this episode getting ready for the new Year hybrid remote work, return to work. Who really knows what’s happening? Some businesses have set on it. 

Some are still migrating. Well, what does that mean? From a safety standpoint? First, from a mental health standpoint, it’s so important. We’ve talked about another episode of The Safety Guru. Mental health is critically important, not just from wellbeing of the workforce, thinking about all the effects that mental health has taken over the last two years or so. But it also has a direct impact when it comes to safety performance. If you’re maybe distracted, there’s things on your mind. You’re not focused full attention on your job that poses a safety risk. 

And so that’s whereas a safety professional, it’s really important to start bridging that divide between mental health, which is often discussed in the HR field with the safety side of the equation. And that’s really where active care matters. If I know who my team members are, I notice that maybe somebody’s off a little bit today. Maybe I need to check in to see how they’re doing. Are they okay? I love there’s this quote in Australia where the way they talk about mental health is simply with the expression, Are you okay? 

So really reflecting connecting with your team members, knowing when something is a little bit different, something’s a little bit off and having the courage to jump in and really check in with them. So mental health, I think, is going to be hugely important as we start getting into 2022. The next one is really around stress and fatigue. We’ve talked about a lot. We’ve done some work internally on our list of the five key drivers of human error. Number one on that list is stress and fatigue. 

Stress is obviously incredibly present. Over the last 18 to 20 months, people have been mostly working harder, longer hours. There are more changes in the workplace that drives stress that also drives fatigue. If I’m not getting a good night rest, then I’m going to be more fatigue, which we know can put me in front of greater risk when I’m not fully there and fully focused, which really gets me into active care. And really that theme around something that most organizations have been talking about for the last 2030 years around safety. 

It really does matter. I talked about it before in terms of mental health. I know my team members; I know how they’re showing up. I’m more likely to be able to notice that something is different. I wrote an article just a few weeks ago. It was published in Forbes magazine. We had done a survey several months back and 80% of businesses that we had surveyed. We had talked to obviously, on the more mature side of safety, cultures reported that they had shown some improvements around how leaders showed up around active care. 

Phenomenally important. What’s important is also how do I embed that into the business? How do I start thinking about those themes, capturing the learnings and really making it real in the day to day? If you haven’t checked it out, that’s on Forbes. Forbes.com (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/12/01/beyond-back-to-normal-embedding-positive-changes-into-your-safety-culture/?utm_content=189459539&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin&hss_channel=lcp-27064223&sh=19ea9f7432e9). You can have a quick look and really around active care is really this element of self-leadership. And how as a leader, I’m building in a conversation how I’m being recognized and that has a direct correlation to outcomes. We were doing some work with one of our clients. 

And what was really interesting is we started seeing a strong correlation between outcome indicators of safety performance and whether team members had interacted over the last month around safety. Perhaps with coaching conversations. That element of felt leadership was so directly correlated to outcomes really critically important. Josh is going to talk about it very soon when we start talking about conversations he shared just this morning with me an article that talked about how having good conversations around observations can lead to 47% improvement around Sith’s and a 60% reduction around hazards showing up in the workplace. 

So, on that note, I don’t know if any of you have anything to jump in on this theme of mental health, stress and fatigue and active care. So critical as you start looking at 2022 and really bridging the gap between what’s traditionally the domain of HR and the domain of safety. Yeah. 

I mean, my experience I think we could all in this collection relate to. It is when we’re talking with folks, whether we’re doing assessments, interviews, focus groups, we’re hearing stress more and more. Ever since Kobe hit everybody we talked to; it seems like doing more with less. It’s tough. So, we feel for people out there. Everyone’s kind of in the same boat struggling through it. And the felt leadership is a big part. But we’re going to talk about human performance and how that relates to default leadership. 

And, Eric, if I can let me just jump in for a bit, human performance is all the rage right now. People are talking about hop, or we call it Bee hop. So just a quick. I’m just going to do a quick background on behavioral safety, kind of the evolution and human performance and what that means for the good conversations we need to have with folks and this notion of felt leadership, how we transform a culture. So just back in the old days, when I was coming up, behavioral safety was taken over. 

Before that, there was a lot of emphasis on attitudes and motivation. Those are important things. The challenge was, what do we do with it? Sometimes you get a one and done motivational inspiring presentation or whatever or training. But then that’s it. What do we do? So behavioral safety came in. And of all the research out there, if you want to get nerdy and start looking up statistics and research in the safety field, you’re not going to find more than you will on behavioral safety. It has been studied for decades. 

There’s all kinds of science and research showing the benefits of behavioral safety and what it did was kind of transform the focus, not just in teams of what I’m thinking and feeling, but what am I doing? As we all know, if you minimize risky behaviors on the front end, you minimize the chance of something bad happening on the back end. I mean, I hate to be cold talking about human life, but in many ways it is a math equation. Fewer risky behaviors in the front end equals less chance of something going wrong in the back and doesn’t guarantee it. 

But it makes it a lot less likely. So, focusing on behavior is smart. And so behavioral safety comes along. And there’s science behind it. And one of the biggest benefits is you’ve got checklists that are used to see what’s going on, what’s working? Well, what’s not working? Well, theoretically, we’re getting input from people doing the work, hearing what they have to say and making changes based on it’s a beautiful system. Martin is going to talk about learning culture in a moment, but it’s a beautiful system when done properly to get that input, to create a true learning culture on a regular basis, as opposed to kind of one and done training sessions. 

The challenge is it’s not easy to do so as we transition to talk about Bee hop and human performance. On the behavioral safety side, three big things happened that made it difficult to do. First are implementations being poor. It became a commodity, so people are buying and selling behavior-based safety. So, people are throwing out checklists without the proper training with no discussion on conversations, essentially saying, here’s a checklist and go use it very quickly. When I was in graduate school, we did research with funded by NIOS at a company. 

Half the group was given a card and said, Go use it. The other half created their own checklists and rules for use and other things around it. We call it the participation group. They use their cards seven times more than the people that were simply told here’s a card and go do it. And too often with behavioral safety failures, there was not a proper implementation on the front end. It was here’s a card here’s how you fill it out. Go do it. So not surprisingly, it didn’t work. 

That was the first big. The second big issue was technology, and it’s great to have technology help us whom we’re doing various functions on the job. But these behavioral checklists got increasingly long because it was easy to fill out on technology. So, I’m filling out a 50 or 60 item checklist. That’s crazy. Nobody’s doing that properly or very few people are. It became a problem became all about the cards and the checklists and the quotes you get you one in at the end of the month. 

So now that you got the system of quotas of pencil whipping and a larger problem of this black hole where we’re feeling stuff out and we never hear back. So, employees are not talking to each other first. But second, they’re bringing up issues that are important and no one’s getting back to them. So not surprisingly, behavioral safety. There were some struggles. The third issue was simply it’s hard. It’s hard to maintain something long term. So, we got to acknowledge that, particularly on the behavioral side. So, as I’m trying to go quick on the hop side, on the Behop side, we’re talking about human performance and the two big tenants there one quit blaming people for getting hurt, Demi said this years ago. 

Don’t blame people for problems created by the system. The second part of that is to fix the system. The first response when someone gets hurt is not who screwed up. It’s where the system fails. We’ve got to reorient our thinking to understand that we all operate in a context. And if we improve the system, it influences our behavior. The very quick story. I got to do one sports analogy really quick. Random lost, great receiver, troubled guy problems throughout his career on and off the field goes to the Patriots. 

Not that I’m a Patriots fan, but they’ve got a tight system overnight. He’s a night and day guy. He’s out in the community doing all the stuff for charity. Now he’s on TV doing this stuff. Total transformation. Same guy in a different system behaves very differently. If we improve systems, we’re improving the likelihood of better attitudes and better behaviors out there. So, I just want to kind of point that out really quick. Two more thoughts here before we transition over here to Martin in terms of the Bee hop, what we call it, it’s behavioral and human performance. 

There’s a lot more emphasis on people talking to each other. As Eric mentioned earlier, it’s about having good conversations, these cards that we use when we roll it out with clients. We’re talking four or five things. What scares you about the job? What do we need to do differently? What would you do differently? How can we help? These are open ended questions, getting people talking. And if we respond to that and address issues based on those comments, you don’t need incentives and all these other gimmicky things to get people to fill them out. 

They want to because stuff is getting addressed. So, the Behop is all about conversations and being responsive to concerns when they’re being brought up. And again, mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn, as opposed to occasions to punish. It’s all that just culture people are talking about in a nutshell that’s what it is. So, the last point really quick is positive accountability. Some of the concerns that people have with human performance is we’re getting any personal accountability when mistakes happen. It’s not true. We’re just trying to reorient to the first response being address the system factors and supervisors. 

It’s a tough role for supervisors who are trying to keep. They need to set clear expectations and use positive means to maintain those expectations that we’ve all agreed on. That’s positive accountability. It’s doable it’s hard, but it’s doable. So, the end of this is essentially when be hop is done properly, we’re improving Felt leadership. There are various tools like leadership listening to us. Leaders are going up asking questions. They’re not going around saying good, bad or indifferent. They’re out there asking questions, trying to learn that creates an environment of openness, which is part again of that felt leadership saying felt leadership is one thing. 

Using listening tours is actually doing it. So, there are some tools and human performance that help with that felt leadership we mentioned as well as good conversation. So, with that said, I’ll turn it over. Martin, we’re going to talk more about learning culture. 

Yeah. And I think before I go there, I just want to emphasize I think your point around Behop is really key. A lot of people have implemented some form of observation program, many of them it’s not working anymore. People aren’t using it. They’re mailing it in, don’t throw it out with a bad water. It’s time to start thinking about how do you re energize? How do you get better conversations? And I love your approach, Brad. Deeper questions to ask people to reflect on what’s dangerous, about what you’re going to do today and really start deepening those relationships, but always keeping those elements from the behavioral base safety side that does work. 

So, thank you, Josh. Martin. So, you’re going to talk to us a little bit about learning organization. Probably one of the key themes of a great safety culture. 

This episode of the Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, re energize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety, leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered! Visit us at propulo.com. 

For sure. Thanks, Eric. And I’d like to share a bit more today about my prediction for the future of learning organization, but also to combine that with our focus on discretionary effort, the employee experience and safety. Because for our listeners probably are aware that at Propulo, we focus on discretionary effort as a way for our clients to gain a competitive advantage when it comes to safety and safe production. And what we know is that when it comes to workplace behaviors that drive safety, there are those that are we call our compliance behaviors completing hazard assessment form following safe work procedures, wearing the right PPE. 

But what we found it’s not sufficient for the workforce to engage in compliance behaviors to drive exemplary safety performance. These, beyond the minimum behaviors, are more difficult to measure, and they often involve positive safety behaviors that are targeted toward achieving your safety goals, like staying vigilant in the face of changing conditions, supporting the team, sharing safety information. And of course, we won’t see any of these behaviors listed on any employee job description. But a lot of our organizations that are doing extremely well safety wise will have employees or greater proportion of employees that demonstrate this behavior. 

And what’s interesting about this Krishna effort is that it only emerges when there’s a high level of workforce engagement and commitment so that discretionary effort is the behavioral manifestation of engagement. I wanted to share some insight today around the concept of worker experience, how an organization that focuses on learning and how can we increase that discretionary effort in our workforce? Now, why is the worker experience? What does it matter? I would say the employee experience is the hallmark of learning organization because the emphasis is on developing the mindset, the behaviors and systems that are conducive to have an optimal employee experience that will encourage high safety performance and discretionary effort. 

Now for the listeners that are maybe familiar within the Its industry. So, software companies have talked about the user experience for quite some time. It’s to describe the experience of app users how they engage with the app. It’s a concept that focuses on the emotional response of users and how they interact with the features and functions Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Masters of this to create engaging users’ experience. Now, the same ideas we can take four employees in the organization. So, employee or the worker experience just simply describe how employees think and feel through every touch point during their time with the organization could be recruitment, onboarding development, performance to things like long absences of work, remote working on boarding or things like incident investigation, injury, radiation, disciplinary action. 

Why we want to look at this employee experience is simply that the employee experience underlies the commitment and engagement that we need to drive discretionary effort. And you could think about it that your employees experience with safety management system will determine at the end the extent to which they will adopt, use and improve on the system. I wanted to share an example that remind me of our clients of ours, a European zinc and silver mine that I happened to visit. I think five, six years ago and their agency team would share with us their concerns that the miners were not reporting near misses, not anything that surprising. 

We’ve heard of these kinds of concerns before now, putting the mindset aside around reporting names when you look at the process of reporting narratives at that point, it was quite cumbersome and at first we have to understand the workers operated at 500ft below ground, and there was no way for them to fill out any form whatsoever. If any incident or near misses were happening. These near miss forms were in a building adjacent to where the miners would meet before taking off. At the end of the day, the form itself was convoluted. 

Workers would drop it off in a box to preserve anonymity, which is good. But then no one would hear back from these reports or if any, corrective actions were taking place. And so, while many leaders are often tempted to blame workers for poor attitudes towards incident reporting or lack of motivation, when you look at these workers experience of the near miss reporting system, you can see it’s quite easy how someone might just feel frustrated, disempowered to submit these kinds of reports, let alone even appreciating the value of doing so. 

If we want to build on more positive employee experience around safety system, a couple of things that we can look into. One is looking at the factors. The main factor that may drive that positive experience could be the safe work procedures, safety policies, tools and equipment learning and reporting system safety communication teams, the reward and recognition system field oversight. I would even go to look at the coworkers and peer relationship, and the goal would be to determine how workers experience the system and whether the system is supporting their intended goal, which we’ll presume. 

It is about encouraging error identification, prevention and mitigation. Now, what if I’m a manager and I’d like to improve my employees experience? All right. So, a couple of things for me, I would say as a leader, I would say, start with yourself, how are your employees experiencing you? Do they feel they are treated fairly? Do they feel that you value their opinion and contribution? Do they feel they’re encouraged and supported? Do they feel that you provide them with opportunities for development? Do they feel that you hold them accountable for high safety standards, or even do they feel that you should have the concern for them as individual? 

I say that’s the first and as Josh mentioned earlier, basically, it is about going and talking to our people, talking to workers and getting that sort of feedback. But here’s the thing as a second step. So, I would say that you start with yourself as a leader. Second, is you could do the same with your front-line supervisors and also try to get that feedback is how are the workers experiencing your front-line supervisors? Same kind of question to start to get a sense of how or why are they doing the things they do? 

And are there elements around the leadership that could be improved now? Third, might be around the system that you want to gather feedback on, which often requires to get out in the field. Get the feedback. Seek to understand the experience of this system what works and what doesn’t work. My experience is we need to ask all the right questions, especially if the workers have not been accustomed to providing any input, especially to senior leaders. So, questions might be things like what gets in the way for you to work safely? 

How can we improve our approach to report safety incident or name another safety system that we want to look into? What do you think we could improve? What are the things you think about our recognition program? So, I’ll recommend you pick just a different list of systems that are more critical that you want to get feedback on and just go out there to get that feedback. Now, one thing I’ll say, though, you might need for in certain workspaces might need to build a trust first. If trust is in there. 

One of the reasons is if people have had some mistress or senior management, they may not open up. And so, we’re going to need to start building that trust, building a bit of the commitment that if the feedback is provided that’s something will be done about it. And so, as a leader, I would say the goal is not to make commitments to make massive critical infrastructure improvement, but more small improvements that demonstrate that. Hey, we listen to you, and we are going to take action to make things better. 

So, we’ll see later on a note that my colleague will Home in on the supervisor’s experience. But I wanted to share that as a learning organization at the end of the day, it’s really about looking, how are we operating and what’s the impact on our workforce? And if we want to give them a better experience, what are some of the changes we can take on? 

Thank you. Thank you, Martin. I think this whole theme of learning organization so key to safety and definitely should be an area of focus going into 2020. Eduardo, you’ve talked last time you were on the show, you talked a little bit about supervisory skills, couldn’t agree more. It’s really where the rubber hits the road. This is where safety culture really manifests itself and how you have impact is going to be how the supervisor interacts with team members. And too often I’ve heard team members saying they’ll trust a supervisor. 

They’ll do what their supervisor does. They’re more important to them day to day than the CEO even is. So, Eduardo over to you. 

Yeah, absolutely. Eric. And thank you, Martin and Josh as well. Yeah, it is really where the rubber meets the road. And I understand what you’re saying about what workers comment in teams of their relationship to their supervisor. And he or she is being more important than the CEO. Now, this is logical, because oftentimes they don’t even know the CEO. They’ve seen them on a pamphlet on a brochure. They’ve heard him speak, maybe, but they don’t know him or her personally. And they do know the supervisor. And so that person, really the supervisor is where the rubber meets the road. 

I would say for two reasons, one because they are in direct contact with the worker, and thus they are able to influence that person and they do for good or for bad constantly. And second, because supervisors are really between a rock and a hard place. And Josh was mentioning that we feel for people, and we feel for supervisors because we understand the challenges that they face between producing and keeping people safe. And it is a challenge. It’s not easy to handle that challenge, but it can be done. 

And we know from experience and from working with many, many organizations that when organizations and supervisors and other more senior leaders focus on safety, people work better. They produce more they produce with higher quality. But if supervisors are really where the rubber meets the road, we need to invest in them, and we need to train them, and we need to develop them. And unfortunately, that is usually not the case. Supervisors are usually promoted through the ranks in organizations because of what they know because of the type of worker they are and the level of performance they have. 

Which one? In one sense, it’s important that they know the job, that they know the technical aspects of the job, because they’ll be supervising people directly. But oftentimes many of the things that made them stand out as individual workers get in the way of them being effective leaders, because being an effective worker is really about getting stuff done by yourself, being assertive and as a leader, you really need to get stuff done to other people, and that requires leadership skills and leadership skills are very different from technical skills. 

We’re talking here about your capacity to create relationship, your capacity to interact with people, your capacity to listen to people, to get people thinking, to get people speaking to get people. And that discretionary effort that Josh and Martin were talking about is key. And there is no one in the organization that has more power to really generate that container, that environment where people are willing to go that extra mile, to be creative, to think about things, to stop and pause before they do the work, then supervisors, so really investing in them and developing them as leaders is key. 

Now to do that, we need to give them all these skills that I talked about. And one key skill that I think is crucial is helping them to become better coaches, because, in essence, and with the type of work that people do nowadays in industry essential, that their direct leader, that is their supervisor and be able to coach people so that they themselves can become more self aware, become better at managing themselves, really coaching people to think about the work that they’re doing and to consider what are the risks, what are the hazards that they will be facing and how they will be mitigating those risks. 

Now again, unfortunately, because these are not necessarily skills that we have. Naturally, some supervisors develop them naturally, and we’ve seen Rockstar supervisors, but many don’t. They’ve never developed them, and they’ve never been taught. But these are really skills that are essential because it’s in those coaching conversations that supervisors have with workers that you will get workers to really look at how they work, look at their behavior and really get them to think about what they’re doing so that they don’t get hurt on the job. In this regard, we’ve come up with very specific skills that we teach supervisors, and we do so both in a classroom setting. 

And this is not your typical classroom with lots of PowerPoint slides and lots of concepts. No, these are about supervisors having conversations about what challenges they’re having with people, what it is that they want workers to do that they’re currently not doing and what they can do to get workers to do this. And these classes are full of role plays where they act out that relationship between worker and supervisor and how to have those conversations. And ultimately, we even develop supervisors through field coaching, having them practice these skills in real life situations. 

And some of these skills have to do. We come up with an acronym called Dare, and we call it Dare because it really takes courage to lead in this way. First off, because we’re not used to leaving in this way, and it’s going to be uncomfortable starting out. Second of all, because we’re asking supervisors to step away from this traditionally authoritative role of I’m the boss. I’m the supervisor. I’m going to tell you what to do when you’re going to do it to more collaborative relationship. 

And so that takes certain things. It takes the ability, as I said before, to create relationship. As you’ve all mentioned during this conversation, it really takes an ability to not just care for people which most supervisors do. We don’t doubt that, but to actively show that care and to delegate work in a manner that promotes safety. Now, what do I mean by this? Telling people what to do and how to do it does not work. First off, you don’t know whether the other person heard you, and you certainly don’t know whether the other person understood you and so telling someone what to do and how to do it. 

And then we tend to ask people or supervisors tend to ask people, did you understand? And of course, people are going to say yes, I should, of course. But that doesn’t mean they understood. It just means they’re saying that because they don’t want to look foolish. So, delegating work effectively means telling people what to do, but asking them how they’re going to do it, and furthermore, asking them what risks they will be facing and how they will mitigate those risks. Second, and this again takes courage because it’s not something we’re used to the A in there is about acknowledging safe work, and this is really key. 

We know from years and years of studies in various fields that people really thrive in an environment where they are recognized, they are appreciated. They’re acknowledged for the things that they do. And yet traditionally, we don’t do that. We just focus on what’s wrong. Now, here’s the problem with focusing on what’s wrong. Many people will say, well, that’s where I need to focus. That’s where the gap is. I need to talk about what’s wrong. The problem is it’s unfair and it’s counterproductive, and it’s unfair because people do more right things. 

They do more safe work than they do dangerous work. And thus, speaking to them always about what they do wrong. What they do unsafely is unfair. And second, it’s unproductive, because if I Eric, I’m your supervisor and I come to you and I correct you, and then I come again and I correct you again, and then I come back and I correct you again. What’s going to happen? The fourth time I come around, are you going to be all happy to see? 

I’m sure I’m going to be thrilled to see you. 

Exactly. You’re going to hate me. So, it’s really important to do that. The next aspect is redirecting at risk work, and that, of course, is important. We need to redirect unsafe behaviors. We need to redirect unsafe conditions, but it takes skill to do that such that you can redirect without offending the other person in a way that not just maintains but actually strengthens their relationship and really has the other person take the message to heart. And finally, the E in the Dare acronym is engaged. And its really what Martin was talking about of generating this learning culture, where there’s this back and forth with the organization and with the people that are really the experts of the work itself, which are the workers. 

So really teaching supervisors to create environments to create conversations where people are willing to engage are willing to speak up. And that’s really what this is all about. So yeah, really passionate about helping organizations upskill their supervisors, because as I said at the beginning, this is really where the rubber meets the road. And if we get this piece right, a lot of good can be done. 

I agree. I think you tied everything together. Edward. I think the element of how a supervisor starts interacting create a safe environment, how they’re coaching links to some of the themes that Martin was talking about earlier in terms of creating a learning organization where people want to put in more discretionary effort towards safety, where we’re constantly learning from what could go wrong, which ties us back to Josh was also talking about conversations and really those coaching interactions. And really the element of how do we start looking at things from a just culture standpoint? 

How do we start removing a lot of the risk and the blaming of the employees, but still continuing to do some of the good stuff around behavioral observations, driving better conversations? And then at the front end when I was talking about really the key element around mental health, wellbeing, really bridging that divide between safety and HR, really addressing some of the impacts around stress and fatigue, and then really the active care and self-leadership. All those key pieces, I think, are really the four core mega trends to focus on in 2022. 

So really appreciate all four of you. Joining me today. Eduardo, Martin, and Dr. Josh great conversation. Great topics to explore and wish you a happy New Year! 

Happy and Safe New Year. 

Happy and safe New Year to everybody. 

Happy New Year everyone, I would say Bonne et année!  

Let’s count down together. 10 – 3, 2, 1 

Fireworks, Champagne, and Happy New Year! 

Thank you for listening to the safety guru on c-suit radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack. Grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops Guru. Eric Michrowski. 

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUESTS

Dr. Josh Williams, Martin Royal and Eduardo Lan are Partners with Propulo Consulting, the leading Safety and Operations Strategy Advisory & training firm. Tapping into insights from brain science and psychology, Propulo helps organizations improve their Safety, Operational performance and Culture.

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

Martin Royal: Martin is an expert in Human Performance & Business Transformation, coach and facilitator who helps clients create a committed and mobilized workforce to achieve their operational excellence, safety and wellbeing outcomes. Since joining Propulo Consulting in 2011, he has delivered well over 400+ safety culture change workshops and training programs centered on the development of employee empowerment, difficult conversations and leadership skills for global clients in North America and Europe. Martin supports Propulo Consulting’s contractor facilitator workforce and internal consultant team to enable them to deliver exceptional safety engagement training programs. He also supports the development and client-customization of Propulo Consulting’s various leadership and employee training offerings. Over the years, he has been involved in leading safety culture improvement engagements with various clients in industries such as aquaculture, construction, manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, and utilities.

Eduardo Lan: As an accomplished organizational consultant and safety leadership coach, Eduardo has extensive experience in safety culture transformation, leadership development, and high-performance projects and operations across the United States, Europe, Canada and Latin America. With over 20 years of experience in Leadership and Organizational Transformation, Eduardo is truly an expert in Organizational Development and Change, specifically safety culture and leadership. He has designed and led seminars, workshops, coaching sessions, and entire programs on personal and organizational transformation for hundreds of organizations and thousands of people and works with leaders and teams on identifying limiting behaviors that thwart high performance, assisting them in producing breakthrough bottom-line results. He holds a master’s degree in Organization Development and Change from Pennsylvania State University and multiple certifications in consulting, coaching, safety, ontology, MBTI, integral theory, appreciative inquiry, adaptive leadership, and mindfulness. He is a frequent columnist for multiple business and industry publications.

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Holiday Special Episode – The Top 10 themes and ideas from 2021

Holiday Special Episode_The Top 10 themes and ideas from 2021

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

A year in review. The Safety Guru’s Top 10 themes and ideas from our 2021 season! Get caught up with the ideas that will help you leave a legacy in 2022! Happy Holidays!

Special thanks to our 2021 season guests: Nick Marks, Michelle Brown, Donald G. James, Kina Hart, Tricia Kagerer, Curtis Weber, Brandon Williams, Candace Carnahan, Dr. Tim Ludwig, Alfred Ricci, Dr. Josh Williams, Dr. Mark Fleming, Gardner Tabon, Steve Spear, Spencer Beach, Eduardo Lan, Dr. Keita Franklin, Jason Anker, John Westhaver, Dr. Tim Marsh, Glen Cook (Cookie), Dr. Suzanne Kearns, Dr. Robert Sinclair and Russ & Laurel Youngstrom.

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people. First, great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized option 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 2021 is almost coming to a close and we’re about to wrap up our second year producing the show for all the leaders and executives out there like you that are seeking to leave a legacy by making the workplace safer. More than any other time of the year. The holiday brings loved ones together to celebrate with those that matter the most of them. This time of the year symbolizes why my team and I do the work that we do to partner with exceptional leaders and companies that endlessly focus on ensuring that their team members come home to their loved ones every day. For that, we thank you. We extend our sincere appreciation to you for your gift of safety for each and every one of your team members. 2021 has been a year full of exceptional ideas on this show. Ideas from a diverse set of thought leaders from academia and from real world practical applications. I have two awesome episodes to cap off this year. Today I will share a reflection of the top ten ideas I heard from my guests on this podcast. The next episode first will ring in the new year 2022 with four experts sharing their top four ideas for 2022. Well, you must be wondering why four guests and four ideas whether you’re 22 is two squared.  

So now on to our top ten lists for 2021. Best episodes that I’ve heard here from our guests. Let’s start with number ten. This year we had a great lineup of safety motivational speakers from Russ and Laurel Youngstrom that talked about moving safety from the head to the heart to Jason Anker that really talked about making safety part of your life and the impact of mental health on safety. We’ll get to that soon. Kina Hart and Candace Carnahan that talked about making safety personal. Curtis Webber that touched on the importance of leadership and onboarding for safety. Spencer Beach about putting safety first, listening to yourself, John Westhaver about road safety and wide matters, and finally cookie around power line safety, his episode around looking up and living. All of these motivational speakers do some exceptional work and sharing the importance of staying safe and help influence the mindsets and ultimately the behaviors of others. For that, I thank them. 

Well, it is essential for every team member to choose to work safely because they recognize that safety is an investment into the experiences that they want to have with their loved ones. Sometimes we also need to step into the shoes of somebody who had an experience to understand that this could happen to us as well. Of this great lineup, two episodes really caught my attention. First one was around Russ and Laurel Youngstrom. This dynamic duo had a really authentic story around safety. What caught my attention was the story about a close friend of Russ who was there the day of the event who witnessed him getting seriously injured, falling from heights and yet a short period afterwards was also caught not wearing his safety harness while working at Heights. The other part is, Russ was very authentic. When I asked him about what would have prevented him from making this at the time, he essentially said that nothing could have stopped him. It was already in his mindset at the time. Cookie, you got to love somebody who goes by that name. Well, he had a fantastic story about powerline, safety and really that people were getting more easily injured when you could see the power line versus when you were digging, and you couldn’t see it really important story about situational awareness and a great app that gets people to reflect and think about the hazards of power line. 

And now on to number nine, the Happiness Index with Nick Marks, A Statistician with A Soul. What really caught my attention about this episode was the element on the focus on a pulse, a regular pulse of your business. The work he had done had identified how pulse of the workforce is a very fluid scenario, and he brought some examples from the first few months of the coveted pandemic and how a month over month and week over week, people’s perception around the workplace were shifting. So, what really that brings forward is the importance of measuring a safety pulse on a more regular basis, not even just doing it annually or quarterly, but maybe even thinking about their workforce and their perceptions in a small sample on a weekly basis so that we get a great leading indicator and may be able to impact and drive action earlier. He also touched on the importance of psychological safety and some ideas on how to measure it really key topics for 2021 and beyond, and now on to number eight safety culture. What would a year on the safety group be without conversation on safety culture? But this year we had two great professors come and join us. Dr. Mark Fleming, as well as Dr. Bob Sinclair. Dr. Mark Fleming’s episode is interesting. He touches on the topic of signal theory, which was Nobel Prize research. Essentially, he’s trying to understand what are the signals that executives can send to truly send the message that safety matters here. Point he brings forward is that sometimes when an executive will walk around, they’ll say that safety is the number one priority, and the team members are really trying to understand. Is that signal true or not? A couple of the key items is about how can executives present more powerful impactful messages when they do spend time and field because that time and feel is going to be limited. A great episode for senior leaders to think about their messaging and sending the right signals across the organization. 

The other thing he touches on is really the importance of fixing things, but also of helping people solve their own issues around safety and how that sends some very reinforcing positive signals. Dr. Bob Sinclair also came on our show later in the year, and he was talking about some of the links between safety, climate and ultimately behaviors, which is the whole reason why we’re focused on safety climate and safety culture, but also touched on the importance of complexity of rewards too easily. You can drive the wrong impact by having the wrong metrics, but at senior levels, if you don’t have the right indicators, then you may not be prioritizing safety the right way. So great episode. Very complex theme touches on it. The other element he touches on, which I’ll get to very soon and more details is around supervisory skills and how that’s a critical, critical place to begin a journey around safety culture. Really making sure that your supervisors are maximizing every single interaction to drive meaningful impact because ultimately that’s who find my teams members speak to the most and are probably the most influential in the day to day. Of course, number seven goes to Human Factors with two great guests this year. 

Let’s start with Dr. Suzanne Kearns. She teaches aviation safety, and one of the things she touched on is really around how in the 70s and 80s, the culture was really around finding the air within the pilot. Post an investigation. There were a series of very high-profile aviation accidents that were primarily caused by pilot error during the 70s and 80s and really start challenging the industry to think about. Is it really about challenging the error of the pilot, or is there more to play with? One of the most interesting examples she brought forward was around Eastern Airlines. 

If you remember the crash where there was a faulty light bulb that changed the attention of the crew, and they didn’t realize that they disengaged the autopilot and flew their aircraft straight into the ground, something that should never have happened. So, she really talks about how you need to lurk look at the environment and the situation touches on human performance, really as a scientific discipline of why people make mistakes. One thing I really loved about her conversation was around the Swiss cheese model. She touched about how we have multiple layers of protection, but each one of them has holes in it. 

And if those holes line up, that’s where an accident can happen. So, the concept is an accident itself is actually quite rare, but those leading conditions that could allow it to happen are more frequent. So, she really focuses on how you start looking for those leading conditions and driving real impact. And then there was Brandon Williams, from fighter pilot to airline captain, who recently just got promoted as a captain. He touched on four critical themes in my mind. One, he touched on the concept of just culture learned, touching on some of the items that Suzanne Kearns also discussed. 

But he also talks how that drives in your misreporting and creates a learning environment and the critical importance of it. He touched on the importance of situational awareness and tools and tactics that can help increase worker situational awareness, which is often why things go horribly wrong. I loved as well how he touched on the concept of accountability as peer accountability, as opposed to sometimes the negative view of accountability, which is where we start blaming people. I love this concept of peer accountability from his episode, and now we go to number six, where we go to Steve Spear, who teaches operations management at MIT. What I loved about this episode is he touches on the importance of really creating a learning organization if you want to drive safety. He touches on the concept of seeing problems, how that becomes a capability where people are constantly obsessed with finding opportunities to drive improvements, and then, Secondly, how they start solving them nonstop, trying to find even little things, really touches on the theme that we touched on before around human factors and human performance, really trying to solve those leading conditions. And finally, really about how do we share and disseminate that knowledge. 

He touches on three stories that are incredibly powerful. First one, he has first-hand experience around Paul O’Neill’s work at Alcoa and really how Paul O’Neill did some phenomenal things around safety, truly, by driving the importance and the focus and within the organization. From his initial meetings where he talked about how we’re going to fix everything through a focus on safety, to try to make sure that he knew about every single incident within 24 hours in days prior to even a Fax machine, and how that drove really this sense of ownership, accountability across line leaders. 

And finally, that if somebody wasn’t on board, how he took an action. Second one was really around US Navy, and he talked about some great examples of how you make sure a new team member comes on board and can be anywhere in the world and yet make the right call right decision. That was a great story. And finally, I would touch on Toyota, which was another example he brought on, which is really around the onboarding of a leader and really how it’s really about coaching great episode, lots of great insights about creating a learning organization, which is really the crux of driving safety performance. 

This episode of the Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, re-energize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered visit us at propulo.com 

Now on to number five. We had Professor Dr. Tim Ludwig who joined us. The safety Doc meets the safety guru. His book, Dysfunctional Practices That Kill Your Safety Culture, has amazing resources and ideas on things that you could do and probably are doing that are making things worse around your safety culture. First thing you touched on is really stop blaming your employees. And he brings a lot of really good examples of leaders that think that our employees aren’t doing the right things and blaming them. 

Again. Linked to the earlier topic around human performance. He talks about some of the theory around behavioral change and how do you make that tangible and real in the business? And does it really change from day to day through coaching interactions? And how do you actually make a change and then really the importance of the environment in which you’re operating in great book, but also great episode and now on to number four Mental health. We had four experts bring up the topic over the year, but two really caught my attention. 

The duo of Jason Anker and Dr. Tim Marsh that worked together Jason Anker from more of a motivational standpoint in terms of his experience. And then Dr. Tim Marsh from some of his work and his research around safety culture. And really the key theme and what I loved about those two episodes is how they were able to directly link the impact of mental health and safety. Often people touch on the topic. They were able to connect the dots and essentially unfortunately, a lot of organizations the mental health side is being handled by HR and the safety side by the safety professionals, and what he’s advocating, what they’re talking about is really these things are often interconnected talks about the importance of active care and how active care is an incredibly important theme to start surfacing that maybe somebody is not as okay as you think today and that could be a precursor to an injury really driving that link. 

Such an important theme really important for safety leaders to start thinking about the impact and how they can collaborate with HR around driving mental health within their business and now on to number three. Safety supervision. Such an important topic I mentioned before, Bob Sinclair mentioned the importance and why it’s so critical for your supervisors to really have the right skills. Eduardo talks about how often supervisors are the ones that got the least investment in teams of leadership skills often get promoted from the craft because they were really good at the job but weren’t given the tools around influence, particularly around safety. 

And if you want to make a real difference for safety, that’s probably where you need to start around upgrading the skills of your supervisor. What I love about Eduardo talks about the four core critical behaviors that you need to drive in the core skills you want to bring forward, which is around how you delegate work safely, how you acknowledge safe work. So really the element of recognition and how that plays an impact in terms of ultimately in terms of the outcomes, how do you redirect unsafe work, which is probably the most challenging one? 

How do you get difficult conversations nailed? How do you help coach a team member so that you get real lasting impact and behavioral change? And finally, around engaging your team around safety to get more participation, more involvement? Great episode, tangible ideas around safety supervision and how do you make it happen within your business? Definitely has to be an area of focus going in 2022. Now on to number two safety leadership. What topic could be more important than safety leadership if you want to drive meaningful impact? 

Well, this episode was around with Michelle Brown, who dedicated her career to helping leaders. She speaks a lot on the impact and the key elements of transformational leadership and some of the experiences she’s had with some of those transformational leaders. Really about how do you leave a legacy? The power of questions and really, ultimately, the impact of what interests my boss will fascinate me. And how do you use that as a positive to drive safety culture change within your business? Incredibly important topic around leadership as well connects with some of the topics we heard earlier around Mark Fleming and his conversations around signal theory. 

Two episodes that really touch on the impact and the importance of safety leadership, and now moving to the number one idea from my episode in 2021, we had Dr. Josh Williams introduce the concept he calls Be Hop. He brings ideas to help take your behavior-based safety to the next level. We all know that BBS has probably had the biggest impact around safety performance, but unfortunately, a lot of organization it plateaus, and often it plateaus because BBS doesn’t address themes such as safety ownership. The human performance items I talked about doesn’t go deep enough around coaching doesn’t focus sufficiently on critical observable actions. 

Basically, the higher risk items that people should be observing. Key performance indicators tend to drive the wrong impact, so too much focus on mailing it in by driving up the number of observation cards. Often BBS programs lack in terms of organizational change. Don’t touch organizational systems don’t drive safety participation, and there’s still blame. As we heard from Dr. Tim Ludwig. So, Josh proposes a couple of key ideas to help introduce and integrate behavior-based safety with some of the human performance tools we talked about before to drive real, tangible impact and push. 

Plus, a Plateau and performance Bee hop a great tactic, very different from traditional observation programs. If you’re looking to make a difference, listen to that episode. There you have it, folks. Those are my top ten for 2021. Listen in on December 30 as we look forward to the top four safety megatrends for 2022, the top four safety megatrends to move and power your safety performance into 2022 and then join us in 2022, as have another phenomenal line up of guests and ideas for you.  

Once again, thank you for the work that you do helping workers come home safe to their loved ones for the holidays. Hey, and if you know somebody that should be on the show, let me know. Let’s make safety fun, simple and useful for executive and leaders. Let’s make a real difference. Happy Holidays from the safety guru. Thank you. 

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

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

More Episodes: https://thesafetyculture.guru/

C-Suite Radio: https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/the-safety-guru/

Powered By Propulo Consulting: https://propulo.com/

Eric Michrowski: https://ericmichrowski.com

ABOUT THE HOST

Eric Michrowski is a globally recognized thought leader and guru in Operations and Safety Culture Transformations. A highly sought-after Executive speaker on the global stage, he has led executive training programs, coached the C-Suite, and connected with thousands of Fortune 500 senior leaders. He has been featured on TV, in articles, and Podcasts, hosts syndicated show on the premiere business podcast C-Suite Radio and has an upcoming ForbesBooks book to be published next year. His approach is anchored in evidence-based research and practical applications in Human Performance, Process Excellence, and Organizational Change. He brings over 25-years hands-on experience in Operations Management, Culture & Business Transformations, and Safety having worked across a broad range of industries. Across his work, he has achieved substantial improvements in Safety, Operational and Financial Performance, and Employee Engagement, always by incorporating Epic Cultures to maximize results and sustainability.

Connect with Eric at https://www.ericmichrowski.com

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Moving Safety from the Head to the Heart with Russ and Laurel Youngstrom

The Safety Guru_Russ & Laurel Yongstrom_Moving Safety from the Head to the Heart

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A special episode in honor of December Family Month features an excellent conversation with Russ and his wife Laurel. Their message is a strong warning that one split-second decision can change many lives forever. Russ is a work-related paraplegic, and he touches on the dangers of an “it won’t happen to me” attitude in the workplace. He reminds the listeners that accidents can happen to any of us, especially when carelessly ignoring safety precautions. Laurel discusses how one careless act has affected every aspect of their lives. Listen to a truly inspirational story about the importance of safety ownership from Russ and Laurel.

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized option 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 Russ and Laurel Youngstrom, both are safety advocates and keynote speakers. They do a phenomenal job at sharing their journey as a couple and really speaking to move safety from the head to the heart. I love that quote. So maybe if you can start a little bit about telling me about your journey and what happened on that day and then we’ll take it from there. 

Yeah. I used to be a commercial painter. I woke up that morning, gave Laura Let his goodbye, looked in on our son, Spencer. He was sound asleep in his little bed. He was two and went to work, stopped off, got my four shots of Espresso and a Maple bar, and I was the first one to work that day. But I saw the clipboard. I signed it immediately, and then we had a quick safety meeting. I don’t remember. And then our goal was to power wash the outside of the paper mill. 

And I always work with a really good friend of mine. We had a new guy with this, so we got all our rigging set up for a swing staging scaffolding. We started off at 180ft supervisors, Foreman. They all came up and inspected everything. So, we started power washing, and I unlocked my arms almost immediately. That’s just me. 

Okay. Next thing, somebody got our attention and it was time for lunch. The weather was really bad, really terrible. So, we wouldn’t have lunch. We got ready to go back to work. And the paper mill stopped nine of us and said, you have to come to our safety meeting. It’s like, okay. So, I walked up a flight of stairs, got a Snickers, bark up a coffee, turned the chair in front of me around and put my feet on it and listened to some guy with a laser pointer and completely ignored it. 

We went back to work, started power washing, and I had that funny idea. We’re being watched. I looked and our safety guy drove a little too far on the back side of the building where we can see the front of his truck. So immediately I hooked up and we never got caught. He was there for about 20 minutes and finally left. And then we started hard watching again. And it was time for the end of the day. And I took it up on myself to say let’s put it on a 30-foot platform and try it off overnight to the handrail. 

Okay. A friend of mine agreed. So, we came up with my little plan. I did have my harness on at the time, and my safety line was in a bad angle that I didn’t like. Sure, my safety line went right by the friend of mine. He put his hands up and said, no, I told him to F off. So, we both climbed up on the handrail. 

And right. When I climbed up, I looked down. I could catch myself. I wasn’t worried at all. And then I got a signal from somebody. The chills, the goosebumps down the back of my neck. Like, don’t do this. And by the time we picked up the scaffolding and by the time I get even blank, swung back and hit me in the chest and threw me back about 10ft. 

Oh, my goodness. 

Our hat comes off. Safety glasses come off, and it does go in slow motion. And my first instinct immediately from the gentleman that hired me years ago. He said, never land on your feet. You’ll blow your feet, your knees, your hips. That’s the first thing that came to mind. It’s like, okay, what just happened? I couldn’t find my legs at first, and then finally, I can see my legs. Okay, I’m going to land on my right side, hit roll and walk it off. Okay. I got this. 

And right before I was going to hit all of a sudden, my right leg got stuck in some Airlines and then stopped me, then budgeted me back up. And that point, I was completely lost. And the first thing I felt has young kids, watermelons, pumpkins that would never take off porches. It drove on the ground, and you hear that explosion noise? That’s what I felt in my head. The first thing that hit and then a snap. It’s like, okay, walk this off. Okay, walk it off. 

It couldn’t get up. And I tried breathing. It’s like, I can’t breathe. I tried to breathe in again. I took one last try to breathe and kept my eyes were closed and I just got warm. The pain went away. I don’t know what you call that transition, but it was okay. I was just there. Then all of a sudden, I felt someone grabbed my hands and I looked up. And it was a friend of mine. And the first thing I asked him was, how come my feet are touching my head? 

He’s like, what are you talking about? I go, my feet are touching the back of my head. He goes, your legs are straight. And then he said, I’ll be right back. I’ll get help. And so, I could hear in the background, fire trucks, ambulances people started to show up and Foreman and supervisor walked up to me, looked down on the ground and said, there goes your F and safety record or hard. 

Great way to show compassion. 

And then the paramedics were getting me stabilized. One of them said to call Airvac, and then the whole mood changed. But I didn’t realize that I landed less than 2ft from my safety line. It wasn’t at a bad angle. I didn’t care. It won’t happen to me. 

Right? 

So, it took me to the nearest hospital. I started puncturing the lungs, so I came out the other side of this machine, and this female Ninja trauma nurse lady leaned over, gets about two inches from my face and says, you broke your back in three places, served your spawn cord. You’re confined to a wheelchair. No, it doesn’t happen to a person like me. It happens to the other person. One doctor was saying how many fingers he could put in the back of my head. One was working on the punctured lungs, and the other one was doing a catheter, which is convenient now. 

And the other one was drying my blood. They don’t give you anything for discomfort in Washington until they dry your blood. And so, my blood came back fine. I made a comment. My blood came back stupid. They took me to my little private room, and then it happened. Laura walks into the room. I don’t know what to say. So, I told her what the female doctor said, and she thought I was joking because I’m a jokester you can’t tell. But Laurel didn’t believe me when I told her what happened. 

So, she pulled over. A friend of mine just never left. He’s been with me the whole time. And so, he pulled her aside in the room, and they started to cry. I started to cry. I was so thankful I didn’t hurt anybody else. But I found out later people had to go to counseling that saw the fall, right? 

Yeah. I don’t want to get too involved in certain things, but the one thing I have to admit to is that last safety meeting they made us go to where I had my Snickers bar, walked up to the fly of stairs. It was a full protection safety meeting an hour and a half before I fell. And you didn’t even pay attention to that one? 

No. I signed the clipboard. Right. 

And Laurel, tell me about your journey through this, because it must be shocking when you get the phone call. Yeah. 

Something that you never want to happen to anyone you care about. I was at a nursing home where I was working, and my supervisor came to me, and she said, you have a phone call. I thought that’s weird because I don’t get phone calls at work. And all they could tell me on the other end of the phone was that Russ had been in a serious accident, and then I had to get to the hospital right away, rehearse for things like that just react. And so, I drove. 

But I don’t know how I made it I didn’t even really know if I was already a widow by the time I got there. 

So, Russ, you knew that you should wear the harness. You knew you need to tie it in. You tied it when somebody was there. 

Right. So, when somebody was watching, you knew that you had to put it in. How come you took it out as soon as somebody leaves? Was it just for show for that supervisor? Because that happens often, right? Somebody’s watching. There’s an observation. Everything looks good. And then the person walks away and it’s a different scenario. 

I didn’t care. One of my problems is it won’t happen to me. I’m 30 years old, Mr. Tough guy. I don’t need to follow the rules. It’s going to slow me down. I would come up with excuses all the time. It’s like we’re in a seat belt. I always came up with the excuse that it’s more dangerous to unhook a hook all the time, but it was just an excuse. Yeah, I can’t say anything, except it was just my mentality. 

When we talked about it. This before you talked about risk-taking and comfort risk-taking. So, supervisor is there sees everything looks good. How do you recognize somebody like that who’s more likely to be comfortable taking more risks? Who might be more comfortable taking something off when nobody’s watching? 

I think Dyslexia has one thing to do with it being criticized by your dad or family members that you’re not smart enough or tough enough to go to college. And so, it’s almost a program to work extra hard as much as you can to make yourself feel better, that you are somebody. 

And so, what can a supervisor do when they see somebody who’s more of a risk-taker? What would be some of the guidance you’d give them to? Make sure something like this doesn’t happen to make sure that more of a risk-taker pays attention in a safety meeting. 

To spot a person like me. Always early to work. Anger issues doesn’t work well with others, except for a certain group and a person who likes to go out after work and drink. And this is just my opinion. Sure, that’s one way I look in the audience when I’m talking and I can see me after the talk, the management come up. How did you know it was him? Because I can see me in these people. And then they ask me, what can you do? What can we do to help them and you have to fire them? 

You have to let them go. You can’t fix broken extreme sports these days. Peer pressure is much worse now than it was back in my day, right. 

I think the safety programs have improved quite a bit, though, but I think that making sure that your employees know that you care. They’re not going to care about how much you know until they know how much you care and be genuine about it. Get to know people and create relationships between yourself and your employees and between your employees and each other. Encourage them to get to know each other and so that they feel comfortable telling someone if they feel like something is unsafe and the other person feels comfortable accepting that, too. That’s a big thing. 

Respond even maybe. How do you give the feedback in that particular? How does peer-to-peer feedback happen? Russ, would you mentioned before that it won’t happen to me. I’ve heard so many times. I’ve heard so many times that somebody says, you know what? I know how to do my job. It’s somebody else. The person who got injured is the one who didn’t know how to do it. They weren’t as tough. They weren’t as whatever. And these rules, whatever, don’t apply to me. How can you shift somebody’s mindset around it to say, yeah, I should do this? It matters. 

This episode of the Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, re-energize your BDS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered. Visit us at propulo.com. 

I don’t have the answer. I got the consequence, but try to bring family into it if they have kids, but you can’t fix them. I feel bad for saying that, but most people need to be let go and make an example. And the tough part about all this was a friend of mine who witnessed this whole entire thing. He got fired four years later for not using proper fall protection. But he witnessed this whole entire thing and he still went back to old behavior. I don’t have the answer. I really don’t. 

The more you can make safety relationship. If they trust you, and if they trust each other, then they’re going to be more comfortable taking advice and following the safety rules. And if they’re thinking about why they’re there, they’re thinking about the reason that they’re at work because they want to make a better life for their family. Well, they’re not going to have a better life if something happens to them. I mean, create a positive safety program, maybe some mentorship with the new guys and the veterans and create an open-door policy, make the meetings engaging and maybe let them know what it’s going to be like if they get hurt. 

What were you talking about? 

Put like, an eye patch on somebody for a half a day, making these crutches tie an arm behind their back. 

Sure, they know what it’s going to be like if they would lose a limb or lose their sight or something like that. And it’s really tough love. If you care about your employees, then you do everything you can to make sure that they want to be safe because they’re not going to be safe if they don’t want to rest is a plain example of that. 

No, go ahead. One of the tough things for me is Spencer asked me. He was about seven years old. He asked me, what do you do at these meetings? And I told Spence I go, I just tell him my story, how I got hurt. If you don’t think of yourself, think of your family. He said, how come you didn’t think of me? 

Wow. 

You just blamed up on my lap. And I held him and said, Sorry, that’s all I could come up with. But haven’t put pictures of their family, their dog, something that means a lot in their hard hat or a family board. But something that another thing, too, that we’ve been hearing that works well is sending a letter home to the family member, to the wife or to the husband. Hey, your husband been working unsafely. This is his last warning. If he gets caught again, working unsafely, he will be fired. 

And we’re all afraid of our wives. Something really simple like that. I think it’s a good idea, right? 

I think these are cool ideas. Cool messages. Really making safety personal. I love that when you talk, you often talk together, share your story from the two sides, the perspective, because I think that element, like you said in teams of your journey, but also your journey together in teams of what it means for loved ones. I think it’s a very important message for people to hear as well, right? 

Yeah. 

With all the 32 surgeries who was in the waiting room and you took care of them after they got home, you don’t think about those kinds of things until it’s too late. 

When you are on board. When you started the work, what was the experience that you got from onboarding, from setting the tone, from addressing kind of some of the expectations of how you work here and what could have been better? 

Had a really good safety program, actually. 

Yeah. One of the people I hurt the most was our safety guy. He did everything possible. We had forklift training, respirator, fall protection. We went through all the safety. There wasn’t anything that they could have done unless I got caught and fired me. And they fired me. 

He just never got caught. 

People ask me, did your fault protection fail? I go, no, I did. Our safety guy was there that day. I had two safety meetings that day. I don’t know what to say, but I feel really bad for the safety guru. After I got hurt, he snuck under the caution tape the next day and grabbed all my clothes that was cut off, and he grabbed my safety harness buckle that the fireman cut off. He put that on his desk for 21 years. 

Oh, my goodness. 

And it’s like, get rid of it, and we still argue he thinks it’s his fault. It’s like, no, it’s my fault. But there’s nothing they could have done except fire me. 

They actually had a very advanced safety program for that year for 19, 95, 25 years ago. It was comparable to the ones that they have. Now, there was a lot less safety back then, but that particular company did that comment about there goes our effort safety record. That was one individual that was the only person that was negative during that time. The company was very supportive and the owners were supportive. And the safety guru, we still meet with him, but he teams up every time he sees it. 

And I had to ask, was it cool or neat watching me fall? No, the fall wasn’t bad, but the sound of your body hitting the concrete is what got to him. 

Your friend tried to stop you. Is there anything that he could have done to convince you to wear the harness? 

No. You are not going to wear it no matter what. Even if he says, get off this job or wear the harness. 

Yeah, I had all my fault protection on me. I had buckled everything, but I just chose not to use it, right? I didn’t get scared too often, but a couple of times I didn’t feel like close to an edge and gave me a little queasy, and I would hook up. But besides that, I wouldn’t. 

You put your harness on. Why would you put your harness on? Because I’ve heard these many times as well. Somebody has it on but won’t clip it in. 

I think, probably just because it’s required and they have to get it inspected at the beginning of the job. 

Sure. 

So, at the end of the day, but also, I think if I’m hearing correctly when the supervisor was there, it’s easier to show I’ve gotten tied in. I’m okay. 

Yeah. 

I wish I could help you more or say something that would fix people. But I do believe if I would have been in that last safety meeting and had a crippled person like me come up, talk about messing his pants, peanuts, pants falling out of beds, falling out of the wheelchair in your face type person. I do believe that that would have made me think a little bit more that I don’t want to go through this. Sure, because I thought if you break your back, the one thing that happens is you can’t walk and you save money on shoes. 

That’s all I thought was. But I didn’t realize about the bladder infections, yeast infection, shoulder joints, wrist, back surgeries. I’m going to die ten to 15 years earlier than most. At the rate I’m going, I have not owned a left shoulder for almost two years. Three years. But I’m still functioning in a wheelchair. Only one person has that answer. How can I function without a shoulder? But that day everything was just right for me to fall. Everything lined up. 

I really appreciate you sharing a story. I think sharing that message just like you said, Russ, in teams of getting people to reflect it could happen to me. The same could happen to me, hopefully makes more people rethink pause and choose to take that extra step to stay safe. So, I really appreciate all that you do in this space. Russell. Laurel, if somebody is interested in hearing your story, sharing that story with their teams, how can they get in touch with you? 

YoungstromSafety.Com. Also. We have a Youngstrom Safety Facebook page and Laurel Youngstrom on LinkedIn. Also, Youngstrom Safety on LinkedIn. 

Excellent. 

Well, it’s easy. Actually, you can probably just Google us. I think we’re the only. 

And there’s videos and so forth. So, I really appreciate you sharing your story. I know it’s a tough story to share. It’s a very hard, wrenching story to listen to hear, but I appreciate what you’re doing to try to make a difference in other people’s lives as well. So, thank you. 

The day before yesterday is getting tailgated and I’m like so I pulled over and let the truck go around me and started driving. And then I got cut off by a lady. And then it was my breaking point until I saw a sign that said Baby on board and I backed off immediately. 

Sometimes thinking about somebody else’s family can help you too, to maybe be safer driving or otherwise. 

Absolutely. 

Thank you. I really appreciate you sharing your story and really sharing from the heart in teams of what happened, what transpired? Because the story you shared. I’ve heard so many times in teams of it’s not going to happen to me. I can do it. I’ll be okay. And we’re in the hardness, but not tying down all things I’ve heard unless the supervisor shows up and then magically, it’s all tied in. So, appreciate you sharing that story. It’s unfortunately not the first time I’ve heard it something similar like that, but working at heights is really dangerous. 

I really appreciate you sharing your story and it’s a very heart-wrenching story to listen. Really appreciate it. Thank you. 

Thank you. And also, too is you doing a really good job interviewing this just to let you know. Seriously good. 

I appreciate it. 

Thank you so much for having me here. 

Thank you for listening to the safety guru on C-suite radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode. 

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Laurel and Russ are the husband-and-wife founders of Youngstrom Safety. For over twenty years they have been reaching out to audiences of all industries, moving safety from their heads to their hearts. They do this by encouraging listeners to think about how an accident would impact their loved ones. Russ (a work-related paraplegic) and Laurel are safety advocates and keynote speakers. They are available to share their powerful story (two different perspectives) about personal accountability in safety at meetings, conferences, trainings, and job sites throughout the country (in-person and virtually). They have spoken to tens of thousands of workers in 29 states. From onsite, in the back of a pickup truck, to huge conference centers, their message is always the same – being unsafe is selfish! You can find them at www.youngstromsafety.com

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