Safety FM Podcast: Episode 28 - Jill James

Safety FM Podcast: Episode 28 - Jill James

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.

Our very own Jill James was a special guest recently on, the Safety FM Podcast, where they talk about safety that's truly inspired by you and don’t treat the word “safety” as a derogatory term.

Launch Safety FM Podcast: Episode 28 - Jill James

Jay Allen: Welcome to Safety FM where we talk about safety that's truly inspired by you. This episode of the broadcast and the podcast has been brought to you by Safety Focus Moment. They are consultants that wanna help you get to the safety culture that you've been looking for. For more information, go to SafetyFocusMoment.com.

Well hello, and welcome to Safety FM. This is Jay Allen. I tell you, I do a lot of research when it comes to safety and podcasting, and I was able to locate this podcast hosted by Jill James. It's a different point of view about safety, and she talks about how most of the people in the safety industry get involved by accident. Today is our conversation with Jill James from the Accidental Safety Pro Podcast.

Safety FM, changing safety culture one broadcast and one podcast at a time.

Hello, Jill James, and welcome to Safety FM. How are you today?

Jill James:

I'm great, Jay. Thank you so much for having me.

Jay Allen:

I appreciate you coming on. I will have to tell you, I was listening to the Accidental Safety Pro, and I heard your podcast, and I was like, "We have to have you on." I just wanna know, how did it start? How did the journey start? How did you start getting into safety? And then we'll kinda tie it back into, how did you get into the podcasting aspect?

Jill James:

Sure. How did I get into safety? Well accidentally, like many of us in the profession. I was finishing up my undergrad degree in community health education, and I needed to find an internship. This was the early 90s, and the job market was pretty competitive. I was looking at a list of internships, and seeing things like American Red Cross, [inaudible 00:02:13], associations like that. At the very bottom of the list, I saw Department of Transportation, and it said "Safety." I thought, "Well, nobody's gonna want that. What's safety? That sounds totally boring. It won't be competitive, I'll be able to get the internship, and I'll be able to get my degree done."

And so, I contacted the Department of Transportation, applied for the internship. I got it, and found myself at a DOT office, learning about workplace safety for the first time. My undergrad program had had one class on safety, but it was more like personal safety stuff, not industrial safety. When I got to the DoT, all of the safety directors around the state who are assigned different regions, were telling me, "Hey kid." Everybody called me kid 'cause I'm in my early 20s. "Hey kid, you should go to the University of Minnesota. You should get your master's degree in safety like we did, and then you'll be able to get a job and you'll be able to pay off your student loans, and this isn't that bad of an industry, and you should do that." And so, I learned enough about what workplace safety might be about to go, "Yeah, okay. Maybe I'll take all these guys' advices." And when I say "Guys," I mean guys, all men, who had those jobs at the time.

That's what I did. I went to the university, and got my master's degree in industrial safety. While I was doing that, my family was asking me ... since I was the first person to ever go to college in my family, they were asking me, "What kind of job are you gonna get with this? What is that?" And I said, "I don't know. I suppose I could work for OSHA or something." I was finishing up my degree, and needed to find another internship, and found one at the Department of Military Affairs, working at a military base installation, and did some environmental and safety work there. And while I was there, my mentor from the DoT called me one day and he said, "Hey Jill, OSHA's hiring. You should apply."

I'm like, "Okay." I'm still in my early 20s and I'm like, "Okay." So, I applied for this job with OSHA, got an interview, got the job, and spent the next little over 10 years as an investigator in general industry and construction in my home state in the Midwest, and then went on to private sector after that. That's where I've spent the balance of my career, now some 23 years into it.

Jay Allen:

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Just listening to that it's like, okay so you started in Department of Transportation.

Jill James:

Yeah.

Jay Allen:

So then you go back to school essentially, to get the master's degree. How do you end up in military affairs? How do you end up working that out where you go, "I have DoD experience, military affairs."

Jill James:

Right. I think part of it was logistics and another part of it was I had a lot of family members. You always work your network, right? I had a lot of family members who worked at that military installation. It was a National Guard installation. One of them knew about this Environmental Health and Safety Department at the installation and said, "Hey, you know what? They hire interns sometimes. Maybe you should apply." And so, I met with their director and the colonel that was in charge of that department, and sure enough, there I was working at camp for, I think, six months maybe? They actually paid me, which was unheard of at that time, to have a paid internship.

The person that I reported to, his name was David. He had a lot of swagger and looked like Harrison Ford. He and I had so much fun working together, running around that military base, and looking at environmental and safety things, and finding unexploded ordinances in places that they shouldn't be, and crazy stuff that I never thought I'd be doing as a 20 something year old.

Jay Allen:

A couple questions come out right away. It's like, which stage is Harrison Ford looking at that time? Is it American Graffiti? Are we talking Star Wars? Indiana Jones?

Jill James:

No, no, no. No, no. He was older and with a swagger. He taught me things like, "Back in my day, women would always wear black to work on Fridays because it would transfer to the cocktail hour." So I've always kept those kind of things in mind. But, he was definitely a mentor of a wise, older sage kind of person to me. I always think fondly of David and what he taught me.

Jay Allen:

Just out of curiosity, you being essentially a civilian on a military base, and then you're also talking about safety as an intern, how does that work? Nothing against the military. Both of my parents are in the military, my sister was in the military. It's a love and respect the military personnel, but at the same time I know from a civilian aspect and an intern, it has to probably be a difficult conversation, dealing with some military personnel at the time.

Jill James:

I had to learn really quickly, rank and understanding rank, and how to address people properly. I remember being really kind of panicky about being able to read stripes and read someone's uniform, essentially read them so I knew how to address them. I wouldn't say that I retained that knowledge. I probably wouldn't be able to do that today if I tried. But there were a number of civilians that worked at that particular camp, so there was a mixture of military personnel and then civilians as well. And yeah sure, I'm a kid essentially, but they gave me kinda solo tasks to do that summer where I was identifying different environmental risks with regard to oil spills and things that were happening on the base, did a lot of touring to other military armories where we were looking particularly at asbestos concerns, a storage of fuels.

Let's see, we were looking at lead because a lot of the armories had firing ranges in them. We were really doing a lot of environmental things that not a lot of people knew about anyway, so we came in essentially as the authority. It was really fun. It was a really interesting learning curve.

Jay Allen:

As you look at your overall safety career to this point, who would you say would be ... who has been your influence? I know that you referenced David in the previous story, but who has been your influences when it comes to the safety aspect? It definitely seems like it was accidental, as does your podcast, referenced about the Accidental Safety Pro. But it does sound like it's accidental in how you feel into this. If you had to look back and say, "These people influenced me the most when it comes to safety," who would you say those people are?

Jill James:

Right, that's a really great question. I really feel that, I believe very strongly in mentors, and having mentors, and seeking them out. I also believe that they come to you at different season of your life. And so, one season was that guy from the DoT and what that led me into. David at the military base was another one. And then when I started with OSHA, I had a number of different mentors. Imagine being 20 ... I think I was 24 or 25 years old when I got that OSHA job, and they assigned me to a geographic territory in a very rural part of my home state, and they gave me 10 counties to inspect. In the training, when you get to OSHA, you spend six months in training, and three months are just in the actual headquarters' office, learning the ins and outs of regulations, and how to write reports, and where your references are, and how to do things properly to please the attorney general's office when the time came where they were reviewing my reports. But then the other three months was spent in the field, and learning with others, and being mentored by others.

I was assigned to three guys who also had rural territories: Richard, Bob and Dale. They were all very different. I had two week rotations with each of them, and they became the people that taught me everything, with a smattering of other people, but they really gave me my base and my foundation. Richard was former Air Force, and he was very proper, and did everything by the book, and he had every regulation memorized. This guy was just sharp. He was so sharp, I think he ironed his blue jeans. Everything was proper about Richard. When we would do an inspection together, the employer would say, "How long is this gonna take?" And he's like, "I don't know. We're gonna start at the doorknob and work our way in." As he wrote his notes, he would cite the regulation in his notes so he didn't have to go back and look it up later like I have always had to do. He had them memorized, and so he'd write them down.

He taught me so much about hazard recognition skills. It was amazing. He was just so great. People called him, "The Hammer," because he hammered out so many citations. He would call me and tell me how much his citation package weighed before he mailed it in to be reviewed, 'cause this was long before we were emailing anything. Employers loved him because he was teaching as he was identifying. "Hammer" didn't mean he was hammering an employer to death. He was teaching along the way, and doing his job, and so then people started calling me, "The Little Hammer," because of my tutelage under Richard.

Dale was former military as well. You see a theme here. This is really common with safety professionals from way back when. Dale had gotten a job with OSHA right when I worked for a state OSHA department, and he had been working as a union steward in the automobile industry. He was asked by the governor at the time when OSHA began in my state, if he would come on and be an investigator. And so, Dale came from the Navy formerly, and he also had this union background, and he was so interested in employees and treating people appropriately, and making sure I was talking with employees in a respectful manner. He was also very much into coaching me not to be rattled on an inspection.

And so, what Dale taught me was, OSHA investigators all have this checklist that they have to follow, and the checklist is essentially to make sure that you're telling employers what their legal rights are as well as employees, and that you're doing certain pieces and parts of the inspection that are required by you. He said, "Listen kid, you're gonna memorize this checklist eventually." He said, "But I want you to use it every single time." He said, "Every single time, take it out. Every single time, go over it, check the boxes off." He said, "Because there's going to come a time where somebody's gonna get in your face, or you're going to get really rattled, or maybe it's gonna be a fatality investigation and things are getting really emotional. You lean into that checklist, use that checklist every time, and that'll keep you focused, and that will help you when things start to get a little bit wonky."

That was such wonderful advice that he gave me. I did that, and I did it consistently for the over 500 investigations I did where I was the lead investigator. He was right. When things did go sideways or when someone was trying to get in my face because not all employers are gracious to government regulators-

Jay Allen:

No way.

Jill James:

Right? Yeah, big surprise. I did that, and it was such great advice. It was wonderful. And the other thing that Dale and I learned by accident, we did an inspection one day together on April Fool's Day. The company we were inspecting did not believe us and didn't believe we were investigators because it happened to be April Fool's Day. We both looked at each other and were like, "Note to self, never schedule another inspection on April Fool's Day. Nobody needs that. It's not a joke. I'm sorry, it is a joke. The irony, blah, blah, blah."

Jay Allen:

What did they believe there, if you don't mind me asking? Were they under the impression you were hired actors and actresses in regards of coming in?

Jill James:

Yeah. Yeah, like it was a big joke. We turned that around pretty quickly, but the immediate impression was, "You gotta be kidding. This must be a joke." And then, "Oh crap, you're not kidding. How cruel. Why are you doing this today?" Yeah, yeah.

Jay Allen:

I wonder how many things they showed you before they actually realized that it was a legitimate actual OSHA inspection. Was it like, "Oh here, just take a look at this. We don't care." And then all of a sudden turn around and like, oops.

Jill James:

Yeah, it didn't go on that long 'cause we needed to establish our legitimacy. And of course you have badges and all that business, and so stuff becomes real pretty quick.

Jay Allen:

Let me ask you a strange question here.

Jill James:

Yeah.

Jay Allen:

With a lot of your influence being military personnel, did that change the way that you viewed safety at the time? Did you feel that you might've been a little bit more strict than what you were before when you were just dealing strictly with DoT? Or do you think that it didn't really ...

Jay Allen:

We're just dealing strictly with DOT, or do you think that it didn't really change you at all?

Jill James:

No, I think probably their influence with the military probably taught me more structure, I would say. Structure and respect for hierarchy, because it's kind of baked into the pie with military. As a person who was in her 20s who has no work experience, I think it really helped me adapt myself into business practices more quickly. Whereas I may not have caught on to hierarchal things or how organizations work and function and I think I probably gleaned that out of my influence with so many military people.

Yeah, my third mentor, Bob. Bob was kind of a joker. Did his job really, really well, but he added levity and showed me how to add levity to try to defuse situations. Because when you're a regulator, and you walk into somewhere, you're going to get a handful of responses. People who are like, "Been there, done that, we've been inspected a million times, what flavor are you?" To panic, to sweating, to neck turning red, to shaking, to nausea, that kind of response. To anger, "I hate the government. I hate you. I don't know you, but you just walked into my place. I don't want you here," and a real heightened state of anger.

Bob was just really great at taking things slow and speaking in a particular manner and tone and just being reassuring to people. I really learned a lot from him.

Jay Allen:

If you don't mind me asking, if you were not in the safety industry, what do you think you'd be doing?

Jill James:

Oh, wow. You know I really feel that my work in safety has always been about advocacy for our people. I think if I wasn't in safety I'd be doing advocacy in another place. Maybe it would be leaning into that community health degree and doing advocacy and education in that regard. Really always concerned about human beings and their wellbeing and if they're being treated well and fairly. So, something in advocacy likely.

Jay Allen:

As you're going through your safety journey, you're looking at the different aspects and almost, I don't want this to come across like we're doing a career recap because you're not retiring or anything.

Jill James:

Yeah.

Jay Allen:

I know that sometimes these questions come across that way. When you look back, what has been some of the biggest push-backs that you've seen within the industry when you're trying to implement anything?

Jill James:

Oh, right. I call it the safety clichés and I've blogged about this because it's so annoying and you know them and you've heard lots of people likely talking about them. You try to explain why something is a hazard, why it's dangerous, why you need to institute X, Y and Z to mitigate a problem and the answer you get is, "Well, I've been doing it this way for 30 years and nothings happen to me yet." You know? Cliché, right? Or, cliché number two, "That's such a quick job, that's like a two minute job." Cliché number two. Cliché number three is, "Yeah, but we only do that once a year, twice year, it's not that big of a deal." It's like those kind of things have always been the push-back.

Probably the fourth one is, "That's going to take too much time." And all of that safety stuff, usually the time one is coupled with, "All of that safety stuff actually makes things more dangerous. You know you think you're going to do all that stuff but all you're doing is interfering with my workflow and all that stuff you're talking about adds more risk than if I just did it the way that I did it."

Each of those clichés every time I hear them and I want to smack my head and go, "If you only knew how many hundreds and hundreds of times I've heard this and how many times I heard these same things uttered at someone's death in the workplace, you wouldn't be saying that stuff." Those are the things that are kind of like nails on the chalkboard I think to most safety professionals are those clichés and how you take a breath and go, "Okay what you just said isn't new to me now how am I going to address it this time?"

Jay Allen:

Right. You hear so many different, creative ways that a lot of people bring that up and sometimes it's just not the understanding of what the organization is trying to accomplish.

Jill James:

Yeah.

Jay Allen:

When we start talking about accomplishments through the organization and running into some of these clichés, what method of safety to practice is there a particular method that you lean to more? I mean, I know there's a lot of conversations about behavior-based safety, there's a lot of conversations about human organizational performance. If you had to say that there's a method that you use, is there one that sticks over another?

Jill James:

Yeah, I think it really depends on the audience and to whom you're trying to sway an opinion. I think when it comes to management where you're needing to do an ask, it's really knowing your audience and what's going to resonate with them and what drives them to make decisions. You know whether it's monetary and how you can show some sort of ROI, or where it can blend into someone else's budget and how it would help that particular manager with their organization.

Then, I think there's also the times where people are driven by doing the right thing. So how you frame up your ask is really dependent, I believe, on the audience and what's going to resonate with them and enable them to make the most logical decision in their mind the way that they think about how they go forward.

When it comes to employees, I guess what I've learned is the answer the question for them, "What's in it for me?" It's not because it's the rule and it's the right thing to do, but for the employee when you're trying to modify behavior or have them do things a certain why it's really what's in it for them? Which means how will is this going to enable them to go home safe today? Here's really explaining the why behind things. You know this is what I'm looking at. This is what can go wrong, this is what can happen. Did you ever have X, Y and Z happen to you? "Oh, yeah." Okay, so what we're trying to prevent is this today. "Oh." You know? So really the what's in it for them not the because someone in an office told you, you had to do it that way.

Jay Allen:

Now you said quite a bit in that answer so I want to go back and break down a little bit of it.

Jill James:

Yeah.

Jay Allen:

When you're having the conversation it sounds like at this particular point you're having a conversation with the upper manager when they're turning around and saying return on investment. Is that conversation that's common throughout your career? Where they're wanting to know the return on investment is for X program as opposed to looking at a safety's perspective?

Jill James:

Right. So it's something that I learned, well again, by accident, and through making mistakes and trying to figure out how to do it. When I left OSHA, my next job was with a healthcare organization, a clinic system with mothership clinic and all kinds of little clinics in a regional area. I get to my first non-government job and there's an administrator of the clinic and I'm identifying a hazard, it happened to be a hazard on the roof of the building, where employees, maintenance employees, were changing out things on air handled units. They didn't have fall protection.

I wrote up what I would have written up for an argument for a citation, like here's why it's a hazard, this is what's wrong, here's the regulations and violation of, here's how it can be fixed. I did some research and found out this is how much it would cost to do this kind of fall protection system, blah, blah, blah. Send it off to the administrator. It's beautiful, right? It's a beautiful piece of writing, the Attorney General's Office would have loved it.

I got the response back, an email, from the administrator who said, "Less words, three bullet points max and are we ahead of the curve, behind the curve or on the curve compared to other people like us in our industry that would give me any reason to want to do this?" I'm like, "Oh, crap. Oh, crap." This guy doesn't care about regulations, he doesn't care about how great of a report I wrote, and really he wants to know how to make a business decision based on sort of well there's black, and there's white, and there's gray but what does everybody else doing? I just want to be riding the curve.

That's what he told me later, he said, "I want to be on the curve. I don't really like to be behind and I certainly don't ever want to be ahead."

So, that no, and it was a hard no. He never did agree to do anything with the fall protection on the roof because he didn't think it was that important because insert cliché "They were only up there a couple of times a year." I didn't get anywhere with that.

Him giving me that hard stop, really helped me understand, very quickly, how I needed to change my ask. So move into another job and a company that had never done any training at all with safety other than show YouTube videos after a 65 year history in a company they hire me. They're like, "Hey Jill, we've got to get this stuff together." I'm like, "You need to do training but you have all these locations and all these companies and all these languages and all these different disciplines, I can't write curriculum and do all that training for 1,500 employees in five states myself. So we're going to need to find a resource, we're going to need to do some online training and this is how much it's going to cost."

Before I asked for that, I added up for them what they had been spending on Worker's Compensation and I broke down their comp costs for the last couple of years and then showed them where their injuries were, what type of injuries where they were the most costly and at which frequency. I broke it down that way. I said, "If we did training on this subject, this subject and this subject, I think we could drive down these specific areas." They said, "Okay." I couldn't believe I got a yes but I got to institute this training program. I also was managing the Worker's Compensation cases myself. I was explaining that I wanted employees to report their injuries early and often and management went, "Whoa, I don't think so." I said, "No, no, it's going to be cheaper if we're taking care of people before it becomes a runaway train." They're like, "Okay, you get to try this for a while."

After the first year, we went from spending 1.4 million dollars a year to $850,000 a year and I had my ROI. So they got together, presented my data and they went, "Whoa, all right." Then, I did another ask for something else that I needed like an SDS management system or something like that and they're like, "How much money are going to save us next year?" I'm like, "Okay, challenge accepted." You know using that kind of real data to prove up ROI was so powerful.

I have never used and I just personally don't think it works to use theoretical data. Like if we have a back injury it's going to cost this many dollars and the iceberg effect of blah, blah, blah and all that stuff you can read about a million times over in safety. I just don't think that lands with management because it's not real. It's a theory. Then, you can always but up against that with that cliché of "Well, it hasn't happened here in 30 years so why would it now?" So I don't tend to use that.

Jay Allen:

Okay. So with you having actually safety professionals listening to us and you're saying that it's the way that you present the ask, do you believe that there should be more of a focus as a safety professional in regards of understanding the corporate structure and the business side on how they approach some of these things?

Jill James:

Absolutely.

Jay Allen:

Opposed to them going strictly safety because I'll tell you, I've dealt with organizations where they're previous people that were in safety all they talked about where to reg. They want to talk about regs and you got into a board meeting and you talk regs, they look at you like you're from a different planet. If you go in there-

Jill James:

Yeah, eyes glaze over.

Jay Allen:

If you go in there and you start talking money because essentially it's your elevator speech.

Jill James:

Yup.

Jay Allen:

It's a short period of time that you have. So how much focus would you say if somebody is going to the industry or is already in the industry, would you recommend them going back to school in regards of understanding business administration? Or would you just say, hey, you just need to really understand the business with inside of your company?

Jill James:

I think that, that's the missing piece for safety professionals and probably always has been. Even going back to my graduate program, I didn't get any education on business, business strategy, budgeting. All of the things that would have framed up the terminology even to use. I didn't have that I think that's what's missing in our industry. That it would be so powerful. If were to go back to school, right now, I would get my MBA. I wouldn't focus on anything else in safety but would really love to be able to have more tools at my disposal for working with management systems.

When I'm dealing with our clients now, it's one of the top questions I get is how do I explain that? How do I make an ask? How do I do that in their terms? How can I do that? Because a lot of people aren't equipped with that information.

Jay Allen:

I had a gentleman on by the name of James Skipper Kendrick and he said, that he's had a conversation with Board level executives and they will reference that they don't have a problem with a safety person having a seat at table but they want them to earn it the same way that they had to get that seat at the table.

Jill James:

They're right.

Jay Allen:

I think that's where we have an issue within our industry because there's not a lot of schools out there that teach a safety program that has business built into it. I keep on looking and going where is the correct place to go to? If I was starting off from scratch right now, do I focus mostly on business or do I focus on safety with a secondary in business? Or do I do it the other way around? I think that that's where a lot of questions come about at times.

Jill James:

Yeah. I agree with that. I think it's just so tricky to try to find that. For myself, within the last number of years, and this isn't going to work for everyone but it's what I did. I went to my CEO and I said, "I want to learn more about the business end of our company. I would like a seat at the table." Said all of those words, "I really want to understand our business in a greater sense so that I can do my job more effectively, will you teach me?" He said, "Yes." So over a period of time, you know there's little sprinklings of teaching me the backside of the business, how the business worked, inviting me into more of those decision-making places and it's been really great.

Jill James:

...vision making places, and it's been really great. I wouldn't say that I'm adept, but I know a lot more than I did, and it's because I asked. Not everyone's going to be able to make that ask to their management system, but if you think you have that kind of relationship where you can do that and have that conversation, I wouldn't shy away from it. I'd be courageous and candid and say, "Please teach me. It's only going to help me do my job better."

Jay Allen:

Now, at this particular time, when you're having this conversation, are you already the chief safety officer for the company, or not yet?

Jill James:

I am.

Jay Allen:

Okay, so you were already at that position at the time. So they pretty much opened up and said, "Okay, we can run into it."

Because what I don't want to confuse for some people is I don't want a location safety manager, think that they're going to be able to call their CEO that's in a different state and say, "Hey, I need you to teach me the business, and this is what I want to move up to." I don't want to give misdirection, that's exactly what I'm trying to avoid here.

I agree with what you're saying about, this is not going to apply to everyone, but even if you take the management level that's inside of that individualized location, even if you go to the GM and say, "Hey, I want to have a better understanding of how the organization works," in a non-threatening way, of course, not like, "Hey, I want your job," but more along the lines of, "I want to understand it to where I can be better suited for the position." I agree with what you're saying 100%.

Jill James:

Yeah, and also another place to go would be operations managers. I've done that as well, particularly, when you think about it, most safety people don't have budgets. Most of us are operating and figuring out how to do our work void of a budget. And so we're trying to figure out, if we need to ask for personal protective equipment or ear monitoring or whatever, how are we going to pay for that? And operations people have budgets. So I've sat with different operations managers in other jobs that I've had and said, "Okay, this is what I need from your people. This is what it's going to take. Do you have a budget line for that? Or how could we work it into a capital improvement project, if it's a particular kind of thing? Like, where would it fit?"

And then I've learned quite a bit about budgeting and how things are allocated and why and when and the timing of that from operations managers. So that's been part of my self-education in that regard as well. So you're right, you don't necessarily start at the top, nor could you, but you can go, like you said, to your general manager, to operations managers, people who have budgets, and who also have to do their own asks every year.

Jay Allen:

I always think that it's funny because a lot of safety people that I deal with, always have that misconception that operations wants nothing to do with safety in the regards of they're going to be reviewing exactly what's going on. So they're very hesitant at times to have conversation with the operational staff, meaning the management side of it, so they'll be a little bit hesitant. So then all of a sudden, now you're saying, "Go to them and have the conversation about budget," and I really think that that would be an open conversation. The safety person is thinking, "Hey, there's something that I need from them," opposed to the operations person just saying, "They're just trying to do some kind of weird audit from a financial standpoint instead." Or something along those lines.

Jill James:

Yeah, right. And again, if you frame it in the way of, "How does this impact your employees? What's in it for you? What's in it for them?" And bringing things very specific and, I guess triaging is also a good idea and a suggestion and something that I've put into practice. If you know you have 12 things or 50 things or whatever it is in safety that need attention, how can you triage those items based on your own professional judgment of risk and exposure, timeline costs, all of the things that you'd put into that. How can you triage that so when you go to someone, you're talking about those things that are on the top of your list first, and letting them know that you've done that homework.

Like, "We've got a lot of stuff, but here are the top three, here are the top five things that I'm really concerned about. Things that could hurt people, and here's what I've seen." Or here's what's linked to it with dollars or people being injured, or however it needs to be framed.

And then, "How can we work together on that? And how can we put it within your budget? And what can happen now versus what do we need to wait for? And what can we build to the future?"

Those have been really fun conversations, because it's kind of getting to the brass tacks and also where they operate.

Jay Allen:

We're speaking with Jill James from the Accidental Safety Pro. So Jill, I have to ask you this question, and this is where I found you, so I have to ask the question.

Jill James:

Okay.

Jay Allen:

Why did you start the podcast? What happened? How did you say, "This is what we need to do. This is the next thing within my safety career that we need to move forward with."?

Jill James:

Two things kind of happened at the same time. My company, Vivid Learning Systems, has a focus group that's made up of safety professionals from around the country. They're often giving us ideas on things or vetting certain things that we're working on. One of them said one day, "You know, I listen to a lot of podcasts on my commute. I really enjoy the education, I really like that," and we as safety professionals don't often get an opportunity to talk with one another because so many of us are sort of silos, maybe there's one, two of us in an organization. We don't really have an opportunity to talk with one another and learn from one another outside of maybe a professional conference, but then it's always these fits and bursts of conversation while you're trying to get to another presentation or something. And he said, "I think it'd be really cool if we could listen to other safety people talk about how they do what they do. Maybe that's a podcast."

And everybody in the focus group was like, "That sounds really cool," in addition to, "What's a podcast?" Got a lot of that. And then, pretty soon, my marketing team was together. I work in support of our marketing team, and most of them are millennials and are always looking for what's the greatest thing. One of them said, "Hey Jill, I think you should start a podcast." I said, "Funny you said that, focus group said the same thing." And they're like, "Okay, let's make this happen."

And then our marketing director's like, "Jill, what are you going to ... We gotta have a name, we gotta have a name. What's it going to be called?"

And I said, "Well, I don't know. The question that I ask every new safety professional that I meet, when I meet someone for the first time, I always ask them, tell me your story. How did you get into it?" Because none of us, we're not little kids and somebody asks you what you want to be when you grow up and they say a teacher, a lawyer, whatever. Nobody says safety professional, so what's your story? And everybody usually laughs and goes, "Oh yeah, I have a story."

And I said, "So that's what I want the theme to be around." So our marketing director said, "Okay, it's the Accidental Safety Professional. How did you get into this accidentally?" And so that's how it came to be.

Jay Allen:

So how did you feel about all of a sudden them having these two, or essentially having the groups talk about it and then say, "Okay, you're going to be the host." Did you feel the pressure automatically in regards of having to come up with a new subject every time an episode comes out? Or how did you feel about even hosting the program?

Jill James:

Oh, I just thought it sounded fun. I'm a story collector by nature, I love to collect people's stories. I love to write about people's stories. How much more fun can it get than to have a one-on-one conversation with someone, to hear their story, and to collect it and honor it and learn from it and draw out those things that the rest of us can learn from. And hopefully have a little fun along the way.

I think it's been great, and after being in the profession as long as I have, I have a long list of people that I hope to interview, and then I'm always asking my guests, "Who else? Who's in your network? Who are your mentors? Who do you think would be fun to talk to? Who do you think could share some interesting facts?"

I'm really committed on my podcast to one, equal representation of males and females, because there's still not a lot of women in our practice. It's growing, it's getting bigger and bigger, but it's really been more of a male-dominated work force, so I'm being very mindful to include the same amount of women as men in the podcast. And same thing with young versus more saged into the career, let's say. And so we've got some people who are just starting out and kind of what it's like for them right now in the 21st century and as a young person. So we can compare and contrast with someone who's been doing it a very long time, or maybe has even recently retired.

Jay Allen:

So when you're actually getting some of your guests to come on, are they hesitant at first in regards of what you're going to have the conversation about? And what I'm referencing that is, do they ask you if you're going to focus on a particular portion of their career opposed to the whole career in general?

Jill James:

You know, I let them know that the main focus of each podcast, because it's called the Accidental Safety Pro, is to tell that story. How did you get into it accidentally? That's generally one of the first questions, if not the first question. And then the rest of it, I just want it to be organic, so that we can have a casual conversation and pick up on things that they're telling and in their history that maybe they hadn't thought about before.

Once in a while, before a podcast, I'll interview someone ahead of time to see if there's anything that they're particularly proud of or they want to highlight in their career, that they'd like to focus on, so that I remember to kind of circle the conversation in some regard to that particular area or different areas.

Jay Allen:

Well, I have to tell you, the Accidental Safety Pro, I actually have subscribed to it. And you're on almost every single pod catcher that's out there, so you are readily available. I would recommend to the audience strongly, go out there, take a listen to it if you haven't listened to it. There's a lot of great information, a lot of great guests on there. So just take a listen, take the opportunity, subscribe. We're going to put a link on this particular podcast where you can actually follow it directly. It's a great podcast, covers a lot of information, and you take such a different approach. That's what I appreciate, because sometimes we run into these issues where you start listening to a podcast and people sit there and they just talk, and then they talk about their program, they talk about their book, and it just gets kind of old and redundant.

But you take such a different approach. You really dive deep into their stories, and you let these conversations kind of just go through whatever sequence they're going to go through, opposed to what I would say that, you can hear an interview and you can tell that a lot of the questions are pre set up and the person already kind of knows the answer that they're going to give. I just don't feel that when I'm listening to your podcast, I really think it's an excellent [crosstalk 00:43:19].

Jill James:

Thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. I do not have a set of questions. There are some things that just seem to come up that I ask, if it seems like the right thing to ask at the time with the person that I'm speaking with. But I don't, it's not scripted out. Like I said, it's organic.

Jay Allen:

So when it's all said and done, what's your goal with your podcast? What are you trying to accomplish?

Jill James:

To be able to connect safety professionals. And with a podcast, it's kind of funny, because we're not necessarily making face-to-face connections, but someone is able to hear someone else's story and maybe apply some of that wisdom to their life, their professional practice, to let them know that maybe what they're hearing, they're not alone and maybe they thought they were. It's just a way to be able to connect safety professionals with their stories and really, that's the goal. That's the goal.

Once in a while, people will be reaching out, like the person who's podcast was released this week, a woman named [Cheryl 00:44:32] on episode number eight of the Accidental Safety Pro, she had sent me an e-mail this week that [inaudible 00:44:38] of hers had sent her an e-mail this week and said, "I heard you on the Accidental Safety Pro, I knew it was your voice." And Cheryl hadn't shared the link with her or even told her she was going to do it, but she had heard about it. And she said, "You did a really great job, it was so interesting to hear your story."

So I think the more that it happens, the more we'll be able to have real conversations as well. I've had a number of people just reach out to me after listening to an episode and saying, "Thank you for that," or "Could we have a conversation sometime?" Or "I'd like to know more about that." And I think that'll just continue to happen with people as well, hopefully. We're a tight-knit group of people in the safety practice. There's really not necessarily that many of us, and many of us know one another. The great thing about safety professionals is we're always willing to share with one another. We don't do proprietary work. And safety people are always willing to help one another, and I think that's really cool. If your podcast, my podcast can do that and connect people, then what a win for our profession.

Jay Allen:

Absolutely. At the end of the day when I look into the whole safety aspect of doing the podcast, the goal is really to build a network of people that are out there, and really just hear the story. I tell my listeners all the time, if you get a chance, tell your story to someone. Even if you want to jump on a podcast, do your own podcast, because it's interesting. People want to hear the different stories. There's so many different stories that are out there.

Well, Jill, I appreciate you coming on. If people want to find out more about you, where can they contact you or get more information about you?

Jill James:

Sure. Well, the company website is vividlearningsystems.com and the podcast is the Accidental Safety Pro. You can get that on the podcast player of your choosing. We also have it on YouTube as well, so Accidental Safety Pro and Vivid Learning Systems. Thank you so much for having me, Jay.

Jay Allen:

Oh, Jill, I really appreciate your coming on. It was an excellent time. I really did enjoy it. You have a fantastic day.

Jill James:

Thank you so much.