Lessons from a Life in Safety: #2

Lessons from a Life in Safety: #2

Jill James

Jill James

Chief Safety Officer

Jill James brings an unrivaled perspective on risk, regulation and liability. With 14 years of experience as a Senior OSHA Safety Investigator with the State of Minnesota, and nearly a decade in the private sector as a safety program manager, Jill is a passionate advocate for training ROI.

Do More With Less

After 12 years working for OSHA, I left for the private sector.

I had convinced a regional medical clinic system to hire me.

Right away, I found my first hazard—a fall protection issue on the roof of its multi-story headquarters.

I applied what I thought was the right thing to do.

I wrote an email to the clinic administrator.

I laid out my case for why it was a hazard, who was exposed, how often, how to mitigate it, how much that would cost, and noted that it was a violation of an OSHA regulation.

It was a beautifully crafted email.

The Attorney General’s office I used to work with would’ve loved it as a slam dunk, solid case…or so I thought. 

The response I got was swift, with one statement and one question. 

The statement: “Next email, one sentence with three bullet points, max.” 

The question: “Are we ahead of the curve, on the curve, or behind the curve compared to others in this space regarding this issue?” 

And then he added, “I only want to be on the curve”.

What a shock! I had no badge and no attorney general’s office to turn to support corrective action.

In the end, I did not get that roof hazard abated because I couldn’t convince the administrator the hazard had been corrected at similar clinics.

What I did gain was knowledge. It was a defeating lesson, but I learned four things:

  1. Only we safety professionals need to know or care about the details of our practice.
  2. We have to be great at saying more with less, arming our leaders with just enough to make smart business decisions on our way to being their trusted advisors.
  3. Make your ask or state the problem in the first sentence whether written or spoken.
  4. Use bullet points to support your claim or need.