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The Ripple Effect of Serious Injuries and Steps to Prevent Them with Brad Livingston and Kayla Rath

The ripple effect of serious injuries and steps to prevent them

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In honor of Family Month, we are delighted to have Brad Livingston and Kayla Rath join the podcast to share their powerful and heartfelt story. Brad had been working at a natural gas pipeline company when he experienced a potentially life-ending incident at work. Kayla remembers vividly the day her mom’s best friend came to pick her up from elementary school after the incident had occurred. Brad unpacks what could have been done differently that day to prevent the incident from happening, while Kayla recalls the inevitable ripple effect serious injuries in the workplace have on loved ones. Tune in to hear their moving episode!

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and 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 safe legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.

Hi, and welcome to the Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me two special guests brad Livingston who worked for the gas company for well over ten years until he had a life-changing event that was 100% preventable. I’m also joined by Kayla Rath who is his favorite daughter and she’ll share a little bit about her perspective and what it meant to be part of the family when that event happened. So welcome both of you. Really excited to have both of you here with me today.

Thank you, Eric, happy to be here. 

Thank you for having us.

Absolutely. So, Brad, why don’t you start by maybe sharing a little bit about the day of the accident? Kind of what transpired. I know when we told you really talked about how it was 100% preventable. If you could tell me a little bit about what happened that day in the store, there. 

Okay. I upgraded that day to be a Weller helper. Wasn’t my normal job but I was filling in for the regular Weller helper who was gone that day on vacation. Happy to do it. I was enjoying my job and I went to work that morning with the senior welder. We drove to a location other than where we normally work to do some welding. We did some welding until 10:00 which was our break time, and we went in to take a break and our company pumper came out and said that he had a well just right outside the station yards from where we were that had two tanks on it and both tanks had a pinhole in a weld that went around the fire tube. Each tank asked the senior welder if we put that on the schedule some time to fix it. The senior welder said we would do it while we were there and there’s the reason for that. But we drove over to the well and I checked the atmosphere around outside of those tanks where we’re going to be doing the welding to check for an explosive level and everything was fine. So, the welder started to roll out the teams and I asked him what was going to keep a spark from setting the tanks off because what was in the tanks was some crude oil that was well made.

It also made a lot of drip gas or Connor state gas which is just like gasoline, it’s water that was down in the gas formation and when you bring the natural gas up by the ground, the water will come with it, and it’s taking on the characteristics of the natural gas, and that’s what makes it so much like gasoline.

Sure. 

So, I asked him if we need to gauge the tanks and double check the liquid level because he was counting on there being liquid behind where he was going to be welding, so that would prevent him from getting too hot as he welded on that tank, and he would not blow a hole in it and cause the explosion. So, he’s counting on that liquid being there. So, I suggested that we gauge the tank and double-check the liquid level. And this welder, whose name was Tracy, had worked for the company for 30 years, and he said, we don’t have time. So that’s a big red flag because it’s a procedure. Part of following the procedures is to double-check the liquid level. And so, it would have taken maybe three minutes at the very most, I believe three minutes, and I would engage the tanks. He had been told what he told me, that there were seven or 8ft of liquid in those tanks, and it was actually less than twelve inches.

Oh, my goodness.

Which meant he ended up welding above the liquid level. And so, then he got too hot and blew a hole in the tank. So had we actually followed procedure and gauged the tanks, we would not have done the welding. So, we argued about it. I tried to convince him to just stop and let me gauge the tanks. My actual role should have been to go to the truck and get the tape and walk up a catwalk and open a hatch, engage the tank.

Sure.

If I’d done that, he would have waited for me. He was a very conscientious worker and welder and he always looked out for the safety of everyone else. I know he would have waited for me, but I was wanting him to agree with me instead of insisting on stopping him and taking that kind of step. And so, we didn’t get the gauges, the tanks gauged, and on the second tank that he was welding on, he burnt through the hole or burnt through the tank. And that tank exploded wow. Blew me up into the air. I landed on top of the other tank, and eight to 10 seconds later, that tank exploded and threw me back onto the ground, which actually helped save my life, because I was burning to death. I was surrounded by flames. My clothes were on fire. So, the second tank, when it exploded, actually was a good thing for me, because otherwise, I would have gone to death if I’ve ever got down off of that thing. So, one of the big issues was that when we were welding, we were working for a supervisor on that lease that Tracy didn’t like. 

And so that was why he was in a hurry to get the tanks done so that we could get in, get that welling done, get off the lease, and he would no longer be working for a supervisor that he didn’t like. The other issue was, at that time, our company was frowning on overtime, so we had a whole day of welding scheduled. Now, we’ve added another job to that day, so Tracy thought, we just have to cut this short, take a shortcut, not follow all the procedures, and be back home before we got into overtime. 

Wow.

There are several red flags, like half a dozen red flags before the explosions ever happened that someone, including myself, of course, could have stopped what was going on, and it didn’t get done. We had another supervisor that had pulled up that was on location. He and I visited for maybe just 20 or 30 seconds while Tracy was welding on the first tank, and then while he moved to the second tank to weld, so he was slightly burned. When the first explosion happened, the ball of fire came at him. He was in his pickup, and he just slid across the seat and got out and ran away from it. Unfortunately, Tracy was killed, apparently as a result of the first explosion because it came out of the tank right where he was welding. So, a decision that was made based on a few other things yet to be mentioned, but not wanting to talk to a supervisor because he didn’t like it, to make sure it was okay to go do the job, wanting to save time, three minutes. He lost his life, and I was supposed to have lost mine. They told my family the explosions were on Friday morning and Saturday.

They told my family I wouldn’t make it through the night. 63% burn, 2nd 3rd degree burns, all of this basically over a shortcut, three minutes shortcut.

Wow.

Yeah. One other issue I’ll go ahead, and mention is Tracy told me on the way over to that well that he had just built these fire tubes about six months ago in the shop, and someone else walked through the shop and saw those pinholes and told Tracy so he could write them out, patch them, and he forgot to do it before it got put into service. So that morning, when the piper told us about the two pinhole leaks, Tracy remembered that he had been told about those. And so, he basically said, we’re going to go and take care of this, and no one needs to know that I had made that mistake, that he had forgotten to fix those pinholes in the shop. So, a serious pride issue came into play, partly because the supervisor that he didn’t want to weld for just while we were on this lease. So, there are several things there that Tracy, as I said, looked out for everybody, for everyone’s safety except his own. When it came to someone that he didn’t want to talk to. So, all of those issues were at play. I could have stopped that anywhere along the line, but instead of doing the steps to stop it, I just argued with you.

There’s obviously a big difference between the two. So that’s what happened. That’s a quick rundown of what happened at the scene today.

Two things as well that struck me from what you’ve just shared. One is the importance of the supervisor and how the supervisor becomes approachable. People can speak up and raise issues because I think when you fear what could go wrong with a supervisor, then you can take shortcuts as well as you’ve shared, or you worry about a consequence that’s lesser than the two. The other part that strikes me is the fear of reprisal as opposed to a real learning organization. And when you’re learning, these things surface, and people are comfortable taking responsibility because they know that there isn’t fear built into the system.

Yes. When I speak to supervisors, I will ask them, how many of you have said that you have an open-door policy. And almost all of them will always raise your hand. But there’s one thing to say that, but it’s something else for an employee or subordinate to be able to know he could walk in and talk to his supervisor and there not be any repercussions. I have spoken for companies, one in particular, where a new employee reported some older employees as having broken several regulations, and the company was firing that new employee for reporting the older guys.

Wow.

So, I told the safety director there, I said, well, you know, you’re never going to hear anything from the new guys again because there’s this kind of repercussion about reporting the older guys who are breaking the rules. They’re not going to say anything. And that’s absolutely the opposite of what there has to be.

I think these are really important points because I think the rule of the supervisor, how you respond to something that doesn’t go well, is incredibly important in ensuring it’s consistent. So, Brad, thank you very much for sharing that. Kayla, if you could share a little bit about how you heard about it, how you got to the hospital, and kind of what was your impact as a family member, and the impact of this growing up?

So, I found out at school that day, Tracy’s granddaughter was in my class, and she had been pulled out of school just before lunch by a family member who took her out of school and told the other teachers that Tiffany’s grandfather had been killed at work.

Wow.

And we grew up in a real small town, and so everyone was talking about it at lunch and at recess. A couple of friends and I were talking, and I said, my dad works with Tracy. Sometimes I wonder if he was one of the other guys that had been hurt. We had heard that there were two other ones hurt and our teacher was kind of, hey girl, don’t worry about it. Nobody’s dad was hurt. It’s not your dad.

Sure.

So, we went back in after recess, and we were watching a movie my principal came into the room and he asked if he could talk to my teacher. And they walked out into the hall. They talked for just a few minutes, and then they came back in. When they came back in, they were both crying. And my teacher said, Kayla, you need to get your things together. So, we walked out of the hall and walked down the hall with the principal. And my mom’s best friend was standing at the end of the hall, and she was crying and there were teachers around her. And she pulled me kind of into a hug and she said, okay, we’re going to go get your sisters. I was still in elementary school at the time. My sisters were in middle school at the time. So, we drove over to the middle school, and I kept asking her, Connie, what’s wrong? What happened to my dad? And she wouldn’t answer. And so, we pulled up to the middle school and my sister’s got in the car and then Connie let us know that dad had been burned in an explosion and my mom was with him at that time and that my mom had asked her to come to get us out of school so that we wouldn’t hear about it from anyone else.

And so, we ended up staying with Connie and her family for a total of three weeks while dad was in the burn intensive care unit in Lubbock, Texas, which is about 5 hours away from our hometown. And so, we stayed with them. And then my grandparents moved up to Elkart, where we lived and lived with us for the remaining two and a half months before we then all ended up down in San Antonio while dad was in rehab. We were in San Antonio for eleven months, all of us together, before we came back home.

Growing up. So obviously Brad made it out of the hospital. It sounds like initially there were some concerns about how you would get through this. How did it feel growing up? What was the impact? Because obviously here you’ve moved many times, you had to be in different locations. It brought a lot of interruptions to the day-to-day. Tell me a little bit more about what it means to grow up in this case.

Initially, after the accident, we were treated like celebrities. And we loved that everyone was they cared about the Livingston girls and what was going on with the Livingston girls. So, at first, of course, our daily life was completely 100% disrupted.

Sure.

But coming back from it after 14 months, when we finally were all home, after dad had finished all of his senses at the hospital and rehab, from that point on, it was kind of everyone just expected that life was back to normal for the Livingston. Brad was hurt, but he was alive. We hear a lot about mental health issues and trauma and processing trauma, sure. And that’s all very important. But in the 90s, that was not really something that we heard about and talked about. And so, I think it was for our community members, it was really interesting. Looking back now, I can see that if any of us had a problem, it was probably just geared up to or attributed to, I should say, teenage rebellion. But we look at it now and we’re like, oh, I was clearly processing some anger in that moment or grief. And also, we were very, or at least I was. I can’t speak for my sisters, but I was very protective of my dad because he looks the way he does, you can see that he is burned. I didn’t ever want anyone to think that he wasn’t loved because he was burned.

And so, if I saw someone staring at him, I would put my hand in his hand. Even in high school, even now, I will still do it in airports if we travel together, I’ll just grab onto his hand or I’ll look at him and laugh or something because I want people to know that he’s not a freak. He is burned and he is different because of that. But he’s still a human and he’s still loved. And that was just a thought that I had as we were going through therapy as a family. Part of our therapy was to see people’s responses to him and not get angry. And so instead I just got sad. I got really sad because I saw people’s responses to him, and it made me sad that people would look at him and see someone who’s burned and not who he is.

Right. Brad, you also had to process your coworkers’ death in the explosion. How the recovery took time. Tell me a little bit about how it went, knowing everybody, you have a very supportive family that was there for you. Tell me a little bit about your experience in terms of all of this.

There’s, of course, the survivor’s deal that happens. Tracy, as I mentioned, he took care of everybody. And I don’t know that there’s anyone who worked at our station that did not look up to Tracy. He stood up for anybody. And so, when I found out that he’d been killed, basically I was unconscious for two and a half months. So, when I became conscious, one of the things I asked my wife about as soon as my head cleared enough and I started asking intelligent questions, was what has happened to Tracy? And the nurses there had coached her. They knew how my mind would clear and how long it would take for the drugs to wear off and such. And so, they waited a few days before they told me that he had been killed in explosions and it’s just immense grief. It was a human being who died, but it was Tracy, it was a leader, someone that everyone respected and looked up to. And for those of us who work in the pipeline department, he was our main leader, really, overall. So, the instant survivor guilt hit, but then I got nowhere to go, I’m stuck in a hospital.

It’s just going over and over in my mind for hours and hours and days and weeks and months. What should I have done differently? What could I have done differently? What procedures were not in place? And I could never come up with an answer. We had the procedures; we just didn’t follow them. And looking at the conversations that all happened prior while we were still in the break room, half a dozen people there that any one of them could have said, he just can’t go with her and weld on these tanks, but it never happened. And then me arguing with Tracy and instead of just doing what I need to do and so all this stuff, just a day after day after day, going over in my head with what they told me, you may never walk again. I had been an athlete my whole life and distance running was my biggest thing. I loved running and my wife had been told because I didn’t have on my gloves, and I had on jeans that were 60% cotton and 40% polyester. So, laying in that fire, polyester melted my legs and into the muscle. And my wife was told that if I survived that my legs and my hands would have to be amputated and it was solely by the grace of God that they weren’t.

But then I was told there may not be enough muscle left, you may never have enough balance to walk. And so, I was 32 years old when it happened and basically the prime of physical life for a man. And now I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself. When I became conscious, I rely on the nurses for everything and of course, my wife was right there. Then I see my daughter’s come visit on weekends while I’m at the permissive care unit and I can see that they’re trying to put on a happy face, but it’s not happy. Their lives have been completely interrupted. I’m not at home with them, their mom’s not at home with them. So, I can see it’s just the beginning of me being able to see what I have put them through. It became the biggest amount of pain in my presentation. I talk to guys about; how tough you think you are. Because when you’re going to find out is not how physically tough you are, it’s how mentally tough you are when you see what your family’s going through that you have caused. By me being in an industrial incident, causing the amount of pain that I’ve caused.

And Kayla talks about the ripples and how to this day, she still rides some of those ripples. They will never go away, perhaps for her and for other people, and knowing that I’m the cause of that, and laying there over and over my head, going over easily, this all could have been prevented, right? Of course, when we got home from all the rehab, I went to see Tracy’s widow. And that’s a day that every bit is tough, if not tougher than the day of explosions. When you look a family survivor in the face, look them in the eyes and tell them what happened and when it could have been prevented. And they’re crying and you see the pain and the anger that they’re dealing with for something that never had to happen. But we saved those three minutes, right? And saving those three minutes on the job is supposed to mean something, apparently, but it doesn’t. It’s just something guys especially, that women can and do something to justify in our own minds how and why we should take these shortcuts or deal with our pride to cover up a mistake. And there were improper perspectives that I talked about in my presentations that lead to bad attitudes.

So, there are just so many things that could have and should have prevented this from happening. And you talk to anyone that’s been hurt and they’re going to say the same thing, they do better. They knew what to do, right? And they just chose to not do it for a number of reasons.

So, you both speak to a lot of audiences, to a lot of organizations around safety and making it personal and the impact on the family. And I think bringing your collective stories is incredibly powerful. What are some of the messages that you share in terms of the key takeaways? Because some of the things that we mentioned before that come to mind are the supervisor needs to be accessible. You talked about how when you say you have your door open, is it really open? Right? Because if somebody creates an environment where I don’t feel comfortable speaking up or there are unintended rules around not paying overtime, sometimes the message gets cascaded in a way that sends the wrong intent. I can tell you stopping work sounds simple in words, but it’s not that straightforward because of the dynamics and everything that comes in. So, tell me a little bit about the message the both of you. Share two audiences team members, supervisors, to leaders, because I think it’s a very powerful story between the both of you.

This episode of the Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Pueblo Consulting, the leading safety, and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, reenergize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent Solutions. Propulo has you covered. Visit [email protected]

I think, for me, one of the things that I talk about, and I believe Kayla does too, is the Stop Work Authority. I was raised I’m 63 years old actually, today, and we were not raised in the backtalk. Adults and those in charge were the authority. We were not ever given a stop-work authority. You do what you’re told, and you work, and somebody else makes the decisions. And now that didn’t start changing, I don’t think, until in the mid-90s or so. And now it is it’s becoming more prevalent. But there is still just this year where I have spoken, companies who say they have stock work authority, but when you single out young guys and not just a new employee, but a younger one in their 20s, they don’t feel like they can stop something without the older employees getting upset with them. Okay, here’s your choice. Do you want somebody to be upset with you or do you want to go home safe? Because many times that’s one or the other is going to happen, we can live with somebody being upset with us, and they’re going to get over it.

Most likely, sure.

But the Stop Work authorities, supervisors, I believe, have a great responsibility of making sure employees understand how and when to use that, and that they do have that right and responsibility.

And I’d say I would go even further in saying, how is it reinforced? Right. Because like you said, there’s crew dynamics and then there’s organizational dynamics that are impacting that choice. And I remember I’ve asked some executives, senior level when was the last time you recognized somebody who stopped work and they can’t find the time? And if you’re not recognizing that, then you’re recognizing getting the job done 200 times, I can tell you have stopped work authority, but unintended consequences. I keep hearing, thank you for Brad, for getting it done, but you’ve never gone praised for stopping work, the unintended consequences. Maybe I’m not really supposed to stop working here.

Right. And part of that, one of the improvements some companies have made are job safety analysis and hot work permits. And we didn’t have those. If we had to fill either of those out, there was no way we would ever do the welling on those tanks that day because it would have been too obvious. We can’t. So, these forms that some companies are using and the Tailgate meetings, where can I just refresh? What are all the hazards around us right here today? Some of that takes care of a Stop Work Authority because you have everybody anybody focused on the job and heading for the same thing. And so that helps not to have to stop a job. And those are people, of course, elderly guys like me who buck that. We don’t want to do the paperwork. We’re out here to get it done and go home. So those are good things that are happening by having some of those forms now to have to fill out every day, every day, fill them out.

As long as people don’t become complacent with them. Right. Because sometimes if I’m doing the same job over and over, I start getting comfortable that it’s the same as yesterday, but it’s not quite the same as yesterday. Something’s a little bit different. The environment is a bit different. It looks a little bit different. So, you still have to engage, and you still need to be able to comfortably pause. And even if it’s just taking a few seconds to say, let’s really rethink if it’s what we talked about in the tailgate or tailboard to make sure it really is what we think it is.

Right. And one of the things I’ve been told, kelly, you can pipe in here, too, anytime, but some of the younger people are more willing to step up and say, this doesn’t look safe. More than even a 50-year-old, because the 50-year-old has worked with this other guy for so many years. And so, I encourage younger people. Kayla’s age on down. If you just smell that it’s not right, if you have the gut feeling, it’s not just something you can do, it’s something you have to do, it is a responsibility.

Yeah. So, the other message, if I remember, that you really touch on is really the importance of starting safety at the top, making sure there are no repercussions if you raise an issue and really kind of the reinforcement with new team members. In terms of a lot of these principles, I think it’s so important in your story. As an example, he knew that he had made a mistake and because there was in comfort raising a hand because of what could go wrong, that also contributed to it. So, it’s really important that to me at least, it’s very important that you have a learning environment that gets reinforced from the top. Dan and Dale but tell me a little bit about the perspective that you share with audiences.

So, as you mentioned, we talked to every kind of company, and I have spoken to companies that it’s very obvious they say one thing and do something else. When it comes to safety, I’m there for a day for a presentation, or maybe I’m there for a few days, a few presentations. I feel like I have a platform to say things that the employees don’t feel comfortable saying. And so there have been times that I have mentioned it’s the company’s responsibility to provide you with all the training you need, to provide you with the PPE. You need all the equipment and the tools to do your job safely, but then it’s up to you to go out and do it safely. And so, there’s got to be a connection between, okay, Mr. Foreman, I need this new indicator or sensor or something. Well, okay, that doesn’t mean. I’m going to just get it, but at least I can tell you what it is I think we need that will improve the efficiency of our job. And of course, more safety is more efficient.

Sure.

We have to be able to communicate, and to me, that’s a lot of it the supervisors have to be open to the communication of what is it that you need. And the guys will have to say, the subordinates have to be able to say, this is why I need it. It’s not just that I want it because it’s a new toy. This is something that’s going to really improve my ability to do the job. That line of communication between employees and supervisors has to be open enough that everyone feels comfortable that they can do that. And so that starts with, I think, with the day you hire somebody.

They.

Start going through the initial training orientations, and they’re going to get a sense people are pretty smart overall. They’re going to get a sense of what’s being said that I could do, and they’re going to get a sense of what things really, we encourage you not to do. And if there is any kind of hesitation between or on that line of communication, they’re not going to go to a supervisor until they’ve seen it done. So, it has to start at the top with this open line of communication. Tell me what you need, I will see about getting it. An employee has to understand this budgetary issue. It may not happen sure. Right away. And that’s an issue too. When we want something, we want it. So, there’s got to be understanding on that end as well. But that’s a communication thing.

Agreed.

Go back to the Dark Ages. Everything was about communication.

Kayla, any closing thoughts from you? I think what I really love about your story is how the two of you kind of share the story, both from Brad’s perspective and also from the family standpoint as a favorite daughter. What would be some of the additional thoughts you’d have in terms of a message on the importance of putting safety first and some of the message around stopping work authority in a day-to-day world?

One of the things I talk about in my presentation is several years after the accident, dad had coworkers tell him that Tracy had done the exact same type of welding a couple of months earlier with that guy, and he had not stopped Tracy. And when dad told me that, it kind of made me angry because that coworker had just said something to Tracy or to a supervisor. Then on September 20, 1991, my dad might have come home that night. And so, I talked about the importance of if you see something going wrong, you need to say something, and you have a responsibility not just to that co-worker and not to the company, but to that coworker. Family. Because when you don’t say something and something goes wrong, their family is impacted too. Lives with it for ten months down the road and ten years down the road. And now here we are almost 31 years down the road, and we still live with it. So, my presentation is all about the ripple effect and how that one three-minute shortcut that my dad didn’t take that saved three minutes, how that has impacted us moving out, how it’s impacted him, how it’s impacted me, how it’s impacted, my children.

Research has shown that children who experience trauma at an early age go through life with an expectancy that the trauma is going to show up again. And it’s absolutely true. I see it played out in my life every day. That’s maybe being a little melodramatic, but nothing from you guys. But I do see it playing as I parent my own children and as I go off to work, I’m always waiting for something to go wrong because it went wrong when I was nine, so why would it not repeat itself? So that is how I drive home as I’m speaking. It’s not just about you. It’s about your co-worker and their family. It’s about your family. It’s about going home. Because whom do we all say we work safe for? We work safely for our children or our spouse or our parents or our dog. If I don’t go home tonight, who feeds my dog? Just those really simple things that we take for granted when we walk in the door at the end of the day, that we’re there because of safety and we have to be there tomorrow because of safety. That’s a decision we have to make.

Now, safety has to be forward-thinking. You have to constantly be looking for what could go wrong. What could go wrong if we don’t gauge these tanks? You have to constantly be looking for the next thing so that the next thing that your kids are looking forward to, which might be you helping them with their science project can happen.

Sure.

One of the things when Kayla first talked and started setting in on the, so she is sitting on safety meetings, they’re given TRS and a lot of different safety laws and acronyms. And Kayla said, dad, I don’t know what all those means. And so, I said to her, you don’t have to know. You’re not here as an employee who understands all those statistics are putting up on the slide. You’re here representing the family. So, she started saying and she incorporated that into a presentation about she’s good at pointing and she point to the crowd, she’ll say, I don’t know what your safety rules are and your regulations, and I don’t need to know. She said, I’m telling you as your children or I’m representing your children and your family standing here, and I’m telling you, I expect you to go to work and I expect you to come home. I don’t need to know what your rules are at work.

And they don’t care. Your kids don’t care about what rules and regulations, or your kids don’t care, in Dad’s case, about whom you do or do not like at work. They care that you’re there for their softball game.

Thank you very much for putting the effort that you do in sharing a story and convincing others to stay safe, to really reinforce within leaders and supervisors the impact that they have in terms of creating the right environment. I really appreciate the effort that you put into making that difference day in and day out. If somebody wants to bring you to present to their organization, what’s the best way for them to reach out to your website to connect with you?

Okay. That’s safetydifference.com and [email protected] will get you to where you can go straight to send us an email. And we’re both on that. We’re both on that website.

Absolutely. I really like the joint story that you bring because I think it’s easy to see one side but seeing the two sides just makes it even more powerful. So, thank you for joining together to share that message.

Thank you, Eric. We enjoy doing I appreciate you having us on.

Thank you for having us.

Thank you. All the best.

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Thank you for listening to the Safety Guru on C-suite Radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the path. 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 [email protected] 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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ABOUT THE GUEST

BRAD LIVINGSTON: Brad Livingston was involved in back to back explosions. The contributing factors to these explosions were the same as what exists in EVERY type of company EVERYWHERE – Shortcuts; Complacency; Pride; Bad Attitudes; Improper Perspectives. He explains ‘The Ripple Effect’, including what he went through, and more importantly, what his family went through, in such a way that those in attendance WILL understand why they CANNOT allow these factors to be a part of their workplace.
“You think it can’t happen to you?”
 
KAYLA RATH: Kayla Rath was nine years old when a decision her dad made at work nearly cost him his life. She tells the riveting story of what it was like to be pulled from school only to be told she may never see her father again. She walks the audience through what it is like for a child when an unsafe decision causes a dad to not come home. From the first night alone, to growing up with a handicapped father, Kayla speaks to the often ignored truth that decisions made on the work site cause a Ripple Effect in the lives of the family.
No matter the industry, no matter the job, from the CEO to the new hire, Kayla tells a story that your employees need to hear. Your decisions affect others. What happens when they affect the ones you love the most? Kayla travels the country with one goal in mind: to inspire workers to make decisions that will bring them home to their families each night.

For more information: http://www.safetydifference.com/

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The Lasting Legacy of Poor Safety Leadership & Culture with Louise Adamson

The lasting legacy of poor safety leadership & culture

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

“At the end of the day, whatever you’re working on is never as important as your family back at home.” This Thanksgiving season, we are grateful to have Louise Adamson join the podcast as she recalls the events that led to the loss of her brother in a fatal workplace incident in 2005. Louise accentuates the critical need for safety leaders to possess greater care for their team members than the work product and expresses the life-altering ripple effect that serious injuries and fatalities have on loved ones.

READ THIS EPISODE

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 is 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 safe legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.  

Hi, and welcome to the safety guru. Today, I am very excited to have with me Louise Adamson. She is a workplace safety speaker and a former lawyer. Louise, welcome to the show.  

Thanks so much for having me on. It is a pleasure.  

Maybe share a little bit about your journey and really the story about your brother that got you really focused on driving change, positive change around the safety space.  

Okay, thanks. Well, my brother Michael, was an electrician, 26 years old. He left a home that he shared with his fiancé on the morning of the 4 August 2005, and he did not make it home to Lisa that night. So, what had happened was he originally had come into a job in Edinburgh. He then got a call midway through the day from a job his employer was working on in a city called Dundee. It was an all-hands-on-deck job to get a sports store and a gym complex completed for a handover to a client by the next again a day or else some penalty clauses were going to kick in. So, for a job worth 720 grand for Michael’s employer there is a fifteen grand late penalty clause if it is not handed over by 10:00 the next again morning. Did you know if is Michael willing to go? Well, this is a man who is saving for a wedding. He has been offered over this over time probably right through the night. So of course, he’s willing to go. So, he heads up to Dundee with two of his colleagues. They’ve done pieces of work in the afternoon, and they’ve had their evening tea break.  

He then heads back to work at 06:30 in the evening and at that point, he was only to continue working for the next 40 minutes. So, what he was doing, was collaborating with his colleague Jim and they were installing a security system. So, they were needing to connect a cable that was already in place within a ceiling void to one lead pulled in and Michael is on a set of steps. He’s got his head and shoulders above a full ceiling, he cuts a cable, and he throws it down to the gym. And that cable had a label on it on insulating tape just wrapped around it. And written on the label it said not in use, I do as then Michael is stripping the insulating material from that cable, he suffers a fatal electric shock. So, he fell off the ladder, he fell at Jim’s feet and efforts were made to survive them. But those efforts were unsuccessful in the end. 

I’m so sorry.  

So, it’s a 26-year-old man with his whole life ahead of him to live and he didn’t make it home that night because it’s often said that Michael died because of contact with electricity. No, my brother didn’t die because of contact with electricity. He died because that series of feelings came together and resulted in his death. So, on that site, there was ineffective management and supervision. There was the paperwork that was not put into practice, you’ve got incorrect equipment being used. So, Michael only had a multimeter available to him when he should have been using a voltage tester. There were time pressures being brought to bear. Clearly, with the penalty clauses about to kick in the next day, you’ve also got shortcuts potentially being taken. So, did my brother use what I’m told is referred to by electricians as the bang test? So, did he just try to cut that cable with his snips, wait on the bang to tell him it was life or not? We don’t know if that’s what he did because only he’d be able to tell us, but that’s one of the possibilities that we left with. So, you’ve got shortcuts in the mix, you’ve got a safety on the job.  

It was just seen as a tick box exercise. You had a risk assessment that wasn’t a living document. It was dated more than a year prior to their contract start date.  

Oh, my goodness. 

Dated prior to the contract has not even been awarded because it was one of these generic ones and no site-specific tailoring has been done to that risk assessment. So even at the point at which they energize the distribution boards, so they’re now live working, that risk assessment isn’t revisited. So, it is described by the Health and Safety Executive inspectors as being completely inadequate, so nothing living about that. And it also contributed to Michael’s death. And then I think the sort of final piece, the final hole in all of this is there was a workforce there that wasn’t confident enough to speak up if something was wrong. They were in that mindset of, we could speak up, but nobody’s going to do anything about it anyway. We’re coming to the end of the job. What’s the point if I do speak up? I’m seen as the troublemaker the person dobbin pals, so let’s just get on with it. So, all of these things come together and result in Michael’s death. There was a trial of his employer more than three years down the line after his death, and the outcome of that was that the HSC said that Michael’s death could have been prevented had his employer ensured that safe working practices were being conducted in accordance with the company’s own written procedures.  

And that is just you don’t know how hard that is for a family to have to hear and then went on to say that managers and supervisors must be taking active steps to ensure that electricians work safely. Well, for us, it’s not just about electricians there you swap out the word electricians, you’re swapping in the word workers, operatives. That applies to anything that’s going on any site. In Michael’s case, there were charges laid against three senior individuals. So, there was a managing director an operations director, and a technical services manager who were all charged with criminal health and safety offenses along with the employer company. But mistakes were made by the prosecutor and in the end, those three individuals got to leave the court, and walk free from the dock before the case got before the jury. So, the lawyer then for the company is kind of doing his grand summing up speech as you expect lawyers to do. But he’s referring to his client as being the invisible man now sitting on the dock. That being the employer company.  

Sure.  

So, it was the invisible man that was found guilty of the failures that led to my brother’s death and it was the invisible man that was fined £300,000. But that for us as a family, it doesn’t approach justice and absolutely nothing in the way of comfort. So that’s why I’m now trying to use Michael’s story and to use it to strike a chord with other people, to stop it from happening to other people. That is what now provides my family with the comfort of knowing that positives come from the awful thing that is Michael’s entirely preventable death.  

Yeah, it seems incredibly preventable, and everybody goes to work and expects to come back, nobody thinks about injuries and what could happen. And in this case, there are so many elements here that just show woeful inadequacy in terms of how the organization was being run. From a safety standpoint, they’re looking at hazards but not really understanding what they were. The risk assessment to me is something that should be absolutely living, but also something that people review as they change throughout the day. As the conditions change, they need to reassess the houses in front of them. It sounded like there was labelling saying that it wasn’t even a live wire. So, by all accounts, he’s trusting somebody else had done their job. So, it’s a layering of multiple errors and multiple inadequacies on top of each other.  

Absolutely going to say in terms of the wire, the plans had changed much earlier in the job, but nobody had up, nobody. So, while the plans changed, the written plans didn’t change. So, nobody documented a change in wiring plans. So that then compounds that failure in relation to the cable. 

I see. The other problem is you’ve got multiple crews coming in without it seemingly an onboarding to the job and so there are changes like that that get layered on. So, one topic I hear a lot is the importance of speaking up. And there are two elements that you touched on because speaking up requires two parts in my opinion. One is the employer creating an environment where I’m comfortable speaking up. Leaders recognize, lean in when somebody speaks up, stop work, and says, this is positive, I want to see more of it. And then the other is the peer-to-peer element because that’s also very important. Leaders have an important role in terms of fostering that as well. So, it’s not an abdication. But there are two elements because there are cases where the organization has done really well in terms of encouraging it, but peers think that I think somebody shared a story where they said, are you a man or a mouse when the person spoke up and stopped work. And so, peer pressure also becomes an element of it that the organization needs to drive forward. Any thoughts in terms of that part? Because speaking up is difficult.  

I’ve done it once I stop work. And when you know the consequences of it being very expensive, you think about it 10,000 times, is it really the right call? But it was recognized after by the executives that they lose the right choice to make. What are some of the things that you’ve seen to really drive that forward? 

I think reflect on him first on the fact that my brother wasn’t a shy, retiring individual. He was a ball she individual who, if something was wrong, he’d have no qualms about speaking up about it. He’d already challenged his employer previously about some work that they’d been doing where asbestos was present. So, he wasn’t off that mindset. So, I don’t understand why he didn’t speak up in this situation. So, I have to kind of second guess it. And I think a large element of it is that whole drive to get the job done, guys, we’re up against it and let’s come together as a team and let’s battle the odds and let’s beat the odds and we’re going to get this done by ten tomorrow morning. Nobody thinks we can do it, but we’re going to get it done. There’s that whole thing going on. I think so. I think the sheriff, the judge in the case, in our sentencing statement, said that there was a male macho, cavalier approach being adopted in that industry at the time. So, in terms of battling that, you do need the MD, the Ops director, whomever it might be, they’re the ones in that situation. 

They were the ones who needed to take the step back and say, we’re not going to put our people in this position where they are being made to make these choices. They were the ones who should have stood back and had a grown-up conversation with the principal contractor, the principal contractor with the client. Because I can see that it would be easy in that situation for the men on the ground to be swept up in that. Let’s achieve the impossible goal. And when you’re working in an organization where safety isn’t any sort of core value, it seems then it’s dangerous being an important point. 

Because of that desire to achieve a goal, often even in organizations that are fairly good at stopping work and creating that relief valve sometimes a desire of achieving a goal can get people to start straying into forgetting about how to achieve it safely. And I think an example recently was the whole inquiry into the Boeing 737 Max, and it was all a goal to let’s get this plane done because otherwise, Airbus had a superior plane. And at the point in time where the decision was made to progress, American Airlines was going to move most of its fleet on the Airbus side, whereas they had an entirely bowling fleet. So that created this goal of let’s make sure we get this plane done. And then lots of things fell apart in between. Not that that’s the only item, but people then forget about it, we have to do it safely, we have to make sure we know how to build a plane, we need to make sure we’re capturing it the right way, we’re getting the right diagrams, et cetera. And that goal can rally against the right purpose, the right choices. It doesn’t mean don’t have a goal.  

I think it’s just a question of how you mitigate that goal. How do you reinforce that the goal is to get this done safely and to pause if we see something right?  

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

Yeah, and I often reiterate that because the Health and Safety Executive Inspector who investigated Michael’s death, I met him just a couple of years ago, and he was saying to me, supervisor level back at that time, and he was quite sure to a degree still today is that their number one priority is getting a job done on time. And I’m always saying that’s not what it should be. It should be to get that job done safely. Safely isn’t that added extra? It’s the on-time part that sure added extra so safely. 

And that requires a lot of messaging that really reinforces that story consistently within the organization. Particularly in the case of the production pressure, you’re mentioning, because here there are penalty clauses. Unfortunately, that production pressure seeps in a lot, even in organizations that have good management systems, just, we got to get this done. Have you seen anything or is there any advice that you share with organizations in terms of how to mitigate that production pressure, so it doesn’t impact the choices that somebody makes? 

I guess that’s really about explaining to people why they’re there. At the end of the day, the sports store my brother was working on, was going to open regardless of how long it took. They’re up against time pressures, so they’re throwing bodies at that job to try to get this all-hands-on-deck job completed. And in the process of that, they threw an actual body at that job, my brothers. And the goal at the end of the day, whatever you’re working on is never as important as your family back at home. And that’s what people need. They shouldn’t need to be reminded of that. But as we’ve already talked about, there is that whole getting swept up in a certain mentality sometimes. So it is that core value, that leadership. Actually, the biggest thing that they care about is the people that are working for them. Not whatever the product or building or whatever it might be at the end of that, it’s the people that they care about the most. 

Yeah. And I think that’s really the message that you share really an organization has to do so much more, has to recognize to create an environment, a culture where people get home every day to their loved ones. And the impact of an event like this, somebody passing away, somebody getting seriously injured, is a life-changing impact for multiple people around that person.  

Yeah, absolutely. And we still hear about new people who’ve been impacted in other ways by what happened to my car. And we’re now 17 years on from his death. But we know about the immediate family, friends, his colleagues who were there at the time. Sorry, we know about the impact it had on them because we see it. We see it day in, day out, we see it. We hold an annual memorial golf tournament for him. So, we hear from his colleagues that kind of the impact that it still has on them and how much they miss him. But then I’ll be speaking at an event, and somebody will come and say to me, oh, I know the first aider who stopped by the C-suite where Michael was working. He just happened to be walking past when this happened, and he helped provide CPR to your brother and he’s still impacted. And until more than a decade after Michael’s death, we knew nothing about this man and about the help that he provided. So, the ripple effect is so wide. I’ve just recently had a colleague of Michaels get in touch and she’s now working in safety as a result of what happened to Michael.  

So, there are so many ripples, so many negative ripples, but also, I hope, so many positive ripples are now being created out of Michael’s death. And I was speaking at a new-born graduation on Monday and I’m saying that I hope at some point these ripples all come together and then it’s that sort of ground swell of positivity so that we know that other lives have been saved as a result of what happened to him and being able to talk about what happened to him and getting lessons learned from what happened to him. 

Which is so important. Really. For other organizations. Other leaders. Recognize the importance of really leading for safety and for others in terms of the day-to-day choices or making how they show up as a supervisor. How do they show up as a leader? So, Louise, thank you very much for sharing your story. It’s still a very difficult, raw story to share because there will never really be closure. But I think the importance of sharing the story, the message, I think helps make sure somebody else comes home safe to the loved ones. So, I appreciate the work that you’re doing. If somebody wants to have you speak to their organization, how can they get in touch with you? 

So, they find me on LinkedIn, or you’ll get me on the website michaelsstory.Net or email [email protected], that would be fantastic. Thanks, Eric.  

Cheers. Thank you very much, Louise. 

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.  

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

More Episodes: https://thesafetyculture.guru/

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

Eric Michrowski: https://ericmichrowski.com

ABOUT THE GUEST

Louise Adamson spent 13 years working as an employment lawyer for a top Scottish firm.  However, a personal tragedy led to her attentions becoming focused on the field of health and safety. Her brother Michael was only 26 years old and engaged to be married when he lost his life in an electrical incident which could and should have been prevented. Lessons must be learned and Louise now tells Michael’s story on-screen and in workplaces across many sectors and on major projects.  She has spoken internationally, travelling to Australia and widely throughout Europe.  And has delivered her brother’s story on-screen to workplaces globally. In the last year alone it has made a positive impact in health and safety leadership, culture and practices from the west coast of the USA, through Central and South America, across Europe and Asia, and on to Australia. She is a NEBOSH Ambassador and has previously been named the UK’s Most Influential Person in Health and Safety by SHP Magazine. Louise is also a trustee of health and safety charity Scottish Hazards, where she is focussed on securing long-term funding for an occupational health and safety advice, training and support service for workers. Her primary aim in all she does is to stop anyone else from losing their life or their loved one in a preventable workplace incident.  

For more information: [email protected]

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Safety Leadership coaching has been limited, expensive, and exclusive for too long.

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Unlock your full potential with the only Executive Safety Coaching for Ops & HSE leaders available on the market.

Explore your journey with Executive Safety Coaching at https://www.execsafetycoach.com.
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Understanding the True Impact of SIFs on Families, Loved Ones and Leaders with Alyssa Grocutt

Understanding the true impact of SIFs on families, loved ones and leaders

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

Alyssa Grocutt was 11 years old when her father suffered a fatal workplace safety incident. Over time, this incident has given Alyssa the passion, purpose, and drive toward a meaningful career in bringing awareness to the topic of workplace safety and safety incidents. In this heartfelt episode, Alyssa shares the true impact workplace injuries and fatalities have on family members, friends, coworkers, and leaders. Tune in to listen to her story and learn how organizations and leaders can provide enduring support to secondary victims of workplace safety incidents.

READ THIS EPISODE

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

Hi, and welcome to The Safety Guru. I’m excited to have with me, Alyssa Grocutt. She’s a PhD student at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, and she’s doing a lot of work and research around workplace safety. Passionate advocate about workplace safety. Alyssa, welcome to the show. 

Thank you, Eric. Yeah, it’s great to be on. Thanks for having me. 

Absolutely. So, I’d love to hear about your story and how you got your passion around safety because I saw you posting and being very active and a strong advocate of safety. That’s where I got interested and wanted to hear better about your story. So, why don’t we start there? 

Yeah, for sure. So, it all goes back to 2008. I was eleven years old, and it was July 8, 2008, around 05:00, p.m. There was a knock on the door. Being eleven, I ran over all excited to answer the door. And I was shocked to find a police officer standing there with two other individuals. And they were there to inform my mom and myself that my dad had been fatally injured in a workplace safety instant that day. Yeah, it’s not fun. It’s been tough, but it’s really given me this drive towards safety, this passion and a purpose with my life and my career. So, I am thankful for what it has given me in that sense.

Absolutely. You started at a very young age doing presentations to classes, to schools, and you made it a mission to drive a difference on such an important topic. Tell me a little bit about how that came to life, and then we’ll get into some of the research that you’re doing soon. 

Yeah, for sure. So, being so young, it was hard to connect with my peers, having my dad pass away in a workplace safety incident. So, I started with just trying to get a conversation going. I found it really helpful to talk about the whole situation and what happened to me. I found that was a great way to cope. And so, I started giving presentations in grade six. It just started out as kind of, hey, this is what happened to me. We can talk about it. But then from grade seven through to grade twelve, I would go around on the National Day of Mourning, April 28, the day to honor workers who have been injured, killed, or have become ill from work. And I really used that day to go around to different classes and give presentations on the importance of safety. And it seems to be received quite a positive feedback from teachers. And so, I had teachers sign up for me to come in on that day. And it was just really nice to have that to talk to people, especially because young workers can be at risk not receiving as much safety training. 

And so, it’s definitely good to get that message out to young people. And I think the personal story has a different impact than just teachers telling you that you need to be safe. 

Right. And I think it’s a really important point because a lot of people graduate, start work, and they’ve never even heard of the topic of safety, and they don’t even really understand the concept. I know even when I recruit for roles and I talk about safety, people start assuming, oh, it must be like policing and security and things like that. I’m like it’s about workplace safety, making sure people come home to their loved ones. 

Yes. It’s something that we don’t talk about enough, I think, especially for young workers, because even in high school, some people are getting jobs at fast food chains, even retail. And there’s hazards with all of that that people need to be aware of and aware of their rights. So, I think it’s really important. 

Absolutely. So, you’ve gone on your now doing a Ph.D. Tell me a little bit about the study and the work that you’ve been doing around safety because you’ve taken a different lens than most of the other research out there. 

Yeah, definitely. So, most of the research that’s out there on workplace safety looks at the causes of safety incidents, work injuries. And this is all in an effort to prevent such occurrences, which, of course, is important. We want to be Proactive. We don’t want these things to happen, but they do still happen. And so, I’ve really been interested in taking my own experience. So, what we say in research is doing research. So, I’m taking my own experience and researching it. So, I’m really interested in the consequences of just safety incidents in general and work injuries and even fatalities, although it’s a little bit harder to do research on that just lower base rate. But definitely, yes, it’s an overall positive thing, not so much for doing research on it, but happy that there’s fewer fatalities out there. But I’m really interested in the consequences of these occurrences and how it affects not just, say injured workers, but their family, their friends, their co-workers, people in positions of leadership at the organization. I think these are all important groups of people that we don’t really know from our research standpoint, how they’re affected. 

So, tell me a little bit about some of the things that you’ve uncovered so far, because I know we’ve had several guests here that have talked about this anecdotally talking about coworkers that may be witnessed an injury and maybe never were able to return back to work or first responders that knew the person who was injured and as well never could return back to the workplace. So, we’ve heard about the impact on leaders, on families and really heart wrenching stories around it. What are you seeing from some of the early themes of the work you’ve done? 

Yeah, I’d say a lot of work that has been done by others has looked at negative consequences, which of course, there’s going to be negative consequences. We know financial hardships for families and mental health for children of injured workers. Children have been shown to experience worse mental health outcomes, medication use, depression, just subjective reports on how they’re feeling generally. And based on my experience, I was really interested in can there be positive outcomes? Because I think there’s obviously going to be an immediate negative impact, especially on mental health. But in the long teams, I know that I’ve taken my experience and turned it into a positive in my life and something that really drives me towards a meaningful career. And so, what I found with my master’s research is I was looking at children of injured workers. So, when a parent was injured at work while their children were growing up, how that impacted the children into young adulthood. And I actually found there can be positive outcomes. So, children, although there’s a psychological impact, like a distressing feeling based on the work injury, children can take that and learn and grow and develop something we call post traumatic growth. 

And then even subsequently, it can lead to work outcomes, like greater chances of occupying a leadership position. So that’s kind of what I’m diving more into now and trying to figure out how this all happens. And really what about safety specific leadership is what I’m interested in right now. Does this experience contribute to engaging in more safety specific leader behaviors when you’re in a position of leadership?

And I think I’ve definitely seen that in organizations where a leader and it’s not consistent, but a leader experiences a fatality in the workplace at different levels within the organization, and it shocks them and creates an incredible call to action. I’ve worked with CEOs who said, never again on my watch do I ever want to have to go see another family or attend a funeral. And then they drove the organization through change tremendous activity to make sure that that was a resulting effort. So that can definitely be a positive silver lining, I guess would be the right way to position it in terms of really driving a call to action, which is good part in some organizations, it doesn’t happen. It just becomes short term blip it doesn’t necessarily drive to long term sustainable outcomes. So great that you’re looking a little bit more into that leadership side of the equation as well. What are some of the things that you’ve seen from families but also workplace colleagues in terms of things to consider for a leader, really, because the impact of a workplace fatality or serious injury can be substantial and really has a significant impact on a larger community.

What are some of the takeaways that we can share with some of the listeners around this? 

Yeah, for sure. I think one of the things that I’ve been talking about with my supervisor because we want to get more into the leadership side of things and how leaders can lead through these safety incidents and what they can do after them. And one of the things we’ve been talking about is we prepare leaders for difficult conversations. And a lot of the time this can be just, hey, your performance wasn’t so great in the last quarter, not necessarily talking to subordinates’ followers. What have you about a fatality or an injury or even having to tell family members, because some leaders are put in the position to tell family members? And I think this is something that nobody wants to experience. And we often have this, oh, it’s not going to happen to me thought, but it can happen. So, one of the things that I think is important is while it’s not fun, but considering what if this did happen, reflecting on that, trying to be prepared. So, if you do have to be in that difficult situation, you have a plan, you have some ideas. And I think one of the important things that we don’t talk about much too is that leaders are human beings, and we often put them on this pedestal of knowing what to do, how to do it. 

And they’re supposed to be composed all the time through all this. And yeah, to some extent they need to be they’re in that position for a reason. But also, we’re all human. And we also need to consider how leaders can be psychologically impacted, emotionally, mentally, and making sure that there’s supports in place for leaders and coworkers, too, because I think a lot of the time the thought is on family and it’s not always a long-term thought, like in the short term, people are supported, but these things can have such lasting impacts. I know that more anecdotally than from the research, but that’s something I want to look into more is how long do we need to be supporting people for?

And I think that’s something that’s important because a lot of organizational have a good initial response plan if that happens. But your point around leadership preparedness for an event like this, even if we hope that it will never happen, I think most organizations are probably willfully unprepared for it. And really knowing who goes to say what to whom and how do you actually have that conversation? Because it’s not in the repertoire of the CEO’s conversation starters. Very few organizations would have established protocols. Some might have an established protocol, but even then, doesn’t mean that the person is even prepared. 

What am I to say? 

Yes, and I think that it’s a big task, but how leaders engage with family members after can really make or break a family’s experience of a fatality or simply an injury, too. I know that the organization my dad worked for everyone was so amazing and so supportive following his death, and the support really helped. And I think that it definitely helps me get to where I am today, and I’m so thankful for that. And I don’t think necessarily anyone had prepared for that to happen. But the way that they dealt with it was definitely great. 

What would be some of the characteristics of an organization that deals with it the right way? What are some of the elements that we should see in that initial response? 

Definitely. So, I think one of the big things that I appreciated was that they communicated with us a lot. The leaders were in contact with my mom personally, and they also didn’t try to seem all put together all the time. They showed that they were emotional about it. And I think that just helps to show that we’re not just another number. I know when I was a kid, I never wanted to be forgotten. I wanted people to always remember that there was a family that was left behind. And it was clear from the response that we were never going to be forgotten about. And they actively engaged in conversations with us. And so, my dad worked in the oil Sands in Northern Alberta, and when we had to go pick up his stuff, they gave us tours of where he worked. And it was just so nice to be able to see that. My dad was so happy where he was at in his career when he died. And so, it was so meaningful for me to be able to see what made him so happy. And it was just those things that it was pretty simple for them in terms of staying in touch with us, showing that they are human, too and are impacted emotionally and providing us with an opportunity to see what our loved one loves before they die. 

And I think that vulnerability is definitely something that I’ve seen is consistently an important theme is to show your human to recognize it because it’s tough and even for the person who’s delivering the messages. One executive I was speaking to, and he shares his story about when early on in his career, he was on a young supervisor, and somebody had passed away on their shift. And he was tasked with having to go speak to the family. And he recalls and he says it was the longest walk that basically getting from the car to the house. And he can recall step by step in slow motion, the emotions, the difficulty, and everything he went through. But again, that became a catalyst for him to say, hey, never again. This cannot happen at least for him, it became a positive drive to saying, what do I need to do, even in a very dangerous space, dangerous industry, to make sure that doesn’t need to happen? 

Definitely. And I think it can be hard to find that positivity and all of it. But if you can, it can be so meaningful, and you can have such a huge impact on how things are dealt with moving forward if you try to turn it into that positive outlook. 

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

Absolutely. I appreciate you sharing that, because it’s a very difficult topic to explore, but it’s an important one because until the day we get to completely stop and eradicate serious injuries and fatalities in the workplace, there’s also the element of how does an organization prepare and how do they show up in the right way. Have you explored as well as the impact on coworkers and how do you respond from an organizational standpoint? Because often what I hear is will bring EAP is there some best practices around the response for peers who knew the person as well? 

Yeah, that’s a great question and something I want to explore further. I haven’t yet that’s on my list. I’ve been focusing on the family lately, but getting into my Ph.D. dissertation work, which I’ll probably be getting more into in the fall, I want to look into some of these things. I know that anecdotally with my dad’s experience. Like one of the co-workers in a video said, every night I go to bed, I think of Kevin, my dad, and every morning I wake up, I think of him, and that always gives me chills. I can’t imagine being there. And I would love to know more of how organizations can support coworkers because I think obviously you want to move on and get back to production sooner. But again, getting back to that, we’re all human, and I think there’s definitely things out there that could be done better in a lot of situations. So, I will have more on that hopefully in the next few years. 

And maybe we’ll bring you back to share a little bit more on some of the findings on that front. Is there something as well that should be considered in terms of supporting leaders? Because you’ve talked about as well how leaders are still people, they’re still humans. And how do we support them through something like this? Because there are different leaders that maybe even saw things in some cases. I’ve talked to leaders who will then regret that they never said something when something wrong happened, and they just walked by and then they could never get past it. 

Yeah. And I think starting this discussion is the first thing that needs to be done, because even just in research in general on leaders, we don’t know much about leaders’ mental health, and there’s a stigma behind it, which is some research being done, actually, by one of my colleagues here at Smith School of Business. She’s really interested in the stigma behind leaders’ mental health, and I think that goes hand in hand with these supporting leaders following safety incidents and even fatalities. And I think starting the conversation and allowing leaders to be vulnerable is the first step, because it’s one thing to have supports in place, but allowing leaders to know that they can use them and there’s not going to be negative repercussions because we can have all these different policies, practices, and procedures in place for people. But the first thing is that they need to know that they exist. And another thing is that they need to feel that it’s okay for them to access those resources. And I think that goes with a lot of the taboo topics in the workplace. And I think being emotional is one of those. And mental health, and I think there’s starting to be more of a conversation out there, and there’s mental health supports, but people still aren’t necessarily feeling comfortable accessing those. 

And I think even especially in some of these industries that we’re talking about that have more injuries and fatalities, there is more of that stigma associated with it more of a tough front. So, yeah, I think talking about it first and foremost and having resources, but making sure people are able to access those and feel okay, too. And that is something I really want to dive into, though, with my dissertation work. I’m hoping to interview leaders and see get out all the good and the bad. What has been done well, what hasn’t? And I want to really Home in on some actionable steps that organizations can take, and those leaders can take to work through all of this.

It’s an interesting point because a lot of organizations talk about making sure the support resources are there for the workers there, but not necessarily check in in terms of the leaders as well, in terms of their emotional wellbeing. And as you said, we know from a fact standpoint that some of these industries have a significantly greater exposure to some of the mental health challenges, particularly if there’s fly in, fly out operations or even traveling construction type work tends to be very prone to higher risks in that regard. And that’s not just the front-line team member. It’s also different leaders that could be exposed to the same and trying to balance being tough, being responsible, and being a leader with their own wellbeing. So, I think that’s a very important point as well. 

Definitely. It’s so tough for leaders. I think they’re left behind in a lot of this. I think we’re getting more into that. We need to support employees with different resources, but leaders are still lacking. In that sense, I’d say. 

I appreciate a lot of the work, the research you’re doing, because it’s a topic we don’t hear a lot about. It very important to obviously understand. How do you prevent injuries? How do you look at leadership to support prevention of serious injuries and fatalities? Very important to drive the momentum to bring it to C-suite. But there’s also the effect of sometimes an event happens and how is it that you address it? How do you show up as a caring organization? That case provides support. You talked about also making sure it’s enduring. It’s not just for the week, for the day. It becomes a sustained effort recognizing that people have a lot to go through an event like this. Multiple stakeholders have to deal with it. I appreciate that you’re incredibly active as well in the community advocating for safety. I saw you on multiple channels sharing the message that I think is incredibly important. Thank you so much for sharing all these insights. Thank you for your passion and dedication and making a difference in so many workplaces for advocating around it from a very young age in terms of speaking in schools, I think it’s incredibly important. So, you’ve got, as I understand a website and blogs are coming out and also, you’re active in social media. How can somebody connect with you if they’re interested in furthering the dialogue? 

Yeah, for sure. So, I have my LinkedIn which I post on probably the most frequently. I also have a Twitter and everything’s just Alyssa Grocutt and I recently started a website which I list all my experience and my research publications as they come out. And my biggest thing on there that I am doing is a blog so I’m still determining how frequently I’m posting. But I am planning on doing little summaries of safety research that has been done in my field just to get it out there. I think there’s a bit of a well, I know there’s a gap between academics and practitioners and I want to kind of bridge that gap with this blog by creating short like five-minute reads of summaries of the academic research that has been going on in the safety field. So, I would welcome anyone that’s interested to check that out. I hope to be posting there more frequently. Right now, I have two summaries up so there will be more in the future and as I do the research on the consequences, I will be doing summaries on that. 

Excellent. Well, thank you very much for sharing your story for advocating and hopefully we’ll get you back on the show once you finish this next piece of research. I think there should be some interesting findings as well. 

Yes, definitely. I would love to come back and thank you so much for having me. This has been a great conversation like what we do. 

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 2 weeks for the next episode with your host Eric Michrowski. This podcast is Powered by Propulo Consulting. 

The Safety Guru with Eric Michrowski

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Alyssa Grocutt’s passion for workplace safety started after her father’s tragic death in a workplace safety incident when she was 11 years old. Alyssa’s  father’s death was a profound learning and developmental experience, and in time became a challenge to turn life’s negative experiences into personal inspirations. For Alyssa, this is evident in her dedication to promoting workplace safety through research, and presentations to schools and organizations on workplace safety, and her personal commitment to workplace safety since her father’s death.

Alyssa began researching workplace safety during her undergraduate degree, a BSc in Psychology (First Class Honours) from the University of Calgary. During her studies, Alyssa worked with Dr. Nick Turner on workplace safety research. For her MSc degree with her current supervisor Dr. Julian Barling, she shifted her focus to the secondary victims of workplace injuries, and examined how children of injured workers are affected by their parents’ work injury.  

Alyssa is now a doctoral student in Organizational Behaviour at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Canada, and is the recipient of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship. Her current research focuses on the impact of workplace injuries and fatalities on secondary victims who are often overlooked after workplace injuries and fatalities, such as family members, peers, and managers of people injured or killed at work. 

Alyssa actively promotes workplace safety on social media. Alyssa also has a website that tells her story, and provides access to her research. Most importantly, it includes her blog, on which she regularly summarizes some of the most interesting and important research on workplace safety.  

Website: https://www.alyssagrocutt.com  

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alyssagrocutt/  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlyssaGrocutt

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Safety Starts with Awareness. Awareness Starts with You with Bernie & Sheila Inman

Safety starts with awareness. Awareness starts with you.

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ABOUT THE EPISODE

In this episode, we have a heartfelt conversation with Bernie and his wife Sheila Inman as they recount the events that led to a tragic incident that left Bernie with burns in over 70% of his body and rendered a quadriplegic. They share their powerful message of “safety starts with awareness – awareness starts with you”, while Sheila shares her heartbreaking experience as a loved one confronted by her husband’s life-altering incident. Tune in to listen to their moving messages!

READ THIS EPISODE

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

Hi, and welcome to The Safety Guru today. I’m very excited to have with me, Bernie, and Sheila Inman. Bernie is a survivor 28 years ago of a critical workplace incident. He’s now turned into a critically acclaimed motivational speaker around safety. So, Bernie and Sheila, love to have you on the podcast. Love. If you could maybe share your story a little bit, we can start getting started there.

Well, thanks for having us, Eric. It’s a very much a privilege for both of us. 28 years ago, I was employed in the oil and gas sector as a production operator. And you know what started out like any other day, perfectly normal, ended up in a world of grief after an inadvertent Slipper trip resulted in a prolonged exposure to methanol or methyl alcohol as a product, a chemical that we injected into our pipelines, et cetera, for freeze protection. 

Right. Tell me a little bit because I understand you were out for a very long time. So, tell me a little bit about what happened and how that actually happened.

Because I’ve got no recollection of the entire incident or the ship leading up to this incident. All I can really speak about is in terms of contributing factors is what we’ve learned from the investigation process. And it starts with, in all likelihood, a slip or a trip which resulted in a fall, subsequent blow to the head, which I didn’t have a hard hat covering it because of complacency creeping into my day-to-day routine. That blow to the head. After I collapsed in this building, I came to be resting on top of a methanol injection pump. And the discharge end of this particular pump was in a lever style configuration. And unfortunately, the weight of my leg and boot was enough to crack that valve open. And from that point in time on, every stroke the pump was taking was discharging raw methanol not only onto the floor in this little building, but eventually onto my boots, my clothing, eventually skin contact. And that’s where they found me approximately 12 hours later.

Oh, my goodness. That’s a very long time. And how did they end up finding you at that point? Because normally you would expect for somebody working alone that there would have been some protocols to jump in and realize why is it that you haven’t called in?

Yeah. Unfortunately, in that time frame back in the 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon for us to be working alone for extended periods of time. There were no calling procedures or anything of that nature. My wife was the one who actually initiated the panic button. And that only occurred when she came home from work and found our home empty when I should have been there. I firmly believe in the value of keeping our coworkers or loved ones informed as to where we’re at, what we’re doing, and at any given time, roughly what time we’re going to be home. I always tried to do that. And when it didn’t happen that night, Sheila initiated the search. My co-worker went out looking at approximately twelve midnight. And unfortunately, it was the last location that he checked. Our field was fairly extensive. It included a central gas plant in approximately 75 km of pipelines and field locations feeding the site. And as it sometimes goes, it was the last location that he looked because it was the least one that you would expect something bad to happen. And to all of our horror, that’s the one that got me.

Sheila, maybe tell me from your standpoint you come home, and Bernie is not there. Tell me what your experience through this was.

Okay, I come home, and Bernie is not there. And it’s not unusual because he does work late sometimes. He didn’t have a phone back then. We didn’t even have cell phones. He just had a phone at the plant site. So of course, I came home. I waited a while. I called the plant site. At the time, he had an XJ radio. I tried calling that. I called his co-worker right away to say he wasn’t home. I did a phone search for Bernie. I called the hockey rink, I called his friends, I called his co-worker. And by midnight, when Bernie didn’t come home, I realized something was really wrong. And I encouraged all to go look for Bernie because he had to be out there somewhere, right?

And so that’s where all I think you said went out on a search. So, tell me what happens from here. 

Al locates me. He’s somewhat surprised to find my pickup parked on site. The vehicle was running, the door was open. He assumed that I would probably come out of that building and inquire as to what he was actually doing there. Obviously, that didn’t happen. And upon entry, he found me unconscious in the building. Check my vital signs, got me out of the toxic environment, called for emergency services and began got me into his pickup and met the ambulance part way to the hospital.

From your standpoint, Sheila, tell me about what’s the experience from an injury like this, from an incident that occurs like this. 

You know what? It’s just when something like this happens, it’s so unexpected as all injuries are. And it’s doubly hard when it’s a preventable workplace incident because it could be prevented. And Bernie could have been found a lot sooner. Definitely things that the company changed after Bernie was hurt to make the environment a better place. And we’re happy about that. We’re happy that things are better now, and that’s sometimes how it happens. An incident has to happen before you realize what needs to be changed.

Ideally, it doesn’t, right? Ideally, an organization is always looking at where could something go wrong. Like in this particular case, somebody who’s working alone have some form of a call out protocol check in protocol so that if it’s taking longer than it should, I proactively start taking steps.

Oh, absolutely. And unfortunately, at the time, there wasn’t even a work call in procedure for Bernie’s workplace. You know what? It was something I know Bernie had thought about and had talked about it in safety meetings, but it had never come about.

You mentioned it, and even that didn’t trigger a reflection to say, maybe we need to close the gap of this front.

Well, you know what? I think it was standard back then in the workplace industry. In the oil and gas industry, it was not common practice to have a call-in procedure. 

So, let’s get into some of the key contributing factors to this incident. Tell me a little bit about how it happened and some of the things that could be done to prevent this from occurring.

Maybe I should start with saying that we took about seven years in recovery before I was approached to talk about this. And when we agreed to do something of this nature, Sheila and I really sat back and tried to re-evaluate again for the uptight time because we’ve been down that path hundreds of times. When you wake up thinking you’re in the middle of a nightmare and you realize it’s absolutely true, four elements really came to the forefront, and it started with policy and procedure was aware of a hard hat. It’s a disregard to company policy. They spend millions of dollars on PPE for my benefit. I didn’t wear it. Obviously, safety equipment, personal protective equipment is key in any safe work environment. Communication or lack thereof obviously played a huge role in the severity of this incident. I was exposed to raw methyl alcohol. If I was out of that building in 2 hours or 3 hours, I probably still walk. I’m not a quadriplegic. I’m not burnt over 70% of my body. So, the breakdown in communication was paramount. And then probably the most critical one that I think crept into my world. And I think it’s very easy to creep into anybody’s world is this issue of complacency.

And it caught up with me because this was the simplest, ill-equipped facility we had in our fleet. In other words, there’s no heat generating devices, no electrical components. It’s sweet natural gas, and you perform the same tasks day in, day out, without suffering any adverse effects. And I got comfortable, let my guard down. And that’s the nature of complacency. I just don’t know if there’s anything more dangerous out there than complacency because it happens and you’re not even aware of it. 

Yeah, that’s exactly the case. So often that’s what I hear is I did it 100 times, maybe in a way. I knew it wasn’t the safest way. And then I started realizing that’s, okay, I can get away. Nothing’s happened. And then it became complacent to the risk of the hazard. So, what are some of the things that could have as an organization, as leaders could have helped from a complacency standpoint to help reduce the likelihood that people do become complacent around some of those hazards?

That’s the age-old question. And that’s why Sheila and I, when we do a live presentation, it’s entitled Safety Starts With Awareness. Awareness Starts with you because there are steps that an individual could take, the Corporation could take. We can all take because we’re all part of that team.

Exactly.

Yes. And it starts with learning from incidents, regardless of how menial they might appear to be. I mean, I bumped out of we never thought that that would end up being a life-threatening injury is the complacency. I don’t think the valve was, I think, walking into a building that I considered to not have any harmful contributing factors to it. That’s the scary part of it. So, complacency, you bring in outside workers, you bring in speakers, you train your staff, you bring in Propulo.com, you bring in corporations like this, and all of it is going to enhance the ability to keep people aware and not let that complacency factor come into play. It’s kind of like wearing a seat belt. We know it works and sometimes we don’t wear it and we know what the results can be.

I would think it’s similar to when you were talking about the PPE. You weren’t wearing a hard hat. How did that set in? Was that just the first time it had happened, or was that something you kind of felt you didn’t need to wear?

Wonderful question, Eric. This particular site where I was found, and this incident occurred was very quiet. There was no need for me to wear a hard hat that had hearing protection attached to it.

Sure.

And because of my belief that there was nonhazardous operation in this little building I just entered, didn’t even think twice. It was a long shift. I’ve been on callouts previously, but I take the opportunity to go home that direction that afternoon, ensure that this facility would produce in a normal, stable fashion not only because it’s productivity, but its accuracy of the product. It wasn’t flowing normally, and I just didn’t even think twice, just opened the door, saw things were unstable, entered the building and never made it out of there.

With taking five minutes, people take five, just reflect. Would that have made a difference? Right. If you had walked in, looked at what are the hazards like normally you’ve got a tailboard. If you’ve got a crew you’re working with, would that have helped kind of understand what hazards might be present before jumping in?

Oh, certainly, yes. I’m a firm believer that as individuals, we’re smart. Common sense goes a long way as well. I also think it’s very critical that the employee understands that it’s perfectly okay for them to take a step back. If it doesn’t look right and it doesn’t smell right, just take a step back, survey the situation, and then act accordingly. And that’s something that I didn’t do.

And I think it’s too often we jump in, assuming the task is as we had originally planned, and we show up and something’s changed. Right. So, it could be something as benign as it started raining and I done my tailboard. I prepare for the job before the rain came. But the rain might introduce a new hazard into the equation or whatever else might show up. And it doesn’t look the way it should.

Oh, absolutely. And it’s changing and evolving all the time from a process standpoint, from an environmental standpoint, from a managerial, logistical standpoint. There’s lots of factors, and I’m confident that people have the ability to manage those. And it takes an effort, and that’s an effort that’s absolutely necessary. And it demonstrates a commitment to the employees.

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

And so, both of you often go speak to organizations, to teams, to leaders around the incident and really sharing some ideas. What are some of the things that the key messages you really try to impart to team members to reduce the likelihood of them actually having an incident?

From a leader perspective, I think it’s so absolutely critical that the personal commitment to the workers is first, not last. And I believe that leaders and employees like they take it personally because it is personally. You can’t sustain an incident like this. Watch the ripple effect go through the Corporation, your co-workers, and your colleagues, those you become close with when you work side by side over time to achieve the goals put before you. It’s common to develop friendships and bonds, and something like this happens. And that ripple effect extends from a monetary perspective through increased WCB premiums, et cetera, to the human aspects, which is the horrible feeling that everybody had when I went down.

Right? Absolutely. What are some of the other lessons for leaders around it? Because I think in this particular case, you’ve talked about a few really, in terms of really as a leader, I can reinforce certain themes around complacency. I can drive a messaging around, take five. I can drive a messaging around, really assess the hazards that it’s okay not to jump in if something doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel safe. I can start thinking about areas of potential failure points around what happens if I’ve got a loan worker who’s working alone, and something goes wrong. How do I make sure that I check in to know that something’s happened, not rely on a loved one to realize that somebody hasn’t shown up?

It is. It’s a broad spectrum out there. I think it’s critical, absolutely essential that the leaders understand the landscape of what Safety Excellence looks like and that they can reiterate that and clearly articulate that to their staff. Because sometimes actions speaker louder than words. And when it’s coming from your high-level leaders, I can only tell you from my perspective what it would have meant to me to have that feeling. And I can tell you honestly.

I didn’t have so the leaders didn’t reinforce at the time the messaging that safety was critical. It wasn’t something that was drilled in on a daily basis at the time.

We’re productivity based and costs are in check. Costs are controlled, costs are scrutinized. Unfortunately, at the time, Safety Excellence, then or now, it comes at a cost. This is something that needs to be talked about at the highest levels because this is where budgets are considered. This is where budgets are approved. And the day of a dividing line between productivity and safety that’s long gone. I mean, they go hand in hand together, and it needs to be like that. And its money well spent because it’s an investment in your employees and it demonstrates commitment. That’s huge.

Yeah. And I think that’s exactly the key message is even if at the C-suite level, I’m talking about safety, I’m reinforcing the importance as a value. This is how we do our work. That goes a long way. Budgets obviously matter, but the messaging and the consistency of that message from an executive to a front-line team member or frontline supervisor has to be there.

It has to be there. When you consider these corporations, organizations that we’re all one teams, we’re all working to obtain the same goal. And there’s nothing more disruptive, in my opinion, from a monetary perspective, from a human perspective, then being near achieving those goals collectively with the team and then watching it go away because of a preventable incident, it just takes the wind right out of your sales. From the most upper level, right down to the guys sweeping the floor, we’re all in this together.

Absolutely.

I’ll just quickly jump into it here quick. I can appreciate that I’m an important part of the puzzle when it comes to the Bernie inventory, because when injury happens, it doesn’t just affect the injured worker. Bernie got hurt that day, but it affected me. It affected our marriage. It affected our kids, our families, our friends. The ripple effect of injury is huge. And the decisions you make affect everybody around you. I usually when we talk at a presentation, I let everybody know this. So, I want everyone listening to your podcast to know this as well, that everybody listening is a VIP. And I guarantee there is somebody waiting for you to come home, because we are all sons and daughters. Maybe we’re mums and dads, grandmas, Grandpa’s, aunts, uncles, friends, pet owners, whatever. I guarantee that there’s somebody waiting for you to come home. And I really feel that it’s almost a responsibility to come home safely to your loved ones every time because they’re counting on you. I’m really shy by nature, and it’s really hard for me to talk about Bernie’s incident and basically the hardest time of our lives. So, what I did was I wrote up home, and it was just a way for me to express and get out there what I wanted to say.

And I’m going to share a portion of it with you right now.

Yes. Thank you.

Okay. It’s called The Importance of Safety. Safety starts with awareness. Awareness starts with you. It’s something we all have to learn. I’ll tell you a story that’s true. On the 24 January, my sweetie went to work with a kiss and a hug and a wave and a smirk. We had the world by the fuel. Your future so bright? Our carefully laid plans changed forever. That night, Bernie was found all alone, unconscious, he lay in a pool of methanol. What had happened that day from the stress of it all, I’m lucky to say my mind has played tricks. I don’t remember much from those days, but I remember the feeling. I remember it well. The heartache, the tears have I defended. Okay, so I’m going to stop there. But I just want to share the very last part of my poem, and it says, My soul is just fine. I want all to see it’s filled to the brim. I’m so lucky to be me. I guess I just want to share how we found happiness. And one of the most important things is to be grateful. And it’s easy, like in the ICU unit or the Bern unit or rehab, to look around and find someone worse off than us.

And I would say a little prayer of thankful for Bernie in my life. I’m thankful he made it. I’m thankful that he’s a great dad and he has the opportunity to do that. I’m thankful that we get to talk with you, Eric. And you know what? If you’re thankful, you can have an amazing life.

So, Sheila, thank you so much for sharing that. I think the power of this is really safety is something that’s very personal and that was incredibly powerful in terms of the story you shared and your experience through it. And I think it’s interesting because just a few hours ago, I was actually talking to some leaders exactly about this is making safety more personal. Sometimes it’s about procedures and thou shalt do this and books and stuff I need to tick boxes on. But at the end of the day, safety is something that impacts a person, a family, a loved one, like you said. And everybody’s got that. And it’s really thinking about how do I really make it personal? So, people choose to take part in it, realize their part in it, and also the company’s part in it. So, thank you so much for sharing that, Sheila.

Thank you.

I could sort of chime in on this, too. It’s raw experience from the family and the spousal perspective, and that sometimes doesn’t come to the forefront as workers and employees. When we make decisions, sometimes it’s easy to cut the corner, take the chance, and not even realize or recognize the type of impact you could have on your loved ones. And the original prognosis for me was a limited chance of survival and supposedly to be brain damaged. The point to being institutionalized and blind. This is horrible things that Sheila just stood before me eleven months prior to that and said in sickness and in health and good times.

Oh, wow.

So, this is going to reflect in the nature of what this incident meant to Sheila. Even though 28 years has passed, I always got to think of what it’s going to mean to those that are at home waiting for you to come home safe and sell.

And I think that’s an important message because sometimes even in companies, we don’t talk about it in that way. We talk about it in terms of rules and procedures as opposed to why this really matters. So, thank you both for sharing your story. You present together, share presentations around safety, around your story. How can somebody get in touch with you if they wanted to know more? And share your story within the organization?

You can reach out to us through our [email protected] There’s telephone contact information on there. And we’ve had the privilege, the honor of talking to different industries throughout North American, different parts of the world. Although my injury occurred in a different country than some in a different environment, different industry, the playing field levels itself when it comes to injury. And once the injuries happen, we learn from it the same way, regardless of the industry.

Sheila Bernie, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for bringing your story to a lot of other people to reflect on how can I stay safer, how as a leader, can I influence my organization to make sure this never happens to another family?

Thank you. 

Cheers. Thanks. 

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

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Bernie Inman was 27 years old and working in the petroleum industry when he was critically injured, enduring burns in over 70% of his body and rendered a quadriplegic. Surviving a serious exposure to methanol while doing a routine task ten years ago, the incident happened in what appeared to be a harmless work situation.
Bernie and his wife Sheila Inman share the events surrounding this incident to prevent others from incurring a similar fate. Their lived experience provides the basis for two audiences: one of caution and safety, and one of overcoming unimaginable challenges.
Today, the Bonnyville, Alberta father of three is in a wheelchair and their story serves as inspiration for all of us. Their message is simple, “safety starts with awareness – awareness starts with you.” It is his goal to have everyone reconsider the importance of having and maintaining a “Positive Safety First” attitude.

For more information: http://bernieinman.com 

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