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”?



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.)

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?


Key Skills of Highly Successful Safety Professionals (What’s Missing?)


What if you were in charge of the training and development of over 750 safety professionals?  What key skills are missing from traditional EHS education and training? How could you make this outstanding team the best in the world?

That’s the question that I had to ask myself when I was hired as the Air Force Safety career field manager three years ago.

I brainstormed these questions with a colleague. Here are a few areas of skill and knowledge we came up with:

Negotiation, personal/professional development, marketing, value creation, strategic planning, change management, networking, and statistics.

If every safety professional could blend their existing skills and knowledge of EHS with the above subjects, they’d be unstoppable!

That’s when we got stuck. What resources existed in these areas for the already busy EHS professional?

We couldn’t find one.

So we created one and it’s premiering at ASSE Safety 2018. We’re teaching a full-day course (Session 405 “MBA Essentials for Busy EHS Professional”) on the above topics (and more).

CAUTION: It’s not for everyone. But if you’re looking to make an impact in the profession, pursue significant opportunities in 2018, and collaborate with others like you, this might be for you. There are limited seats available.

You can sign up here (discount rates apply before 28 Feb 18.) For blog subscribers, if you let me know when you sign up, you’ll earn the chance to win a free copy of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business when you attend on 3 June 2018 in San Antonio. (Subscribe fast here-no spam ever)

Want to know more? Email me at

When your 22-year old shows back up (or “How To Spin Your Wheels in Safety)


The knock on the front door is light at first and almost tentative. Upon opening the door, you see him. Your son, standing on your porch with a sad face and a large duffel bag.

He’s back.

And whether it’s that he can’t find a job, left college early, had four jobs in the past two months and can’t find his purpose, or he finished college and quickly found the undergraduate degree in history largely unappealing to employers paying above minimum wage, he’s once again spending the night under your roof.

Your feelings may go from being happy to see him, to a bit sad, to somewhat disappointed, to maybe even feeling some angst about the future.

It’s also how most EHS programs run. We spend a majority of our time putting out fires, brainstorming ways of redirecting ingrained habits and behaviors of 22-year olds (and older), searching for injury causes that we know began with learned behaviors years ago, and feeling angst about the future.

Financial author Emily Guy Birken writes on the subject of parenting and money habits. She says that if you want to teach your kids about entitlement, give in to their tantrums. If you want your children to spend money quickly and develop a scarcity mindset, tell them “we can’t afford that”, instead of teaching them to prioritize spending. If you want your son or daughter to rely on your paycheck, solve every problem for them instead of letting them be disappointed. And finally, if you want them to see work as a chore, then let them hear you complain about your job every week, dreading Mondays and celebrating Fridays, instead of celebrating purposeful work with a spirit of gratitude.

What does financial advice to young children have to do with EHS? Everything.

What are your newest employees learning right now? What are they learning in the first week, month, and year on the job about acceptable behaviors, attitudes and safe practices in your organization? Is the experience and training purposeful, reliable, and does it encourage and filter the best in the worker…or do they just “figure it out?”

How do we as a profession spend less time redirecting the person on the porch and more energy and attention in molding the future?


Can A Single Word Improve Safety Culture?


Is there a difference between these two phrases?

I can’t work without fall protection” and

I don’t work without fall protection

Research says there is a big difference…and it might affect your EHS culture.

Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, a team of researchers experimented with the words “don’t” and “can’t” in an effort to measure goal accomplishment and empowerment. In one case study, researchers tracked three groups of participants in a 10-day health and wellness program. One group was told to use phrases such as “I don’t miss a workout”, another was to use “I can’t miss a workout” and a control group was not instructed in any way.

The results were incredible.

In the “I don’t” group, 8 out of 10 completed the full 10 days. In the “I can’t” group, 1 out of 10 persisted and 3 out of 10 did so in the control group.

Are people in your organization using “I don’t” or “I can’t”?

Could a shift in phrasing influence EHS compliance, drive down unsafe shortcut taking, and increase the capacity for safe work at your company?

Link to full research paper here.

Why would you stay in the military with a CSP and a Master’s degree for enlisted pay?


In Air Force Safety, we hire (cross-train) 45 active-duty and up to 70 Guard/Reserve Airmen annually. They’ve typically been in the military 4 to 6 years and are looking for a job with both military and civilian future potential. Their first safety training is at Lackland Air Force Base, where the safety students learn from some of the best military safety instructors in the business.

Somewhere in the 6-week course, they learn that a CSP earns $109,000 on average. I have the opportunity to meet with many of the students, and inevitably, the question arises;

“Why did you stay in for enlisted pay if EHS pays so well on the outside?”

(NOTE: The questioner is usually great at math and appreciates an answer with more numbers than emotions.)

My favorite Department of Defense actuarial report (don’t roll your eyes yet) is the “STATISTICAL REPORT ON THE MILITARY RETIREMENT SYSTEM”. Published each fiscal year (FY16 is the latest report), it details the cost of military pay and retirement plans.

Some highlights I like to use to answer this question:

An E-7’s retirement at 20 years of service is worth $689,299, or $2,181 a month for life (with cost-of-living increases.) To build up such a high lump-sum, the E-7 would have had to save $1,645 a month for 20 years!

An E-9’s retirement at 20 years of service is worth $862,177, or $2,728 a month for life (with cost-of-living increases.) To build up such a high lump-sum, the E-9 would have had to save $2,058 a month for 20 years!

Using that math, when an E-6 separates from the military for a larger civilian CSP salary, at the 8 or 10 year mark, they are giving up between $689k and 862k in pension benefits alone (not including healthcare, etc.)! To make up this pension difference in a civilian safety career, if they got out after 8 years (and would have retired as an E-7) they would have to save $3,400 a month at 6% interest. That’s nearly $41,000 a year for 12 years. That level of required savings takes a lot out of the $109,000 average CSP salary!

Bottom Line? Even with the 2018 changes in military retirement (Blended Military Retirement), the military’s defined benefit pension is a fantastic option for the safety professional looking to make a difference in the military and in their career path by choosing higher education/credentialing.

Some of my other favorite parts of the DoD report:

  • They know when you’re going to die (on average): Page 283/284
  • They know where you live (state and country): Pages 28 and 33
  • Should you take the Survivor Benefit Plan? Here’s the actuaries’ own calculator (Excel file) to tell you the probability of it paying off for you.

There are MANY reasons to continue to serve (and separate) after achieving advanced degrees and certifications.

How did you make your choice?

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.