Safety Debates Are Pointless: Belief

The internet is easier to get lost in than my wife’s purse…

A few days ago I did some routine blood work. It so happens that my wife works for my doctor. That is both a blessing and a terrible curse, because I have taught her how to be mean and dark like me.

“Your blood came back positive,” I heard her say. Color rushed out of my face as my mind began to race.

“For what?” I asked, hiding my mounting fear.

“Cocaine,” she answered. I waited for her to break back in and tell me she was kidding, but she didn’t.

“HOW? That’s not even… How?” I asked. Finally she burst into laughter.

“I’m getting really good at that. I was convincing wasn’t I?” She chucked. “We didn’t even test for that, dummy. Doc want’s to talk to you about your creatinine levels though. I can squeeze you in at 4:30 today.”

In the end I was scolded for not hydrating adequately and given an otherwise good report. That didn’t stop me from going down the rabbit hole on Web M.D. and convincing myself that I was in moderate renal failure. By the time 4:30 rolled around I was actively talking myself off the ledge of panic by willing myself to “believe” there was nothing wrong with me.

Then enlightenment struck

Call it fatalist, but I suddenly realized that no amount of belief would magically change my test results. The only thing I was doing was raising my blood pressure and giving myself nausea. I’d had a really good lunch, too, so it would have been a shame to loose it.

In that moment it occurred to me that we do the same in the safety profession. Even to the extent that it causes physical stress similar to what I was experiencing. We passionately, vehemently, sometimes even harmfully proclaiming belief in things to the point that people’s perception of us (and the safety profession) becomes negative. In essence, we become radicals rather than resources. I’m sure you can sense where I’m going with this.

All accidents are preventable – no they aren’t – yes they are – no they…

I challenge you to find a safety forum on LinkedIn where that debate doesn’t come up at least 17 times. It’s rampant. There are two camps, they both have what they believe are logical arguments, and they will likely never agree. That’s fine. Ours is a philosophical field by nature. But often we forget that people come before philosophy.

Just consider this one question: If there is just one worker on your site who could never be convinced that “all accidents are preventable,” is that mantra even worth saying to him/her? I wonder how much more progress we could make if we kept our beliefs to ourselves and instead tried to demonstrate them through our actions.

What do you think?

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

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Rat Someone Out For Safety! (Good Stuffs)

Anyone who’s read my content probably thinks they know where this is going.

You’re wrong. To be fair I was too, but it’s a good story anyway. Sooooo, CELL PHONES.

I got a call yesterday from an old friend and former VP of a company I worked for years ago. He told me a story with a twist I wasn’t expecting.

“Jason, I’ve gotta tell you this story,” he began. “I know you’ll appreciate it.”

My friend, Mike, proceeded to tell me about his commute home the prior evening. He described looking into the next lane and noticing a woman in a Prius texting. But not just texting… TEXTING! She was “in it.” Both hands on the phone, eyes on the screen, car driving itself (they do that now… and people think Skynet is just from a movie).

Then he took his phone out…

I chuckled when he told me the next part (sorry Mike), but I get it. He’d noticed there was a company logo on the side of the car. So, he snapped a few pictures of it with his phone. That prompted him to send the following email later that evening (something he wouldn’t ordinarily do). If you saw the pictures you’d do it too. Even a Skynet Prius has it’s limits without a driver (for now).

This is the cool part

The next morning Mike received a phone call around 7 am. He answered and heard a woman’s voice.

“Mike this is _____. You ratted me out yesterday.” In my mind I imagine the seconds after that statement lingered for a while, but she continued. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m the Safety Manager!”

He told me that she sounded genuinely thankful. They found through their conversation that they are both motorcycle riders and both sensitive to the actions of other drivers. For me, though, the best part of the story was hearing about the woman’s humility and grace. We could all learn to be more receptive to corrections and criticisms. Many of them are done with good intentions even when they feel like you’re being dimed out.

And hey, even if the other person is trying to be a jackass and dime you out there is probably something worthwhile to learn from the situation. We’re imperfect beings. The best among us are the ones who learn from every opportunity. Plus, when Skynet does take over we can rest assured that it’s going to get the bullies first anyway (think about it… bullies probably aren’t the ones who are smart enough to build a computer with artificial intelligence).

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

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Razors Will Never Not Be Sharp

And risk will never not be risky…

A few years ago I was reading through some training slide decks for R&D (rip-off and duplicate) purposes. A HUGE, bold statement caught my eye and dropped my jaw. The statement was beyond asinine at first blush, but I wanted to test my opinion. So, I texted my friend Rich (who you may recall is much taller and MUCH older than I am). I saved the texts because I knew I would want to retell the story some day.

Me: Have you ever cut yourself shaving?

Rich: Of course.

Me: Did you CHOOSE to?

Rich: No, but I learned not to shave while drinking.

The texts went on for much longer and devolved into comments that I probably shouldn’t ever publish. I don’t need people knowing how twisted I am in real life. Suffice it to say that our friendship is partly predicated on an unspoken challenge to see who can say something so vile that the other can no longer reply. For the record, Rich is the only person who can beat me at that game.

The statement was… well… something

The slide that had caught my attention proudly (and boldly) read: If you believe all accidents are preventable, then you have to believe ALL accidents are a choice!

While I’m fully aware there are many who think things like that, I’m still amazed when people try to sell their non sequitur arguments to others as fact. The part that bothered me wasn’t the touting of the tired “all accidents are preventable” mantra (let me pause there while the pious among us stop reading). What bothered me was the second statement. I can’t wrap my head around any reason why it would be helpful to tell people that. It certainly won’t do anything to stop people from getting hurt. But it will offend those who have been.

No one goes to work to get hurt, right?

In my post titled The Dark Place I alluded to injuries I experienced while serving in the Air Force. That post described the resulting pain and my struggle with the medication. The first of those injuries began as a muscle strain and snowballed into nerve damage I still deal with daily. I can tell you categorically that I didn’t choose to injure myself. I absolutely made a mistake and put my body in a weak position, but not with the intent of causing harm. I did it because I thought my actions would accomplish the task without undue risk. I was wrong.

We are imperfect creatures who make decisions based on the information and experience we have at a any one moment in time. As I described in THIS POST, we don’t always have enough (or correct) information to avoid disaster. To label someone’s misfortune as a choice is not just offensive, it is outright dismissive of reality.

The razor is the key

When dealing with risk you have two basic choices: Remove it or Compensate for it. Removal is always preferable, but not always practical. So, we compensate. Compensation always comes with a chance of failure. When the failure results in injury, it doesn’t mean someone wanted to get hurt, it means their compensation wasn’t adequate. Our goal should be to learn that lesson and do better next time.

The only way to ensure you never cut yourself while shaving is to stop using a razor to shave. Switching to an electric may help, but as I see it, only growing a beard or electrolysis can guarantee no cuts. If you choose to grow a beard, get some Christmas lights to hang in it. ‘Tis the season:



(Affiliate Link)

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

Let’s Give Back: MOVEMBER (Good Stuffs)

We may not have the answers, but lets find them

Back in May I was contacted by a reader with a blog topic request about mental health. It was a heavy one. His story was incredible, yet hard to process. Those who know me well, know that I’ve struggled through some dark times and dark places, but everyone’s experience is different and I have been pondering what I could/should add to the conversation almost daily since receiving his email.

I’m not a mental health expert by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. In some ways I feel unqualified to even broach the subject. In other ways I think that feeling is just selfish. Because if something I write encourages or motivates just one person to stay here and live, the words are worth it.

The email, as I mentioned, was heavy. In it, the reader recounted how struggling with depression, he was placed on a “work improvement” program by his employer. In the midst of that added stress he attempted to commit suicide. While recovering on disability his employer accelerated the work improvement timeline. Then, upon returning to work, he was terminated.

Thankfully, he is still alive and working things out. I know from being in my own DARK PLACE, however, that it’s easy to go back. It takes support, daily commitment, and knowledge we may not have yet.

Enter the Movember Foundation

My colleague Tim Sanken contacted me a few days ago with a great idea and proposal. Over the last few years, Tim has raised an incredible amount of money with the Movember Foundation to help end men’s suicide. I’m sure many of you are aware, as I was, that the month of November typically has an accompaniment of men growing terrible mustaches. What I didn’t realize is that there is a great reason behind the movement.

It all started with the Movember Foundation. Tim and his team (which I am now happily a part of) have set a goal to raise $10,000 this month that will go directly to support men’s health issues. Everything from prostate cancer, to mental health, and suicide prevention.

This is such a worthy cause when you consider the impact it can have. Consider these facts:

  • 6 of every ten suicides is a male
  • Globally, 1 man dies of suicide every minute of every day’
  • The Movember Foundation has funded over 1,250 men’s health projects in the US and around the world*

What if our contributions could end just one of those tragic, unnecessary deaths? I think it would be worth it.

Please consider joining Tim and myself on Tim’s Movember Stachers

To speak with someone immediately, contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) or Lifeline Crisis Chat.

If life is in danger, call 911 or go directly to emergency services.

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

I Know Everything About Safety

Don’t you?

That’s a ridiculous statement, obviously. But, I’ve actually met people who would argue to the death that they know everything. I’m sure many of you have, too.

For example, I guy I knew once “grew” an Irish accent (a terrible one) every time he drank Jameson because he wanted to be Irish (unless I see 23andMe results stating otherwise I’m sticking with he most certainly wasn’t). This guy also claimed he was an ex-Special Forces Operator (trainee) who once ate a scorpion during a training exercise in order to avoid being caught. His training records and less-than-operator-status physique argued otherwise. But not everyone is pathological. Some people just… I don’t know.

I can’t really speculate as to why some people feel the need to overly embellish or seem all-knowing. Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s insecurity, maybe it’s peer pressure. I don’t know. I just know it’s wrong. People see through BS. In safety, too much of it will turn people off to the message.

Personally, I stop listening to the message and looking for the errors when I know people blow smoke. Even if they have something worth listening too I miss it. That’s a shame, and admittedly partially my fault. My point though, is that credibility is on the line every time we talk. Its been my experience that you can get a lot more of it by being honest about what you know. And what you don’t know.

I had some fun with this one

This past weekend I shot my second “Safety Snake Bite” video for safeopedia.com. Check it out below or on their YouTube channel. Give it a watch and let me know what you think. And if you’re interested in reading the original account of when this took place (I really didn’t make it up), check out this post: https://relentlesssafety.com/you-call-that-safety-training/

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

The video was a lot of fun, but I think the topic deserves even more attention. I talk with other professionals, read, research, and ponder safety just as much (if not more than) as anyone. This topic didn’t so much pop into my head as it has been sitting there waiting for years. It simply amazes me that there are so many who would rather wing-it than learn it. That’s a disservice for more than one reason:

  • As previously mentioned, people know when you’re full of it.
    • I once sat in a meeting in which a particular type of consulting was being proposed for a company. One of the participants chimed in and said “I’ve dealt with these types 8 specific times in my career. One was great, two were awful, and the other four were just so-so.” Anyone with basic math skills could tell he was making up his example. I don’t remember anything else he said and would wager no one else does either.
  • False information perpetuates itself.
    • Anyone who’s worked in the safety field knows it’s hard enough to get the right message to stick. Every time one of us makes up a rule or gives out incorrect guidance, it plants a seed that may grow into a mess people have to wade through on their way to safe work.
  • We owe people good information.
    • In theory, regardless of who the recipient is, the information a safety professional shares is going to be used to aid in safely completing work. If our guidance is faulty, so too might be the work plan.

If you’ve never thought about your credibility, maybe it’s time to consider what you say. Everyone will be incorrect at times, and that’s fine. Learning and growing should be our focus though. People who get stuck thinking there’s only one way to things have a hard time doing that.

On a side note, if you can do killer accents when you drink hit me up. I’m love hearing cool new stories. Maybe we can chat over a nice dried scorpion (affiliate link):



Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

Safety Is A Ghost

Just in time for Halloween…

My wife is gone. She left in a packed car and drove back to Tennessee to be with her parents.

Until Tuesday. And the car wasn’t hers. She’s just helping out a friend get back on her feet after a rough breakup (my wife’s a much better person than I could ever hope to be). It just so happens that her friend’s parents also live in Tennessee. So, she got to help her friend, and see her family.

What that means for me is that I have until Tuesday to clean up the mess that the kids and I have left scattered around the house. If not she might actually pack up her car and leave. Seriously. It looks like we’ve been robbed by someone covered in glitter and tiny scraps of construction paper.

Aside from highlighting my lack of housekeeping skill, the alone time has given me the chance to do two things: 1) watch terrible horror movies my wife won’t tolerate & 2) finally learn how to put my daughter’s hair in a ponytail (I’m pretty proud of that one).

I started the movie binge last Friday night when I stayed up after everyone else had gone to bed. Having spent the early part of the evening Tetrising all of my wife’s friend’s belongings into her tiny Mazda, I chose to unwind by watching Jigsaw. I regret every minute of that decision.

The movie was terrible, but it got me thinking

Anyone who’s ever suffered through a Saw movie knows that they revolve round an evil genius who puts immoral people (his opinion) through grizzly tests designed to get them to confess their sins. I couldn’t help but see the safety parallels. And not just the obvious ones like how putting your face into a rotary saw is not a smart decision.

My thoughts drifted away from the laughably terrible movie as the hours droned on. In it’s place I started to think about all of the times people find themselves up against insurmountable obstacles. In those times, as in the movie, safety is not guaranteed. Only the resilient make it through. The weak are subject to a collar of lasers that will flay their heads into something resembling the tendrils of an octopus (seriously, it’s a terrible movie, don’t waste your time).

At the end of this particular movie (spoiler alert), no one is left in a good position. Everyone except the bad guys dies. It was a glum way to end a Friday night, but the thought occurred to me that life is eerily similar. No one gets out alive.

On that positive note… Happy Halloween everyone!

OK, so the movie sucked. Hopefully you’ll take my word for that. There was a good takeaway though. It reminded me how immeasurable safety is. Stick with me on this one.

No one in the film had a guarantee of survival, right? They were all captured by a madman and put through some awful trials designed to test their resolve. But the riddles were beyond reason. Essentially, if a character didn’t understand what the antagonist was after, they were doomed to die. Safety was only available to those who exercised precise judgement at the precise time it was required. And no one had the knowledge or skill to make those judgments.

Regardless of the nonsensical nature of the movie, that principle is a pretty accurate representation of how safety really works. It’s only available at the one point in time you need it. It’s a present state of being. Put another way, safety only truly exists (or ceases to) in the moment. Any attempt to measure safety is just describing a ghost from the past.

If more people thought about it in that manner, how might our organizations do things differently? Would we invest more in the tools and knowledge our workers need in order to make those precise judgments? Or would we keep chanting about how we’re so awesome because our injury rates are low? I’d like to hope for the former.

Oh and by the way… wish me luck. I just realized it’s Tuesday!

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Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

Safety Positive: Good Stuffs Vol. 4

You are not alone

I’m not sure when, but in my early days of experimenting with social media I tried to start a provocative conversation on LinkedIn. I had made a fair amount of connections, most of them in the safety field. So, I decided to pose a question. It was something along the lines of:

As a safety professional, do you ever feel like a man/woman without a country?

If I was feeling that way at the time, I don’t remember. But anyone who says this career field isn’t (at times) lonely, draining, and demoralizing is lying to you. There are some huge rewards when you know you’ve made a difference, but those moments are spread between miles of thankless slogs through the barren wilderness.

The responses to my “provocative” question above were less than earth shattering. One guy asked me if it was a cry for help and I felt like I needed to talk. Another couple proceeded to tell me about how great their companies were and that safety was the number one value, priority, absolute zero tolerance, most bestest, super-awesome thing ever. I’m pretty sure one of those guys mentioned he rode a unicorn to work, too… Good for them.

What I know is that every good safety professional I’ve ever met has wanted to quit and wondered if what we do is worth it. That’s understandable when you consider that we often eat our own while simultaneously being bombarded by the pressures of profitability and corruption that will likely never go away.

How am I doing on this positive post so far?

Not good? Fair enough. My point is that there are low points. Where we choose to go when standing in those valleys determines our success. In my experience it’s hard to go to any good places without good people to back you up. This week in “Good Suffs,” I’m proud to share a connection of mine (although recent) who is passionate about doing just that.

Rosa Antonia Carrillo is a trailblazer in the field of leadership and team development. She speaks regularly around the world about the power of building relationships. In particular, how those relationships will drive safety performance in a positive direction. If you’re not following her or are unfamiliar with her work, do yourself a favor and get up to speed. Here’s a snippet:

As you probably noticed, Rosa recently published what I believe will be one of the defining works regarding relationships and safety. It’s called The Relationship Factor in Safety Leadership and you should get your copy now! I’m currently engrossed in it and can tell you without a doubt that it is the direction this profession needs to head.

(Affiliate Link)

The safety profession won’t grow unless we change. And we can’t change if we don’t support those who are blazing new paths. Rosa is one who deserves our support.

Use this code for Rosa’s new book: The Relationship Factor in Safety Leadership

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

How My Couch Taught Me Better Safety

*This post contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

(Affiliate Link)

Reminded me to follow my own advice might be a better description

Around the time my son turned two and my wife and I found out we were expecting another spawn, we began evaluating our expenses. The first thing to go was an easy target: overpriced cable TV. Aside from cost, the cut was also due in no small part to the transformative powers “Micky Mouse Clubhouse” (although I’m sure they call it something more sinister in hell) had on my son.

Scoff if you want, former Mouseketeers. You’ve been brainwashed. One day you’ll be called upon by the dark lord to do his bidding. It will probably have something to do with matching colors and shapes.

In the aftermath of the purge, we realized that kids are never quiet unless possessed by the demonic creations of Disney. So, we did what all reasonable parents do these days. We replaced our cable with Netflix and an Amazon Prime subscription. As it turned out, there are much worse things on TV than Mickey. And we have them all on-demand.

Mo couch, Mo problems

After our latest move, we considered reinstating the cable since our kids are older and more “responsible” now. That idea was a bust. Instead, we opted for a new TV and couch. Luckily we were able to get a great deal. I got the electric reclining feature I’d always wanted and my wife got (uggghhhh)… leather. Despite my doubts about sticking to the chair all the time, it’s actually the nicest couch we’ve owned. With one exception.

It eats remotes. The manufacturer apparently knew this and even installed a Velcro “stomach” release in the back. I’m pretty sure more Fruit Loops have fallen out of there than have ever entered my daughter’s mouth. Along with those treasures, one of the four (yes four) remotes we use on a daily basis typically finds it’s way to the couch’s backside. Someone then has to squeeze behind it and perform the couch colonic. Most times everything comes out nicely.

Then one day about three months ago, we lost the remote to our Amazon Fire Stick. It wasn’t expelled from the flap on either side of the couch. So, we broadened the search, thinking someone may have inadvertently taken it with him or her to the bathroom (not something I would ever do, though). After a day passed, we still held out hope. Then another passed. And another. My wife and I got over the anger and assumed it had fallen in the trash and been taken out. I was about to order a new one, when my son tried out the remote to our TV and found, surprisingly, that it controlled the fire stick. We were back in business.

Kinda…

Though “Smart TV” is a popular term these days, no one really raves about the intelligence of their remotes. The one for our Visio does indeed control all of the things connected to it, but not as intuitively as the manufacturers of those other units may have intended. For example, the Fire TV remote has a rewind button (that’s key). The Visio remote does not. That means that in order to rewind or go back to the last menu, we had to figure out through trial and error that the “back” button performs both of those functions.

That small nuisance alone was not enough to warrant buying a new Fire remote, so we suffered through it (1st-world problems, I know). All was well at first, but then strange things began happening. In particular, shows began to randomly rewind themselves. I should have also mentioned that the Visio remote doesn’t have a “play” button either. So, the first time “ghost rewind” happened, I had to scramble to figure out what to do.

One Saturday, my daughter asked me to watch her horse show with her. I obliged, found the episode she wanted and pressed “select” (play) on the Visio remote. Once she was situated with her blanket and five obligatory stuffed animals, I pushed recline on the couch. And… the show rewound itself. A light-bulb turned on so I crawled off the chair while the legs were still up. Clicking the light on my phone I looked carefully for the lost Fire remote… Nothing.

So, I sat back down, clicked “select” again, and resumed watching the show. My angle was off, though, so I tilted the chair back a little more… GHOST REWIND! That settled it. I knew then that the Fire remote wasn’t lost. It was stuck. But I COULD. NOT. FIND. IT! For weeks.

So, I stopped sitting on the couch

After realizing the couch had actually eaten the remote this time, I figured out that I was the only one heavy enough to make it do anything. My answer was to either sit on my recliner, or lay on the floor while watching TV. Because taking couches apart is hard… And mostly because I was being lazy. Plus I figured the battery would die someday.

In the end, the battery didn’t die. I sat on the couch one too many times, ghost rewound my shows in growing frustration, and finally got annoyed enough to do something about it. The remote had lodged itself into a perfectly camouflaged corner under the arm where one of the extendable joints of the leg rest was able to mash into the rewind button. The remote now bears a permanent scar from it’s time in exile:

Yes, I know my hands are tiny. Focus!

Back to the point: Remove the ghosts from the machine

Hopefully I haven’t lost anyone who was wondering what the takeaway from this overly-dramatized episode is. I’m sure both of my regular readers knew all along that there was some sort of punchline, so here it is: I knew there was a problem and chose to work around it anyway.

How often do your workers do the same?

How often do you tell them not to?

Or better still, have you ever told them to stop when something’s wrong with the system?

Do they even know how to identify what those issues might be?

I could go on with this line of questioning indefinitely. That’s not the point though. The point is that bad things don’t go away if we pretend they aren’t there. Even though my case study is pretty silly, my “work around it” mentality could have huge implications if allowed on a work site. What if my remote was a critical point of failure that could cause serious injury or death? Would your people speak up and refuse to work around that risk?

Let me put it another way. Have you given your people the expectation that unacceptable risk is… unacceptable?

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

Safety Only Matters 6% of the Time

Get out your pitchforks. This post is full of heresy…

Someone should totally write him up for violating good ergonomic practices…

Recently I taught a leadership class for supervisors. Knowing that most safety training is awful, or at the very least received poorly, I do my best to facilitate instead of talk. Some groups are harder to warm up than others, but people generally appreciate when you include them in the process. This class in particular is fun for me, because I get to teach leadership from a safety perspective. If you contrast that idea with the currently hip trend of teaching safety leadership (I’m not really sure what that even means), some pretty incredible conversations take place.

Years ago I designed a “safety leadership” course that I thought was provocative and engaging. It tanked. Spectacularly. No one participated and my material certainly didn’t elicit the paradigm changing discussions I just knew it would.

Fortunately I learned my lesson. My mistake was assuming I knew what the answers would be. So, my questions were all shaded with my opinions and point of view. I didn’t give anyone the opportunity to question or challenge or even add a new perspective. When you couple that with the fact that no one really wants to go to a mandatory safety training, it was a recipe for a torturous few hours (just as much for me as them).

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What are we really after?

These days when I facilitate leadership training, it’s just that. Of course I speak from my experience as a safety and health professional, but leadership is leadership. There’s no reason to pull safety out of any process and make it something different or additional to the core of the business. With that thought in mind, the first thing I ask is this: What is the definition of safety?

Of course it is. But that’s how discourse happens. Inevitably someone in the group hurriedly answers: No injuries!

I mix things up now and again, but my response to that answer is always a challenge: “If I drive to work speeding, run two stop signs, and text the whole way, but I make it to work on time without getting in a wreck was I driving safe?”

It’s time we get real

The next thing I do in my leadership courses is show the following clip by the one and only Dr. Todd Conklin. Invest five minutes in it, you can thank me later:

In my most recent class, one supervisor was furiously writing notes throughout the clip. When it finished I asked what everyone thought. Almost everyone was silent, but I could see wheels turning.

“What are you thinking Leann?” I asked.

“I guess… I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around what he said,” she replied. “Safety isn’t the absence of an accident.” It was more of a statement than a question.

“Right,” I said. “Real safety is about what we do, not what didn’t happen.” She thought for a minute before responding.

“So, are you saying that we shouldn’t do accident reviews?” she asked.

“Not as often as you do,” I grinned. I had done my homework on the organization and knew something no one else in the room did about their accidents. On average, without taking event severity into consideration, this particular facility experienced injuries about 6% of the days in a given year (averaged over several years). Despite that relatively low rate of occurence, the only “safety” communications that were ever shared were those accidents.

No one celebrated the little wins when a hazard was removed, no one advertised the big capital projects that improved safety conditions, no one had anything to say about safety unless it was in the negative light of an injury. Obviously those lessons needed to be learned, but excellence can never be achieved from 6%.

Investment requires guarantee on return

No investor would put their money down on a product that only guaranteed a 6% return. They would bet on the 94%. Why is it then, that we bank all of our safety on the smallest minority of what happens in our organizations? No one wants accidents or injuries, but waiting for them to happen and then trying to prevent all future occurrences is just plain lazy. It’s time we get out into the field, get dirty, and start finding places to invest that will actually move the dial in a positive direction. Don’t take my word for it though. If you don’t believe proactive investment in fixing weak systems is worth the time and effort, go spend a weekend in Vegas and bet your life savings on black. Let me know how that turns out for you.

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

“Safety” Doesn’t Make Sense

Don’t get angry when no one does it

Over the past few days I’ve spent a good amount of time working with employees who were preparing demonstrations for an annual safety committee exhibition. One group of maintenance technicians put together a crazy-good display that demonstrated how to properly use fall arrest systems and select adequate anchor points for tie off. In planning for it, we had some great conversations about falling. They were eye opening for everyone.

One of the newer mechanics recounted a fall he’d taken at a former employer. His story was pretty incredible considering the company didn’t provide any fall protection for him. He’d been working on a steel structure for days without any. For some reason, however, he decided to bring his own from home the morning of the fall. Before climbing onto the steel that morning he cinched down the leg straps of his harness. Then he loosened them a notch because they were uncomfortable. Minutes later he was dangling in the air realizing that he’d have died if it had happened any day prior.

Most of the guys cringed as their coworker then graphically described why he regretted loosening his leg straps. Use your imagination, but just know he had problems walking for the next few days. His story completely trumped my parasailing misadventure (let’s just say one of my “boys” got caught in the harness… it was less than majestic).

Why do we use the last defense first?

Fall protection is PPE. It should be the “last line of defense.” It’s amazing to me how many people take that for granted. Employers and employees throw harnesses on without thinking (and often without knowing how) just because. What we should be doing first is asking one all-important question: what happens when (not if) I fall?

  • Will I hit the ground and bounce because my arrest device is too long and won’t work?
  • Will I swing into a piece of equipment and knock myself out because I’m too far away from my anchorage?
  • How will I get down from mid-air before all the blood pools into my legs and becomes septic (suspension trauma), potentially killing me?
  • Should I even be wearing a harness or is there a better way to do this job?

Then they started asking really smart questions

We kept discussing the very serious implications and planning needs for fall protection as the group started recounting all of the times they had “tied off” and it really hadn’t been more than a show. One of them (wisely) asked “why do we have to tie off when we’re on ladders?”

“Do you?” I asked in response.

We had a long discussion about that issue, but the long and short of it is that they don’t under normal circumstances. I explained to them that many times additional risk is added to the task when they do. They climb up higher than needed just to attach a lanyard that not only gets in their way, but wouldn’t actually arrest their fall. Once informed of the fact that OSHA doesn’t require fall protection on work platforms (which is what portable ladders are), the group agreed that the “requirement” had never made sense to them in the first place. For my money when it comes to ladders, I’d rather trade a broken bone or two for a dead body dangling in a harness.

I’ve always had a profound respect for work at height. I’ve seen great practices that saved lives and the terrible opposite. Both happen in an instant. But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that we shouldn’t cloud something as important as falling to one’s death with trivial, arbitrary rules. Every time we do it turns something vital into a joke that our workers don’t place any real value on.

So what’s the remedy?

Pragmatic policies, training for understanding, and thoughtful planning. Does it need to be more complicated that? The alternative is just getting angry when no one wants to follow your stupid rules.

What do you think?

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com