If Your Goals For 2018 Seem Too Big, Try This


The first year I signed up for the Bataan Memorial Death March, I included it on my list of annual goals.

And I almost failed.

After the 26-mile march through the New Mexico desert, my feet were blistered and raw and I was dehydrated. The next few days were spent hobbling as my feet slowly healed.

The following year, I broke down the goal into the vital two parts. My feet and hydration.

First, my feet needed to be tougher. I began to walk around the house and even down the road to the mailbox barefoot. In my conditioning hikes, I chose more uphill and downhill routes to encourage blisters and the subsequent toughening of my soles.

And I pre-hydrated. For 72 hours before the Bataan, I drank as much water, coconut water, and electrolytes as I could stomach.

Did it work? Emphatically, yes. The second year, I didn’t even have a red spot on my feet, let alone a blister. I was a little dehydrated post-race, but it was nothing like the first year. (If you have tips on avoiding dehydration, feel free to shoot me an email.)

How about your goals? How could you break down your 2018 goals into the critical parts? For example, if your goal is promotion in the military, try this. Instead of focusing on the promotion itself, focus on a daily study habit. Or instead of a goal of running a 5k, focus on running (any amount) 4 days a week. Even if it’s only 100 yards (this really does work).

Want to Bataan in 2018? Early registration (at a reduced priced) ends today (31 Dec 17).

College and Certification Hacks for the Military Safety Professional

(Note: While written for the uniformed safety professional, many of the tips below work for a variety of situations.)

There are many ways to complete and pay for college and professional certifications. Here are a few I’ve personally used, how much I saved, and a link for more information.

  1. College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams: With 33 exams available for free to service members, this is a must-do for college credit. Between DANTES (next tip) and CLEP, I took 30 (passing 28) exams, which put a huge dent in the credits required for my under-grad degree. Estimated savings: $2,040 ($85 x 24 CLEP exams) and at least 18 months of class-time.
  2. Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES): Offering 38 exams through DSST, these exams also confer free college credit similar to CLEP. Estimated savings: $480 ($80 x 6 exams) and at least 6 months of class-time.
  3. Tuition Assistance (TA): Each service member receives $4,500 per fiscal year to use toward an accredited undergrad or graduate degree. If the $4,500 isn’t used, it virtually disappears with end of the fiscal year. I earned both a bachelors and a masters using TA to fund 95% of the cost (5% was out-of-pocket book costs.) Estimated savings: $38,000 (15 undergrad and 16 graduate classes)
  4. Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL): Each service member receives $4,500 (career cap) towards certification preparation, exam, and annual fees. Certifications are limited to those in your career field if you’re an E-1 through E-6. For E-7 through E-9, the funds can be also used for leadership certifications (PMP, Green Belt, etc.). I earned many of my certifications before COOL came out, but took three exams using COOL in the past two years. Estimated savings: $2,000 (study books and exams)
  5. Deploy: The Institutes has a military program where they provide discounted and free (for deployers) study material and exams for their credentials. While there are multiple certifications available, I chose to complete the Associate in Risk Management-Enterprise Risk Management (ARM-E) and the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) during a couple of my deployments. Estimated savings: $6,200 (12 exams plus study material)
  6. Stop paying annual certification dues: Per DoDI 6055.01 Enclosure 3 para 4.d.(1), your service is authorized to pay annual certification fees (and pay for the certification preparation and exams). Estimated savings: $1,200 (3 years and 10 annual fees)
  7. No application fees: The Board of Certified Safety Professionals waives the $160 application fee for government employees (including military). Estimated savings: $500 (4 exams at various fee schedules)

Total estimated savings: $50,420 and nearly two years of class-time.

Which have you used to hack your college and/or certifications?

What have you used that I’ve left out of the list above?



Engagement: The Secret to Safety?

A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd

According to Gallup, only 33% of US employees are engaged and the percentage is lower for millennials at 29%. The rest of the employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged.

Does engagement matter?

“…business units in the top quartile of employee engagement are 21% more profitable, are 17% more productive, have 10% better customer ratings, experience 41% less absenteeism and suffer 70% fewer safety incidents compared with business units in the bottom quartile.” – Gallup (emphasis added)

What characterizes the non-engaged employee?

“They show up and kill time, doing the minimum required with little extra effort to go out of their way for customers. They are less vigilant, more likely to miss work and change jobs when new opportunities arise. They are thinking about lunch or their next break. Not engaged employees are either “checked out” or attempting to get their job done with little or no management support.” – Gallup

Here is a link to Gallup’s five ways to increase engagement.


Skyscrapers on Fire

I thought about all of the things that everyone ever says to each other, and how everyone is going to die, whether it’s in a millisecond, or days, or months, or 76.5 years, if you were just born. Everything that’s born has to die, which means our lives are like skyscrapers. The smoke rises at different speeds, but they’re all on fire, and we’re all trapped.” – Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

As EHS professionals, we are lucky.

Not only do we serve in an occupation to reduce workplace injury and death, but we have the opportunity to work in a profession where life is regarded as precious and ultimately finite.

It’s the finiteness that’s expressed in Foer’s skyscraper quote above.

If for a moment you can imagine yourself standing on the roof balcony of a skyscraper, looking down at the rising flames below you, you can almost feel the urgency build inside you. Do you have 5 minutes or 70 years? The urgency that should naturally exist when one is consciously aware of an unknown end.

How will you use this urgency?

Will you use it to inspire you towards a life you are proud to call your own?

Or will the urgency be repressed by the distraction of youth and rise up again only to produce a moment of deep regret before the final breath?

Where is your fire?


“I worked with a CSP who was a terrible safety professional”

I hear this well-worn line on a near weekly basis. It’s typically used by mature “professionals” to denounce certification as a significant waypoint on a career progression path. As something trivial and in some ways at odds with experience and good judgement.

On my best days, I get it. I understand the sentiment that certification is not the silver bullet for professional competence.

This is not one of those best days. Today, I see this line of thinking as a weak excuse for jadedness in one’s own career.

We all know people with credentials (of every type) who truly perform below-average and do not meet a given standard. Lawyers, financial advisors, real estate agents, bankers, and even medical doctors. They have the certification, but their performance lacks competence.

If certification doesn’t linearly equate to professional competence, how about experience? Doesn’t 30 years of experience in a field of work mean something? Yes, sometimes. Other times, we’re reminded of the person who performed at a low-level their first year in the business and simply repeated Year 1 again and again and again.

If not experience, certainly education? A graduate degree or even post-doctoral work, where one researches and publishes on a field of study should make one competent? Nope. We’ve all worked with those people who cannot seem translate book knowledge to practical application.

Where does that leave the argument? If competence is not perfectly aligned with certification, experience, nor education (and it’s not), how do we build not only the next generation of EHS professionals, but also increase the capacity and capability of the current generation?

I believe the solution lies in a combination of three key areas; certification, experience, and education. Remove any one item and the three-legged stool falls.

But to jeer from the sidelines that certification and education do not make a better professional? That line of thinking only leads to mediocrity and an early professional plateau with a missed opportunity to make a real difference.

Best of ConnectingEHS 2017 (and a contest)

The top 10 posts as viewed, liked, and commented on (between the main website, Facebook, and LinkedIn.)

  1. I Waited Too Long
  2. Safety’s High Horse
  3. The plan to have every U.S. Air Force Safety professional earn their CSP
  4. Distraction Kills
  5. Have you tried this safety app?
  6. Questioning Our Career Field
  7. How Investments In Safety Could Get Your CEO Fired
  8. Do Not Miss The Opportunity To Have A Bad Boss
  9. The next great safety leaders aren’t going to be safety people
  10. Enough

Do you have a favorite from 2017?

Send me your favorite from 2017 (from this top 10 list or from the ConnectingEHS archives) and you’ll be entered in a drawing for  a copy of “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt“. This book is a must read for the professional who wants to make a difference.  Roosevelt’s persistence and sense of purpose inspired me in many ways throughout this book.

I’ll draw a name at random from emails sent to josh@connectingEHS.com

Holding the Flashlight in the New Year

“Leaders can never take their people farther than they have traveled. Like leader, like people.” – John Maxwell

In every good adventure story, there is a dark forest and a cave. Depending on the era, the adventurers are holding either torches or flashlights. The interior of the cave is a mystery. It’s pitch black, covered in spider webs, and the night dew forms puddles at the entrance.

What happens next is a matter of integrity and character.

As the leader of the exploration, what do you do?

Do you hand the flashlight to the next-in-charge and tell her to go first? Do you tell everyone that rank and position have privileges and cave exploration is something you’ll pass on?

Or do you hold the flashlight, tell those around you to stay close, and explore the cavernous interior together? Will you lead from the front or from the front seat of the Land Rover back at camp?

What will next year look like for you?

Will you hand off the flashlight, expecting slightly higher quarterly earnings and lower reportable incidents, while cheering from camp? Does seniority replace continued personal and professional development?

Or will next year be spent, flashlight in hand, exploring the future together with your team?

When is More Safety Less?

Number of deaths and fatality rates* in mining coal and metal/nonmetallic
(M/NM) minerals, by 5-year interval — United States, 1911–1997


Thirty minutes of safety training prior to a hazardous activity can dramatically prevent injury.

If you double the training, does it double the injury reduction?

If not, what’s the optimal input of safety to injury reduction?

Is the level of safety input entirely insufficient until the unintentional loss is zero?

How does the law of diminishing marginal utility (the first unit yields more utility than the second and subsequent units, with a continuing reduction for greater amounts.) affect EHS?

Where in EHS is more safety more…and where is it less? For example, one pair of eye protection is good, but two is unnecessary. One ear plug is not enough, two is good, and three is one too many. One hour of training may be good, two might be better, but is 15 hours too much?

If resources spent on fall protection, since changes in the law in the 1990s, have increase 3-4x, and injuries from falls have stayed the same (or increased in certain industries), what is our profession’s solution?

Think these questions are foolish or too theoretical?

Think again.

From 1933 to 2015, the rate of workplace fatalities went from 37 to 3.4 per 100,000 workers (NSC Injury Facts and BLS). We are reaching a point of decreased marginal utility. We are getting less output (injury reduction) for our input (hazard and risk controls).

When is more safety less?

(NOTE: I pose questions to create discussion, create valuable friction, and disturb commonly held beliefs in an effort to generate positive movement in EHS. Our status quo kills, pure and simple. And the future demands bold steps. What got us here won’t get us there.)


When is Human Error actually Human Choice?

Is our profession ready to tackle the issue of conscious choice?

Human error causes 93% of automobile crashes (NHTSA citation below*). A similar causal percentage of error is often cited for fatality and injury incident of all types.

We tend to think of error as a mistake, a misstep, or an unintentional movement, such as flipping the wrong switch or reversing sequential steps in a process.

But are these the types of errors that cause over 90% of death, injury, and loss in the workplace? What if “error” is a choice based on a set of personal values?

Here are some choices we face daily at various organizational levels:

Do I choose to pick up my cell phone while I’m driving and disregard the risk?

Do I choose to use the saw without the blade guard because the job needs to be done?

Do I choose to reverse into a tight corner without a spotter because my shift is ending and no one can leave until I’m finished?

Do I choose to find a creative way to use the short ladder or waste two hours getting the correct one?

Do I choose to slow down in bad weather and not get home before my kids go to bed or risk a higher speed?

Do I hire people that work safely or get the job done at any cost?

Do I stop an unsafe practice if the job is almost finished?

Do I drive to work when I’m tired and cannot afford a day off?

Do I tell my supervisor when they’ve given the team too much work in too little time?

Do I tell my boss I’m not trained or show initiative and figure it out myself?

Do I have the business unit do the job without adequate resources and hope for the best?

Do I fix my equipment acquisition process resulting in substandard or delay it because we don’t have the money for the right tools?

Choices (conscious and unconscious) based on values.

Is the EHS profession ready to tackle the issue of values and choice? If we don’t, do we relegate ourselves and our field to compliance and liability avoidance?

Maybe it’s time we choose.

*”NHTSA’s 2008 National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey is probably the primary source for the common assertion by NHTSA officials that ‘[h]uman error is the critical reason for 93% of crashes’ (at least if “human error” and “driver error” are conflated). The 93% figure is absent from the report itself (probably intentionally) but calculable from the totals given on page 24.” (Courtesy of Stanford Law School)