She Looked At Me Like I Was Weird

It was a 7:30 am meeting and she yawned. She asked me why I didn’t look tired and I told her I’d been up for a few hours.

“A few hours?”

“Yeah, I got up at 2:50 am, read for a couple hours, and then worked out.”

“Do you do that every day?”


She looked at me like I was weird.

I think she might be right.

A quick internet search proved her case.  Here’s normal in the U.S:

  • Auto loans? The average is now $30,032 (CNBC)
  • Texting and driving? 33% of drivers admit to it (Huffington Post)
  • Credit Cards? $16,061 is the average balance (Nerdwallet)
  • Student loans? $37,172 average for outstanding student loans (The Economist)
  • Sugar intake? 150 pounds per year (USDA)
  • Book reading? 23% of Americans didn’t even pick one up last year (Gallup)
  • Voting? 42.5% of eligibles didn’t vote (Bipartisan Policy Center)
  • Television? 65% of homes have 3 or more televisions and 67% regularly watch TV during dinner. (
  • Children and television? The average child will spend 900 hours in school this year and 1,200 hours in front of a television. (
  • Health? 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure. (CDC)
  • The Simpsons? “The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.” (

Here’s to being crazy, weird, and a bit unorthodox. To the ones who might (just might) change the world.

I hope you’re weird too.

The U.S. Air Force shares Core Values with Enron

We have three core values in the U.S. Air Force; Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all you do.

Enron, the company bankrupted in a 2001 scandal, had four core values (chiseled into the lobby floor); Integrity, Communication, Respect, and Excellence.

Enron and the Air Force share Integrity and Excellence. What?

What makes a value a real value? The Netflix culture slides sum up value with, “The actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go…Actual company values are the behaviors and skills that are valued in fellow employees.”

Who is promoted at your company and why?

Which values do you reward?

Who do you let go and for which lack of value?

How would you describe your real values?

More on culture at the Netflix Culture webpage

What Did You Expect?

I was in the last month of fifth grade when my report card came.

There were low grades and then there were mine.

It was the year I’d stopped doing homework. My grades reflected this lack of effort. When my dad saw my dismay regarding the grades, he asked, “What did you expect?”

My father taught me that actions (or a lack of any action) have consequences.

-When we complain that our bodies are tired and don’t work like the used to, but we rarely find time to exercise…what did we expect?

-When we aren’t promoted, yet refuse to put in the effort to study, improve, or create other positive change…what did we expect?

-When EHS professionals exist to point out problems and the innumerable errors made by others, and aren’t appreciated…what did we expect?

-When life appears to fly by, but we cannot pause for a moment to reflect, appreciate, prioritize, and move ahead…what did we expect?

The fifth grader inside of me still recoils at homework, but is reminded by every sunrise that actions have consequences.

Make this sunrise count.


On the side of the majority

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

Questioning our beliefs.

(My answers below…feel free to include your responses in the comments block)

1. What do the majority of EHS professionals believe to be true?
2. Which foundational belief(s) is incorrect or needs to change based on new information?
3. What do you disagree with in EHS?
4. What have you changed you mind about in the past 5 years?

1. Most EHS professionals believe risk and injury is best reduced by engineering the environment (hierarchy of controls). Many also believe taking action is better than not taking action.
2. Taking action can create a false sense of security (e.g we feel safer) and increase overall risk (e.g. driver’s education vs. graduated licensing; while both should reduce car crashes, only one succeeds.)
3. Heinrich’s Triangle, “Safety First”, safety education that segregates basic business and economics, a focus on human error as a root cause (for starters).
4. I used to believe assigning human factors during mishap investigations, and the data analysis of those human factors, would lead to new methods and/or more useful prioritization of hazard controls. That theory has not proved as successful as I once thought.

Stop Paying Your Bills

Personal Finance and Safety

In a wonderful book on EHS called The Richest Man in Babylon, George Classon tells a story of an aspiring EHS professional who can’t break out of the incident investigation cycle. Injury, investigation, another injury, another investigation…and so on.

If you’ve read the book (and it’s one I highly suggest), you know that Classon really writes about personal and business finances and not safety.

But the principles? Exactly the same.

In the classic book, Classon writes about a poor man and his journey to wealth. He meets a rich businessman who advises him throughout the book.

The first lesson? “Pay Ourselves First.” Take 10% of your salary and save it. Before bills and before any spending. In safety, if we spend all of our resources investigating injuries (paying bills), we won’t have enough left over to work on prevention (saving and investing).

Another lesson is on risk management. “Insurance Protects Wealth.” Risk transfer and reduction are key to both finance and sound safety and risk management programs.

The last two applicable lessons are “Invest in Ourselves” and “Track Your Wealth.” Consistent personal and professional development are THE difference between the average and extraordinary EHS professional. And finally, in EHS we track our bills (injury log), but how could we better track our wealth (prevention successes)?

Are you just paying your bills? Or are you investing for the future?


Chained to the Porch

Hounds bark. All the time. Whether it’s a bloodhound searching for lost hikers or a coon hound on the trail of their favorite prey, hounds howl, bay, yip, and basically carry on.

And they don’t quit. So when the hunt is over, they are chained to the porch.

Why? Because they don’t retrieve, herd sheep or cattle, look cute on your lap, come when their name is called, or sit on command.

Most of us know people in the profession like this. They know how to bark. They’ll tell you what’s wrong. And tell her what’s wrong. They tell the manager. They point out errors to everyone. And say “no” to anyone that asks.

And then they too are “chained to the porch.”

Why? Because they don’t manage, provide solutions, lead teams, grow professionally, nor can they be trusted with wise council in meetings with senior leaders.

Boring Safety Training? (Here is a 10-minute fix)

He was asleep. And it was my fault.

I’d regularly taught supervisor safety training for six months. No matter how I taught the 4-hour course, few people paid attention. The course material was dry, the videos were dated, and I was still nervous in front of audiences.

So when he fell asleep, I understood why.

After that class, I quit blaming the curriculum and the videos and focused on my delivery. I began to put an emphasis on engagement, asking each supervisor what their job was and relating the course to their work.

A few years later, I read “Brain Rules” by John Medina and finally understood the secret to better training. I’d thought engagement was the key, but Medina’s “10-minute rule” helped to give my training necessary structure.

The 10-minute rule states: “Emotional arousal helps the brain learn. Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion.”

Using this idea, I broke up the training into 10-minute blocks, each with a beginning story or anecdote, to grab and hold attention.

Is training more than 10-minute attention getters?

Yes, but without attention your substance is quickly lost and rarely remembered.


The Sum Of Our Contributions

The Piper Alpha oil production platform was built in 1976 and destroyed in an explosion in 1988, killing 168 workers.

Sir Brian Appleton, a safety assessor at the disaster, afterwards summed up what safety professionals are called to perform:

“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.”

This quote is good for those days when budgets and politics seem overwhelming.


Learning From Failure Is Overrated

We hear it from our parents, mentors, and espouse it as EHS professionals.

“Learn from your mistakes.” “Failure is the way to learn.” “Find the (root) cause and prevent it.”

The problem with a focus on failure is that we subordinate success and the lessons contained within why things work.

What’s working for you now? Why is it working? What can you learn and share about what works and why?

Would you rather get advice from a success or a failure? Apple or Blackberry? Canon or Kodak? GoPro or Polaroid?

While you are succeeding, learn. So when you fail, you’ll know where (and why) it worked.


Shaving My Head: How I Solved My Overflowing Inbox

I shaved my head for the first time in 2009. A receding hairline and the 30-minute wait for a barber during a military deployment provided the inspiration.

But my hair kept growing. In fact, in some areas on my head, my hair grows nonstop. If I wasn’t satisfied with anything less than a smooth pate, I’d have to stand ready with a razor at all times, looking for the shadow of growth.

That’s crazy…right?

Yet it’s exactly how we handle email. Always on, always connected. Instantly ready to reply, as if there is a prize for email. All of this at the expense of what matters.

So I shave my head twice a week. And I turn on my inbox (through the Send/Receive tab in Outlook) three times a day: 0730 for urgent only and then at 1000 and 1530 for routine messages.

I tried for years to always be on, always connected. It’s crazy.

Like standing in front of a mirror waiting for hair to grow.