The Enforcement of Safety


This week the U. S. Navy filed charges against five military leaders involved in two separate ship collisions, which killed a total of 17 sailors.

In the military, the filing of charges translates to a military trial (courts martial) and the possibility of a reduction in rank, incarceration, and/or other disciplinary actions.

Department of Labor Secretary Acosta, in his 15 November 2017 congressional testimony, stated,

“As a former prosecutor, I know well the policy reasons for enforcement. Along with compliance assistance it is equally important to enforce the laws fully—and do so vigorously—to deter bad actors from willfully and repeatedly ignoring their responsibilities and requirements under the law…The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has separate authority to initiate criminal actions—an authority that I have instructed agencies to consider in cases that merit criminal investigation.”

Accountability, enforcement…and yet there aren’t many safety courses and books that do not include a warning on the assignment of responsibility for fault (i.e. blame)?

Can leaders lead without responsibility for results?

Can safety exist without accountability?

How do you, in your professional perspective, balance “what happened and why” versus “who to blame and punish”?



Glitter and Rainbows

I spoke with a colleague (let’s call him Jim) recently about their future. Now, Jim is the person you want working with you and in your meetings. He’s logical, thoughtful, and always asks probing questions to encourage deeper thought.

So when Jim shared his five-year plan for the future with me, I leaned in. He then laid out a plan for retiring in three years, at which point he’d be in his mid-sixties. His spouse had retired a few years ago and he wanted to travel and stay busy in retirement.

“Why wait three years?” I asked.

His response tore through me. “In three years we’ll be healthy enough to travel. We’ll lose weight, exercise more, and then we’ll be ready to enjoy life.”


I’ve done this too (too often to count). I’ve built a perfect plan, a beautiful Gantt-style chart of the picture-perfect path forward. Then someone will ask a question and like a slap across the face I’ll realize the flaw.

A few months ago, after one of these realizations, I relayed the incident to my wife. I told her that sometimes I live in a world of glitter and rainbows.

She smirked and while she tried not to nod vigorously, her body language shouted an affirmation.

Are glitter and rainbows blinding you?

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”Richard Feynman

What’s your Safety Bounce Rate?

What’s a bounce rate?

According to Google, “The percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page)”.

Someone clicked on a link, scanned the webpage, and left without looking/clicking on anything else. High bounce rates (over 55%) are generally bad and low bounce rates (less than 40%) are preferred.

High bounce rates are often a function of unclear navigation, dissimilar content (e.g. they came looking for kangaroos and saw monkeys), nothing to do/buy (referred to as a call-to-action), pop-ups, and a slow connection/page load time.

How’s your safety bounce rate?

  • When people call you, are you easy to reach? When you’re away, is there a reliable way to leave a message?
  • When workers interact with you and your team, are they getting what they came for? Are you providing solutions or additional barriers?
  • Do you have a call-to-action? Can people easily sign-up for and attend training? Report incidents quickly?
  • Are people seeing safety pop-ups? These frustrating time-wasters include annual training with an unclear “why”, safety emails and posters that emphasize the same old things the same old way (yes, barbeque safety is important, but is it materially driving your EMR?)
  • How is your page load time? When people ask a question, do they wait weeks for an answer or appointment? Do your office hours or customer service attitude inhibit interaction?

There is no Google Analytics page for Safety. One quick test for EHS? If your phone doesn’t ring and no one comes to your office, it’s not because there are no problems. It’s time to check your bounce rate.

“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – Colin Powell

Is Your EHS like Comcast?

Comcast is infamous for poor customer service.

In’s Customer Service Hall of Shame, Comcast, the largest broadcasting and cable company by revenue in the world, frequently earns the top spot with negative service reviews. FCC complaints on Comcast outnumber “AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable combined.” Billing, outages, outsourced customer service, pricing, and changing customer expectations drive the complaints.

Comcast, as the only service provider in many areas, acts like a monopoly. You can’t change providers and there is no price comparison.

EHS is not exempt from the dangers of the uncaring monopoly.

Could you imagine an EHS program run like this?

  • If you want training, here’s the single option.
  • If you want to do something new, our standard answer is no.
  • If you need simple advice, make an appointment.
  • If you need expert advice, we’ll send you our newest trainee.
  • Still need expert advice? We’ll outsource it and it’ll take forever.
  • If you stop by the office, we’ll be closed with no contact number.

For some, the above descriptors may not take much imagination.

Are you interacting with your customers like they have a choice? Where would those you serve rank you in customer service? Are you available? Do you offer creative solutions or just say “no”? How often are those you work with pleasantly surprised by interacting with you?

(Note: A bit random, but customer-service related. Last year I found this link, used the included script, and saved $800 on my phone bill. How? After 30 minutes on the phone, the AT&T service rep simply credited my account. I shared it with a friend and they received several monthly credits and a promo deal reducing their monthly rate by $35. Note to the note: Your mileage may vary but it worked for me.)

Five Questions for a Smaller Budget

New fiscal years bring new budgets. If your new year brought increased costs, increased responsibility, and a smaller overall dollar figure, what do you do (after rolling your eyes, throwing up your hands, and sitting back down)?

Before spending a dime (because it may be 50 percent of that new budget), here are five questions to ask yourself and your team:

  1. Where’s the worst dollar? What program, service or product are you buying with little to no return? How can you eliminate, reduce, or redirect this spending?
  2. Where’s the best dollar? We’ve all seen the figures that safety investments return $4-6 for every $1 spent. Is it true in your organization? Where are you seeing similar outsized returns?
  3. What if it doubled? If your budget doubled tomorrow, what’s your plan? What projects would you take on? What hazards would you tackle? What losses would you prevent?
  4. What if it halved? If that manager (you know the one) cut your budget by 50 percent, what would go first? Second? What would be the last thing to go (and thus your highest priority)?
  5. What are you building? With your current budget, what are you investing in for next year? Are you only buying fuel to keep the engine running or are you investing in performance parts to build efficiency and effectiveness? What will next year’s you look back on and thank the current you for?

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau


The World is Bigger than Workplace Fatalities

Perspective is, by definition, a point of view. If we choose to listen to only information like this most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, our point of view may be that the world is getting worse.

“For release 10:00 a.m. (EST) Tuesday, December 19, 2017

There were a total of 5,190 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2016, a 7-percent increase from the 4,836 fatal injuries reported in 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. (See chart 1.) This is the third consecutive increase in annual workplace fatalities and the first time more than 5,000 fatalities have been recorded by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) since 2008.”NATIONAL CENSUS OF FATAL OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES IN 2016

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has a different point of view. He writes that 2017 was the best year in human history. Every day, 300,000 more people gain access to drinking water and 325,000 more have access to electricity. Today, less than 15 percent of people are illiterate and since 1990 vaccinations, diarrhea treatment, and breast-feeding education (among other health initiatives) have saved over 100 million children. Kristof’s op-ed continues with similar good news and links to Our World in Data (one of the better collections of data on human living conditions I’ve seen).

“Life is about perspective and how you look at something…ultimately, you have to zoom out.” – Whitney Wolfe


Safety Won’t Make You Happy

(because it’s like money)

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” – Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey is trying to get across the point that being rich isn’t the answer to a great life. It doesn’t make you happy or joyful, it doesn’t make relationships better, it doesn’t help communicate or build empathy, and it doesn’t satiate the very human needs to belong, to mean something to someone, and to feel purpose in one’s life.

If someone wins the lottery, their happiness immediately rises, peaks shortly after, and quickly falls to their default level.

Money is like safety.

Safety won’t make you happy (past the momentary joy of going from feeling unsafe to once again feeling safe.)

Why? Because safety isn’t the point. It’s not the reason we cross oceans or explore space. It’s not the reason we go to work, raise families, build companies, write books, design buildings, create art, and it’s not the premise upon which our organizations exist. Safety is, in Todd Conklin’s fantastic definition, the “presence of capacity.”

The presence of capacity. Just like money, safety is the capacity to do work. To build. To create. To design. To do and be and to choose.

Money only magnifies who you are.” – Tony Robbins

What will safety magnify in you?


The Do-Less List


One of the best ways to build self-confidence in your abilities and potential is to keep your word.

Simply put – do what you tell yourself you’re going to do.

Sometimes though, to become the person you most want to become, you must first do less of what conflicts with that vision.

•Less distracted and more present.

•Less mean and more nice.

•Less gossip and more direct feedback.

•Less dreams and more written goals.

•Less processed food products and more natural food.

•Less sitting and more movement.

•Less screen time and more face time.

•Less business travel and more bucket list travel.

•Less talking and more doing.

•Less consumption and more creation.

What’s on your Do-Less list?


Where Does the Time Go?


In EHS, time flies. Calm mornings end with frantic phone calls and perfectly prioritized plans are replaced by meetings, hazards, assessments, and investigations.

The day comes to an end, leaving you with two new undone projects and frustrated with an overall lack of progress in any area.

But the time goes somewhere.

Getting a handle on where you spend your time is the first step toward the progress you desire (and need).

Try this.

David Seah created the “Emergent Task Timer” or ETT for reactionary and distracting jobs. In other words, perfect for EHS. (Free to download and print at this link) In David’s words, “ETT is designed to provide maximum insight with a minimum of data entry. It’s useful not only for time analysis, but for timesheet logging too. You’ll see the patterns of your day emerge as you use the form; there’s no need to add-up numbers or process the data any further.”

Looking for other productivity tools? Check out David’s site here.

Favorite Reading Lists


“I don’t have time to read another book.”

Even though I read an average of 50 books a year, this thought comes up from time to time.  Then Mark Twain reminds me, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

Okay. Maybe one more.

Here are several reading lists that I use to filter through the vast titles of available books for the very best.

Admiral (ret) James Stavridis writes in his book The Leader’s Bookshelf that Secretary of Defense (and retired General) James Mattis has what could be the largest personal library of any active-duty military officer ever. Secretary Mattis recommended these 30 books (from his own 7,000 book library) to Foreign Policy during an interview.

The Air Force’s Reading List (My favorite so far on the most recent list is The Effective Executive)

The Army’s Reading List  (A short story called “A Message to Garcia”. Read it for free at this link.)

The Navy’s Reading List (Try Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World)

The Marine Corps’ Reading List (Once an Eagle is a must!)

The Coast Guard’s Reading List  (again Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World)

Derek Sivers’ List (includes fantastic summaries and his personal book notes) (The most difficult list to pick a favorite from…either Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind or Ego Is the Enemy)

Ryan Holiday’s List (find his annual lists here) (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt)

Do you have a recommended reading list? How about a favorite book from last year?