Never Underestimate the Power of What You DON’T Say

Never Underestimate the Power of What You DON’T Say

Not everything is mutually exclusive

As you can imagine, I get a wide variety of comments based on the things I post here on Relentless Safety. Most of it is good, encouraging, and helps drive the conversation. Some people resort to personal attacks when they disagree. Especially when I’m feeling feisty and post things like THIS… or THIS. Don’t worry, no one has made me cry yet. I find it entertaining.

One recurring theme in the few (and I mean few in the sense that I haven’t yet had to start counting with my toes… fingers only) negative replies I’ve gotten over the past few months is that they tend to assume that because I’ve advocated for one particular thing I don’t support some other, unrelated thing. For instance, THIS POST covered my (not as controversial as I first thought) view on why we should stop measuring safety based on outcomes. In it I talked about why rates are a terrible measure of performance. One reader responded in disbelief because I “don’t care about the little things” even though that statement was never made.

My experience is people tend to jump to conclusions and make illogical leaps when they disagree but (presumably) don’t have a good rebuttal. The same thing happened after THIS POST that covers a certain type of flawed policy. The response that time was that I was advocating for a world with no safety rules at all.

Newsflash: I don’t have all the answers

Another common comment is that I don’t provide solutions to the problems I identify. Most of the time I have to refrain from replying, “did you actually read what I wrote?” Sometimes the solution is in the title (I’m sneaky like that). Do I write detailed blueprints for how to implement? No, of course not. That’s for each of us to do in our particular situation.

Aside from that, it would be incredibly vain and presumptuous for me to assume I know how to fix everything. If I find a solution that I think is particularly useful, I share it (case in point). We should all do that, but I digress.

Here’s the real meat and potatoes

Enough about me and my plight with keyboard warriors. Maybe one of them will click on some of these links and read with an open mind. I won’t hold out hope though. What I do hope is that someone will be able to take some of these lessons I’ve learned and apply them in a way that will improve their environment.

In my book, I briefly cover an episode with a supervisor who worked on a project I was a part of for a short period. He was a skilled tradesman, but a terrible leader. And not at all supportive of any worker safety initiative. I tried many times to coach him on it, but he was stuck. He would comply, that wasn’t the issue. His delivery sucked.

Every time a new requirement or program rolled out, he would roll his eyes and sigh as he delivered the message. I don’t recall every specific instance, but his delivery usually came out something like this: “OK, guys. Corporate is making us do this crap. Make sure you sign this sheet before you get to work. Otherwise you’ll just have to listen to it again.”

What he DIDN’T say was “this will make your work safer” or “I really support this.” He didn’t believe in it, so neither did his people. As an example, I would routinely find them huddled in the break room at the end of the day filling out their pre-shift JHAs. If it wasn’t so sad, it would have been comical.

One of them would scribe and try to recreate their day hour by hour:

“Hey, Jimmy,” he would say. “What were we doing at 2 pm? Oh, right… What PPE were you wearing? Got it.” You can probably imagine that conversation in vivid detail.

Eventually they found a better corner to hide in, but their practices never changed. All because of what their supervisor didn’t say.

It happens all the time

I’m not just knocking supervisory skill here. This is applicable anyone at any level of an organization. The point is that sometimes what goes unspoken is what we hear loudest. Think about every time you watch someone doing a task incorrectly or in an unsafe manner and then walk on without saying something. What does that action say to the person who’s doing it? I would assert that it clearly tells them what they’re doing is acceptable, maybe even expected.

That’s just one of many scenarios where we have the opportunity to communicate better. Safety would benefit a whole lot by meeting people where they are, not assuming they know what we expect, and giving clear direction. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. None of us will get it right every time, but it’s a worthy endeavor to put in some concerted effort.

Here’s to some meaningful conversations.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Disclaimer Dan – Confidence Doesn’t Need to Grovel

Say what you need to, don’t preface it

“I’m no expert but…”

“I’m not saying this is the right answer but…”

“You know, I don’t know everything but…”

At one point or another I’m willing to bet everyone reading this has either known or (hopefully not) been the person who begins every answer with one of those thoughts. He’s person who always has something to say, but always has a disclaimer before the statement. I imagine the disclaimers are subconscious insurance for the possibility that the advice/answer given is wrong.

I worked with one of these “Disclaimer Dans” on a large construction project. He was a rep for the client’s insurance program and had decades of experience. The shame of it was he really did know his stuff. I actually learned quite a bit from him. But every time he offered guidance, it came with that disclaimer that cheapened his position.

Speak to what you know, people know who’s fake

After a pretty crazy weekend of responses to my last post (mostly positive, some comically defensive), I was struck by what a crazy place the internet is. People can say whatever they want to whomever they want. I’m not judging, this blog is a prime example. The aspect of it that was so intriguing to me is how easy it is for words to illicit hate and discontent.

For a second it made me consider being like Dan (not his real name by the way). I thought about putting disclaimers on anything provocative I might happen to write. But only for a second. If I even tried it would end up something like: “If this offends you, it’s because I’m writing about you” or “This post is my opinion, don’t let it keep you up at night.”

I won’t put qualifiers on my thoughts unless it’s done in the interest of avoiding a lawsuit. What I will always strive to do instead, is write about what I know, what I’ve experienced, and theories that have been rolling around in my head for years. No one has to agree with any of it, but hopefully we can have some good conversations that will help drive change in the industry. Besides, civil is always better than accusing someone you’ve never met of being “disingenuous.”

That’s all from me for today. Maybe I’ll ruffle some more feathers later on in the week. Until then, say what you need to say. No disclaimers required.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Workers Keep Dying, Safety Keeps Chasing Band-Aids

I’m just going to come right out say it. This subject straight pisses me off. When we go around talking about how awesome our companies are at safety because we’ve got low incident rates it equates to pissing on the grave of every worker who has died at our facilities. There is no correlation and the games we play to get “good” are just disgusting. Interpreting the grey areas in CFR 1904 to justify leaving it off your 300 log IS NOT safety.

If you think I’m wrong, just do some research about the “excellent” injury rates and safety programs of giant companies that have experienced multiple deaths when offshore rigs explode, or have massive chemical releases/explosions that poison whole towns. The point is that anyone can boast good numbers. Very few can say they’ve provided their workers a workplace that won’t kill them.

Stop looking in the wrong places

If you’re willing to accept the idea that our main goal is to prevent death and catastrophic injury this should be an easy logical leap: Trying to reduce risk to the point where no one is injured is ridiculous. Life itself is a risk of injury and a guarantee of death (I’ve said that many times, but the safety zealots won’t buy it). The only reason for an organization to set a goal of “zero injuries” is to look good on paper, thus becoming more competitive and beefing up bonuses. It’s much less glamorous, and a much harder endeavor to focus on the things that kill.

So, we don’t. We nit-pick every bump and scrape that required more than an OTC dose of Advil. Then we chastise managers and supervisors because they can’t find any way to prevent those things from happening again. The sad part about it is that for all the time we waste trying to find the “root cause” for why Billy’s finger started hurting, we loose valuable time that could be devoted to making sure his partner doesn’t get crushed by the faulty machine he operates.

Here’s a newsflash. You can’t prevent every injury. Neither can those leaders who you accuse of not giving a shit about safety. If you want to eliminate risk in your facility, recommend shutting it down as the corrective action next time someone gets cut and needs stitches. That’s the only way to guarantee it never happens again.

It’s time to get off the pedestal

Safety professionals (leaders in general, actually) are prone to superiority complexes. We get so good at analyzing things after they happen that we start believing that knowledge can translate into real time. “If only our workers paid more attention.” Maybe if we spent more time working along side them, feeling what they feel, seeing what they see, and reacting to what they experience we’d have a better perspective. Until we realize that our view of the world is different and start trying to figure out how other people see it, workers will keep dying. We’ll be safe in our plush office chairs, though. So I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter.

It’s time to put some pragmatism into this profession. That’s exactly why I wrote A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit. If you’re reading this thinking I haven’t offered a meaningful solution to our problems, well… buy the book. I’m not going to give everything away for free. Either way, let’s work together and start making a difference in the lives of the workers we’re supposed to support. They might not thank you for it, but at least you’ll be able to sleep at night knowing you did something that mattered.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Built-In is Better than Value OR Priority

This isn’t my real house, I’m using it as a stand-in just in case I ever get internet stalkers.

My house was built in 1994. That means, aside from having very mature trees in the yard, everything inside is beige, gold, and scattered with built-ins. As far as the fixtures go, we have some updating to do. But the built-ins are pretty useful, even if they’re a little old. The first one we used when we moved in was the kitchen table (for pizza on move-in day when all of the dishes were still packed).

Among some of the other built-ins are an elegant shelf above the fireplace and a large inset bookshelf in the middle of the living room. The latter is the only bookshelf I’ve ever had that doesn’t feel like a nuisance. I’m proud enough of it that I actually dug my collection of Stephen King and Richard Laymon novels out of their garage boxes to put them on display. But I’m not writing this post just to brag about my 90s furniture. I’m sure it comes as no shock that they were the inspiration for a safety profession parallel. Well them along with some online keyboard warriors.

Que the beating of the drums…

I started this blog with a pretty forward statement about how tired the safety profession is. It’s rife with the same mantras, the same awareness campaigns, the same forceful compliance mindset that doesn’t stop people from getting killed at work. One need not look far into the corners of the internet to see examples of it. My least favorite is the timeless debate between the statement that safety is a “value” vs. the idea that it is a “priority.”

Most people who engage in this useless battle of semantics tend to side with the “value” side of the argument. That’s what’s trendy these days. As with any good debate, each side has it’s highs and lows.

Proponents of safety being a “priority” will argue that safety isn’t important to an organization if it’s not willing to put it on that pedestal. Detractors argue that “priorities” can be changed and shuffled at will. I won’t go too much deeper than that, we’ve all heard it a million times.

Conversely, the other side argues that if safety is a “value” it can’t be changed or swayed by outside influences. Detractors, in this case, make the assertion that just because something is valued it isn’t necessarily useful. Much like the piece of home-made woodburning art I gave my wife one valentines day.

We’ve pulled safety out long enough. Time to put it back in

If you haven’t written this post off for safety heresy yet, I applaud you. So many just choose to take their ball and go home when someone says something anti-establishment. When you think about it, though, it makes a whole lot of sense to drop the whole tired debate. In the end, it’s just a whole lot of words that don’t really move any organization forward. When we start talking about how much we “value” safety or that it’s our number 1 “priority,” you can actually hear people’s eyes rolling back into their skulls if you listen closely. People don’t want slogans and eloquent philosophies spewed at them, they want tools they can use.

The biggest problem with the value vs. priority debate is a little more obscure than you might think, though. It isn’t that we waste too much time arguing about it, or that one is more right than the other. It’s that both perpetuate the idea that safety is some separate, added extra that people have to do before getting to the real work they should be doing. In reality, safety should be built-in. It’s not number one, it’s step 3, and step 7, and step 12… A built in, intrinsic part of of the work that makes our businesses run.

We don’t need debates, we need action

Anyone that strives to make worker’s lives safer knows we have a long road ahead. It’s a road with no end for that matter. If we’re going to make the journey easier we can start by changing the way we define what safety is. We should make it a “part” of every job our people do, not some philosophical mumbo jumbo.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about that “valuable” piece of art I gave my wife, it’s not doing much. But it is chilling on the built-in shelf above the fireplace. It also gets priority whenever the kids are told to dust up there.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Why Routines are Safer

And sometimes they smell better…

This morning my car smelled faintly like feet and a wet dog dipped in cheese. It was more weird than gross, so I didn’t investigate (I keep a protective layer of dirt on my car year round, so it will never win a cleanliness award anyway). When my daughter reminded me that I had agreed to take her and her brother to the pool today I remembered what I had done. Thankfully she’s old enough to deal with my mistakes for me. I don’t handle smells very well.

On Friday, my wife and I had an awards dinner to attend. I was able to leave work early to give her some extra time to get ready. So, unlike most days, I picked up the kids from their summer program. My wife works closer to the facility, so she gets them most days.

They’d spent the day swimming and came out toting bags full of sopping wet swim suits and accessories. Along with their unfinished lunches. I opened the trunk and they plopped them inside. Then I forgot about all of it as I got ready for the dinner. My wife knows better.

What kind of stink do you have hidden?

Our work sites are just as prone to the type of mistake I made with the swimsuits. Some of the worst incidents I’ve investigated have been one-offs or infrequent operations. How your crews approach those tasks will mean the difference between success and failure.

In my book (pre-order it HERE), I talk extensively about the concept of making safety “muscle memory.” It’s simply the idea that we create usable processes, train relentlessly on their use, and then plan our work. When talking about non-routine tasks, the planning aspect is paramount. Even the most experienced technicians will make oversights and forget steps when the work isn’t familiar.

I’ve seen organizations that perform non-routine tasks in spectacular fashion, and I’ve also seen some that spectacularly fail at them. From my experience, the ones who do well are those that recognize the difference between a robust routine or just complacently going through some motions. And there is a BIG difference.

Think of it like working out

No matter what your favorite sport might be, this example works. Whether you like football, MMA, or table tennis, elite athletes in any of these arenas have at least one similarity: they practice like they play. Every training session is deliberate and outcome-based. Industry could learn a lot from them.

If you read THIS ARTICLE, you’ll get my take on what it means to train like that. It’s amazing to me that there are so many dedicated gym rats who find true success through their commitment to routine (diet and exercise) and yet, industry professionals rarely draw the parallel. We would rather complicate than dedicate.

Figure out what to do with the stuff in your trunk… before it becomes cheese

I’m not going to try and elevate what I’m saying here to some philosophical level it doesn’t deserve. As with most things I discuss in this blog, my point is simple. But simple doesn’t mean easy. Does your organization have a process that addresses the non-routine? If so, how effective is it?

Do your people know how to put a plan together that will guide them toward success? Or do you just stick things in your trunk and hope someone remembers to take them out before they grow hair?

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Absolutely Critical, Cardinal, Comply or Die Crap…

I watched a man plug an office telephone into his computer today. It didn’t connect him to the internet as he had hoped. Strange how that phone plug didn’t want to fit into the Ethernet port. That doesn’t have much to do with this post, but it was funny.

I also happened upon a live bee in a urinal this afternoon. The guy next to me didn’t seem to want to talk about it, but that was just as well. My only thought was to keep it dry because aiming for it might lead to an accident report I don’t want to write.

Both of those events got me thinking. Jokingly I thought about how funny it would be if there was a “don’t pee on the bee” rule. Or a zero tolerance policy on inserting the wrong thing into your Ethernet port. I can get a little sarcastic and cynical, so I’m pretty careful not to blurt those things out. In my mind I had a quick conversation with myself and made sure I didn’t repeat any of it out loud (it’s only crazy if people hear you answering yourself). On the flip side, those events were too good not to share. So, why not put them on the internet, right?

Absolute rules will ABSOLUTELY cause problems

I’d be willing to bet money that every Safety Professional has, at one time or another, made a rule or restriction aimed at helping avoid injuries. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that unless the rule is arbitrary But sometimes we take rules to the extreme. We make them “absolute” or “cardinal” or “critical” or any other adjective that sounds important. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that kind of emphasis either. The problems start when we make them into religious commandments that cannot be broken without summoning the wrath of the almighty safety gods.

Before I get much further into this, let me just make one thing clear. This isn’t a case for safety anarchy where no one is held accountable for their actions. I firmly believe we should be personally responsible for what we do. You can read more about that IN THIS POST. My point is much more basic than that. It’s simply the idea that organizations don’t need those type of fear-mongering edicts in order to be successful.

If you get the basics right…

Every time I’ve worked with an organization that enacted heavy-handed rules (and there have been more than I would prefer), there were three distinct similarities:

  • The rules were rooted in discipline: if you do this, you get that punishment.
  • The subject of the rules (fall protection, LOTO, etc.) was not supported by a robust, foundational process: people did not have all the tools they needed to succeed.
  • Enforcement was inconsistent: nothing is ever as black and white as a rule maker wants it to be.

To put it in perspective, imagine how you would feel if you were given an unclear instruction then threatened with discipline if you did not execute the task satisfactorily. It would be like retaking that college physics course where Professor Simmons gave the whole class the final exam on day one just to gauge your level of understanding (completely hypothetical). It would also cause a whole lot of stress and anxiety that might lead to mistakes you wouldn’t ordinarily make.

It’s not about the fear though

My goal here isn’t to prove to anyone that “cardinal rules” are a bad thing (they are though). That’s an argument that I really don’t have the energy to get into today. Especially if I were talking to one of those all-too-common safety zelots. The point is that they’re unnecessary.

Think about it. If you built a program that was so robust and well thought out that it is ingrained in your organization, you wouldn’t need to back it up with a threat. If your training was truly effective and your procedures were easy to execute, how many less opportunities would you have to walk someone out for violating the rules?

When your foundation is strong, fear isn’t necessary. You may still find a person here and there who just doesn’t want to participate. Those issues need to be dealt with. But with a system that people participate in and want to use, they won’t happen nearly as much.

The problem, is that building something like that takes hard work and tons of time. It’s way easier to give someone a final warning for getting stung by a bee on the end of their… you get my drift.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

An Open Letter to Leaders

Please don’t be a seagull…

Lets just dispense with the pleasantries

There are two things rolling around in my head right now. The first is the realization that this is my 50th post on Relentless Safety. For some reason that number is one that feels significant. A hill that has been intimidating to climb. This blog has been has been an introspective journey to be sure, and I’ve put more than a little bit of pressure on myself to keep making it better. In any case, it’s been a surprising roller coaster so far. There’s a lot more to come. If you want celebrate it with me, pre-order a copy of my book.

The second is the thought that we safety pros deserve a little grace. Not a lot, but at least a little reprieve. I wrote A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession because our vocation is tired, misguided, and elitist. We’ve got a lot of ground to make up before workers won’t loathe the arrival of the “safety guy.” But we also have the deck stacked against us in many ways. Part of that is our doing, mind you, but a good chunk of the blame rests on the shoulders of those who support us (check out THIS POST for more on that… or pre-order my book… seriously you’re going to love it).

The executives and managers who hire and continue to employ safety professionals owe us some serious latitude to do our jobs. It’s an allowance very few are given. In my experience two of the things they give the least of are two of the most important: Support & Freedom.

How ’bout a little support over here?

I was going to use a bra for this visual, but this is funnier and less sexist. I think…

One of the first posts I made on this site was a two part story about one of the best leader’s I’ve had the privilege to work for (follow these links to Part 1 and Part 2). The story details the epitome of what I believe support means. As you’ll read in that story, it’s not easy. In fact, supporting your people is often the hardest thing you can do, because it means taking risks (potentially career ending ones). But that’s what your safety professionals need.

Assuming you hired a decent professional who actually understands what it takes to make a safety program work (and knows how to make a good business case for it), your unwavering support will mean the difference between their success or failure. But that support isn’t words, it’s action. It’s following the counsel and guidance of your professional even when it it means sacrificing money, time, or production to do it.

Think of it like this: Your safety professional should try to find ways to make safety work within the constructs of your business. He or she will weigh risks and make recommendations that hopefully allow you to both achieve the level of safety your people deserve and the level of production that will keep you in business. But when you’re faced with those hard, sticky issues that require choosing one of those options, your support will mean taking the safe road. Sometimes compromises aren’t an option.

Maybe you could consider removing the handcuffs?

You’d be amazed how hard it is to find a picture of handcuffs that doesn’t have a naked person in it…

I would almost consider this second issue to be an offshoot of support. But I think it’s worth separating for emphasis. It’s a simple idea: You hired us, why won’t you let us do stuff?

There are too many great safety professionals who are hamstrung in their roles because their bosses won’t let them do what they do best. Maybe it’s an initiative, maybe it’s a piece of equipment, maybe it’s budget to hire more staff. Whatever the case, their success depends almost entirely on your willingness to push the cause forward.

This is something that deserves it’s own post, and something I’ll certainly address in the future, but every leader needs to understand it. Safety is not accomplished by safety professionals. It is accomplished by you and your staff. So give them the grace I mentioned at the beginning. Buy them that piece of equipment and support their initiatives. But don’t bother wasting your breath if that’s all you’re willing to put into it. Make it known that it’s your safety program and be the one who drives it. Your safety professional is just the navigator.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Stop Making Weaklings In The Name Of Safety

Ignore this post if you can squat twice your body weight

There’s a trend I’ve noticed in the safety world that is no more based on science than the advice a typical “gym bro” gives a newbie in the gym. I’m sure not everyone reading gets the analogy, so let me break it down. There is so much bunk “science” and misinformation in the world of diet and exercise that ordinary people struggle to find answers when looking to get into better shape. In that world, the answers are just as simple as they are in ours: eat a well-balanced diet of whole food and find an exercise you can do intensely and consistently.

The “trend” I’m speaking of is the army of ergonomics “experts” that have read an article or two about stretching. Armed with that (usually false) information, they go on to educate the masses about how to avoid all soft tissue injuries. This has been going on since people thought wearing a back brace was a sure way to protect yourself from lower back injuries (it’s not).

Prohibition didn’t work in the 20’s…

It’s amazing to me how history repeats itself. Safety is no different. There’s so little innovation in safety management systems that it would be funny if it weren’t so disappointing. In a world where science and technology is advancing faster than we can implement, our strategies remain stagnant. Rather than embrace the risk of manual handling, for instance, the “experts” I mentioned previously would rather just make a rule imposing some arbitrary lifting limit. Some organizations set it at 50 Lbs, some 75, you get my point. The sad thing is that anyone can pull a muscle with no weight, so these rules are ultimately ineffective.

As a side note, I do want to acknowledge the technology I mentioned in the previous paragraph. There are some amazing devices out there which can certainly decrease the risks of manual handling. If your organization has the ability to employ them, you should. Just because an employee can pick up 100 pounds repeatedly throughout a shift, doesn’t mean he/she should. Anything reasonable that can be done to decrease wear and tear on the body is a worthwhile investment.

With that said, however, those devices are supplements. We should be investing just as much (if not more) into teaching our people how to be strong enough to perform their work. I don’t want this to sound like generalizations either, some industries are great at this type of physical conditioning (construction, oil and gas, and the like).

About those weight limits

Here’s the glaring problem with relying on weight limits to prevent injury: it doesn’t address the most important element in the “Ergonomic Triangle” (Position, Force, & Frequency… learn more about that from the awesome folks at Humantech if you’re interested). That most important element is the one that rests squarely with the person performing the manual handling: Position. The posture used to perform a lift.

I’m not going to get too scientific with this post, but consider the following question. Why is it that an athlete can easily lift 400, 500, 600 Lbs or more, but we limit employees in an industrial environment to fractions of that because the “risk” is too high?

Part of the answer to that question is conditioning and training. But most of it comes down to position. An elite lifter understands how their body works on a primal level. They have practiced, failed, adjusted, and learned what their body is capable of. With that knowledge, the athlete can accomplish things that seem impossible.

What do you think would happen if we invested even a little slice of our time into instilling that type of knowledge and training into our employees? If you choose to do that, just do me a favor and read more than one article about the healing antioxidants in chia seeds. Spend some time learning how the body works (or hire someone who already knows), then teach your people how to move within their environment.

This approach is something that will take discipline and a whole bunch of practice. We’re a workforce of stiff, low mobility people. It’s going to take a lot to break our bad habits, but getting stronger really doesn’t have any downsides. On the other hand you could just make some more rules. Maybe if we ban muscle strains they’ll never happen again.

Jokes aside, we owe it to our our people to make them better.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Merry Chri… Happy 4th of July! Don’t Break Your Toe…

If you want your toe to be super bendy try this.

Celebrate your freedom, risk included

People are going to do all kinds of crazy things today in the name of celebration. Rightfully so. Independence Day is a huge deal in the States. Most of those crazy things will include some level of risk. I’m not going to give you the stereotypical “be safe around fireworks” spiel. Just be sure you keep your face out of the line of fire and bring an extinguisher. And never forget that your freedom came from some people who were willing to take great risks to win it.

I had a brief exchange online this week after a post encouraging others to do something that terrifies you. I had to drop it, because it’s not worth arguing with safety zealots (I talked about them extensively in my last post). My point, although entirely missed, is that avoiding all risk comes with a near perfect guarantee of little success.

That idea popped into my head earlier this week when my wife let me know that she has decided to try out for a local roller-derby team. I’ve been giving her a hard time about it, but in all truth, I think it’s awesome. She reminded me about the picture at the top of this post and asked me “if I’d be mad if she hurt herself.” My response to that (after thinking that I really must come off as a jerk sometimes) was to buy her some skates and tell her to go for it. Although I may have done that due to mild heat stroke because my air conditioning has been out all day and it’s 90+ in my house right now.

If you’ve ever wondered what 35 lbs falling on your toe feels like, ask my wife

She squeaked when it happened. Not exactly like a mouse or a dog’s chew toy, but it was a definite squeak. We were setting up for deadlifts at the gym and as she slid the 35 lb plate off of the rack, she looked up at me. When it reached the edge of the peg, her grip wasn’t firm enough and the plate guillotined her right big toe… SQUEAK.

Two things happened in the aftermath: First, the gym staff FREAKED out because they had never experienced a medical emergency of that scale (god help them if anything worse ever happens there). Second, Christmas was ruined (at least for my wife).

In turn, there are two things that I realized were directly related to safety success when you engage in a risky activity. As long as people lift weights, join roller-derby teams, and/or do fireworks there will be risk of injury. How you manage those risks to minimize consequences and how you respond to those consequences (if something bad happens) makes all the difference.

I’ll keep it short. Enjoy your risky Holiday fun.

At least have a plan, though. Whatever you’re doing this season, think through it and plan for the worst. I wish you the best and hope there will be no trips to the emergency room in your future. But if you think it through, at least you’ll know where the nearest one is. And don’t forget that fire extinguisher either.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:

Sometimes It’s The Little Wins- Finding Success When Safety Sucks

I know the pic doesn’t really match the topic, but if you played baseball the way I did (terribly), making it home was a HUGE “little win.”

There are too many zealots out there

I had a great conversation about that very topic yesterday while making some exciting plans for an upcoming podcast. I’m going to keep that under wraps for now, but the conversation was refreshing.

Every so often I talk to someone of like mind and realize that I’m not the only one pushing the kind safety I advocate for in this blog. That’s actually an understatement, because I know there are a lot of people out there making an impact. Sometimes, though, our voices are drowned out by the constant barrage of old school safety cops. If I haven’t been transparent enough about my thoughts on that, here it is: Compliance based safety doesn’t work (on humans).

It’s not going away any time soon though, so my message to all of you who are trying to flip the script is to just stick with it. There are going to be a lot of terrible days and times when you feel like you’re on an island prison being hunted by cannibals where only a young Ray Liotta can save you (if anyone reading that gets that reference, you deserve praise… maybe I’ll send you an “Relentless Safety Snake Shirt”).

Don’t blame them, it’s not their fault

So many of those “safety cops” are just doing what they’re told. I get that. They’re reciting verses from the holy texts and truly believe what they’re doing is right. Their sense of self fulfillment is based on their ability to enforce and control, because that’s how industry has defined Safety. If at the end of those exercises the result is low injury rates, that person has been conditioned to believe they’ve accomplished something.

The problem with that thinking, as I’ve covered in previous posts as well as extensively in my new book, is that rates rarely correlate (regardless of weather they’re good or bad) with process. When we lack that understanding, the natrual reaction to a “bad” week, month, year, etc. is to push harder on compliance. We do the same things and expect different results. But don’t question us because it’s… “SAFETY.”

I read an exchange just yesterday on a LinkedIn post that was a perfect representation of this phenomenon. A contact of mine posted about his distaste (he called it annoying) with the scores of posts of “out of context” photos along with the challenge to “spot what’s wrong here.” Safety people eat that bait hook, line, and sinker every time. But I tend to agree with my colleague. The practice is misguided (I actually wrote an article on LI about it quite a while ago… You can read it HERE).

Que the keyboard warriors

Within minutes of that post going live, someone jumped on the thread and ranted for about three paragraphs (bulleted items included) about how he didn’t care about “annoying” anyone for the sake of safety. It amounted to saying that he would force safety as hard and long and annoyingly as he deemed necessary. OSHA would be proud.


Like I said, there are too many of them. While that sentiment may sound noble, it’s not one that resonates with people. It just perpetuates the belief that safety’s extra. The alternative is being a normal human who can look at the world pragmatically. It’s not easy, it’s not usually loud or outspoken, and it doesn’t come with a lot of praise.

There is hope, though

Two small things happened to me last week that helped reaffirm at least some of what I do and say makes an impact. There were bigger things, but those were accompanied by meetings, debates, and compromises. The little things were unexpected and unprompted (by me at least).

A worker stopped me in the hallway at my facility. It’s not an uncommon occurrence, but she surprised me. She asked for my advice on hearing protection for a new job. But before she asked about that, she said: “Jason, I really value your opinion and like the way you think about safety.” I thanked her for that, but in reality I don’t believe she’ll ever know how much I appreciated hearing it.

Look for those moments. They’ll help you keep at it even when you don’t want to

The second event was even more surprising. A new employee stopped me in the hallway and put out his hand. I’d only met him once in orientation a few weeks prior, so I shook his hand and he reintroduced himself. “I followed you on LinkedIn last night,” he said. “I really like your articles.” Again, I thanked him for his kind words.

That might not sound all that weird as you read this, but it does when you consider that I make a concerted effort to keep my writing and my day job separate. It meant that he had to find me on his own. Through our conversation I realized that he did it because he liked what I had said during his first day orientation and wanted to know more. I took it as a huge complement.

It all adds up in the end

I’ve written many times about how the safety profession can be a thankless vocation, but there are definite high notes. There are also little glimmers that can help get you through the dark days and affirm you’re there for the right reasons. If you can’t find any, maybe you’re just annoying. Either way, looking for the little wins will help.

Please follow and share Relentlessly:
%d bloggers like this: