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Waking Up to the Dangers of Shortcuts: Powering Up Personal Accountability and Safety Ownership with Theo Venter

Waking Up to the Dangers of Shortcuts: Powering Up Personal Accountability and Safety Ownership



“It’s the buy-in. All the safety systems are there, but they are worth nothing without the buy-in.” Theo Venter, the only known survivor of a 22,000-volt electric shock, joins the podcast this week to share his powerful story and eye-opening message highlighting the inevitable dangers of shortcuts in the workplace. Tune in as Theo describes the psychological aspects that contribute to serious injuries and fatalities and unpacks actionable strategies for mitigating risk and powering up personal accountability and safety ownership in the workplace.


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

Hi, and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Theo Venter, who is an incredible inspirational speaker, but also one of the only people to have ever survived going through 22,000 volts through the heart and 1,200 amp. Unbelievable. Theo, welcome to the show. Glad you’re here. Why don’t we start with your story?

I am even more glad I’m here with you after hearing that what you just said. Sometimes when people say that it just is a different energy when I listen to it and I go, wow, I’m still standing here. Thanks for having me, Eric. Absolutely. I’ll just jump in if that’s okay. I’ll start a little bit further back. Born and raised, you might pick up a slight little accent in my voice, and I know it’s going to be hard to pick up, but it is from South Africa, the Spring rock country. Born and raised over there and then got opportunity to go to Australia and go and practice my trade, which was working on overhead power lines. I guess after about 10 years of working in the same industry, there was this specialized group that came in and they could work on live electrical power lines. So, you put these specialized big gloves and stuff on, and you put them on, and you can work actually on live power lines. So, I was very interested, went for the course and passed it. And then when I came to Australia, that was what brought me over because it was such a specialized trade. I was only here for six months when I set in my ways. My family came over for the last three months and we were now just settling into Australia. And it was a Monday morning. I woke up in the morning and it was just another day to me. I knew exactly what was going on. What was my whole week, what was it going to be? So, I got into my mood, and I jumped in, and I went to work and got to work. And the manager said to me, hey, Theo, he said to me something very strange that morning. He said, look, you got to go fix up this power pole outside of your normal work scope. And he said, I’m calling you in because you are the guy that gets the job done. He says, this is a really… There was an electrical storm. There was a lightning strike over the weekend. The pole got damaged. And he said, this thing is really badly damaged. So, I turned around Eric and I had this little ego boost, pep my stick.

And I said to, we have a three-man crew, I said to my boys, let’s go change the stuff on the truck and the Ute and get some other safety stuff on. And off we go to the Spell poll. And I remember doing a risk assessment that morning without my other two boys in there at the poll, and tick and flick boxes. You’re just a quick tick and flick and you’ve put a few things down. And I didn’t really, really, I wasn’t invested in that. And when the boys came in, we set up and started working on this pole. And my best mate, very good mate of mine, his name is Niko. He was in front of me. He started working on these live wires. And about half an hour in, he got really frustrated. And he said to me, he said, I can’t get this nut off this little 12-millimeter nut. I don’t know if you guys call it three quarter.


And I said to him, look, you must be tied. Let me have a go at it. And as soon as I stood right in front of this, and I’ve got to describe it. We’re standing 11 meters in the air. There’s a big steel cross arm in front of me. There are three insulators, which carries the three phases. And I remember, I couldn’t see where this nut sits, and I couldn’t feel it because of the gloves. And I knew that I’m the guy that gets the job done.

Right. You had heard that just before.

Because that just boosted my ego with this thing. And you know what it’s like for a young man.

And I guess at that stage, I thought if I could only put my fingers in there and could feel how this nut sits, it will be like a two second thing. I’ll just quickly put my finger in there, feel where it sits, get a socket in, and undo this nut. And I had a quick glance behind me of Niko, my best mate talking to the safety observer downstairs. And he didn’t look at me. And I went and I put my hands between my knees, and I started taking my gloves off. It was such a convenient choice. It was so easy. It was just a convenient choice. And when I put my hands in between my knees to start to take the gloves off, not for a single second did I even consider how many times they told me not to do it.

How many times in a meeting have they told us don’t do it. If it’s unsafe, don’t do it. In that minute, I was so focused on getting this job done that I didn’t think about it. I started pulling my gloves out, and the moment my gloves released out of my hands, I could feel the cold sweat on the wind, chillie wind. That moment, I had this massive gut feel. Have you ever done a bit… It’s just about to do something really stupid and you get this big feeling in your gut that something is going to go wrong? That moment when I got that gut feel, it was such a strong feeling that I paused and I went, oh, that is a real feeling. Then I was standing there for a couple of milliseconds, and I thought, Man, it is so convenient. It’s so easy. It’s right in front of me. I can just get you. Of course. So, you override that gut feeling, and you go in and you took it out. And I put my hands on that nut and everything was fine. I did it. The nut came off in about five seconds.

I was so happy with myself that I was standing back with a bigger smile on my face. And the next minute, the insulator now undone started moving and it was pure instinct. I had my right wrist on the steel cross arm and with the insulator a little bit to my left, I just grabbed it with my left arm, my left hand, and I didn’t know that there was that exposed section of that 22,000-volt line. And that moment I stuck my hand straight into that line, which made me just a little fuse between draining 22,000 volts, 1,200 straight through my heart, straight into the down to Earth.


That moment when that power took hold of me, it was like a truck hitting me at 100 Ks an hour. It just hit me and every muscle in my body, I remember feeling every single millisecond. I knew exactly what was going on, Eric. I was thinking about so many things, but I couldn’t do anything. It was just stuck on there. And I just stuck. And it was about two and a half seconds, which in electrical terms is a long time a lifetime. It’s lifelong. I lost consciousness. My knees gave in. I think my right wrist slipped off that steel cross arm and my lifeless body hit that bottom of that bucket. And that was the end of my life as I knew it. That was my last moments as I knew my life.

So, you went to the hospital. We’re blessed to still have you here. Tell me a little bit about the aftermath, the ripple effects, what transpired. Your family had just arrived three months prior.

Yeah. You see, what electricity in specific does is when you get hooked up, it creates a like a thousand degrees Celsius and it boils your blood inside your body. So, your soft organs, your heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, everything starts to boil up. And because of that, by the time they took me back to hospital, I was lying in that hospital bed, and I remember the last nurse, she was standing around my bed. After they stitched me up and bandaged me up and put all these tubes into my system with antibiotics and painkillers and stuff like that. And just before my wife walked in, she looked at me and she didn’t say much. But she was looking at me. I had eye contact for about 10 seconds, and I just realized that I’m going to die in his bed. I’ll never forget this moment when we’re just looking at each other, not saying a word. And she walked out, and I realized I know I’ve been in this industry; I know that the infection sets in and in a day, maybe, and you will die. And I remember my wife walking just after her. And as we were talking, she’s begging me not to die because we made this agreement that I was going to. And then I could hear my little princess is only five years old. She was outside and she was screaming and begging for her Daddy. And my two boys, I’ve got three kids and they were crying and begging. And I said to the doctors if they could bring my kids in and just give me a last chance because my kids just wanted to hug them and say goodbye. The doctor said I was so bad. I smelled so bad, and I looked so bad that, please don’t let the kids see you like this.

So, I made the decision not to say goodbye to my kids that day, that moment. And that was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I went into that night. You just count those seconds down and you know what goes through your mind the most is what made me take that shortcut? What made me choice? Why did I do it? Was it worth it? Was it worth taking that nut off? Was it worth putting my life on the line? When do you get so desensitized? What stage in a workplace, work site does you get so desensitized that you don’t even think about those material risks, the things that can kill you? And it just kept on spinning over and over and over in my mind. It was about five days later when they did tests on me and said, Theo, you’re going to make it. And during those five days, the only thing I could think of is knowing I was going to die was if someone could give me just one day with my family, one perfect day, one perfect day. It’s all I wanted, just one perfect day. And now when I stand in front of audiences, I’m asking them, have you ever thought of your own specific, personal perfect day?

What would it look like? Who were you enough with? Where would you go? Sure. They started surgeries. They removed all the dead tissue and tendons out of my arms that was dead because of gangrene. I went through 17 surgeries in the first just over a month. Every second day I had a surgery. They wanted to amputate my arms; they could save them. And then I was in hospital for quite a few months when I left. But then when I went home, it became worse because I went in there and my friends didn’t recognize me. I was now estranged from my wife. I was away from… The pressures on a relationship was just sky rocketing. I was in a dark room sitting there the whole time with severe pain. I had to depend on everyone to feed me. My hands didn’t work at all to help me wash, to wipe my bum, to do all these things. And I think about a few months in, depression kicked in and severe depression and anxiety. And it wasn’t long after that when my suicide thoughts were very real. That was the darkest ever. I’ve seen life in my life before. It was the darkest times.

I have to ask you, you know doing work around electricity, around high voltage, gloves are what blocks you from direct contact with the ground, becoming… Taking the energy down to the ground. You’re supposed to test your rubber gloves, in most cases every day, to make sure that there’s no fault, no challenge with the rubber gloves. Have you ever done anything like this before?

That is such a great question, Eric. Those gloves that you’re talking about, and it sounds like you know exactly what it was because those gloves are sacred to everyone. You take those gloves and you put them in a very soft pouch, and you do a pin test every day and you make sure that those… Because that’s the only thing that keeps you away from the beast. To answer your question, I want to go back one week before my incident. Just one week.


The Wednesday before my incident, we were standing. There was about eight of us, nine, 10 of us on a site. There was a power pole very similar to the one I was on. And there were two guys working up on this pole in an EWP in a bucket on a live line. And there was about six of us on the ground level. And it was about, I think, two, three hours in, maybe 10 o’clock in the morning when I was standing back from this pole to see how the guys going up there. And the one guy, as I looked up, the one guy didn’t have his gloves on. And I screamed. I screamed. I blew the whistle. I said, whoa, mate, you forgot your gloves. You haven’t got your gloves on. Because that was the cardinal sin. It’s like, you don’t do that. You forgot about it. The guy turned around and he looked at me downstairs and he laughed at me, and he said to me two things which I’ll never forget. He said, Theo, don’t ever tell anyone what you just seen and don’t ever try it yourself. This guy took his gloves off to do some work around the live power line.

Never seen it, never done it. Cardinal sin. No one should be doing this, right? Right. Two days later, I’m sitting in a safety meeting, the manager comes in and he closes, slams the door, closes. We about 100 of us sitting in a room. He starts the meeting, the safety meeting, off by everyone. He says, This doors are closed. This is a safe space. Everyone, please, could you talk to us about safety out there? Can you talk to us about is there anything that we can do better? Is there anything you want to bring up that people don’t do that safe? And the more he said these things, the more there was these 10 pairs of eyes right in the back of me waiting for Theo Venter to get up and say something because he’s the guy that gets the job done. What did you do? You know what I did?


Nothing. Couldn’t do it. Could not get up and say it. Could not. For some reason, I couldn’t do it. When my accident actually happened was that moment when I walked out of that room that day. I couldn’t bring it up. That’s where my incident happened because that was Friday afternoon, two days later, Monday morning, I was on a power pole standing there not knowing what to do with this thing. Then I remembered this guy last week that took his gloves off and he got the job done. And that is it. That was me. That was the incident right there. In other words, short answer to your question is, I’ve never done it, never seen it. First time I’ve done it. You know what? The guy that took the shortcut last week, must probably done it 30, 40 times. He always got away with it. It’s never the convenient choice. It’s never the shortcut that you take. It’s an unforeseen thing that happens while you’re taking a shortcut. It’s an extra thing that comes into play, that thing that no one knows about. You can get away with those shortcuts, but one day something is going to come up while you’re taking that convenient choice.

Which is what happened then. Something slipped, something moved. Unfortunately.

Yeah. 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 supervisor safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions, Propulo has you covered. Visit us at

So, it gets me to think a little bit about culture. What was the culture like? You talked about you get the job done. So presumably getting the job done is what was celebrated in some way, shape, or form. Others were blatantly cutting corners, at least one other person, on a cardinal rule. If you’re working next to any energized current at that level, you should never touch, not have the right gloves.

What was the culture like?

There was quite a number of things that came into perspective at that stage. There was the fact that because we were so new in Australia, we were still on a bridging visa, which means, you know where this is going, right? So, if you can do your job and you do it well and you can do it for long enough, you stay and you get your permanent residence. I didn’t come here to go back. So, there was a bit of pressure on… And please understand me very well, this is not excuses. These are things that was in place. I own 100 % what I did. 100 % I did. And that will always stay the way. But there was a bit of pressure on getting the job done. And in those days, they said to us in the cultured sense of things is look after your mates. Please go out there and look after your friends next to you, your brothers and sisters right next to you. Make sure everyone is safe. Do you know what I did in that meeting? I was looking after my brother. I was making sure he doesn’t get in trouble.

Yeah, because it’s reconstructing, which I’ve seen too often, what brother’s keeper means to protecting someone as opposed to protecting them from harm.

Yes, thank you. I was protecting my brother’s keeper by not saying anything. We’ve got a broke code out there and you don’t stab your brother in the back and that thing. So that was the culture because we were all in the same boat. We were protecting each other, and we wouldn’t do anything to hurt another guy. So that was, I think, the ground foundations of this culture. What they didn’t tell us at that stage, which after my incident for the last 10 years now, I’ve been searching for the reason why we do these things, regardless of the culture, regardless of whatever, why do we as individuals take these shortcuts? I went into behavioral science, and I went into all kinds of things that came up. Yes, there’s a lot of factors that make sense about all the other sciences, but there was one little thing that really got me in that moment when I just about to take my gloves off. Remember that real feeling in my gut? That really, it was in the back of my mind so long. What was that? I went and studied it. And this is pure biology, and I’d love to share this if that’s okay.

Absolutely. These are the things that just make so much more sense if we can teach our people and our people on our mine sites and our construction sites and these things. This basic concept is that we’ve all got a biology, we’ve all got a new cortex, a frontal cortex brain. It’s called the big brain in the front of your head is the one that calculates, it analyzes the path of least resistance. It speaks language and it understands, and it reads, and it writes, and it does all these things. That’s the part of the brain, if I say, calculates the path of least resistance. In the workplace, the path of least resistance, the easiest way to do, the most convenient way to do something is a shortcut. When we send our people to these work sites in the morning, we give them… They’ve got pre shift meetings and they need to do procedures and there’s swims and there’s all these things. And then they go out in the field, and they calculate all these things. And then they get to a place where they need to use a ladder, or they need to use something else. And this brain is so big and so powerful in front that I have now been working this brain, and I’m now taking the shift instead of the hammer because the hammer is too far and it’s not convenient to go there. And when there’s an incident, what do they do? They come back and they do the risk of the incident investigation, and they come, and they give you more procedures to go and read. So, they make the brain even younger.

There’s a little brain at the back, which they call the limbic brain. Now, this is the most amazing piece of little artwork that we have. And that is the brain that has got emotions and creativity. It deals in all these things. That’s the little part of the brain where safety gets unlocked. That’s where safety sits. When you feel unsafe, it’ll put chemicals into your body and say, watch out, there’s a snake, or whatever it is. That is the part of the brain that sends the signal to your gut. Have you ever heard of these people that needs to make a decision, oh, I don’t know if I need to go to the to use my head or my heart? Those are the two brains. Unfortunately, I don’t want to disappoint most of our listeners, but we don’t have a feeling in our gut. Sorry. That part of the brain sends that signal to your gut because it knows the gut is such a strong overpowering thing. So, when I put my hands between my knees, that little brain sent it in and said, don’t do it, Theo. Don’t do it. But I haven’t trained that brain.

I didn’t have the tool to understand and trust and respect that trust, that gut feel to go and listen to it and stand back and to say to my mate next to me, hey, Niko, does this feel right to you if I do this? I bet you wouldn’t have said no. But because of the frontal cortex is so strong, it will overpower that brain every single time. And if we could give our people out there just that little training every two, three minutes in the morning just to understand and trust that gut feel, that limbic brain, then they’ve got at least a chance of fighting against each other and say, I trust my gut. I will not do it. Last thing I want to say is, do you know how many people I spoke to that I said, have you ever had that feeling just before you get something done that you shouldn’t be doing it? Everyone goes, yes. Then I said, and then you do it anyway. They go, Oh, yes. That’s it. That’s a start anyway. But nearly everybody who’s been on our podcast who shared who’s been injured talks about that gut feel, a reaction just before. Almost unanimously, somebody has this feeling just before, but they still march forward.

That’s the golden nugget, isn’t it? I’ve been giving out little 12-millimeter nuts in every single presentation I have done to every single person. There must be about 250,000 nuts on key rings out there. I call that your gut feel, your why, your reason, your gut feel. At least there’s something they can hold on to sometimes, or they see it on the key ring, and they go, wow, I remember that. I trust my gut. I trust my feelings.

Let’s get to the topic you touched on before, which is getting to a perfect day. When you talk to audiences, you present your story, you get them to think about that perfect day. So, tell me about how you convey that message, because that’s also the decision you want people to reflect on before you take your gloves off, say, Is it really worth it?

Yeah. Eric, there’s six points that I highlight throughout my presentation if we want to get a little bit technical. They are there for a very specific reason, and it doesn’t matter if it’s an electrical industry or ice cream industry or the construction industry or whatever it is. These six points are the things that will take us forward. It’s personal development. Safety is a product of personal development. What we do is we count our mistakes. We count how many incidents and injuries we’ve had last month. And then we go this month, and we say, oh, we screwed up so many times last month, but this month is so much better. Wow. Because we only injured five people. And then next month, oh, we went a little bit worse. Instead of trying to stay away from… The human brain is amazing. Why not think of something good? Why don’t show people what good looks like? Give them something to aspire to. So, what I’ve done to Teams is after my presentation, when they are very much involved in their limbic brain and their feelings and emotions is out there, I will go into a session which I call the mission statement or whatever you want to call it.

It is to ask them as a group, as a team, what is the perfect day for them? And then we’ll write it on the board. They want respect and honesty and openness and all these things. And then I give them a sentence, we create a world in our industry that open and honest and through positive communication and these things. So, I show them what good looks like. I show them their perfect day at work. And then when they get in tomorrow morning and we ask them, is everyone is still aligned to your perfect day? In other words, we picked their value up and aligned it with the company values. Now that value is there. And when you think about something that you want to aspire to, which is good, then it comes naturally that you want to help your friend, your brother’s keeper. Those things just fall into place instead of trying to run away from the bad things and not let bad things happen. If I tell you there’s not a pink elephant behind me, it’s already in your mind. You know what I’m saying? It’s already there. So, if you tell them that that’s what your perfect day looks like, and I’ve done this to so many teams before, the culture which we touched on earlier switches immediately because now we’re looking at something great.

Let’s touch on another topic that you cover as well in your talks around ownership and accountability, which is important theme. You’re talking about your personal ownership in the circumstances, but there’s also the ownership, the accountability of leaders. Tell me a little bit about how you present this theme.

Yes, very important. I tie that into my presentation and my story as what I’ve said earlier is before we left my home country, I made a very stern agreement with my wife and my kids, people I love most in life. And I said to them, I will make sure that this agreement is that we will go over there and live a beautiful life. But I broke my agreement when I took my gloves off. And when I broke that, I had to own it. I remember my dad always said to me, if you can speak the truth in your vulnerability, you are within your power. I could not do anything else but speak the truth to everyone and said I did take my gloves off and I own it and I broke the agreement with the people I love most in life. Now at the end of the presentation, when I say, keep your agreements, that’s one of the six points. When you make an agreement with someone, if it’s a pre shift meeting in the morning or with your life, your kids, personal or work, if you keep that agreement, you become the proudest person in the world because of what you’ve done.

That creates accountability and ownership because you are now accountable for you, and you know why you do it because that’s what you want to keep. You want to keep, and you want to be a proud person in the world. That starts to form an accountability program, which in the morning you go back to, and you go, all right, is everyone still aligned with our perfect day? Can we make an agreement that everyone will go out there and conform to the regulatory authorities? Make sure that everyone is safe out there. And now we aspire to something good, we make the agreement that keeps you accountable for that. And then they will go out and look after each other because we are twisted and turned from going back to something what good looks like. I know it sounds a little harsh and quick right now, but I did write a book about it, me and Ken, so you can go and have a look at the book. It’s much better.

Very important theme. One last question, if I may. You touched on it briefly. You talked about rules, so cause evaluations, we find what happened, we create a new rule. And I agree, rules do need to exist. Rules are important. Safety at the end of the day is about adherence to rules. But you touched on something that’s really important is it’s not just about the rules. Because when you’re alone, and in this particular case, you’re pretty much alone because your friend wasn’t looking at you, so you didn’t really have a peer check. You need to buy in. You knew this was not the right thing to do. That was a cardinal rule that’s ingrained if you’re working next to a 22k V line. What does it take to drive the right choice? Rules are important, but you touched on something that’s really important here.

You just said it. It’s the buying. Our industry out there has now for the last 100 years, less than 100 years, fine-tuned our rules, our procedures, and from government side all the way down, it’s been there, and it will always be there. All the rules, all the systems, all the safety systems are there, but they are worth nothing without the buying. Absolutely nothing. And we need to create buying to these rules to understand and to give the people out there the chance to believe in the systems. Yes, I agree with you. They are important. They need to be there. I 100 % fine. But how do we create the buying? How do we get the guy downstairs, the 18-year-old just getting onto a site, or the guy that’s been there, that’s 40 years old. And I don’t know about your statistics, but the 40- to 45-year-olds in this country is the guys that get injured most because they think they’ve seen it all and then they get complacent and that’s one of these and convenient. So, the buying to these rules is absolutely paramount and we need to find a way how to get our people to buy into it.

I think I’ve broke the code and I know how to do it and I’ve seen, and I’ve proven that it can be done. Once you create the culture that supports the buying and everyone inspires to do something that is out there and that good looks like as a team and some camaraderie and your brother’s keeper, all these things come into play and the whole culture starts to shift. And that’s a beautiful thing to see. I’ve seen it many times before.

There’s somebody who was in the trade who told me once, and I don’t know if it’s true, but he said all the rules when it comes to electricity were written in blood. But if you follow all the rules that exist, there’s no reason to get seriously injured or to die. That basically, we know the universe of what we need to do. It’s just we need to actually consistently do it even when we encounter hookup issues, challenges.

True, true words. 100 % true words.

Yeah, love it. Theo, thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s a very powerful story. I still can’t wrap my head. I’m happy and thrilled that you survived 22 K Vs, 1,200 Amps. It’s surreal. But thank you for being here, for sharing your story. Incredibly powerful message. If somebody wants to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

I am just about to embark on a world tour next year. So, if you want to be part of that world tour, you can find me at So, it’s Theo, my last name is V E N T E You can find me there. I’m on Facebook and Instagram and all those sites and everything else. Also, on LinkedIn at Theo venter, so you can catch me on LinkedIn. Look out for me coming around maybe your area. I will be around the Canadian areas and all the way down. So, looking forward to coming and make a huge impact. If it’s only a presentation, that’s fine. I’ll come and inspire your team to walk away. But I also do a lot of other stuff in between as well. Coachable leadership training and those things.

Excellent. Thank you so much, Theo. Really appreciate you taking the time. I know you’ve got a big day in front of you in the outback, which is going to be considerably colder than summer up here.

Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Cheers. Thank you.

Thank you for listening to the Safety Guru on C-Suite Radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success. Capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Elevate your safety. Like every successful athlete, top leaders continuously invest in their safety leadership with an expert coach to boost safety performance. Begin your journey at execsafetycoach. com. Come back in two weeks for the next episode with your host, Eric Michrowski. This podcast is powered by Propulo Consulting.

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Theo Venter is the only known survivor of a 22,000 volt electrical shock through the heart and shares his amazing story with audiences across the globe. When he removed his insulated gloves while working on a damaged transmission pole, he made a decision that would impact himself and his family in ways he couldn’t have imagined.

But why would an experienced liney make what hindsight would tell you was such a poor decision? Theo captures the precise moment he puts his insulated gloves between his knees and removed his hands. He shares his thoughts, his feelings and more importantly his motives leading up to the exact moment of impact. Co-Author of “Get Real: Staying Alive For A Living” and “Convenience Kills”, Theo is a seasoned veteran who will assist your Managers and Leaders and every Member of your team, to truly understand the ‘real’ psychology of incidents—with first-hand experience.

Theo will make you discover something about yourself you didn’t know. About your innate human nature. That although taking risks is normal and inherent in every human being, you could potentially be the next fatality at your workplace. That’s why it’s important to talk about it and bring it out in the open. By allowing Theo to share his story, people are impacted in a way that they are reminded of what can go horribly wrong when they take a shortcut.

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Connecting with your Safety Audience with Tricia Kagerer

The Safety Guru with Tricia Kagerer



In conversation with Tricia Kagerer, the author of The B Words, discussing women in non-traditional roles in the workplace, including safety and risk management. Topics covered include workplace diversity, corporate social responsibility and servant leadership. Tricia advocates for the importance of financial literacy and bridging the missing link regarding the impact of safety and wellbeing initiatives on the bottom line. Listen to discover how to gain freedom from society’s prohibition and from your inhibition, to drive positivity and achieve success! 


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

Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. My name is Eric Michrowski, your host. And today I’m very excited to have with me Trisha Kagerer. She’s the EVP of Risk Management for Jordan Foster Construction and also the author of the B-words, a recently published book. So, Tricia, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for having me this morning.

Absolutely. So, tell me a little bit about your story and what triggered you to write the book and also the work that you did in safety that got you to where you are today.

Sure, absolutely. So, I have been what I call the only for a long time, I’ve been in safety and risk management and most recently in the construction industry for more than 20 years. And I found myself in a pretty lonely place as an executive of a construction company working both in safety and construction. There really weren’t a lot of women throughout the course of my career in the 20 years in whether it be construction, whether it be the safety industry.

And so, as I said, the more I am as I got better and got more career oriented and started climbing the proverbial corporate ladder, I realized that there really wasn’t anybody that I could ask for advice or go back and try to network with. And so, I realized that it was maybe I had something to say about that. And I’ve always had a passion for writing. So, I decided to come up with the idea of writing the book called The B Words.

It’s 13 B-words women must navigate for success. The goal is to really just my goal at this point in my career is to open as many doors as I possibly can for women in nontraditional roles in the workplace. I’d like to actually do away with the term nontraditional roles. I would like it to be where people from an inclusion perspective can pursue the career that they believe is most valuable to them. And so, this is my contribution to that mission.

That’s phenomenal. So, when we were talking originally, you talked about some of the words within it. Some of the is one of the themes that really resonated with me was around this theme around bridges and really the link when it comes to women in the workplace, but also even in terms of safety professionals in the workplace, is the world is changing around us and we’ve got to adapt how we connect with audience. Tell me a little bit more about the Bridges chapter and some of your thoughts there, particularly as it relates to how people in safety can have bigger impacts on outcomes.

OK, so absolutely. So, the reality is I started writing this book right after the me-too movement, so but I had a clear intention in mind. I didn’t want it to be a male bashing book. I think there’s a lot of stories. Every chapter is presented with a word and some statistics related to that word and then women’s or just stories that promote it. And then each chapter has a breakthrough, which is solutions. I don’t like to present problems without solutions.

So, with the Bridges chapter, I realized that if we discount 50 percent of the population because everyone’s just angry and that we’re never going to facilitate any change at all. And so, I realized that I wanted this book to speak to both men and women and how we can work together to create opportunities that, yes, there are definitely some challenges that we have a lot of work to do. So, one of the things that the Bridges chapter touches on is the reality is the world is changing.

So, as and executives are running companies and with the intent of making a profit so very similar to safety. Safety is a way to when we do safety right. And we have safety and productivity and quality all working in conjunction. We don’t have money going out the back door that that we don’t recognize. It’s the same thing with diversity. There has to be our customer base is changing. Our workforce is changing. And quite frankly, if the only people making decisions all look the same and are all out of touch with our culture of our organizations, they’re not going to be profitable.

And so that’s kind of where it comes from.

But I think it’s a really important topic is really the diversity that you bring has to be connected and is so critical to the changing workplace. You’ve got different generations of people of different backgrounds. You need to find a way to connect in in all spaces, but definitely in the safety space.

Absolutely. So, if people in the chairs at the table, at the proverbial table are all, well, quite frankly, male white men in their right over 50. But our workforce is diverse and our industries and our customers and our external partners are changing. There’s a disconnect. So, we want to open that table and pull up a chair to the next generation. And it will look different than what we’ve had in the past. And that’s really what I speak to.

And the breakthrough talk about how do you do that partnership? Just recognizing and there’s a bit of an issue with sometimes I think there’s an issue with the status quo. So, for the if I open a chair at the table for someone who doesn’t look like me, then that’s a space that can’t be taken, that’s taken by someone else. But I just really believe that there’s an abundance of opportunity for everyone. We just have to shift our mindset and then recognize some of those bias, which is another B word.

Right, that are holding us back from making those changes. One of one of the challenges, too, is a lot of companies say, OK, I have a diversity program. And the reality is, if the culture isn’t ready for it, just like safety, you’re going to fail. So, you try to realize that. Are you really in tune with those that you’re intending to serve and as your culture ready for it?

And how do you how do you drive that forward so you can bring that diversity as well to the table, which is really important.

Absolutely, it’s critical to the future of organizations and with everything that’s going on in the world now, I really think that organizations that don’t get it and don’t buy into potentially change at some point that it’s a risk. I’m in risk management, too. So, it’s a risk that they won’t survive. I don’t believe that people are getting more savvy about who they’re working for, the products that they’re buying, and they’re looking to organizations to step up and care about things like inclusion and diversity and how we treat people in the workplace, which it’s time.

And I think the other element is, is if you want to attract the best talent and there certainly be choosier, what am I seeing at the table and who’s showing up? That best talent is probably going to be also the safest talent at the table. And if I start being choosy, I remember there was one project that I went to visit on the Gulf Coast and it was an incredibly progressive project. It was a phenomenal site. People wanted to be there.

The leadership was incredibly in line around safety, but just the culture was phenomenal. And what was interesting is nobody wanted to leave. They had access to the best talent that almost no attritional no issues around absenteeism compared to all the other projects around them. But a lot of it was because people chose to be there. So, lo and behold, it was also the safest site you could possibly get to.

So absolutely, that’s huge. It’s really huge to create a place where people want to stay. It’s exactly it’s all about the money, but it’s not it’s really about being a part of something bigger than ourselves and feeling like we’re appreciated and that we are. And safety is the best way to do that. Right. So, when we when we’re when we’re empowering people to be safe, as this is the way we are going to approach our business, there’s nothing more rewarding.

Right. But to get it right, you have to you have to consider all of it. It’s a bigger picture so than just compliance.

I agree, so the topics. Is this concept of servant leadership and building more relationships, connecting with the audience, which is very much linked to what we’re talking about, bridges, can you can you share some of your thoughts, your wisdom around kind of the theme of server leadership? How do you make it happen and the importance of it?

Absolutely, so I stumbled upon the term servant leadership maybe 10 – 15 years ago and realized that I didn’t know that there was such a, you know, a concept of it, like it was established. It was just something that I think my parents raised me to service in that way. And so, it came naturally to me that it didn’t I didn’t know it had like a title or something like that. So, I started reading quite a bit about it.

And but it’s just treating people the way you’d want to be treated yourself, whether that comes to safety. So, I think the days of safety professionals running out and writing people up and being, you know, with the hammer, there’s a place for discipline, but it’s not the place to create lasting change on projects. So, I do believe that there has to be an education approach and in service to others approach and kind of what we’re doing. And toward Fosters, we’ve created a field safety leader program.

And so not only we’ve identified leaders without a title. So, there are people that are in the field after the daily huddle who are who are the guys going to say, OK, now, what did they just say and what is it that we’re getting then? And we’ve identified those leaders and we’re training them not only to help the eyes and ears related to all of the necessary things we need to do on the safety side of things. But more most importantly, in my mind, is how to communicate, how to conflict resolution skills, leadership skills, knowing yourself to lead yourself.

How do you become a leader that people would want to follow? And what is it like being on the other side of you? And so, I think we’re one of we’re really having a phenomenal success with this program because instead of it being, oh, we’ve given someone a vast and power and now all of a sudden, my coworker is out to report me that that’s how a lot of these initiatives end up with the with the servant leader approach, where you’re giving people tools to be better communicators in service to others.

It really resonates with everyone.

I love it, this is this is really phenomenal, and can you share maybe a little bit more about how you’ve been able to increase the impact of safety by connected connecting to the language of business? You alluded a little bit around it when you were talking about bridges. I think this is something that’s really important is how do you connect with your audience? Had you spoken to the C-Suite around the importance, the criticality of driving safety forward, what are some of your tips or pearls of wisdom around that topic?

So basically, having worked my way up to the C-Suite, I realized early on that I was more kind of going back to that sort of leadership concept. I wanted to do things for the greater good of the people. But if I didn’t speak the language of money and finance, oftentimes I would find myself not resonating with the decision makers. So and so I and I see this as something when I’m out meeting with safety professionals. I think you have to learn the language of money as well.

You have to speak the board. You have to speak to how your initiatives are going to impact the bottom line. So, for example, years ago I wanted to do a wellness program and I was so excited about it because I thought, oh, this is going to be so great. We’re going to be in the field. We’re going to bring resources to people that have never received those resources before. And it’s going to be wonderful. And I went and I pitched it exactly that way to the CFO and he said, that’s great, Tricia, and that’s really, really nice.

But how much is it going to cost me? And so, I went back a few months later. So of course, the answer was no, because I didn’t have an answer. So, I went back and did my cost benefit analysis and looked at how we were going to reduce incidence and we were going to reduce claims related to soft tissue and all of these other issues that that could potentially have dollars, again, going out the back door and was successful the next time around talking about the bottom-line performance.

So, I think that’s a missing link. Often with safety. We know so much as safety professionals there’s this wealth of information that we have to be experts on. And yet if we can’t speak the language of money, it doesn’t resonate. I talk about that in the B words, too, for women as well. One of the challenges is our society and our culture. The reality is with many in many cases, women are raised to think that someone else should be responsible for them for their finances.

And I empower women to, whether you’re married or not or single or you want to start your own business, whatever it is, you need to learn to speak the language of money. So, I learned that in the safety world. And then I translated that message to the boards, too, because it’s the most important thing in the world when you know where you’re going and you know the financial aspect that you need to attain to get there. It’s funny, people say, I want to start my own business.

The next question is how much money do you need to do that? And they say, I don’t have enough money. And that’s a limiting belief. Well, if you don’t know what you need, then you’re never going to get there. And it’s the same thing with a safety budget. So, it just kind of its parallel in both of my universes.

So, it gets me to my last question. Your book is really about how do you break down barriers? How do you make a difference how you build a more authentic life? Can you share a little bit about women in leadership, some of the key topics that you cover in in your book?

Absolutely. So, I start with a foundation of self-defined success, so my success doesn’t look like anybody else’s, and I think that there’s a tendency for people to always look and say, well, this is what I want or there’s why would that person work when they should be home and all of those things? There’s a lot of that. So, I start with my success isn’t doesn’t look like anybody else’s. And that goes back to beliefs. And I think that one of the core chapters of beliefs is what is prohibition?

What is our society telling us we can’t do? And what is inhibition? What is that voice in your head telling you can’t do? And once you tap into those, if you recognize that voice and you can, you can change it. And you can also realize what and this is for men and women. What is it, a limiting belief or who told you? What if it’s wrong? What if it’s not true? What if there’s a doubt that is not true?

Then it opens the door. So, if women aren’t supposed to be engineers or women aren’t supposed to sit at the table, for example, I know we’ve made a lot of progress, but the same things are still resonating with this year with covid. I think we’re losing women. Women are leaving the workforce. We’re broke. But that goes back to organizational cultures. Where can we create environments where we do? The reality is we do need to now until the vaccine is out, take care of our children.

Somebody needs to educate them as well with the help of our teachers. If we’re not looking at that, you’re going to miss out on most of your workforce. So, I touch on bias. I touch on, of course, the biggest proverbial B word of all is bitch as I grew from in my career and became much more confident in my opinion and my knowledge base there, it suddenly becomes. So, wow, she’s a bitch, you know?

So how do I deal with that? So, I talk about that from a male and a female perspective is what’s going on in your head that why is it that if a confident, assertive woman is seen as a bitch, so there’s lots of sides to that as well. And then everything from bullies to bad ass, what does it take to become a badass and embrace your own personal view of the world? Because there’s something to be said for people who are confidently showing up every day and are comfortable in their own skin.

And that’s my goal, is to create a generation and do my part to help women in particular achieve that.

Yeah, so I think thank you for taking the time to write the book, to share your messages. I think there’s some very, very strong, important messages here for organizations, for individuals and really in terms of how we can comment on the limiting belief is a very, very powerful one. And it applies into so many spaces. You see it even in the safety space where people have this limiting belief of, I can only improve safety or quality productivity, whichever you’re trying to chase, as opposed to saying how do I improve all of them at the same time.

So, you see it in. Of life, people create these beliefs that I can’t break through this, but you can, you absolutely can. And it’s all it goes back to changing what someone decided is the truth and questioning it. And I think that’s safety. One hundred percent. If it’s all about compliance, it’s never going to be part of how they do business successfully. And therefore, you will always be separate and siloed. And so, the goal is to create an environment where safety is a part of how operations is successful.

So, it’s a predictor of success as well. Right. You’re going to be successful in life if you believe you can do you can be successful. If you don’t, then odds are you won’t.

Absolutely. It’s a much it’s a much better way to go through life being believing that in possibilities than shooting yourself in the foot before you even let yourself dream.

So, but there’s a lot of negativity out there. And so, this is my goal to kind of break some of those barriers and maybe by writing about it, it can potentially change someone’s mind and maybe somebody will adopt a different way of thinking. So that’s really what it’s all about on a person. And I really appreciate you, as I said before, kind of putting your thoughts in your books, giving some ideas, this incredibly important topic.

And thank you as well for the work you’re doing to improve safety in the construction space. So, Trisha, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show. Wish you continued success both with your book as well as in your career. And thank you for joining us today.

Thank you so much. The books available on Amazon, the B word. Thirteen words women navigate for success or on my website, Tricia Kagerer Dotcom.

Excellent. Well, thank you very much for joining and then encourage you to pick up a copy of the book.

Thank you so much. It was great to be with you today.

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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Tricia Kagerer, Author & EVP of Risk Management at Jordan Foster Construction

Tricia is the Executive Vice President of Risk Management for Jordan Foster Construction a large construction organization that performs civil, multifamily and general contracting across Texas. Tricia leads the risk management, safety and leadership teams.

Tricia is a construction industry expert and speaker on various leadership, risk management and safety topics, including crisis management, emergency response best practices, education across cultures, and servant leadership and diversity.

She holds a master’s degree in dispute resolution from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and her bachelor of science in business administration and bachelor of arts in communication—public relations from Regis University in Denver, Colorado.

Tricia is the author of the book The B Words: 13 Words Every Woman Must Navigate on the Journey to Self-Defined Success” where she highlights challenges and breakthrough strategies for women entering non-traditional roles in the workplace.

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Making Safety Personal with Kina Hart

The Safety Guru Podcast with Kina Hart



Workplace Safety is critical for employees to be able to go home to their loved ones each and every day. In this episode we explore the importance of Safety Leadership and effective Safety Culture in the workplace with Kina Hart, an inspirational speaker for Workplace Safety who tragically lost her arm in a summer job workplace accident. Tune in as she shares her insights on safety communication and participation, active caring and the zero tolerance method.


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

Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Kina Hart, who’s safety speaker, travels all around the country in normal days, but as much in covid times talking about the importance of safety, the impact on families. So welcome to the show. Really excited to have you with me today.

Thank you, Eric. I’m very excited to be here and I appreciate this opportunity.

Excellent. Thanks. So, Kina, why don’t you start up by sharing a little bit about your you got to this space where you’re you speak about safety to so many different companies across the US.

Great. I think that’s a fantastic place to start. I, I actually was injured in a workplace accident when I was 20 years old. I was a sophomore in college, heading to Alaska for the summer to work to pay for the remainder of my at least I thought the remainder of my college, but at least a year. So, my best friend and I decided to go to Alaska and work in the fish processing industry up there because it’s a great summer job where, you know, you can make quite a bit of money.

We got up there, though, and there wasn’t any work happening. We were all sitting around waiting for the fish to come in. I was getting pretty anxious about that because I really needed this job and I really needed it to help me pay for school. So, I ended up going to my foreman and basically begging him to let me work and to tell you the truth, I probably wasn’t going to take no for an answer. And he reluctantly, but he did decide to go ahead and let me work the next day on the cleanup crew.

Unfortunately, I presented myself as somebody who knew what I was doing, and I didn’t, I had no prior knowledge of this industry, I had no experience and we were just cleaning conveyor belts. It was a team of us. There’s five of us there that morning and somebody turned them a conveyor belt on while I was cleaning it. And I ended up getting my left arm tangled into the ANDULA that resulted in a traumatic amputation of my left arm and a complete change of my life.

From then on, I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I spent a lot of time recovering. But all in all, I feel like. Being faced with that adversity, right, so young. I feel like I was so happy and so grateful to be alive, that that’s part of the reason that I recovered so well. It took me about a year to recover. Throughout my life, though, I’ve always wanted to talk to people about my injury and thinking it would be a great maybe a motivational piece.

Now, through all that, I’ve talked to other people and they knew what happened to me and then came along and said, hey, we really story would work well with our business, can you come and talk to our people about safety and what went wrong the day you got hurt? And I said, sure, I’d love to do that. And I did that. And it was so well received that that was the very day I decided to start my business.

And that was 10 years ago. And that very day I started my company and I started speaking and I just asked people, hey, if you know somebody that I could come talk to, please let them know that I’m available and I’m ready to do this. And it has snowballed from there. And I’ve loved every second of it because I feel like this is truly my purpose. It’s my passion. And that’s exactly what I feel like I’m meant to do.

That’s phenomenal. And it’s really amazing that you’ve taken this opportunity to share in the story and really communicate the importance of safety across different organizations. Can you maybe share a little bit about the impact that safety has on families and loved ones and both from your personal experience but also from some of the interactions you had with people as you travel?

Yes, definitely. That’s one of the biggest parts of my presentation, honestly, is that ripple effect that happens when somebody is injured. When I was injured. And who I talk about most in my presentation is my dad. It crushed my dad. And this injury was 30 years ago. Still to this day, my dad, he doesn’t want to have a conversation about it. It hurts him to his core to think his little girl was up in Alaska and almost died.

I was resuscitated three times. But, you know, I’m Daddy’s girl, and he felt so guilty that he wasn’t able to pay for school. For me, that’s the reason was going to Alaska to pay for college. And his guilt comes from I wish that I had the money and I wish I would have just gotten a different job and paid for school for you. So, when I have memories of being in the hospital and having my dad at my bedside crying, I mean, just my strong dad who’s a logger, you know?

Those memories are difficult. And I’ll tell you, out of all my memories and when I think about this injury, that’s what breaks my heart to this day, is other people’s stories about what happened that day and how they felt and how it impacted and how it changed the life. Not necessarily all bad, but most of them are the stories are heartbreaking. It’s my dad, me picturing my dad answering the phone and just. Crying, sitting on the floor, crying after my sister found out he didn’t even know where to go or or what to do, you know, it’s my mom dropping to her knees is the heartbreaking.

So, when I think about stuff like that, it’s still so fresh, even this long, this has happened a while ago. And I hear people when I’m speaking at companies and they come and they talk to me afterwards, they tell me about their own personal story. I am not kidding you when I tell you that one hundred percent of the time, that’s where their heartbreak is to its look at what I’ve done to my family. Look at the people that I’ve hurt because I made a choice that I thought maybe it was OK or maybe I didn’t think it was OK, but I didn’t think about the fact that it would hurt other people.

I think that’s an incredibly powerful message, and in many cases, it may not even be realizing that this choice could have such ramifications, so many people make choices that can get them in harm’s way, not even necessarily expecting what could happen. One of the things that when we’ve talked about when we connected originally talked about that really resonated with me was really this concept of making safety personal. Speaking from the heart, you’re obviously doing that now. Too often I see leaders, executives not putting enough heart, enough making it personal.

Can you can you talk more about what you’ve seen in this front and how leaders can show up in such a way that really does make a difference?

One of the things that I’ve seen traveling too different. Companies, if you can almost feel when somebody has a good safety culture, you can almost feel it right when you walk in through the door, there is a different attitude with their employees and there’s a different attitude and leadership. And so, I’ve wondered along the way, why is that? Why is it that some places seem like they like they have it together, they have it going on, they are keeping their people safe and they’re all on board.

And then you walk into another place and you have. Almost a dissension between leadership and workers, like there’s no teamwork, there’s it’s not a together, it’s not a family, I guess I would say. And one of the things that I’ve seen in the difference is. Those. Very heartfelt, very sincere, very genuine leaders that are really in there with their employees and they’re letting them know every day, hey, I’m here for you. If there’s an issue that’s a safety issue, you’ve got to let me know because I’m not there.

You are. So, you’re the person I’m relying on to let me know that you need something. But then that leader takes it a step further and actually does something about it. When somebody does come to them with some type of complaint or worry or, you know, somewhere where they’re saying safety isn’t a priority. These companies that have safety be a priority. It’s not just a priority with statistics and with numbers and that type of thing. It’s a priority within the people they see.

Their employees are wanting this. They’re not doing it because they have to. They’re not doing it because they’re trying to get a number up or trying to save the company money. They’re doing it because they’re actually finally they’re on board with, hey, this is about me. This is about me going home safe to my family. And my company agrees with that. My company is saying they care enough about me to keep me safe. What I see is that leadership and safety.

It has to be one hundred percent of the time, it can’t be, it can’t be. We’re going to be safe most of the time where our employees are going to be safe only when we’re watching them. But you’re motivating your employees to be safe 100 percent of the time because they’re making it personal. They’re making it about their stuff themselves and really great leaders. Make that happen.

Yeah, I couldn’t echo that more. I would have come to the same conclusion is, is leaders that are great safety leaders have a way to personalize that. They have a story there, why it matters why it is relevant. They’re asking people to do more. And I think that’s so important is it can be something as just about a statistic. It can’t be about making a no bonus. No, it’s got to be something that they hold from the heart and really want to make a genuine difference.

Think about a new team member. Come on board. How do I make sure that I convey the importance of safety? It’s not about the company because it’s not even about the safety person, because the safety person, it could be a new person that comes in. But you can’t replace the impact that you’ve had on some of these families or loved ones, et cetera.

Right. And if you think about when I’m speaking, it’s one of the things that I say when I’m speaking. And I truly believe that I do not want to go to a meeting and talk to somebody who’s had. I literally am trying to connect with their heart, because if you think about your own memories and your life and things that you’ve done, the things you remember and the things that are impactful to you are things that have touched your heart.

So somehow you make that connection and you can make a connection with safety and somebody’s feelings and somebody’s heart because it’s there. It is that it’s their family. It’s why they would want to work safe, why they want to go home today with both their arms and both their legs and every part of their body connected. You know, it’s those things that we need to put together and there really needs to be. And this can only come from leadership.

I think there needs to be an absolute zero tolerance for any violations in policy and procedures. This has to be there. And to me, putting it there and having that zero tolerance is showing, hey, I care enough about you that I’m going to protect you. And 100 percent of the time, this is going to be the way it’s going to be, period. I like the example of the parenting. And that is if you think about us as parents.

Every time we get in the car, we make our kids buckle your seat belt. Zero tolerance for anything other than you, but the bulk of your seatbelt you don’t want isn’t going to drive the car until your seatbelts on. And that doesn’t change. And if I think about my own kids, this has been from day one in their lives. And the minute they get in the car, they buckle their seat belts. That’s because zero tolerance and why do I do that, because I love my kids so much and I don’t want them to get hurt and I know that that’s something that.

Going to help protect them now, on the other hand, in all honesty. When my kids are out riding their bikes or skateboarding, they wear helmets and elbow parts. But if they’re riding their bikes just around the driveway, I don’t always make them wear their helmet. So, my kids don’t always just go get their helmet when they get their bike, I have to tell them. So why is that? It’s because I haven’t had a zero-tolerance policy on that, I’ve let that slip.

I’ve let them once in a while ride their bikes without a helmet. Well, I’m telling you, kids are going to go ride the bike without a helmet if they can get away with it. Because it’s easier. It’s quicker. It’s oh, I don’t really need it. But doesn’t that parallel us as adults when we’re in the workplace? If we see there’s a place where we there isn’t going to be a zero tolerance and maybe we can get away with it this time.

And gosh, it’s a lot quicker if I don’t have to, you know, I don’t want to have to put my you have their hard hat on or I don’t want to have to, whatever it might be, walk out that machine this time. I’m just going to really quiet, go in there and fix it. And that is seen or noticed by leaders that lets it go. Well, then it’s going to be more likely that’s going to happen again.

Right. And but I think a lot of it also depends on how it’s done, because what you’re talking about is from a product standpoint, it comes with would love you care about the person. I think it gets me to the to the next topic, which is really round actively caring and the importance of actively caring in terms of having safety outcomes in how leaders show up. What’s your experience around this and what are some of the stories that maybe you’ve seen in terms of leaders that demonstrates that active care?

And why is it so important in your opinion?

And, you know, I think you’re absolutely right when you say that because it’s so 100 percent true. It is where you’re coming from. And that’s my point as well as a parent, you’re coming from a place of love as a leader. You’re coming from a place that’s truly, like you said, actively caring for the participants and your employees and the people that are there. And I have seen this in so many different places. And is it actually.

Makes me so happy when I see it. And the funny thing is, too, it makes the people around the leader happy. You can just feel that people are they feel safer, they feel cared for. And the leader that does that and I have some really specific people that I’ve witnessed doing this, they actually don’t just go out on the floor and look for things that people are violating procedures. They look for things that people are doing correctly.

And they notice those things and they make sure they take the time to let them know, hey, I noticed that you were doing this. Thank you for wearing your safety lenses. You know, thank you for having your hearing protection on. But they also asked them what they’re doing. What is it that you’re working on today? Can you explain to me, you know, what you’re doing? Also, is there anything we can do to make this better or to make this safer?

How do you feel? And. Leaders that go out and ask their employees these questions and then stand there and listen, but not just listen, but then go do something if a change needs to happen. Those employees feel valued and they feel like, wow, they actually do care about me, this isn’t this isn’t about money and it’s not about numbers. My leader actually cares about what I’m doing and what my job is. And they maybe even ask about my children and then remember to ask if they said, yeah, Johnny has a football game tonight, that leader would remember the next day to say, hey, how is the game?

Because they truly are there in the moment and they truly are caring and they’re actively caring, like you said. And that makes so much difference to people. Even if you think about just work as just normal everyday relationships, people can tell when you’re not sincere. People can tell when you’re, you know, their B.S. meter goes all over the place. So being sincere and heartfelt and genuine and earnest in your job as a leader. I think it’s one of the most important things you can do to help people feel like, OK, this is a place I want to be on board with this program and I’m going to do everything I need to do to make this right and to be safe not only for myself and for my family, but for this company.

I couldn’t agree more. I think one of the themes that I remember going to a mine site and there were two leaders down the same pit, and one of them came from a position where every day he would go and scold people. What did you do? What you did not do? The other person knew everything about each individual care, and you were asking them what was top of mind for each team member. And I think the element is actively caring as a standalone won’t solve safety issues, but without it, it becomes very, very challenging to get to the right outcome.

So, this other leader, he would, as he said, talk positively reinforce the right behaviors, but knew the individuals made it very personal from the importance of safety and the link back to the families of the individuals and the choices that each person was making. So, I think this is an incredibly powerful and important message for four leaders and really appreciate you traveling across the country to share the story, to get people really thinking about how are they showing up as leaders, how are they sparking people to really make safety personal?

Yes. Thank you. And I appreciate this. And you are able to connect with people throughout the country with your messages. And I completely agree with you. And I’m so happy that you do this podcast because I think leaders, they have a hard job, but most of the safety managers and any of the safety of theirs I’ve met their heart is in the right place and they’re working their darndest, like they take this home with them at night every night, and they worry about their workers just like they were their own family.

And they care about them and they want to do the right thing. And I think anything that I can do, anything you can do, anything we can do together as a community to support that, to support each other and just say, keep going, keep doing your best. And, you know, we know it’s a tough job and we just are I’m very grateful for the people that are willing to take on those positions and work hard to keep people safe every day.

Yeah, I think very well said. And I think the other element is a lot of people have their heart in the right place but don’t necessarily connect and explain it in a way that that shows that I’ve worked with some executives that deeply, truly care team members. But when people hear their story, they they’re hearing about darted raids, target numbers, and it becomes devoid of the connection to why they’re actually doing what they’re doing, which is to help people come back home to their loved one’s day in and day out.

So sometimes it’s even just changing the form of communication and how I’m sharing something.

Absolutely. And I’m glad you said that, because that is one of the things that I talk to about other people with other people. And what I try to tell them is. Just have a conversation, maybe take a step back and simplify it a little bit, it put yourself in the position of your employer. How would you best take this information if you’re standing up there and just handing out policies, procedures and this what you have to do and you better do it this way.

And always these are the numbers. After about five minutes, they closed down. So, it is about that even training your leaders and your managers on. OK, we have this very dry information that we have to teach. Nobody wants to be here, including us. So how do we teach this in a way that’s actually going to get through to somebody and actually connect with them? And you’re right from the very beginning, you really have to make connections and you really have to make it personal and you have to do your due diligence and just learning how people learn to read.

So, again, thank you for joining me today on the podcast and for sharing such an important message.

The good fight. Thanks so much, Eric. I appreciate it.

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.

To learn about Safety Leadership Commitment:

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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Learn about Kina and Her Story

Kina’s fight for survival began when she found herself caught in a moving conveyor belt. The fact that Kina is alive today to tell her story is a living testament to her strong determination and fantastic attitude.

Although she had lost her arm due to her accident, she didn’t lose her incredible zest for life. Kina leads a very productive and fulfilling life, with an attitude that keeps her thriving in her world without limits.

Kina’s Powerful Message about Safety

Kina’s message is about encouraging workplace safety responsibility. The day that changed her forever started like any other day. She didn’t plan or expect an accident. Now, Kina uses her workplace injury to motivate and teach.

Kina has a significant and unique opportunity to educate employees and workers on the importance of building a safety consciousness. She is dedicated to reducing occupational injuries by raising awareness about workplace hazards.

But just knowing about safety isn’t enough. Kina can help your company by speaking about workplace safety from her perspective, which creates an impactful and inspiring message.

Kina’s Safety Presentations:

  • Grab attention and make a lasting impression on staff

  • Change lives and help reduce occupational injuries

  • Inspire and motivate audiences to make safe choices

  • Show audiences how to turn adversity into success

The Program: It’s Your Safety, Don’t Give It Away

Experience personalize safety through Kina’s story about the tragic loss of her left arm. Kina will speak about how a lack of knowledge and lack of training contributed to the day that forever changed her life.

She advocates that you are your last line of defense. Kina encourages active participation in safety. She also covers the effects injuries have on friends, family, and co-workers.

With witty wisdom, Kina will impart a message you can reflect on and share – a message that shows you how to be present, aware, and safe.

To contact Kina Hart:

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (509) 999 -1323



Leaders Owning It for Safety! with Brie DeLisi



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


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

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

So, Brie, welcome to the show.

Hello. Thank you for having me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t focused on just reducing injuries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Read more on Safety Leadership Commitment:

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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Eric Michrowski:


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


Inspiring Safety Leadership and Ownership with Brad Gardner



It’s been over 10 years since Brad Gardner lost his right arm in a workplace accident—an accident that didn’t have to happen. Brad and his wife, Dolores, have dedicated their lives to making workplaces safer in order to prevent tragedies like their own from happening to others. Listen to a truly inspirational story on the importance of safety leadership and ownership from Brad.

Learn about Safety Leadership Commitment:


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams; their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe, yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-Suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops and The Safety Guru public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. I am Eric Michrowski your host. I’m very excited to have with me Brad Gardner. Brad has dedicated his life to making sure that workplaces are as safe as it can be. This is following a 2003 industrial accident he was part of. But today I want him to share a little bit about some of his lessons about safety. So maybe let’s kick it off. Brad, if you could share a little bit about your background and what got you into this space. OK, I’d love to. Like I said, I’m Brad Gardner. I’m from Idaho is where I’m from, but. I was really young when I got married, I married my high school sweetheart. I needed a job. I didn’t have any money. So, I ended up taking in a little potato processing plant and I hated the job. It was just horrible. I didn’t like anything about it. So, one day I just got fed up. I said, that’s enough. And I joined the Air Force going to the Air Force. But I wanted to do was get into engineering. But they took one look at me and said, no, you’re not an engineer. You’re an air traffic controller. So that’s how I ended up doing. I was an air traffic controller in the Air Force for a total of twenty-two years. Left my first 20 years. I retired in. May of know it wasn’t August of twenty-one, and then when 9/11 hit, I was called back into active duty and had to serve another two years. So, I ended up spending twenty-two years as an air traffic controller. I was heavily involved in 9/11. I was comptroller in New York on 9/11, so I guess I really got stressed out. I mean, I was just burnt out and couldn’t do anything anymore for a while. So, I retired, moved back to Idaho and said, I’m not going to do anything but fish and relax. I found out this too much. It was great for fishing. So, I ended up going back to work. And of all things that most people can’t believe is I ended up going back to work at that same exact potato processing plant that I dated twenty-two years earlier. But, you know, at the time, it was a great job. It was very. I have to think of what you’re able to sit back, relax. Work, I loved it, it was just I really did love the job, it was just manual labor, but it was fantastic. I worked at about six months. And then. That’s when my life changed. Six months later, that’s when everything changed all at once. And on that day in 2000. Three, I went to work that morning, and it was a normal everyday morning, right? And that’s when I had my accident. So, tell me a little bit about your accident and if anybody who wants to know more, you’ve got a website where you talk a little bit more about it. You’ve got some resources. You’ve talked and presented many different places. Website is Brads helping hand dot com. But I’d love to hear a little bit about what happened, but obviously for the purpose of understanding how do we prevent these things from ever happening again. Right. What happened to start today was right off the bat, first thing in the shit that morning, my foreman came in and told me that had a guy call in sick. So, they were guys short and they had to clean some equipment. I told my supervisor, then I saw him and I said, you know, I’ve never done it before, but, you know, show me what to do, tell me what to do. I can do it. I can. And so, I went to a new job that morning and I had to create a big order. This augers about five feet across and about twenty-five foot long, and it was about the third or fourth quarter that I cleaned that morning, building up to that big. And as I was playing in it, I got distracted, I looked away and what I was doing at the time and next thing I knew, my hand was in the yogurt. Oh, my goodness. On the inside the machine. I was in the machine about eight seconds. Oh, my goodness. There was nobody buying me. I was by myself. And I knew as it was pulling the end of the auger through my mind was the only way I was going to live. I had to rip off my arm. Oh, my. And that’s what I did. Changed my life. I have no doubt in. So that’s a that changes everything, and I know when you present to audiences, sometimes you even present with your wife and you talk about kind of the impact on yourself, family and how change. But what were you thinking before that day? How did you frame yourself in safety? What was your perspective? You didn’t really like you had done a lot of different things in your career. What was your perspective on safety before that day? You know, my idea was. I’m good, I’m fast, I can think things through, right? And I didn’t have to worry about shaking because I wasn’t one of those dumb guys. Made a stupid mistake, right? That was my friend. It’s like, oh, give me a job, I can handle it. I’m good. You know, I’m fast. I could multitask like crazy and do some things at one time. That’s what I did as an air traffic controller. Of course, it is a job that does really handle a lot of information. Well, the same time, it’s probably that job. Right? And that job is nothing but safety. I mean, when it boils down to an air traffic controller is nothing but a safety guy. Yes. So, I didn’t. I always thought that second nature to me, I can handle that I don’t have to worry. And that’s really what I thought is I don’t get to worry about that. I mean, I could put my hand in your 50 times and pull it out and it’s not going to do anything. I love that story. I need that one little mistake. And that cop never. So, you know, I mean, it was just a matter of. You know, it’s going to happen to another guy. Other people make mistakes. I don’t. Right. That was my philosophy. I mean, it really was I didn’t realize it at the time. That’s where I was. That’s really what I was doing. And you know, I’ve heard this so many times, it won’t happen to me, the guy where this happened to, he’s not as good as me or something to that effect or I’m lucky that person wasn’t lucky. Or, of course, I’ve done this many times. It’s not going to happen to me. And that’s the sad part, is it can happen to anybody. It takes a split. Many people will say that was really stupid, it was, but I’m not a stupid guy. By no means, but I did it, you know, and I did something stupid, I thought I could get away with it and I could. So, what are some of the lessons? And I think I appreciate that you’ve taken that as a learning and trying to teach others to make a difference in the world. That is phenomenal. What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned and that you share with leaders in terms of making a difference in the workplace? What I did is after my accident, I went back into safety for the same company and worked in safety, and that’s what I started learning safety and start talking to people. I did some research on my accident. You found out, you know, it wasn’t just me. They were mistakes that were made by everybody all the way from the very top owner of the company. What did you do when you come out and talk to the people, it was always talking about production? We got to get to production up. We’ve got to get these things done quicker. He talked about safety. Did the notion like the bottom line, his production? But I would learn, you know, and that’s what I found out. That was a mistake that was made. And I boiled down to I wasn’t properly trained. They’d given me a job I hadn’t done before. There was a whole bunch of mistakes, including near misses, having stand near misses on a machine that never got reported. So, I started looking at it like it’s just not my fault. It’s all these people could have stopped it. I don’t blame them. And. I might have done the same thing. I don’t know, but it’s. I wish everything right now. Somebody would have stepped up and said something. Get involved, you see it, something that looks dangerous. Say something if you’re told to do something and you’re not sure how to do it. Stop them say, hey, what do you mean, what am I supposed to do here? I talk a lot about. Different things where people have made mistakes. Well, a lot of people will blame the foreman that I have a job I hadn’t done. For him, it was my brother. Well. And then he had to take care of me. He had to be the attorney that he had to take me down. He had to go get my arm out of the machine. Oh, my goodness, you won’t see any of that. Of course, I just made a simple mistake, too, but when you add up all these simple mistakes. It’s a huge consequence. And if it would have been me, it would have been somebody else later on. Right. If tell people to say something, get involved, do not let things go by, if you see something, say something. If you feel unsafe, say something. If you see somebody else doing something. It’s not safe or you don’t think looks right. Say something to try to get him in trouble, but you want to make sure that they’re safe. You don’t want to see it happen to somebody else any more than you don’t want to have to be yourself. I can tell you, I experienced. The suffering that I went through is nothing compared to what other people went through. That same day, you know, my coworker’s night, and then you break it down to your family and your wife. My wife actually, when I normally speak, reach out of her diary. Tell us what she saw that day. Tears me up every time I see it. Oh, it hurts so bad. It you know, luckily, I have a wife with I don’t know why this is every bit when I talk, I use dominoes. When I come out and speak at the plants, I use Domino’s as an example. You know, I could take Domino’s and put them up on a table and put names on the Domino’s all the way from the owner of the company to my supervisors, to my brother, to my trainers, to my coworkers and my second to the last. Domino has my name on it. Call it what it took to save my home is one person in that whole line. Including me. They would have stepped up and said something, I would still have my arm today. It is a simple but such a powerful message, say something, it goes down that everybody owns safety. It’s the workers, the leaders as the foreman. Everybody’s got a part to say and has an opportunity. And really that that sense of keep your eyes open. But I love the simplicity of something. Get involved, do something about it. Right. And that’s what I do. I talk to people now all over the world. I’ve spoken to China, Africa, Europe, almost every state in the United States, Mexico. All the same, people are the same everywhere. And when I go out and talk to them, all I want to do is get them to loosen up, get them to think about safety, and that’s what I do. And Medicaid is not. That’s all I do not say, and I loved every minute, which is phenomenal because you’re doing something you’re sharing, imparting some ideas. Can you share maybe some of the key lessons that you have for other workers like you, people that are listening, that are doing work where there could be a risk, could be a hazard. What are some of the things that obviously you talked about? Say something. Are there any other pearls of wisdom that you have that you share with them? If you don’t feel comfortable, stop, right, just think about it. I’ve talked to thousands of men and every one of them say to them up until they stop because they didn’t feel safe. He said, that’s what I want to hear. People are afraid to do it because they think they’re going to get in trouble, they think they’re going to question for it, if that’s the way that job is, you don’t want to work it anyway, right? No, just watch out for each other. You know, that’s a big you know, so it kills me near misses. People don’t want to say they screwed up and they made a mistake. But just step out the tent. Hey, guys, I did this because, you know, if you did it, somebody else, too, right? Work together, everybody has to work together, you can have zero action. Everybody works together, everyone. Be afraid to step up, say something like I said, everybody, the one thing that I want you to get out when they listen to me, just remember the dominoes, you know, and don’t watch them fall. Yes. It’s that simple. And I think when you talk about don’t be afraid to speak up to essentially stop work, I think leaders have a huge part in this because you have to create an environment where people feel safe to stop work, that they don’t feel there’s a ramification that you want to encourage those things as well, because I think that’s a simple action a leader could do to really drive a difference around stopping the work, pausing if you think there’s a hazard. Yeah, and tell your workers. If you have to tell them every day, remember, guys, safety’s number one. And they have been beat up by their actions. Yeah, and that’s too often miss, right, I say safety is number one, but I give you more on productivity. Go faster, right. Right. You can’t do that. You’ve got to. He said, you know, you’ve got to present data, you got to live that right. You’ve got to stop, stop work. Don’t do it. And when they do it, you don’t get them. You don’t get mad at them. You’ll never happen again. I had a guy come up one day, said, I won’t report in here because if I do, it goes on my record. And when it comes time for promotion, it’s points against me. Right now, I want to secure that company and told him that that’s bull crap because they didn’t know he had got out and got that information out. They had a system to do it anonymously online. They had. And the CEO of the company said, if I ever had a foreman come in here and fire somebody because they were a safety thing, you said that guy isn’t going to work for you anymore. But too often, too often, that doesn’t happen, right? I was actually just talking earlier today to somebody who is describing a CEO and a company that whenever somebody would report something is an issue, a topic, rather than say, I want to learn, they would descend and we get angry. And how could this happen? And so, people are learning was I don’t want that experience. So, I’m not going to say something. Right. And that’s what they need to be able to come out and do that every day. Yeah, absolutely. For you, you have to have their trust and the way to get their trust is you’ve got to back up what you say. I completely agree. Any other thoughts you’d like to share? I think your power, your story is so powerful. I love your example of the dominoes in terms of really showing how anybody could have stopped this. Any other pearls of wisdom you care to just share from your experiences. You’ve done so much to try to help organizations, leaders, team members to start thinking about how safety is so critical and something that everybody’s going to. You know. Everybody’s going to have to do their own thing. I don’t think there is a right way to do it; sometimes depends on the different personalities and stuff like that. The. Again, I just I keep going back to that communication, you’ve got to have those communication lines open all the time, regardless of who it is, you can’t be afraid to come up and talk. I’ve never talked to a CEO who said they would. You know, reward somebody for stuff like that, but people don’t know that, right? They just keep communications lines open all the time. And that’s what’s going to stop it. It really is. Communicate whether it’s on either end, whether you’re the listener, the talker, either one. That’s what you have to do. I mean. I just love watching when I get up and speak to people and I’ve got crowds of four or five hundred people out there and I can look down on somebody and they’re looking at me and they got tears running down her cheeks. And I know exactly what you’re going through. You know, I’ve done this. Right. I don’t want to hurt my wife. I don’t want to hurt my kids and that’s what I’m going to do if I continue doing what I’m doing. And that’s really important, I think I always say that to the people, you’ve got to make safety something that you own because you need to start thinking about why is it you keep yourself safe, like it’s really an investment in yourself into the experiences that we’re the people that you want to be around? And that’s the part where I do it for myself whenever I do anything. I’m always trying to think back to why is that so important? What experiences do I want to have, what’s important to me, and make sure that that’s what I’m focused on, what I am about to do something? Yeah, and, you know, I do it all the time, my wife now is it’s just amazing. I guess we literally stuck on the freeway. Where there’s a construction team working and my wife went over and said, what are you doing? You have no more protection or you do not have the potential. And she said, I’m going to call, OK, but you don’t get it done right now. So, what happens when she does that? They do it, but they do it. You know, one day she’s seen a guy working in a trench and all you could see was the top of his head. My wife, when I said, get out of that trench, there’s no showing here. There’s nothing to get out of there. Right. OK, I don’t have to. Oh, don’t leave me alone. I’m fine. I should go get out now or I’m going to start making some phone calls. And within a half-hour, they had Suring done on every bit of the line that they were working on. You know, my wife and I, we saved somebody’s life. Yeah, but that’s such a powerful message is you’re not going to be a bystander, you’re willing to stop, you’re going to say something which is exactly your message. Everybody has a part to say and everybody should be trying to get involved and say something and help others to keep safe. Love it. Well, I know we’re talking here just about a few minutes. My normal presentation with my wife last up to an hour and a half long. We got lots of stories to tell. And we went through a very generous it’s really cool. It’s really low. And that’s phenomenal. And then so if anybody is interested in hearing more, getting more details about the dominos and the presentation and thinks of this, the story can help the organization really shift. Thinking about the importance of safety. Your website, again, is Brads helping hand dot com. Brad, I really appreciate you coming on the safety guru sharing your story. It’s a very tough and difficult story to hear, but a message that’s so important for so many people to listen to. So, thank you and thank you for having me. Excellent. Thanks, Brad. Take care. Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your team’s—fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru Eric Michrowski.

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Brad and his wife, Dolores, are world-renowned safety motivational speakers who share their story in order to prevent tragedies like their own from happening to others. Their delivery is versatile enough to move audiences from laugher, to tears, and finally to solemn reflection. This talented team has inspired hundreds of thousands of industrial workers from all levels of management to look at the importance of safety in a new light and energy—and they can help your team too.

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