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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



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.


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 

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. 

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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



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



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.


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. 


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 

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? 


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? 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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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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



Lessons from Aviation Safety: Human Factors with Dr. Suzanne Kearns

The Safety Guru_Dr. Suzanne Kearns_Lessons from Aviation Safety Human Factors



To err is human… but to learn and identify organizational ‘accidents waiting to happen’ is more critical than to lay blame. In this episode, we’re TAKING OFF with Dr. Suzanne Kearns, Associate Professor of Aviation at the University of Waterloo and Founding Director at the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics. Suzanne shares critical insights in Human Factors and Aviation Safety to help listeners explore how aviation has been able to make substantial improvements in safety and, more importantly, how it can help every organization improve safety performance.


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people. First, great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops on 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, Dr. Suzanne Kearns. She’s a professor of aviation, safety training, methodologies and human factors of the University of Waterloo, where she explores a lot of topics around human limitations and how they contribute to accidents and incidents. Former airplane and helicopter pilot, she’s also the founding director of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics, which we’ll talk about shortly. So first, Suzanne, tell me a little bit about your story, a background and your passion for safety. 

Thank you, Eric. Well, it’s a pleasure, first of all, to be here. And I can tell you that I didn’t have dreams or aspirations when I was young of being a professor. I just loved aviation. I think I was fascinated by flight in general. I sort of still do think it’s magical, even though I do understand the science behind it. It’s just something captivating about it. And so, I grew up flying airplanes and helicopters. Starting when I was 15. I with helicopters North Bay, Ontario, doing some really fun flying in the Bush, where he actually used chainsaws and build your own landing pads and quite rugged. 

And then at that time, because in Canada, piloting hasn’t always been a university level discipline. It’s more so a college level discipline. And I just finished a college diploma. I was looking for University education. So, I actually went down to Ambria Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, and finished my bachelor’s degree. And then at the end of that, two really big, life altering things happened. A colleague on campus was really tragically killed in a training accident and simultaneously, within a matter of months, 911 happened really shook the foundation of who I was and my dreams and the idea that the industry that you love and that you find inspiration and excitement and passion and is used to cause so much pain and devastation and widespread hurt around the world. 

It really did cause me to rethink what my path would be. And so, I went back and I earned my master’s degree in human factors, which is kind of like the science of why people make mistakes. I came back to Canada, and so that’s when I started as a professor and earned my PhD in education. 

Excellent. Well, thank you for coming here to share a little bit about your story and some of the backgrounds. And I think one of the pieces I’d like to touch on first is really the linkage between some of the principles of safety that we talk about in the aviation world versus what happens on the ground, because I think in many ways the aviation space is probably the most advanced when it comes to safety and really understanding the human and natural limitations that we have, for sure. 

Yeah. Well, I could tell you a little bit of a history of how we’ve gotten to where we are today in aviation with our understanding of safety. And I think what’s important to understand, if you look back to the 70s and 80s, there was this culture where if a pilot was to make a mistake and survive an accident, then they would be fired and removed from the industry. And I think that everybody’s responses finger pointing at that person, how could they have possibly made such a terrible mistake? 

Which, of course, has devastating impacts because not only is there the pain in the accident, but there’s also that individual is going to be experiencing a lot of traumas from that, because what we learned over time was that number one, in the late 1970s and early 80s, there were a series of very high-profile aviation accidents that were primarily caused by pilot error. And it really challenged the industry to say, how is this possible? How could such an intense network of intelligent, dedicated people make such obvious mistakes? 

Eastern Airlines, like, for one, is probably the make an obvious example. 

Yeah. Which is just a faulty light bulb which caused so much focus of attention. They didn’t realize they disengaged the autopilot and flew their aircraft into the ground. And so, these kinds of things challenge the industry. So, what happened was a really amazing example of government, academia, and industry coming together to say, what can we do about this? And they created the first human factors training program, which they called now it’s called Pro Resource Management training, or CRM, meant to teach pilots about human limitations. But that’s only one part of it, because that still puts, I think, a lot of the focus of blame on the individual, and it doesn’t ask broader organizational questions around.

Is it really that person’s fault if they have faulty equipment or didn’t receive training or they have been on a schedule that’s impossible, and any human would be tired or exhausted? So, it also shifted at the same time. So, we have human factors. But we also have the organizational approach to safety. What this does, it looks at the entire organization from the top all the way to the bottom and making sure that everybody is in identifying areas of risk and eliminating them before an accident happens. 

So, it’s not just about the end pilot user. It’s about everybody that contributed to that accident or that flight on a particular day. And I think there’s a lot of parallels and a lot of learnings that come of that space that could definitely be translated into a lot of other environments. I know you’ve done some work on some ground safety, I believe on the main inside of aviation. What are some of the parallels that you saw when you were translating principles from human factors to workers on the ground that could be exposed to hazards? 

Absolutely. Well, I think what is very universally true is that we’re all human beings. And so, the same types of limitations that one experiences as a pilot or a maintenance engineer, an airside worker. These are all the same basic issues because they’re all about our natural bodies and our minds. So, when I’m explaining this to my students, I always say if somebody makes a mistake and you pull that person out and put any other random person in with the same types of background and experience, if that new person, it’s feasible that they might make that same mistake, then we really need to question if it’s fair for us to be blaming all of our focus on that individual. 

We really need to look at the task of the environment and the situation. But what I did find in translating it is that you have to articulate this gets such an emotionally impactful and sometimes challenging issue, because if you don’t articulate it correctly, it sounds like you’re questioning a person’s competency or questioning their commitment to their job when in reality, what you’re just saying is we’re all people and our limitations can be scientifically predicted and tracked. So why don’t we learn all of that information and take it in before it leads to an accident? 

But it does require us to make sure what that core message, that it’s basically being wrapped in something that is true to the job rule, and that is using the right language and examples to that role. 

That makes a lot of sense. So, tell me about the importance of education when it comes to safety. 

Yeah. Well, I’m a big education, not the focus of my world is in trying to support the next generation and trying to teach them as best that I can to support the future of our industry. So that being said, as much as I love teaching, and I think some of my most exciting and powerful experiences professionally have been in classrooms as a teacher. That being said, education is not always the best way to eliminate risk in an organization that from a human factor’s perspective. If you change the task that they’re doing, if you change the equipment that they’re using operational environments and noise, temperature, distractions, a lot of those things are, I think, universally easier ways to eliminate risk. 

And sometimes I think it falls back to where we’re using education as a default that it’s too challenging or expensive to change some of those bigger structures of a trip. And so, we try to solve a problem by throwing a few hours of training at the problem. But I think it really does offload some of that responsibility to the workers. And I think we have to question and always be really careful. Is that ethical? And is that fair, or are we really putting our priority on the appearance that we’ve done something rather than investing our best effort to actually reduce that risk? 

I think that’s an important the hierarchy of controls, really in terms of eliminating the hazard that could be present as opposed to trying to train the individual to manage it. 

Yes. Exactly. And the reality, we know from a human factor’s perspective, that training is one of the tools in your toolbox that you can use to support big organizational change and improvement to make things safer. But it’s not the only thing. And sometimes it’s the more expensive and the one that has more substantial ongoing costs over a longer period of time. You can imagine, for example, if we’re looking at cars, we all know that texting and driving is very dangerous, that nobody should ever do that. But if we’re teaching a person like how much energy and effort has gone into teaching teenagers don’t do this right. 

The so dangerous you should never do this. But if there was a way where the cell phone itself could just disengage while it’s in a car, for example, then that equipment shift eliminates at risk. Right. And then something quite simple where it has, like a sleeping widespread. Obviously, there’s other implications in that example, but around. But I think it’s a much more effective way to eliminate the risk of that one situation rather than putting the emphasis on the people and through training. 

This is similar to a lot of Ops is in cars that will typically stop working or stop allowing to be managed or controlled when the vehicle is in motion. You could do the exact same thing with a texting device. 

Exactly. And I think, of course, it’s a simple example. But if you think of the parallels to aviation, I think it’s still very true that it’s such a heavily regulated industry. And so, we’re always trying to provide the evidence that’s required to the regulators. I’ve completed 5 hours of training on this. You’ve demonstrated that you’ve taken that action. But I’ve had some really interesting talks with international regulators at the highest level around this hour’s metric for training, because in aviation is always based on hours. Or I get to do 5 hours of this or 10 hours of this. 

And I said, why hours? Because everyone knows it’s not the hours that make an impact. It’s what happens during that time. It’s the experience and learning. And he said, okay, I’ll tell you a secret. We know that. But he said the reality is put yourself in my shoes. If I’m an international regulator and our safety board has identified some sort of a safety deficiency, he said, that the most obvious and direct thing that I can do is to throw a few hours of training at the problem because it shows that we’ve made this effort to address it. 

But he said, even I know that it’s not going to fully eliminate that risk for me. That was mind blowing, because some of you love aviation, like you grow up aligning everything under these regulations, and when you come to learn that they’re made by people as well, and people are perfect and just doing the best they can under challenging situations, then it does allow you to really refocus, and I think question whether there’s an opportunity to do things even better. 

Great. So, some of the topics you talked about earlier on when you’re talking about human factors was around care resource management and how that got cascaded for listeners that aren’t familiar with crew resource management. And maybe some of the elements in terms of how human factors can get trained or taught to pilots. Can you give maybe a bit of a highlight as to what the core principles are? So, people can think maybe about how we could translate to on the ground examples? 

Yeah. Absolutely. So, crew research management, as it is today, is required annual training for almost all pilots in the civilian world, and it has a few core components that includes things like workload management. So, in our world is fly the plane first, so Ava, then navigate, then communicate. So, it’s this task prioritization. So, workload management is number one. Situation awareness is number two, and situation awareness is sort of like if you’re in your operational setting, it’s your mental picture of everything around you. And people may be shocked. 

But one of the most common categories of accidents is called controlled flight into train. So, it’s flying a perfectly good airplane into the ground, which is a result of a lack of situation awareness. And that’s a very big one as well. Communication and crew coordination. So how you talk to and use the resources around you, including the technology, but also all the people in the aircraft and air traffic controllers and other supporters on the ground. So those are some of the big categories, but it’s based on a very robust and deep interdisciplinary field of research, which maybe doesn’t mean a lot to people. 

But I can tell you when I’m teaching human factors, I don’t teach, like a list of memorizations. So new pilots will learn something called the I’m safe checklist where before they go flying, they should do illness, medications, stress, alcohol, fatigue and eating kind of checks like, am I okay? All these categories. So that’s what most pilots know at the very beginning. But when I teach it at the University, it’s sort of a foundation of your natural human limitation. So, it’s some psychology and thinking. How much information can you reasonably be expected to retain at any one point in time? 

And when is the any person going to start making mistakes? It’s your senses so all of your senses, how you take in that information and how it could be tricked and distorted and how you can’t always trust your senses. It’s anthropometry, which is the measurement of the human body, because in an aircraft, all of the controls have to be within a certain level of reach of humans. And it’s the limitations of work. So, when anybody in the world would expect it to be come tired and start making mistakes, whether it’s due to a lack of sleep or just a prolonged period of mental or physical work. 

And there’s also we get into some issues around things like mental health and substance abuse, because those are also very human things that affect all of us in our population. There’s a lot of other factors I’m probably missing, but that’s kind of how we build it up the foundational building blocks. And if I have the students take away one thing, it’s that its air is human, that you shouldn’t expect people to never make mistakes. It should be the exact opposite. You should expect that it’s 100% normal for even the most competent professionals to make mistakes. 

And if you start from that foundation, then you can build up to say, where are those mistakes most likely to happen? And how can I manage to capture them before they may have an impact that costs for. 

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 access your safety culture to develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, re energize your BBS program, enhanced supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solution. Propulo has you covered. Visit us at 

That’s excellent. So, tell me a little bit about you talked about human factors. How does a contrast to safety management system as it pertains to the aviation the world? 

Sure. Yeah. So, this is probably one of the biggest confusions in the aviation world is that even career professionals sometimes don’t know the difference between human factors and safety management. So human factors are kind of like, like I said already, it’s a scientific discipline and why people make mistakes. So, a little bit of psychology, economics, physiology. So, all of these sorts of scientific foundation, it’s all of education. That’s a really big turn as well. And then that leads up to CEER resource management, which is where we teach operators about all of these limitations and give them some strategies about how to avoid them and how to work together and how to avoid error. 

And that’s sort of in one category. And then the second category is its organizational factors associated with safety. So, most people in aviation most commonly noticed through what we call reasons. Model reasons. Model has layers of protection. So, there’s, like, five squares you can imagine, but then each one of them has holes in it, which you can think of as layers of Swiss cheese. So, each layer has its own holes and each layer represents it from the highest-level senior management. And then as you work forward, it’s not training manager. 

And then the far piece is the actual operators like the phone. And the concept is that those holes in the layers represent latent failures. So, they’re like accidents waiting to happen, whether it’s management not investing up in training or a maintenance engine who has a poor practice where they’re making a mistake over and over or whatever it happens to be there these opportunities for accidents. And then it’s only when holes and all those layers and line up perfectly that an accident happens. So, the concept is that the accident itself is actually quite rare. 

Instead of focusing all of our attention on the accident, which is what we had starkly done, fire the crew, it doesn’t address all those holes. Those risks are still in that organization. So, the concept of safety management systems at its core is the identification and illumination of those latent failures before they have an opportunity to line up and cause an accident. So, it’s a proactive rather than reactive approach to aviation safety. 

Alright. So essentially reducing the probability of those holes lining up. 

Yeah. And human factors play in because human factors can create those holes through the whole system. So that’s one of the ways we can reduce those holes. But human factors can’t address everything, because like I said, if there’s, like high level management, managerial decisions that are affecting every part of the operation and equipment, then no matter how hard a pilot at the end tries to do the best, tries to be as professional as safe as possible. They don’t have control over those other factors, or they will be influenced by them regardless. 

Excellent. So, we love to talk a little bit about the work you’ve done at Waterloo, which is really interesting. As I mentioned on the front end, you’re the founding director of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics. Tell me a little bit about what this Institute does and what are you trying to accomplish with all of this linked experience that you’re bringing together? 

Thank you. Well, I’m really excited because our Institute is we’ll be launching on October 5, 2021, and it’s the product of years of work. But what really led to the Institute for me was when the pandemic hits and in my field, like so many others, so many people are out of work, alumni, friends and colleagues, just tremendous devastation. And when I saw so many of my colleagues who were 100% focused on just survival of other organizations through pandemic, I started questioning, what can I do to support this sector that I care about? 

I’m an academic. I was in university. I can’t necessarily impact business decisions, but I kept questioning what could be of value that I could contribute during this time. And reflecting on the big challenges that aviation was facing before the Pandemic, which I sort of defined as widespread personnel shortages on international scale, the growing environmental emissions. So, if you remember the right Greta Thunberg like Shaming movement was really just growing when the Pandemic hit, as well as the rapid evolution of technology. And when you think of those three things, they really aligned with the three pillars of sustainability is social, environmental and economic sustainability. 

And at the same time, I also saw now my other big aviation universities around the world were actively recruiting in areas where Waterloo has tremendous world leading experts already. So, they’re looking for AI experts in cyber security and everything in between. And it really hit me that we could have a tremendous impact in supporting the sector to set aviation and aerospace up for a more sustainable future after the Pandemic. If I could mobilize the strength that we’re already at the University and sort of direct the powerhouse that is Waterloo towards these big challenges that I know we’re having a direct impact on the people in the industry that I cared about. 

So that’s how wise it came to be and really what it is now we have about 40 to 45 different professors as well as their labs and grad students. We have a really distinguished advisory committee with an honorary advisor of Commander Chris Hadfield and some amazing advisors internationally and some industry partners who are coming on board. And really what it’s meant to do is to form a bridge between aviation and aerospace and the University. So, if industry partners have challenges or problems, they can work with university professors to address those. 

And the beautiful part of that is in the process, they’re educating graduate students who then go on and support Canada’s, a knowledge economy, then become future leaders. So, we’re just getting started. But we’ve got a lot of excitement about what comes next. 

And when we talked earlier, you mentioned some of the examples of a linking experience. You talked about some examples of bringing engineering to the table machine learning. Can you give maybe some of the examples of how these themes come together and the power that it brings? 

Yeah. So, what’s different I think about universities as opposed to industry, is that industry problems are very multi-dimensional. Lots of different skill sets come together to create that problem. But then, when you compare it to a university environment, professors are incredibly high levels of expertise in a very narrow area, and they live within pockets of their own discipline. So, you have psychology in one pocket and engineering and another and health or science in another, for example. And then what I think is what we’re hoping to do with the Institute was to break down those silos and allow a connection between the different disciplines on campus. 

So as an example, I’m working with a few colleagues right now, and we’re looking at how pilots are trained because as I mentioned earlier, there’s sort of distinct personnel shortages projected internationally. And so how do we address that? So, I have one colleague to in cognitive psychology looking at the process of how people taking information and learn. Another who is in kinesiology who looks at hand-eye coordination and the development of those skills. Another who’s in optometry. So, she’s looking at how your eyes move across your environment and taking that information, and whether that can come together to be an indication of expertise. 

And another who is in engineering who looks at it’s a form of machine learning artificial intelligence. So, if you could take all those data points into a computer, basically, could the computer, then when a new person comes in and flies automatically assess their performance and automatically tell them where they’re strong and where they need to focus more to improve their skills by comparing to a big database of others. And I think the really exciting part of that is if we were able to do that effectively, you can then justify to the regular is moving more training out of aircraft flying in the real world and simulators, and that has distinct environmental benefits so that it’s far less emissions. 

And it’s also saving young people money because training becomes far more customized to what they need. So, they’re paying for less hours. And simulators are usually cheaper than the airplane. So, you’re hitting the economic, you’re hitting the social improvement and the environmental improvement when you see this beautiful, magical mix of all these disciplines coming together to address a problem that’s excellent. 

And I think when I see that when I hear your story, what you trying to drive is this multi-disciplinary view really can be used in other sectors, in other environments to really start meshing different levels of expertise to address safety challenges across the board 100%. 

And I think safety is such a perfect illustration of this because just like education, it’s not one thing. It’s not one discipline, right? So, you can’t create a perfectly safe system. Only looking at from the perspective of psychology, it feels like it’s almost like you have pieces of the puzzle and that’s one important piece of the puzzle. But until you identify and link those other pieces together, then you don’t have the full picture. 

I think that’s an incredibly important message in teams of that multidisciplinary view of things to drive things forward. Suzanne, thank you so much for the work that you’re driving around safety and the aviation space. As somebody who used to fly a lot. I appreciate that part as well, but more importantly, really coming to our podcast to share your story, share some ideas. I think there’s some really great examples, illustrations that people can take from what’s being done in the aviation space to translate it to really that learning organization thinking about as humans. 

Where are we going to make a mistake? Because it’s bound to happen. So, I really appreciate you coming to share a story. 

Thank you very much. 

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

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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Dr. Suzanne Kearns is an Associate Professor of Aviation at the University of Waterloo. She is an internationally recognized leader in aviation education research, earned airplane and helicopter pilot licenses at the age of 17, advanced aeronautical degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and began working as an aviation professor upon graduation at the age of 24. In the 16 years since, she has taught and mentored thousands of aviation students, and written/co-authored six books printed in multiple translations (including Competency-Based Education in Aviation, Fundamentals of International Aviation, and Engaging the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals). She has received several awards for research and educational works, frequently delivers invited keynote addresses at international conferences, and holds leadership positions with several international aviation organizations. In 2021 she founded the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics (WISA), which she leads as its Director.



Powerline Safety: Look up and Live with Cookie

The Safety Guru_Glen Cook(Cookie)_Powerline Safety Look up and live



October is ‘Safe Work’ month in Australia. We’re heading Down Under with special guest Cookie, an award-winning powerline safety expert from Queensland, Australia! In this episode, he illustrates the importance of powerline safety, the significance of ‘unintentional blindness’ and shares life saving tips in the event of a contact. Tune in to learn more about his innovative app ‘Look up and Live’ along with how your organization can proactively prepare for powerline risk..


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people. First, great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops on 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, none other than Cookie. And we’ll get to his name very soon. But he’s Australia’s health and safety professional. The year in 2020 out from Queensland, Australia an expert in powerline safety. So, I’m really looking forward to this conversation. So, Cookie, first, we’ve got to get into the name. How did you end up with that nickname? 

Well, my given name is Glen Cook. So, in Australia were very good at giving people nicknames, but we weren’t real creative on this one. It just became a Cookie. My old band or my father was called Cookie as well. Very officially known as Cookie. So, yeah, just from schoolmate, from all my mates and everyone just started calling me Cookie in this role, it’s a very good name to sort of break them barriers very quickly with workers. Right. So, you’re instantly approachable. 

Yeah, I absolutely agree. So, tell me a little bit about how you got into safety, but more specifically about power line safety. 

I’ve been an electrician for over 30 years now. The bulk of my time was on the tools, climate pals, digging holes and putting power lines back up after natural disasters and storms and cyclones and stuff like that. So, I sort of fell into an Inspector role. So, I’m an Inspector as well. And I became a senior Inspector up in Fan of Queensland in Cans. And I sort of worked all over Queensland from Cans in North Queensland, right up to Thursday Island, which is in the Torah Straits in Queensland, all over Cape. 

You all can even bit of time in Brisbane, like I never thought that I’d ever be in safety. No one likes a safety go. Here comes to safety guy. Look at, you know, it wasn’t where I thought I’d be at all. And then being a senior Inspector, I’ve done over 300 shock investigations as well. So, part of that role is investigated fatalities. But on top of that, I was also the first responder to numerous accidental contacts of power lines. So, my cross Korea sort of moved to Harvey Bay, which is sort of in South Queensland. 

And I moved here. And within the first couple of months, I had another incident involving accidental contact with power lines. And, you know, I was employed as a leader here in Harvey Bay, and I got a phone call something’s going on down the road. And I just jumped in my vehicle straight away because all my guys are out working. And I thought I go and have a look myself. I started driving down the road, and then I could see a big commotion near an elevated work platform. 

You know, the fires were there, the ambulance were there. I thought about myself because I knew straight away, I’ve gone. Someone’s contacted power lines. You know, I thought about myself, though I still sat for this day of self as you me. But you do think about yourself, right. And I’m like, why me again, I’m bet to see something that is not nice. And I instantly forgot about that because I looked to my left. And it’s the Harvey Bay High School. And it’s lunchtime. And there’s about 80 to 100 kids all lined up on the skill fence. 

And they’ve seen a person accidentally electrocute himself operating an elevated work platform with he had a paint roller in his hand and got too close to eleven0 volt power lines and was instantly killed after he got too close. Like, on this particular day, he didn’t even touch that power line. He just got too close. And then for me, I’ve gone. Why don’t people understand, why don’t people in the construction industry, why don’t people in the agricultural sector understand how dangerous power lines can be if you get too close to them? 

Right. And I sort of got found out on my business in this investigation because once I got interviewed by the investigators because not coming from this region is sort of well-known in my own patch up in Font of Queensland. But moving to a new area, people start asking these questions and they’ve gone, well, you know, you’ve got a lot of experience there. And I met my wife, boss, Aaron Smith, who basically has empowered me to do what I do today and sort of explain the job to me. 

He’s like, you should come work for me. And I’m like, no, I’m not interested in safety. And he said, I started asking questions. I said, What’s the title of it? And he said, oh, community health and safety advisor. And I said, sounds like a condone at the hospital. Oh, you’re right. I’ll stick with what I’m doing, right. And then, yeah, he did explain a little bit more to me. And I went. Actually, I think this is an area where I could actually help people. Right. And, you know, it was nearly ten years ago to the day, it’s probably about ten years and six months since I sort of started this role. 

And, you know, like I said, I never thought I’d be in safety, let alone win a national award in safety. So, yeah, it’s been an interesting journey to be, to be honest, Kudos and the award. 

So, tell me a little bit about power line. Obviously, power lines, high voltage, very dangerous. But how come people have so often make contact with a power line or get close to it and go through that? Because, as you said, it’s not necessarily making contact. Sometimes it’s just getting close to it. 

Yeah, that’s right. I mean, when I first started this role, I’m looking at it from a very on a power industry employee. Right. And I was looking at it like people are just silly. How can they not see the power lines? And are they just working too close? And that’s what I was thinking. Like, people are just taking risks. I quickly found out that it’s just not the case. So, when I first started the role, I realized that I had to take off my power line employee had and start thinking about it from a worker perspective. 

So, once I started looking at all the stats, and I quickly realized that 90% of these incidents are all workers. So, their workers in the construction and agricultural industry primarily. Right. The other are normally just people cutting trees in their front yard or stuff like that. So, I started looking at it and talking to just, you know, putting myself in that situation. Like, for instance, I knew nothing about the cotton industry and Cotton’s. A very big industry in southwest Queensland coming from North Queensland, knew a lot about can, the cane industry. 

But I didn’t know cotton. I basically went to one of our cotton regions, one of the local depots. So, I don’t want to know about more about the cotton industry. And he introduced me to a cotton farmer. And I went on the farm for a day, and he showed me his whole operation and the height of the machines and what they were up against. And I’ve just gone and quickly realize that people simply do not see the power on to the stories that I’ve heard in the last ten years.

People have got a very similar story. Every time I say to people say what happened on that particular day, and they say, Cookie, I wanted percent knew the power lines there. I just didn’t see it and doing lots of training and that in human factors over the years, I’ve just gone, wow. All these trainings coming back to haunt me. And then I quickly realized it’s could be humans. And we got human fat. 

Exactly right. 

And our eyes and our brain actually don’t work that well together. So that eyes and your brain aren’t, like the video camera on your phone, you simply will not pick up everything in your sphere of vision. So being able to explain that to people when I jump up in front of an audience and helping people understand that they’ve got these human factors and they actually don’t see power lines. It’s just powerful. Right. And I term at inattentional blindness. So, I sort of did a bit of research on Google and there’s lots of different teams that people use for it. 

I explained it as an inattentional blindness because I’ve met a few pilots and they do lots of work, inattentional blindness and human face. And they sort of term inattentional blindness. So, I sort of grabbed on to that term just to try and explain it to people. Having understood why people are hitting power lines. So, I always ask people who said, so when you strove here this morning before I’m doing my talk, I say, how many power lines did you see? And people look around the room and they go, how does Cookie? 

No, I didn’t see any power lines. And I go, well, you know, you don’t see them, but I drive around and I look at them all day. I get in trouble. When we go on holidays, I’ll be looking at power lines. And my wife and kids began days. Look at power lines again. I’m like, I might be a little bit weird, I suppose, but that’s the industry. I mean, I see them, but normal people don’t because your brain has actually trained you to your brain’s constantly trying to conserve energy and your brains gone. 

You don’t need to worry about their power lines. They’re out of your reach. So, power lines are designed to be out of your normal everyday reach. And you’re normal everyday lives. Driving to and from work, going to get the kids from school, going to get shopping. But when you start work and you’ve got a ladder, you’ve got an elevator, work platform, you’ve got an excavator on the back of the truck, you’re using an excavator. All these things are very high and have got the, you know, the risk of actually contacting overhead power lines. 

And then the further I got into it, then you realize that nobody understands how electricity works or the basic theory of electricity and what to do in an emergency, because that was the other thing that I found straight away in this role was the fatalities that I was seeing was people hit a power line. Then they panic and try and get out of the vehicle. 


So, they’re the things that I promote my talks is my personal experience and why I got into safety and how become an expert. So, people then go, oh, cookies, the expert a bit listener who you’re talking about and talk about the legislation and why we have exclusion zones and why there’s laws to work around, Pallone, because if you hit them, you’re going to come off second best. But then also the basics on electricity, so as to people knowledge is the best defense when it comes to electrical safety and particularly Parello safety. 

Because if you understand how electricity works and if you stay in the vehicle, you’ll be safe. You won’t get hurt. Talk to people all over Queensland, Australia, mostly in New Zealand, and I’ll be in Outback pub somewhere, having a meal at night after I’ve spoken to a group and I’ve got me look up and live shirt on and people come to me and say, what do you do? And then you say, I’m in Parel on safety and they go, oh, yeah. I know how that works. 


You jump out and you shuffle away and they get it all wrong. Right. And I said you’ve missed the point that the most important point is to actually stay right. You’re more likely to win the Lotto or then actually hit a power line and have to escape. Right. So hopefully all the technology works and the power trips off or turns off. And if you just stay in the vehicle, you’re safe. But you don’t know whether it’s on or off. So, I always just push the fact that it’s staying the vehicle you call emergency and you wait for help. 

If that takes 4 hours, you’re still going to be alive. Right. So, I’ve just seen too many people where you get into that fight or flight back to the cave man days. If you actually have that knowledge, knowledge is the best defense. If you’ve got the knowledge and you understand that you’re like a bird on a wire because the machines made of metal and metals are better conductive than the human body. You’re like, it’s going to go through the middle first. So just stay there so that’s the crux of what I try and communicate to my clients and people in my sessions is then if you understand how it works, it can save your life. 

So, understanding why we actually make mistakes because we’re humans. Right. 



One of the things that I remember when we first connected that really struck me. As you talked about. I believe the exact number was 25 times more likely to hit an overhead wire versus an underground. The call before you dig, can you double click on this? Because that’s a shocking difference. Same electrical circumstance. But why is it there’s more risk on the overhead versus underground? 

I look at it comes back to the intentional blindness again. Right. So, I have been doing this for a number of years, and I sat down for a beer one afternoon with my boss and we’re hardly in the same spot at the same time. So, we’ve been together for the day and we had a feed and a beer. And I said to him, might we be missing the Mark when it comes to, you know, the overhead power on safety because we do these talks. But at the end, we don’t have a tool for people to actually plan works the power lines. 

And I said to him, I’ve looked at the stats. We have one undergrad power line incident to 25 overheads. You know, it’s a huge difference. And I said the reason why people are hitting the overhead stuff is because of an intentional blindness. But the reason why we don’t hit underground power lines is people are about to dig and they go. Well, I can’t see that underground power lines. So, we do in Australia, we call it do before you dig to then you get the dog before you dig up and try and get a plan. 

It is the start of a very simple plan. So, you’re already less likely to hit an underground power line or gas or communications already by just starting that very simple plan. Whereas with overhead, businesses rely on operators and machinery and workers to actually see the overhead infrastructure. And as we’ll set at the start, they simply don’t. So, we’re setting people and workers up to fail because they turn up on-site and look. 99% of these are all males as well. So, males just want to get their job done.  

Let’s just jump in and, you know, way we go. And you just absolutely do not see the overhead infrastructure. So, I said, you know, we need a way to help people plan their work, their overhead power lines. And I think that’s where you get into is we developed a Lookup and Live app. So, a lookup and live com. Also, in the app stores, you’ll find the Lookup and Live app, which basically maps every power on in Queensland, New SAP, Whales, and South Australia at the moment. 

And we’re also talking to all the other States to see whether they want to join in New Zealand. And I’ve also spoken to some of the guys in Canada as well about joining the Look Up and Live app to basically overlay power lines onto a Google map. So, it allows people to just start that plan from a project that’s nine months out or twelve months out. What’s there? Okay. There are some high voltage power lines that are going to be the way for our unit development, or, you know, whatever it is on a farm like we’ve got a harvest, we’ve got a plan. 

What is the plan to work around this overhead power on and being able to put that plan in place reduces the risk of hitting an overhead powered on? We have managed to reduce a few of the incidents. So, since we’ve implemented it in 2017 as a trial with lots of different industries, we’ve reduced total contacts by 25%, and in particular in agricultural, we reduce the instance by and in in aviation. We reduced it by as well. So, it’s been a very successful tool to be honest. 

And people are using it, which is great, but a simple concept. 

But really at the end of the day, it sounds like I need to have a plan and really understand my hazards and be aware that the hazards may not be as visible as I thought. And if something goes wrong, understand how to manage the circumstances, which is really state put. 

And that’s right. So, in the app, we’ve got all that emergency information as well. Right. And the other beauty of it is it’s a serve you type application so do before you dig in. Australia is very much okay. I want to excavate here and then all the members get sent your information and they will send it back bit by bit. Normally it’s in a schematic, right. But whereas with the overhead stuff, people are after different information. So, looking at it on a desktop or a laptop or even using it on your phone together the next job, for example, I know a lot of crane companies are using this, so they type in their address for the next job.

They have a look on their phone and they go, oh, yeah, there’s power lines there. So, when they’re on the way, they’re thinking about it. Once they turn up at the construction site, for example, their brain is now going, oh, you’ve seen that on your phone and then it’s identifying all the hazards. Like I said, because it’s images, right? We’re humans. We love images. Right? We want to correlate and make sense of things. So, once you’ve looked at it on your phone, you turn up on site, you go, oh, yeah, that’s the line I’ve seen that was eleven 0 volt and the exclusion zone is 3 meters. 

Because I’ve seen that on my phone. And the phone also told me that I will look up and live app has told me that I need a safety observer to safely work there. So, I’m going to ring the construction company and ask him where the safety observer is because he needs to watch me work to make sure we don’t. It just allows people to put those control measures in place. 

So, it makes sense in a large organization you can do. Training can create more awareness. But some of the work that you’re talking about is also done by very small organizations. Like when you’re talking about some of the vegetation management, cutting out trees, some of these large companies, but I’m assuming some are quite small. How do you get that message through? How do you get leaders to make sure they put the right emphasis and awareness around it? 

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, enhanced supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solution. Propulo has you covered. Visit us at 

It’s the face-to-face interaction, right. Like the world’s changed in the last two years. We all know, but really the face-to-face stuff when you’re able to stand in front of a group or stand in front of CEOs or managers and really get that point across that us humans make mistakes. Even the best of your workers can make a very simple mistake by not identifying that power on hazard because our own brains have trained us to go. Power lines are not an issue for you. 

So having that really simple tool that’s in the palm of your hands on your phone, just by looking at the map on your phone, when you turn up on site, you’ve already reduced the risk of actually hitting an overhead power line. So, the message is so simple. Right. And the tool is very simple. So, I use a theory called Protection Motivation Theory, which I learned from communications professor called Sam Ham. He sorts of explained it to me, and I went, oh, yeah, that’s a good idea. 

And then I showed him some of the stuff. How I communicate with people goes, Cookie, you already doing it. So, you didn’t know about the theory, but this is what you’re doing. And with safety, you really need to have that element of fear. So, number one, you need to understand how dangerous power lines actually are if you get too close. So, telling people about parking, and if you get too close in an arc, an arc is nearly 300 degrees Celsius. 


I’ll say it again. 300 in an in. Right. So, I just had a cup of coffee before. It’s like 70 to 80 degrees. And if I split it into my lap, it’s going to burn me rockfall 300 in an instant, just a tremendous release of energy at one point in time. So being able to sort of show that even a still ad with an arc coming from a power line to a machine, for example. And it could be anything from an agricultural machine, a crane to an excavator tip truck. 

You know, showing that type of stuff makes people interested because it shows a bit of fear. Then you need to have that feeling of self-worth getting back to your family. But to make an ad work or that communication method work, it needs a really simple way to change your behavior. And that’s why the Lookup and Live app is absolutely working because you’ve got it on your phone and you can easily find it a lookup and live com. So, save it to your home screen or download the app. 

You’ve got it there. You just look at it on your phone and you’re instantly identifying the hazards. And that changes your behavior. And for listeners in Europe or the US or Canada, you mentioned Canada potentially coming on to the app as well. Is there something similar to help visualize where the lines are? 

Look, I’m sure there’s others out there that are using this are technology that we’re using. I’ve seen lots of similar products. I haven’t really seen anything, I suppose, similar as what we’re doing where we managed to, you know, get other distributors to actually start working together. And that’s the beauty of this product is if you can find it all at one location, like, even if you’ve got your own product off to the side that you can communicate to your customers. I suppose your own way if you want to do it.

But once the data is made public, if we all share it onto one application such as Lookup and Live. Com, you Zoom town to your part of the world. And once you click on that power line, it tells you who owns it. So, if you click on it in Queensland, you might find that argon or energy on it. If you go to New South Wales, you might find a company called Essential Energy owns it. If you went to sketch on, I always have trouble with that name. 

If you click on it as far, it might tell you that. Yeah, it might. Sax Power owns it, right. So, it tells you who owns it and how to find out their safety information. So that’s the beauty of it. So, the more people make their data public, the more we can add to this. I see it as an international damage protection tool. And the beauty of it, it doesn’t cost that much to operate wrong. I had no budget to build this app, right. I just went to two very smart individuals called Matt Piper and Thorston Horse in your business and said, I’ve got this idea. 

I want to overlay all our power lines onto a map and they went away and built it and brought it back. So, what’s this? Look. I said, that’s perfect. I was like, this is awesome. And then, you know, basically took it to, like, I’m an advocate for all these industries that outside of our Power on distribution company. And I’ve got all these contacts within agriculture and construction and all I said, look, we’ve built this. Do you think this would be of assistance and everyone’s gone? This is great. 

And like I said, when I do a talk and I go through all the stuff I said before and I get to look up and live part. And I said, look, I know I said at the start we’ve got all these dangers and all the rest of it. But here’s the tool to help you safely work. And when I finish the talk, people just come up to me and go, that’s amazing. Thanks for putting so much effort into this. And you can see your passion and obviously for it. 

And people are just gone. This is going to change the way I work. And I think you’ve saved my life because I’ve worked close to power lines. And you’re 100% right. I haven’t seen power lines before. I’ve had so many close calls, and, you know, it’s just it’s working and it’s because it’s so easy. You know, we don’t have to make things long and complicated and make it into a full risk assessment. For example, this is just a simple hazard Identifier for power ones. 

Make it visible. 

And yeah, and I’ve got no doubt that this is state lives, no doubt. 

Well, you had the stats before. It’s similar to the call before you dig. That is not operating normally by one company. It’s one number that you call from wherever to understand what are my hazards. 

That’s right. And the beauty of it. You mentioned it before. It works for one man band or, you know, multinational company. Right. So, if someone wants to do some work in Australia and they’re based in Malaysia, they can look up the power on infrastructure in Queensland, on sales and have a plan before they even start. So, once they’ve won, that tended to do the work, they can start planning already for the power ones and contact the power one company to other underground them or remove them. If that’s the plan, or for a farmer we in Australia, there’s a new innovation called a rotor marker. 

So, it’s a spinning red and white marker that gets attached to power lines. And it’s really working for the agricultural and construction, in particular, the aviation industry, because this new marker is very visible. It’s basically red and white and it spins. So, when something is spinning on a power line or moving, it absolutely negates the inattentional blindness, because what our eyes and our brains do like is movement. So, it’s back to the cave man days again. So, something that’s in your peripheral vision and it moves, your brain goes, that is interesting and you look at it. 

So, these Rotor markers, these red and right spinning markers are making a huge difference in these industries once they’re installed. So, if someone does the lookup and live out comes up with a plan, part of that plan is to identify the power lines and Mark them because, for example, they don’t have enough money to move them. 

So, it’s an admin control. But it’s a really effective admin control, because what it does is change. Firstly, the operator or the worker will identify that the power lines are near right. But it changes their behavior because once they’ve identified it, they go all power lines. I’m going to lower everything down to the lowest point, or I’m not going over there anymore, or I’m going to get the safety observer to come and watch me operate. Well, I can safely be there. And these two tools to look up and live tool in the rotor marker have actually come out at a very similar time. 

So, I put the success that we’ve had down to these two products. The rotor Mark is still gaining legs, as is the look up and live tool. But I see moving forward these two things being very practical way to negate power line safety. And they’re very cheap, like they’re only about $100 each. And you don’t need multiple markers on par lines. You just need one every around 50 meters and your eye will set. And like for aviation in particular, pilots can see them from over a kilometer away. 

So, you know, gives them, you know, six times more time to react. For aerial applicators coming in spraying crops, they’ve got six more times to react if they’ve missed where the power line is, for example. So that’s part of the reason why we’ve seen a reduction in the aviation industry as well, but just giving people that ability to plan plus those rotor markers. Yeah. And like I said, it’s the movement factor. So still or static balls that we use to Mark power lines, the smaller balls, in particular, the ones that are about four or 300 mills. 

They’re really hard to see, and you can only see from about five to 600 meters, whereas those rider markets because they’re spinning every Kilmer. So, it’s just another tool that we’ve got an Arsenal to try and stop accidental context. Yeah. 

I really appreciate your passion for an important topic like this where unfortunately, there’s too many fatalities, too many people that get into harm’s way. And the effect of, like you said, an arc flash. If you survive, it can be very, very lasting scars and burns as well. So, I really appreciate you sharing all of this at the end of the day. If I summarize it’s, create a plan, be aware of it, whether it’s through markers, looking in teams of an app, but making sure workers really understand where those bar lines are and then also understanding how to respond. 

Understanding an arc flash, understanding a safe distance away from the lines. And if you do end up how to basically stay. But is that correct? 

Hey, Mike, you hit the nail on the head there, Mike. Good. 

Thank you so much. And thank you for as well. Building that up. They look up to live. If you’re in Australia, New Zealand, you can download that tool and hopefully it will come up as well in other parts of the world, because I think it’s a great concept to create awareness. Create one platform where people can see where their hazards are. 

You can download it anywhere in the world. It just doesn’t have a little power on it. Not on it yet. So, if you want to check it out, just go to the app store and search, look up and live. You’ll be able to find it. Yeah. If anyone wants to contact me more than happy to talk about pay line safety. And if you want to add your data to the map, this just to have a chat, it doesn’t cost a link. 


It’s a simple data share arrangement. Excellent. 

Well, thank you so much, Cookie. I really appreciate you coming on to the show, sharing examples of stories, some tips, but also in terms of building some tools that are having meaningful impact in terms of saving lives. 

No worries, Eric. Thanks. 

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

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Glen Cook (Cookie), is an experienced and Passionate Powerline Safety Specialist based in Australia. Cookie is extremely passionate about raising powerline safety awareness and was the 2020 Australian Health and safety professional of the year. Working as an electrician for over 30 years within the construction and utilities industries he has been first responder to serious injury/burns and fatalities due to accidental contact with powerlines. Cookie is the driving force behind the award winning app that is assisting workers plan work near powerlines.

Glen CookCommunity Safety Specialist

Mobile: +61418443944



Road Safety and Why it Matters with John Westhaver

The Safety Guru_John Westhaver_Road Safety and Why it matters



About a month before his high-school graduation 27 years ago, John Westhaver was involved in a devastating car accident that left him with varying degrees of burns covering 75% of his body. This experience jumpstarted his life as a motivational speaker and safety advocate, as he continues to emphasize the importance of minimizing dangerous distractions. In this thrilling episode, John discusses techniques to practice that will help individuals become more aware of understanding the possible risks in seemingly safe situations. The importance of leadership within safety culture is highlighted and John teaches the audience how to prioritize physical and psychological conditions so that everyone makes it home safely at the end of the day – tune in!


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops on 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 John Westhaver. John Westhaver is a motivational speaker in the safety space does make excellent work around safety in the road. So, John, welcome to the podcast. I’d love for you to start out, maybe by introducing yourself and then introduce your road safety story. 

Yeah. So, my name is John Westhaver, and I am a failed car crash survivor. Burn survivor. I was burnt to the car crash 27 years ago this spring, and right now I am a professional speaker traveling around Canada. Actually, not traveling currently because of the go pandemic and the restrictions and stuff. Right. But I normally travel early. Can the US be talking about road safety and the impacts of Port driving choices? Do a lot of work with schools and organizations and companies, probably just to help people change their conversation around driving so that they become safer driver so that we have safer roadways for everybody. 

So, I’ll just kind of go into my story and why I do this. Yeah. So, I was a typical teenage kid in school, average kid, fun loving kid, good grades in school. And I had a zest for life like most of the kids. And it wasn’t a problem child. But on April 29, 1994, I was about a month and a half before high school graduation, when me and three of my friends being my best friend, Jason, two other friends, Jimmy and Aaron, we decided to go to the pool hall in our hometown. 

Now we lived in the little tiny town called Saint Stephen and New Bronson, a little border town. But at the time, there’s probably like, 7500 people that live there, so really quiet than being there. Really? 


It’s a really quiet town, but not really the time. It’s probably still there’s not really a lot of stuff for used to do other than playing hockey or baseball. If you didn’t do your sporting events like that there. But where there really wasn’t a lot to do for youth. And I was one of those teenagers that love to party, love to drive fast, never drank control. I never got on with somebody who I was drinking. But I love the party. I love to drink. And I loved the thriller Speed. 

Like most of the kids that I hung out with. And it was a month and a half before high school graduation full of life teenagers. We decided to go on a road trip to a town about 45 minutes away. Town called McAdam. We heard there was a pool hall there and being typical teenage guys, we loved pools because normally we could play pool there. There was good music there. And there were always girls there. So, we’re like, hey, let’s go check this place out. Four teenage guys were full of life. 

 Let’s go check it out. Now, the thing was, no matter what we did, we always have to have a sober driver. Okay. So that night, Jimmy decided to drive. He’s like, I’ll drive. It’ll be my thing. I have to work tomorrow. Get up early. So, I’ll drive. I’ll stay sober. I’ll be good. So, it was great because he had a 1980 Chevy Impala. Now, if you’ve ever been in a 1980 Chevy Impala, that’s a boat. That’s a big car. So, we’re like, this is good because lots of room. 

 And so, the next thing was, we had to find some alcohol now, being four teenage voices on a mission, it wasn’t normally too hard for us to find alcohol. Usually, we’d raise our parents liquor cabinet or find someone older to buy them for us. So, this particular Friday night, we decided to find someone order to buy it for us. So, booze in hand and super driver, we set off on a road trip. We crack our beer. Once we hit the highway, we get to the pool. 

All we’re having a good time. We’re floating out the bureaus playing pool. Have a great time until Jimmy, our silver driver. Great guy. Awesome. Got it. Decide to leave now. Being 14 age guys were full of life. It’s Friday night. We’re on a pool hall. There are girls around there’s music. This pool is lots of fun. We’re like, no, let’s stick around a little bit longer. Now, if you’ve ever been to designated driver on a vehicle and you’ve had some drunkards with Chevy drunkards, we everybody had some drug with you. 

 You know how hard it can be to get some of these guys to come with you. So, yes, like, hey, I’m leaving. And we’re like trying to stick around a little bit longer because we knew from McAdam to Saint Steve. And it was about a 45, 50 minutes drive. God lows. How long the walk it would have been. So, we’re, like, stick around in low music now. So, we get a choice. She needs boys. We could have stuck around and played some pool some more. 

 Had some more fun. Drink some more beer in front of the girl some more and walked home. We’re trying to figure somewhere at home or we could go a Jimmy, who was our deed. Reluctantly, right. We decided to go Jimmy because he was us did. He was the guy that was supposed to get in some safe. So, we stacked early care. We grabbed another bear. We choose each other being 14 age guys, we Peel out of the parking lot. Chester, we’re flying to the highway like any other Friday night in our home town. 

 Any other Friday night that we were teenage boys. We’re always doing this stuff, driving fast or party in, never Trisula driving, but just driving too fast. And about halfway back we decided to pull over to parking lot. But halfway back and now we jump out, take a leak, we grab another beer, we choose each other and we Peel out of the parking lot and probably 11:00 at night. And when we left our parking lot, the stereos cranked Jimmy flying on the highway we’re intoxicated. But because we’ve been drinking for a while and we’re thinking nothing can possibly go wrong because we get a DD. 

 I got everything under control and worth. Are everything’s perfect, not a care in the world. That was the last thing that I remember now. The last thing that care free teenage life. The next moment I recall opening my eyes, I’m looking up and assuming I don’t recognize. I looked around the room and I see that I’m in a hospital room. I have no idea. I am in this hospital room. I don’t know which hospital I’m in. I don’t know why I had all kinds of questions I had.  

And where are my friends at what’s going on? And I remember someone told me not to talk together. I can be okay. And I was scared because I wasn’t a sick kid. I never really experienced hospitals a lot. And so, I looked around the room and I see that there’s a vent later. On one side and on the other side there’s a machine measuring my heart rate, my blood pressure be and I’m connected to a multitude of saving devices that I look down and I am completely, completely covered in bandages from my head to my feet. 

I’m brown like a mummy and I’m scared because I have no ID was going. Now at this moment I was heavily medicated, so I didn’t feel a lot of pain. Sure scared. And at first, they wouldn’t tell me what happened. They wanted me to folks in the healing. And then as I started to heal and as I got strength and energy and found that strength to keep moving forward, they would reveal things to me that they felt I needed to hear. So, I later learned that the police determined that we’re doing what 140 km on a road that’s posted for 90 on a secondary highway number three highway from St. 

Steven to Redington secondary highway. People travel the highway all the time. Sharp corner Andersonville there and we’re just holding with you fast and or silver driver. Jimmy being eight, actually 17 years old at the time. He was young, an experienced driver, sure, but he thought he was a great driver as we all did. We also era and we all love to speed and the inability at such a young age of his driving, the speed of which were travel the commotion inside the car. 14 age guys, three of us are intoxicated the stereos cranked. 

You can just about imagine how much commotion is inside that car, how much distraction it is for the driver. And the road took a corner, took a sharp corner, and Jimmy lost control of the car, so out of control, hit the ditch, rolled several times. Our driver was ejected and killed. The car had a telephone pool exploded myself. I sustained Burns to 75% of my body and a broken arm. And my best friend Jason and Aaron were trapped on the back seat. And that’s why they had perished. 

That car had exploded those massive Bull fires where I just hit the microphone here. That car had exploded, a massive bull fire. And the thing was, this was four teenage guys in a small town, and there really wasn’t a lot of resources or small police force or able the paramedics, the police, the police were called the one to call articles that crash. It didn’t just impact us and impacted our families, our friends, our school, those witnesses and bystanders the ones that were on scene right away, the cars that came out afterwards, they tried to help out the police, the firefighters, the paramedics, everybody that attended that scene at night was impacted by our actions. 

Every choice that we made that night to get into the car, to drive, the choice to drive fast, the choice to not tell the driver to slow down, the choice to be drinking that night, every choice that we need impacted all of those people. I was rushed to the hospital to our local hospital in St. Stevens, and it would be a small town. They really didn’t have a lot of resources. So, they prepared me to be transported to a burning. It about an hour away. And when I was at the local hospital in St. 

Stephen, when they were preparing me, they called my parents. And here my parents are home asleep and the phone rings. My father wakes operations. The phone really not knowing who it’s going to be. Maybe it’s one of the kids calling to get a ride home or something or calling to say they’re going to be staying somewhere is or whatever it is. When he answered the phone, police officer introduces himself and proceeds to explain to my father that I was involved in a major car crash. They needed to go to the hospital right away, and he wouldn’t say anything else. 

He said Jessica dressed and go to the hospital. Now here. My parents had all kinds of questions, like what’s going on? How bad is a crash? Who was in the crash? Do you know what’s going on? They were not prepared. They were completely unprepared for the nightmare that they are about to walk into. So, my parents got addressed. They went to the hospital. When they get to local hospital, they were greeted at the door by a police officer that my father knew. So, he stopped him and said, before he started to see John, I have to let you know. 

He was involved in a major car crash and his badly burnt. And I looked at my mom and said, before you go in to see your son, I have to let you know he is badly Burton, horribly disfigured. I don’t know if you can handle seeing or so in the state. My father bravely went into my room and he walks down the hallway to the room that I’m in and he gets to the room, gets to the door and he looks in and he sees this person lying in the hospital bed. 

Nurses and doctors are working on this person. The person is completely naked, but their skin is charred black from the fire and the smoke and their body is swollen and blistered. Right? My head was a size of a basketball. My father’s dad didn’t even recognize it. And when I realized that it was his son, John, I didn’t recognize it instantly. He is going to survive. Is it going to be, okay? And if he survives, what kind of life is John going to live? Like, what quality of life will he live if he survives? 


My father fought back to teams and the emotions. He walked in the room and he said, I sat up right away and I started to apologize. So here I am. I’m completely burned. But nurses and doctors are working on me. And I said like, dad, I’m sorry, don’t be mad at me. Don’t be angry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be in the crash. I’m sorry. My dad looks at me and he’s like, It’s okay. Just listen to doctors. Everything’s going to be okay. He had no idea, right? 

What was about to unfold. He just wanted to make sure that I was going to be okay, right? He said the nurses and doctors worked with me for an hour, so to prepare me to be transported to the burn unit and St. John, New Brunswick. And when I got to the burn unit on bronze and that’s when they really assess the extent of my Burns. Now when you sustain Burns to a large front of your body, actually, they give you a survival rating. They say based on what we know about the burn trauma on the body. 

And this is your likelihood you’re going to survive. They look at a few different things. They look at how much of the body is burnt. They call that the total surface body area. They look at the degree of Burns they call the degree of Burns. So how deep are the Burns? So, this first to fourth degree Burns, fourth degrees to most severe goes the deepest. It Burns all over your skin, some muscles and sinned, some bones, sometimes and I had first afforded degree Burns covering 75% of my body. 

When you look at, are you a smoker? Do you drink? What a general health, how old you are. A few other factors. And they say, based on what we know, based on what we know, how the body responds, this is your likelihood you’re going to survive. And they stop my family down. And they said, based on our experience and what we know about the body in John situation, he’s not going to make it. I need to start thinking about funeral arrangements. You need to start calling family and friends and to come see him because he may not make it through the night. 

And if he does, he may not make it through the first week. And you hear my family just heard that I survived this horrific crash. Now they hold in a die. They destroyed. They’re scared. They’re shaking up. Their whole world is turned upside down. A nightmare. Living nightmare. What they did is they actually sedated me. They put me in a drug induced coma so that I wouldn’t experience the pain of the Burns. And they could work on me. So, they said they dated me. They put me to drug induced coma for about a month. 

And that’s where they were able to work on me. But when they sedated me my body in the initial stages, it kept shutting down my lost, my liver, my kidneys would fail. I died three times on the operating table. There was no guarantee that I was going to wake up every time I went for surgery, my parents were. They were destroyed. They had no idea that I would make it through. Oh, and what I want your listeners to get is every choice that I need that night to get into the car, to not tell her drivers now down, to decide, to drink, to know where my seatbelt that night, every choice that I need that night. 

But my family, friends, community, and school put them through hell like I did that at a human level. When I take responsibility for that, my choices did that sure was Jimmy driving, you know, but it was my choices that contributed this situation as well. That put my family through help and the aftermath of everything that I had to deal with. Dealing with. The burn scars, the surgeries, the dressing changes, dealing with the stairs, people staring at me because I’m a Burns of ever. You can tell them look different. 

I have facial Burns, our scars. I have scars on my hands, my body covering my body, dealing with the loss of my friends, dealing with my best friend that dies, the people that you think are going to be there forever at an early age. You never think that you’re going to lose people. And I did lose family members to death because of whatever reason. But you never think you’re going to lose your friends. And how this impacted our school. We’re a month and a half before high school graduation, and it destroyed the student body. 

I had impacted a student body for the rest of the year. The graduation was never the same. It wasn’t like the other year. And to this day, we still don’t do an annual reunion. 


It’s like nobody wants to talk for graduation. Nobody wasn’t gotten together. And if they do, it’s very low key. It’s not this big celebration like some people do. And it really did impact me quite a bit. The relationship, dating, getting into dating and getting married and working my career, being able to use my hands funny, a career that I could actually do. It really impacts the survivors. We often see when a fatal crash happens, that it’s the people that died, but it’s also the ones that survive. 

They’re the ones that really are impacted, you know, the ones that survive in the psychological damage that happens, the dealing with the suffering that accompanies that. 

And I think your story is incredibly powerful and really gets you in teams of especially the way you tell the story, in teams of how it happens. But what does it mean for somebody to truly say safe on the road? Because I think what you’re sharing is common. A lot of people don’t think about the hazards when they jump in a car, they don’t think about what could happen. What does it really mean to be safe on the road? You say about your choices, your responsibilities? What are the things I can do to really own how I show up on the road? 

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

Yeah. So that’s a great question because I said, well, this morning, when I was preparing for this and truly being truly a safe driver, is fun. The rule the road. It’s really that simple, not putting others at risk. And that includes people in your own vehicle. Really be looking at like, what behavior? Driving behaviors are you not following? Like, are you wearing your seat belt? Are you to your heads clear? Are you making sure that you’re driving the speed limit and not using your phone? Things like that there. 

I want to share something with you with your audience. One of the biggest things is we going to share your heads clear. And that’s not just alcohol. It’s also drugs, distractions, like smartphones and also your emotions, because we also talk about smartphones and putting the smartphones away. But it’s also your emotions, too. Have ever thought about how your emotions actually impact your driving in today’s society. We are so busy and so behind the gun. Sometimes we’re not even thinking about the road, right? Sometimes you’re late.  

You’re rushing through traffic with you’re only focused on not being late. Maybe you’re angry because this is the third time this week and you can’t afford to be fired. So, you have all these thoughts and stresses because you’re legitimately afraid of losing your job. And you may be angry with yourself because you’re always doing this. You’re always late. And maybe you’re angry that your partner because they just caused this big fight about something and it went way too long and now, you’re late. Your focus is not on driving.  

As you’re rushing through traffic or rushing around the corner, you rush around the corner, you hit the gases, you’re trying to spell the high the road and someone steps out in the street because you weren’t there a moment ago and you hit the brakes hard. But it’s not enough as your cars in that person, they bounce off your hood and Slam into the pavement. Now, I’m not going to finish the scenario as I want you to understand that the impacts on the world around you when you’re not paying attention to your driving and following the rules of the road and focusing on the road. 

Unfortunately, this happens way too often. Please slow down. You could save someone’s life. 

I think it’s incredibly important point. I know when it comes to me when it comes to getting into the car, the first thing I reflect on is really the state I’m in and really what really matters in terms of what are the experiences I want to have, the people that I love to really center in teams of the focus because like you said, as we’re late for a meeting or somebody cuts you off in front and really checking, even with the state and how I respond, even if you’re very focused, it’s very easy to get sidetracked to take a path that maybe you can’t return from them. 

Yeah. And I’m a human, too. I live in this world, too. I live in a busy city just as well. And I get caught up in this too time. At the time. I have a phrase I say that really has me come to be in check. And it’s a powerful phrase for me because it means a lot to me. It may be nothing to you but find something for yourself and my phrase. And I say, when I am in that moment, I say, Be the brand, be the brand. 

And the brand is road safety because I work with, I do a lot of work with the Insurance Corporation of Bridge, Columbia. So, I say be the brand. And what that means is, hey, if I want to talk about road safety, I got a broad safety. And so that simple be the brand phrase. I say it Ops me slow down. I get connected to what I’m doing now. I can’t really talk about road safety. 

If I’m being a hypocrite out of the street and then somebody takes a picture of us.  

Yeah, right. Weren’t you just talking to my kids last week about road safety, or weren’t you in the office? You how I do on road safety. 

I think you talk about being the brand. I think the other element is a lot of our listeners are leaders that want to drive improvements in safety or safety leaders. And the other element is, how do you impart this into others? How do you make sure that your teams stay safe? How do you reinforce the right teams? How are you aware of maybe some of the blind spots you might have that may inadvertently be putting pressure on somebody to just get there on time. 

Yeah. So as a leader, you can check in with your drivers to see where they are, how they’re managing the workload. They can drive safely, setting up protocols so that when your employees are driving, they are folks on the road and getting to their destination safely. Create some safe driving culture in your company to ensure everyone goes home safe. Also, create realistic time frame for getting work done. It’s okay to push the envelope for efficiency, to get things done to grow and to increase your efficiency with your job. 

But do it in a safe manner. Also agree with employees that they don’t use their phone with the driving, doing all the calling and texting and emailing before they drive or after they drive. When you’re on a call and you’re driving, you’re not 100% on that call. You’re not focus on that call and you’re not focused on driving either. Your kind of like split between the two of them. So, your work suffers because you’re lack of focus that and you’re running the risk of being involved in a vehicle crash as you’re not focusing the road. 

So, your customers, your coworkers, the work that you’re doing. Really, it deserves that focus on the call. So, if you got work to do, get it done before and create that environment with your company that you know what? Hey, take ten or 1520 minutes before you drive to do what you need to do so that you can focus on driving and the side benefit of that when your folks in the road and driving and you get a bit of a drive and you know that I can be doing this.  

It gives your brain a break. It gives your brain a break. And what happens? There is a lot of times if you have to do problem solving or running a scenario through your head, you can often do that in the back of your head while you’re driving all the time, and it comes easier. So just that unplugging for a moment. Sometimes, you know, like when you’re looking at, you’re trying to find a solution for something. It’s thinking so hard at it, and you just can’t find that solution, and then you take a break and then it’s Ops. 

Oh, I should have done that. Or I should do this. So, driving and just folks in the road allows your brain to take a break and really have that background process on your card. It helps reduce your stress as well. 

I think very important points, and I think it’s something that a lot of organizations, industries really need to think through in teams of how do I drive that culture? That environment. Would people make the sick choice as a leader? Am I role modeling this? If I’m expecting people not to take calls, what on the highway, am I doing the same myself, or am I setting the wrong message in teams of how I show up as a leader? 

Yeah. They can also hire us more like myself or to tell me to talk about road at in the impact of a failed vehicle crash, because oftentimes we’re not connected to the impacts and we drop our guard and we don’t follow the rules of the road, and we’re just not connected. And that’s just because it’s not our everyday life. We don’t live the impacts of every day. And it’s just natural to forget sometimes. And so, if you have somebody come in periodically to talk about the impacts of Throne safety. 

And as soon as I stand in front of a group there’s like, people see the real impact, and then I start talking and it just solidifies like, wow, this guy’s been through something horrific. And so, it really allows people to do. And when I present, I like to create no presentation but a conversation. So, when I deliver these talks, I like to really communicate with the people that I’m talking to and really engage with them and inspire thought and inspire case. So, what would this be like if this happened to you? 

How would your kids be impacted if you were injured at the job? Or how would your family be impacted if you lost your livelihood because of vehicle incident? And so, I want people just to think about the impacts of the choices, to really focus on being safer drivers. Now, in a perfect world, if everybody followed the rules, it’ll be super easy. It’d be super easy to follow. And if we pointed out, hey, that’s the bad apple. He needs to be punished. You know, it’d be super easy to follow the rules, but we don’t live in that perfect rule. 

So, we have to be the brand. We have to put ourselves an issue and, you know, take that stand and be that and be the willingness to stand for something different, stand for something and for the rules to be followed so that everybody goes home safe. 

I think it’s important what you do in teams of speaking to groups, to organization is very important because a lot of people don’t think that this is necessarily dangerous. 


We all drive almost every day, maybe a little bit less during the pandemic. But most of us spend time, lots of time in the car driving. And so, we figure we’ve done this for decades. We’re okay. And if you think about certain high-risk profession, it’s not uncommon that you have very high-risk profession. And there’s more injuries that happen driving than there is doing the high-risk job because your attentions on the job when you’re doing a high-risk job, and then when you’re driving, you assume I’ve got us covered. 

Yeah. I totally agree. I talked to Coalition in Texas last fall just about the transport, driving and things like that there and just live out, like how as drivers, we get so wrapped up and getting to point A or point B that we kind of forget about the safety aspect. And we need to really focus on, like, even though our job is when we get there, we still behind the wheel. That’s our job to being seen. And the financial cost of a crash. You know, the cost of the company at a brand level, like somebody drives by a crash where there is a fatal vehicle, fatal crash where there’s somebody had died. 

And there’s this company’s logo. I don’t want to say it’s like somebody’s across the side of the vehicle. There’s a social impact. A branding impact on that company is. 

And I think it’s an important point. And I think the other element is really how do you start shifting some of the industries that spend a lot of time on the road, a lot of windshield time. Take it seriously when it comes to road safety, because that needs to transpose into behaviors into how leaders show up in terms of expectations, in terms of what features you put in your cars, your trucks, whatever vehicle you’re driving on the road to make sure that you’re as safe as you can be. 

Yeah. And we really need to look at the real cost in society when a fatal vehicle crash happens, detach them a couple of times. There’s the financial cost. There’s the physical cost. When I say physical, I mean, if somebody is injured or hurt in a crash, the physical cost, their ability. Like me, I lost my use of the enemy fingers are limited use on my arms. There’s a physical cost when a crash happens. And then there’s also the financial cost to the company. And also, there’s the emotional cost. 

Like, how does this impact the people involved and the people that witness and say, for example, we’re getting back to going back to the office soon. So, most people have gone back to the office. And some people are getting back into going back to the office. And there may be some anxiety about going back to the office. And that plays a part in how you drive on that trip to work. You’re like less. It’s going to be like, Am I going to be safe and I’m going to be okay.  

This whole pandemic is really shaking everybody. And so, it just adds a different element. So, we can work with our drivers to look at what are some of the impacts of some of the possible challenges that they’re going to face when they drive. And if we can combat those and put into place strategic strategies to help with these situations, then we can make our drivers safer and we can make sure that our drivers go home. 

I think you also bring a very important point for really in teams. As people start coming back to the workplace. There’s also an element of people hasn’t had the practice. People that were traditionally maybe spending three or 4 hours commuting in big cities, back and forth between home and work have worked from home, and maybe he went to the grocery store here and there. But that’s a significant decrease in teams of windshield time. And in terms of practice of the road. 

I take my daughter to preschool and I’m kind of lazy sometimes and I drive two blocks. That’s a different commute than it is to be a difference, very, very different. 

And so, your exposure and a lot of cities have had a lot less traffic. So, a lot of the elements of people cutting you off the stress, I’m going to be late those bottlenecks even if you were commuting. Look, we’re going to look different in short order on really appreciate you sharing your story. I think it’s an incredibly moving story, very impactful. Hopefully, it helps people resonate on the importance of driver safety, both personally in teams of the choices they make, how they show up, but also as leaders in terms of how are they driving the right culture, the right environment where people making a I’d say choices that there isn’t enough. 

There isn’t too much production pressure where people feel rushed to drive a certain place. You obviously share your story help motivate people to really reflect on how they say save. How can someone get in touch with you? 

Yeah, they get in touch with to visit my website. John Westhaver. Com that’s J-O-H-N-W-E-S-T-H-A-V-E-R. Com. They can also email me John. John Westover. Com they can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all that stuff and also YouTube. But the best way to do is to visit my website or to email me. That’s the best way to reach out to me. We are booking in person’s presentations, but also a lot of virtual presentations. Because of this pandemic, I’ve actually been able to create a studio in my house where I can deliver remotely, so I can come into your company and deliver a talk to your company at various different locations, virtually from my own place. 

So, there’s no travel cost, which is great because it reduces the costs of having someone like myself come into the workplace and deliver talk. And I tell you I’m really engaging and we can also create custom packages for companies to bring safety messages on weekly level to their drivers so we can create all kinds of different things that really drive home that road safety message and being enrolling about it. My whole philosophy around all the stuff that I do is try not to preach to people because when we preach to people, the message gets lost because I’m telling you know what to do versus if I can share with you and enroll you and something possible when you become a safer driver, that’s going to drive change more and faster than if I preach to you and tell you that you’re bad and wrong for what you’re doing. 

So. John, thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing a story and really giving some thoughts around how can I choose to be a safer driver and how can I influence my teams to be safer on the road? Thank you. 

Like what we do, share this on your social and tell everyone. Thank you for listening to the Stacey Guru on C-suite radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack. Grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams, fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru. Eric Michrowski. 

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John Westhaver is masterful at driving home the importance of Road Safety. He uses his life experiences of surviving a fatal car crash at the age of 18, where he lost three friends and sustained life-threatening burns to 75% of his body. He has been speaking to audiences since 2002 and has impacted tens of thousands of people across Canada and the USA. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and is also a certified Virtual Presenter. On or off stage, he is a master at engaging and empowering people.

John’s focus is that road safety is everyone’s responsibility, and the choices you make in a vehicle impact everyone in your workplace, company, family and community. He motivates and drives home just how important it is to be a safe driver, not only at work but outside work. Masterful at empowering people to change their driver behaviours, John leaves the audience with lots to think about.

John works closely with ICBC (Insurance Company of British Columbia), educating youth about road safety for almost 15 years. His focus is on driver safety with companies and organizations of any size. He brings a fresh view and conversation to road safety, speaking from his experiences dealing with life as a burn survivor and all the trauma and suffering that ensues being the sole survivor. He is a living reason to become a safer driver and is masterful at driving home the importance of road safety.

His passion is helping others, and it shows. He volunteers with the Firefighters Burn Fund Victoria, BC Burn Survivor Support Group, helping others who have experienced burn trauma to navigate life after the trauma. He also serves on the board of the Firefighter’s Burn Fund Victoria, BC and the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers BC Chapter.

He has also been awarded for the work he does in the community. In 2012, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II, Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2017, he was also awarded the Coast Mental Health – Courage To Come Back Award.

Remember, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be a safe driver, and their choices impact how safe your workplace or school is. John is looking forward to driving home the importance of road safety with your company, organization or school. Connect with him today and make your company, organization or school the safest on the roads. Let’s ensure everyone gets to go home safe. Connect with John at