Category: Safety

Is Safety for the Other Guy?

 

As a safety motivational speaker, I have never thought it was my mission during a safety keynote speech or breakout session to scare anyone. Because I know, I know what many of you are thinking “Safety is for the other guy. I don’t need lectures, Scott. I know what I’m doing.”

Look in the Mirror

There was a time, as a D-1 football player and martial artist, when I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I was invincible. In addition to sports, I also worked with hazardous materials and heavy equipment at a golf course job, and was trained how to handle my duties safely. There was nothing you could have preached to me about staying safe. In my mind, safety speeches were for the other guy.

One evening my buddies and I headed to the beach to celebrate my latest kickboxing victory. It was a short drive later in the evening to scavenge for firewood, and I figured I could forgo my seatbelt as we scoured the area for supplies. It was a split-second decision not to snap my seatbelt into the buckle, and in retrospect, a lazy one. My friend lost control of his car, hit a mound of sand and sent the car hurtling end-over-end on the beach. When I woke up, I was a quadriplegic. This time, the mirror didn’t lie. I was not invincible. I couldn’t even move a finger.

In 2020, when we were all in lockdown – and seemingly super safety-conscious, national safety and Worker’s Compensation experts found that there were as many accidents as there were in 2019. In fact, statistics for 2019 and 2020 were higher than 2018. Accidents included slips and falls, back injuries, manufacturing incidents, trucking and construction accidents.

By “accidents” I am not referring to scrapes and bruises, but serious injuries; crippling injuries, surgeries and hospitalizations, and tragically, death.

In every case, the workers took on the attitude that safety was for the other guy. Safety didn’t apply to them, just like the seatbelt didn’t apply to me.

An Inescapable Philosophy

My accident changed my life. As I began my rehab, I realized that I was the other guy. It wasn’t about “me and them,” but us. In that hospital setting, supported and surrounded by incredible healthcare providers, I worked hard to get function, to feel better and to pardon myself. I vowed to help others and as a result, I arrived at my philosophy of vision, mindset and grit.

I understood that many of us live in a time where procrastination is easy. In fact, procrastination has gotten worse and not better. After all, why pay attention to a safety video when there are emails that demand response? Why worry about a training podcast when there are texts to send, videogames to play, social media posts to answer?

Vision, Mindset and Grit, requires each of us on the job, whatever we do on the job to realize that nothing is more important than safety. The “Other Guy” is you; the guy in the mirror.

We must all develop the Vision of making our workplace and each other safe; we must have the Mindset of making safety our most important mission and to have the daily Grit to keep safety top-most in our minds.

If we are not committed to safety, we will pay the price. Like an unpaid credit card bill, it will come back to haunt us. Safety may not be “fun,” but it will cost us if we ignore it.

 

For more information on booking Scott Burrows, Safety Keynote Speaker for your next event, contact him through this website or his office at: (520) 548-1169

 

What does it mean to be “accountable?” As a safety and accountability motivational speaker, I know that my audiences, virtual or in-person, understand “safety” but I am often asked about the accountability part. We all know about accountability, but how it is measured? It is one of my favorite topics to cover in my talks on safety.

The Accountability Factor

It has been nearly a decade (June 1, 2010), since safety expert David Maxfield wrote an excellent article for EHS Today entitled: “Workplace Safety is the Leading Edge of a Culture of Accountability.” In his article, Maxfield wrote about an automotive company executive whose team had an exceptional safety record. The manager stated:

“I use safety as the leading edge of accountability. We need accountability to achieve the quality, productivity and cost targets we set. But I start with safety. If I can’t achieve accountability around safety, then I can’t achieve accountability around anything.”

Another way of starting the accountability and safety interplay discussion is by using the word “mindset.” It is easy for a manager, department or employee to ask themselves, “Are we accountable?” When we do that, every hand in the room is raised. Of course, if we’re accountable the voices might shout in unison. However, if the incidences of workplace accidents are up, if lost hours or days or even weeks are lost due to injuries, if cost targets are completely missed as the result of workplace injury occurrences, then how accountable have we been?

Did our organization have the mindset to see that the leading edge of accountability is quantifiable? If our organization lacks the vision to understand that each safety violation added one on top of the other will result in dollars and cents impact, then all of our talk on accountability is just that – talk.

Grit Averts Tragedy

Several years ago, Angela Duckworth Ph.D conducted a groundbreaking psychological examination on “grit” as the key to academic and occupational excellence. Her conclusion?

“The strongest predictor of success is grit… passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is essentially about stamina, and how consistently you work in a certain direction over time.”

If the desired goal in the workplace is to be accountable, and if accountability is so closely linked to safety, then we must have the grit, the hourly, grind-it-out mentality to persevere to make that happen.

There are no magic safety wall posters or neat safety slogans that can take the place of daily grit. When grit is combined with a safety mindset and the members of the team all pull together with common vision, then quantifiable improvements can be seen.

A safe workplace, no matter the field of expertise of the organization, will achieve a higher quality in its goods or services; it will achieve greater productivity, whether that productivity is measured in units, efficiency or reduced labor.  Clearly, if we have a safe workplace, we will achieve our production cost objectives.

The willingness to get “as gritty as possible,” to make every hour an hour devoted to safety, will define our accountability as an organization – and it will save lives.

 

Book Scott Burrows, Safety & Accountability Keynote Speaker by contacting him through this website or directly calling his office at: (520) 548-1169

 

 

Change is Everywhere, But Nothing Has Changed About Staying Safe

 

As a virtual safety change management speaker, I know that in these uncertain times, nothing is more important than staying safe on the job. Unfortunately, because of stretched resources, layoffs and communications in the “new normal,” staying safe is harder than ever.

I’m not alone in that opinion.

EHS, the international developer of environmental, health and safety management software said in their April 21, 2020 blog, Why Safety Is More Important Than Ever During Tough Economic Times, stated:

“During a crisis, your business will only survive if you can keep your employees engaged and motivated. One of the key ways to keep teams engaged is to stay unified, and the only way to do that is by showing employees that you care. You need to show them that they are valued and that you’re ready to go to bat for them.”

Engaged and Motivated

How are you keeping your employees engaged and motivated about safety with all of the changes going on around them? How are you showing them that you care?

Are you determined to go the extra mile make a difference? Does your vision for a safe workplace match the difficult forces of change?

Safety is not a casual exercise; it must be daily focus of everyone in the organization.

Due to the corona virus pandemic, the majority of safety departments are having to make do with less. The way safety messaging is being conveyed has also changed. Safety talks are often virtual rather than in-person, or at best, in-person and distanced with masks. It is easy to lose touch.

Melissa Raffoni, writing for the Harvard Business Review (May 1, 2020), talked about the obstacles created by trying to communicate virtually. Among the several points mentioned in the article, she emphasized:

“For some, it’s uncomfortable…for many of us adults, who didn’t grow up with that same [virtual] technology, it [communication] can still be quite uncomfortable. This lack of comfort makes it harder for some to open up, connect, trust, and communicate with each other virtually.”

Safety, as we all know, is an agreement to look out for one another and for ourselves. Raffoni continued:

“Interpersonal dynamics are harder to manage [virtually]… You can easily lose people’s attention. It’s challenging enough to engage people in a face-to-face meeting, but virtual meetings often come with a plethora of new distractions.”

In these changing times, when safety is more important than ever, when we must be engaged and motivated, conditions have caused many of us to be less trusting, less communicative and easily distracted.

This combination could be an extremely hazardous or even deadly combination of factors.

Overcome the Forces of Change

The only way to keep the workplace safe in difficult times is by meeting the challenge head-on. This means that everyone in the organization must develop a safety mindset. The organization must be determined to communicate safety by every virtual means possible and it must strive to find a way to convey the messages in person, whether socially distanced, wearing masks in one-to-one meetings, whatever it takes.

Finally, overcoming the changes that are affecting safety takes grit; we must all be resolute that despite the challenges, our daily goal is to protect our most important asset: the lives of every individual in our organization.

 

Scott Burrows, Safety Speaker, is available for virtual or in-person sales meetings for associations and organizations. Contact Scott today through this website or by calling: (520) 548-1169

How Will You Motivate Your Employees to be Safety Strong?

 

How do you motivate your employees to be safety strong and safety resilient? How determined are you to create a shared safety vision throughout your organization?

As a safety motivational speaker on creating strong safety teams, I know there is a huge difference between talking about safety in meetings and having the toughness to be safety strong. A commitment to employee safety requires the resiliency and grit to live safety every day.

What Happens When Teams Aren’t Strong?

There is a quote from the famous British safety consultant Sir Brian Appleton who said:

“Safety is not an intellectual exercise to keep us in work.  It is a matter of life and death.  It is the sum of our contributions to safety management that determines whether the people we work with live or die.”

Appleton was commenting on the tragedy of the Occidental Petroleum Piper Alpha offshore oil drilling rig when in July 1988, 167 men lost their lives in a series of explosions on the rig off the coast of Scotland.

Every man on that drilling platform was given training but in the end the safety experts were shocked to learn there was no plan, no common safety vision and in fact, not even an awareness of how to evacuate the structure. The experts concluded that there were at least 55 things that could have been done – and weren’t done.

It is, of course, easy for us to think that 1988 was a while ago – and overseas in Scotland, after all we’re much safer “over here” in 2019. However, the most recent tabulation from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics paints a different picture. In 2017, more than 5,100 lives were lost on the job, including more than 1,300 in trade, transportation, and utilities, nearly 1,000 in construction, and more than 300 in manufacturing. Serious injuries were in the hundreds of thousands.

The numbers are so staggering that we lose sight of a simple fact. Each injury or death represents a person with hopes and dreams, with families and friends. Each one was exposed to safety training. They may have even been a part of their company’s safety team. So, what happened?

You are the Team

Safety is personal. Carl Potter, writing for Electric Energy Online, said every time there is a serious accident the safety professionals gather the team and spend a great deal of time analyzing the reasons.

“If you want to be a professional in your industry and live a long successful career, learn all you can about your job’s safe work procedures. Encourage safety meetings and briefings that engage and teach. Find ways to help yourself and others learn the procedures. Being a professional is to take personal responsibility to “Learn, Learn, Learn!”

When I give my motivational talks on safety, I emphasize that “the team” is “us.” We are responsible for learning, and for teaching. We can’t help others if we neglect ourselves. You are the team. You must be determined to be safe and to help make others safe. It is not a passive exercise.

Potter continued: “I have attended many a boring safety meeting. Most often we just took turns reading the safety guidelines. However, just like in Sunday School, often the words went in one ear and came out the other.”

If you are determined to motivate yourself, you will in turn motivate others. The strongest link must be you, and you must have the grit to believe it and to live it.

 

Contact Scott Burrows, Motivational Speaker for Safety Teams for your upcoming national or regional meetings through this website or by calling us at: (520) 548-1169

 

 

Keeping Teams Focused and Engaged Saves Lives

 

I consider my work as a motivational speaker for safety teams much more than a keynote speaking exercise. For me, the mission of motivating safety teams to stay focused and engaged prevents accidents and saves lives.

NIOSH

In a study published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) by Royce Moser, Jr, MD, MPH, Dr. Moser states:

“Simply calling a group of people a team does not make them one, as has been demonstrated too often when a ‘group’ effort was totally unsuccessful because a true team had never been formed.”

Bringing employees together and telling them they are a safety team does not make them a team, even if they share a common manual or they are exposed to the same safety signs. Dr. Moser continues:

“The manager will frequently find it essential to instill a sense of cooperation and support among the professionals and staff involved in order to obtain quality results… the essential criteria of a team are that the members are working together on a common taskeach member is essential to the effort, and the team effort is necessary for the satisfaction of individual needs.”

The onsite staffing service, Staff Management, emphasizes that a strong safety culture is one where employee teams feel personal ownership for the safety of everyone in the organization. Leadership teams should be champions of safety:

“Successful employee engagement in safety programs depends largely on the motivation and support of leadership teams. All members of the leadership team should strive to set positive examples and abide by the same safety policies expected of their employees…behavior-based safety can include leadership taking the time to observe employees and provide feedback, encouraging employees to stay safe and ensuring they are informed about all required safety procedures.”

How Determined is Your Safety Team?

As the two references above and other studies show, safety teams must be determined to commit to making a difference in their organizations. It is an active process where every member of the team must share a common vision to make their workforce safe no matter the size or the mission of the company.

Rebecca Timmins, writing for Safety + Health magazine, talked of a safety team vision where every member of the team must ask themselves: “What organizational structure do we need to support and sustain our vision?”

Ms. Timmins concludes: “Getting the ‘structure’ right improves the likelihood of success, with the side benefit of improving overall organization functioning.  Ensure you have well-defined roles and responsibilities for everyone to flourish. Ask for input on your vision from a diverse group of people and be open to refining it…make sure you and your people have the skills and capabilities needed to realize the vision.”

Without the safety team having the determination and the daily grit to make their shared vision to safety work, employees will not embrace the importance of safety. They will not be engaged.

Without a safety focus and shared engagement, the safety team will be little more than an assembled group of strangers; however, with focus and the resolve to make a difference, the safety team will prevent accidents and save lives. Be determined to make that difference.

 

Hire Scott Burrows, Inspirational Safety Team Speaker for your next meeting through this website or by calling us at: (520) 548-1169

 

Stay Engaged to Save Lives at Work

 

As an inspirational safety speaker, I know all too well that the safety industry has traditionally focused on force feeding workers a diet of safety posters, safety lectures, safety demonstrations and horrific tales of gruesome injuries about “someone else.” It is a multi-pronged attack that checks all the right compliance boxes. This approach often causes people to disengage.

Part of the problem stems from the traditional “blue collar” and “white collar” designations. Those who toil on the job are often viewed as having less of an ability to personalize safety messages as the folks in the air-conditioned offices. Having been “a worker” and “an executive,” I knew this bias was untrue. In fact, when “safety” gets divided into “them” and “us,” it often results in more injuries throughout the organization. Scientific research backs me up.

Safety is a Story

The frontal lobe is one of seven parts of our brains. It is where we do our higher reasoning, however, appealing to only reason does little to drive a message home. This is not a new fact. It’s been around for centuries.

For example, when workers pass one of those safety posters with the stick figures lifting the wrong way, it does practically nothing for engagement. Even when the posters have info-graphics as to lifting, pushing and pulling statistics, no one fully takes that into their memory.

Telling a worker that in 2018, nearly 300,000 workers (based on National Safety Council statistics) were badly injured by incorrectly lifting does little good, if he or she didn’t know any of the injured people.

If the “blue collar” workers are found to disengage from safety messages, those in the office aren’t faring better. For example, Automotive Fleet magazine (May 25, 2018) explained that commercial automotive fleet accident rates have risen to almost 20 percent of all automobile accidents. The reasons aren’t faulty tires or winter storms, but far more basic, “…the No. 1 factor contributing to the increase in accidents continues to be distracted driving, especially among company drivers. Employees use company vehicles as their mobile offices and multitask while driving, which creates more opportunities for distraction.”

The same executives who stress workers aren’t being mindful on the job are themselves not mindful when they are driving to sales calls, job sites or to and from the office. Who’s to blame for the lack of safety engagement? Perhaps we should put the biggest blame on our amazing brains.

While there is a part of the brain that remembers facts and stick figures crying “Ouch!” it doesn’t prevent someone from lifting the wrong way or getting into an accident when driving while on their smartphone. Am I saying posters or classes are useless? Not at all. They can reinforce the story, but they are not the story. The inspirational safety story is a memorable story.

Engagement Demands “Why”

I am a safety statistic and safety storyteller. On November 3rd, 1984, I was a passenger in a friend’s car. As an athlete and martial artist, I guess I thought accidents happened to other people. Despite everything I had seen, heard and read I decided to not wear a seatbelt for a short ride down the beach. My friend lost control of the vehicle and I broke two vertebrae in my neck and suffered a serious spinal cord injury. I went from an athlete and martial artist to being diagnosed a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair. It is an intensely personal safety story and it is impactful for my audiences.

A safety story, up close and personal, is the best way to engage the entire brain, along with the other tools. Our brains are more likely to wire in information when it is tied to emotion. What engages us is that personal connection.

My mission is to tell that story, and help every employee develop a safety mindset and safety vision, with the determination to make safety a daily part of their story.

Contact Scott Burrows, Inspirational Safety Speaker through this website or call us at: (520) 548-1169

 

When Being “Only Human” Can Lead to Catastrophe

As a national keynote speaker on workplace safety and accidents caused by stress and other factors, I am familiar with the worn excuse of “they were only being human.” I remember the accident that led to my becoming a quadriplegic.

Family and friends told me that my failure to wear a seatbelt was because I was only human and under stress. In the months after the crash, I wondered what might have happened had I the vision to see where my choices could lead and the determination to overcome my carelessness in the first place.

Human Factors

The American Institute of Stress (March 28, 2019) stated that “80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.” In the same report it was noted that of all of the factors in the workplace that cause stress, the largest reason at 46 percent was workload. When a heavy workload is combined with stress, accidents occur. Those under stress usually think they can do more than they can safely do. They are too rushed and too stressed to ask for help.

The “Institute” reflected the ideas of Dr. David Spiegel, medical director of the Stanford Center on Stress and Health in Stanford, California in Safety + Health magazine:

“Safety professionals can play an important role in helping workers cope with stress.

It’s very clear that a big proportion of safety problems are due to human error, and some of that is related to stress. You need to be concerned as a manager for the overall health of your employees.”

Safety Consultant Dr. Michael Topf has spent a career working to help reduce employee stress. His observation about workers and the effects of workplace pressure have shattered a lot of myths. No matter the educational level, from Ph.D.’s on down, when stress is in play problems arise. You can’t overcome poor safety habits with intellectual thought:

“What I found was that…stress has an impact on safety. People learn to stuff their feelings. They hide their stress. They think, ‘You need to be bigger than it.’ So, it all goes in, but it doesn’t go away – it’s all stored in your body somewhere. It’s stored mentally and it’s stored physically.”

Topf gave a hypothetical example of a worker who had a sick parent in the hospital.

“You get to work and you’re climbing a ladder or you’re on scaffolding. While you’re walking along on the scaffolding, part of your attention is on where you’re walking and what you’re doing, but also part of your attention is on your sick mother in the hospital. Loss of focus or inattention is a major cause of injury.”

Overcoming Poor Decisions

As a safety professional, you must have the insight and the determination to see the connection between stress, workload and workplace accidents. Safety is a company-wide challenge. Safety professionals need the resolve to help workers under stress.

Finally, of the 46 percent of workers in the AIS study who cited workload as a major problem for causing stress (and accidents), in turn most of them saw stress as affecting their co-workers as well. Safety is everyone’s business. “Being human” is an explanation and an excuse we must avoid.

 

Contact Scott Burrows, National Keynote Speaker on Safety and Stress Related Workplace Accidents, through this website or call us at: (520) 548-1169