Safetysplain (new word)

Safetysplain [seyf-tee-spleyn]

(a blend of the word safety and the informal form splain of the verb explain) means “to explain something to someone, characteristically by a safety professional to a non-safety professional, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing”.

‘He safetysplained the necessity of PPE to the construction crew as they pretended to listen.’

The Promise of Ease

If we answer and never listen,

If we do and never learn,

If we speak and never think,

If we repeat and never change,

If we habituate and never alternate,

If we avoid feedback and do not seek to improve,

If we aim and do not fire (or fire and do not aim),

If we decide and do not act,

If we resolve and do not follow through,

We then resign a bit of ourselves to the lure of comfortable negligence, where self-command, willpower, and responsibility are pushed aside for the promise of ease and the luxury of the known.


Don’t Hide (Tips for Public Speaking)

“The strategy of speaking to individuals is…a useful antidote to fear of public speaking. No one wants to be stared at by hundreds of unfriendly, judgmental eyes. However, almost everybody can talk to just one attentive person. So if you have to deliver a speech (another terrible phrase) then do that. Talk to the individuals in the audience-and don’t hide: not behind the podium, not with downcast eyes, not by speaking too quietly or mumbling, not by apologizing for your lack of brilliance or preparedness, not behind ideas that are not yours, and not behind clichés.

– Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos


Breaking Bad Safety Habits

It wasn’t working and yet they couldn’t quit.

The organization spent millions per fiscal year on safety training and education, with spurious results. During years when injuries and lost work days went down, the positive results were correlated to the training. Other time, when injury rates rose, the results were instead tied to market conditions or something else outside of the company’s control. Peoples’ jobs depended on the training and senior leaders felt good about providing the training. They couldn’t quit.

London Business School professor, Freek Vermeulen, writes in “Breaking Bad Habits: Defy Industry Norms and Reinvigorate Your Business” on how organizations develop bad habits. One of the examples given is of South African banking. One bank, looking for competitive advantage in pricing, reduced account transfer fees to one flat amount, instead of the traditional percentage of funds transferred. Expecting their competitors to immediately reduce their transfer pricing, the bank marketed the reduced costs widely. Surprisingly, their competitors did not reduce their pricing. Why? The higher transfer fees supported budgets in other business units and their managers depended on the revenue.  They simply could not afford to change. You may be able to guess the result (significantly reduced market share).

How much of your EHS program began with good intentions (and good results) but you’re unsure why you’re still doing it?

What can you not afford to quit?

The Lottery of Safety

When lottery jackpots are high, upwards of 600 million tickets are sold in a single day. The Atlantic reported that Americans spent $70 billion, or $300 for every adult, in 2014 alone. Of the top 20 counties in North Carolina with poverty levels above 20 percent, more than $200 per adult is spent on the lottery. And Rhode Island leads the U.S. in sales per capita, with nearly $800 in tickets sold per person.

Yet the odds of winning remain low. So low in fact, that even when Powerball fever grips the nation, the chances of any winner being selected (from the 600 million or so tickets sold that day) is still only around 13 percent.

Why do we buy lottery tickets?

Because we have the amazing ability to magnify perceived chance based on hope. We pray, wish, dream, and negotiate with higher powers, that the one chance in a billion falls on us.

Then we put that same lottery ticket in our pocket, drive our car without a seatbelt, leave eye protection on our forehead, climb without a fall arrest system, and tell ourselves, “Getting hurt at work will never happen to me.”

Except we’re wrong. Something always happens. Every day our lives are filled with coincidences and circumstances which defy the odds. Low-chance encounters that change our lives forever.

What are you betting on?


Three Ways to Give Better (Last-Minute) Presentations

It’s always better to prepare. But sometimes there is no time to draft the perfect transitions and to rehearse. You just have to go (now).

Whether you have a two-minute walk down the hall to the auditorium, or just the 10 seconds from the table to the front of the meeting room, here are three ways to give better impromptu talks.

  1. Pick three points (and fast): One main idea which is supported by three points. Three works great with limited attention spans. Three is easy to remember. (And three might be the reason you clicked on this post).
  2. Make one a story: We remember stories. They speak to us at a deeper level than bar charts and graphs. If you want to have your audience remember anything you’re about to say, say it with a story.
  3. Surprise your audience: Be vulnerable. Share what you’ve learned. Reveal your humanity and your flaws.

Do you have a go-to method for last-minute talks?

Do You Grow Your People Like a Farmer or a Reality Show?

Farmers don’t just plant seeds, cross their fingers, and come back in 4 months to check on the progress.

Whether the farmer grows corn, soybeans, or wheat, they prepare the soil, choose seeds with traits conducive to their exact location and season, carefully apply fertilizer, herbicides, and fungicides (natural or man-made), tweak this and that, and systematize the process.

Yet when many of us grow people, we do much less.

First, we may outsource the hiring to HR. Then we run the new hire through a process more akin to “Survivor” and “American Ninja” than a process which recognizes unique abilities, experiences and skill. Finally, we check back in several months later to see “how things are going.”

If farmers grew crops like we grow people, we’d all starve. Just like plants, people need fertilizer, careful placement, and maybe even their first few months under the shelter of a greenhouse where they learn culture, share values, and the necessary skills to wildly succeed.

Treating people like reality show contestants on a far-off island doesn’t make them strong. It only leads to a bunch of bedraggled, wore out, and mentally and physically drained short-term employees who will quit and cry at the first site of a passing ship.

Farmer or reality show?

Failure Up Close (and retirement)

For the first time in nearly three years, the video conference would not start on time. This particular video conference is for all Air Force occupational safety professionals and is held bi-monthly to update the field, request feedback on subjects and to answer questions. But even with five people working the multiple IT issues, the delay was growing.

Then the phone rang, “Josh, is it going to start?”

I’m never late. And then I was. How did we get here?

It began in the morning with a blank blue screen on my computer. Several resets and I had it working again. Thirty minutes later it happened again. Again with a restart and I had it fixed (or so I thought.) Thinking through the morning’s events, I requested a backup computer.

Just before I was scheduled to bring up the teleconference, my computer went blue and shutdown. We told the audience to expect a 10-minute delay.

The backup computer was plugged in, however my slides were on the main computer and there was no video record capability on the substitute computer (I record the teleconferences for those in different time zones). So the IT tech used their administrator rights to grab my slides from the original computer and load them on the backup. But still no recording software.

OK, time to start this conference!

Wait, where is everyone? Oh, Internet Explorer isn’t working for those trying to log in. Someone discovers that Chrome is fine and the audience begins to filter in. We end up with about half the normal number of participants.

Failure on multiple levels. I should have had a dedicated backup with the proper software and built more time into conference set-up (among other risk controls).

And while it wasn’t a battle in an Afghan valley (and I’m glad it wasn’t because I’d have been late), it was a reminder on the importance of resilience under stress.

It’s also a foundational reason I requested retirement several months ago from active-duty, beginning December 2018. Not to escape from failure, not to get away from the stress and struggle…but to deliberately put myself in more opportunities for learning, for success, and yes…for failure. It’s a bittersweet step and one I’m glad isn’t for several more months.

I wouldn’t trade this experience, these people, and these past 20 years for anything.


SWOT: An essential tool for the EHS professional

Distilling the most important parts of an MBA program for the EHS professional is tough, especially to fit into 8 hours of instruction. (Interested? We’re hosting a pre-conference 1-day course on this subject at ASSE Safety 2018. 405 | MBA Essentials for Busy EHS Professionals )

One of most important parts is the SWOT analysis. Credited to Stanford University’s Albert Humphrey, the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is a process by which to analyze an environment. Strengths and Weaknesses are internal and within the control of the organization while Opportunities and Threats are external, or outside of the organization’s control.

Various versions exist, from SOFT (Humphrey’s original acronym) to TOWS (which places emphasis on external factors), to SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results) which focuses on what the organization can control vs. external factors.

Think it’s only for CEOs? Think again. SWOTs are wonderful tools for looking for the next opportunity within EHS, when researching a new job and preparing for the interview, and for brainstorming and decision making within both your personal and professional areas of work.

Want to learn more about SWOT? Here’s a link to the basics. And here’s a link with 50 real-life examples.