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#16: These guys really lived safety. It wasn’t just a flavor of the month.

January 2, 2019 | 58 minutes 34 seconds

​From starting his career as a chemist at a nuclear facility to becoming an operations manager at a hydro plant and on through his recent retirement, our guest Harold talks with series host Jill James about his path towards becoming a safety pro. We get to hear how Harold went from a co-worker to supervisor overnight and how that changed his view on safety, from only having to worry about his own safety to now being responsible for the safety of his employees, widening his circle of responsibility. Jill and Harold also talk about how safety changed over time, both in regulations and internal procedures and behaviors within their roles.

Transcript

Jill:

This is the Accidental Safety Pro, brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the Health and Safety Institute, episode number 16. My name is Jill James, Vivid's Chief Safety Officer, and today I'm joined by Harold, who is a retired Safety and Training professional, joining us from his home in Pennsylvania. Harold, welcome so much to the show.

Harold:

Oh, thank you, Jill. It's quite an honor to be here today and I'm looking forward to it.

Jill:

Aw! Well, Harold, you are the first person that we're interviewing on the podcast, who is retired in the safety profession. How long have you been officially retired?

Harold:

Well, it's been about a year and a half at this point and time. My career was 35 and a half years, so I've been out now, like I say, almost two years.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And so, have your safety eyes lessened their acuity, or are you still noticing everything around you like the rest of us?

Harold:

I think, if anything, maybe they're even a little more intense, because I find myself ... as you would imagine, I have quite an extensive list of things that I wanna get done around my house and my property and some other places like that. And of course, now I'm starting to get back into some physical labor and with that, of course, you got the safety aspect. So, yeah, I look at ladders differently now, and all those different things.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Isn't that the case? I was at my gym this morning and lifting weights, and I was looking at some racking that holds the weights up and I hadn't noticed that one bolt wasn't in a place where there would be a space for a bolt, and I was doing this partner workout and I said to this woman I was lifting weights with who's also a paramedic, I said, "Oh, there's a missing bolt in that thing." And I said, "I just can't turn it off, I can't turn my eyes off from noticing these things."

And she said, "Gosh, it's gotta be so annoying to be you."

And I said, "My eyes just spot these things, I can't help it." It sticks with us for a lifetime, right?

Harold:

Yeah, I know exactly where you're coming from. Like when I'm driving, I see other drivers doing things. And, of course, myself doing some things sometimes, or even like when I drive through a work zone, I'll be looking at that because it's one of the areas where I had some responsibility when I was in my job, and I'll be looking at a work zone. It's like, "Oh, you know, they're not using the right sign there, or they're not using it properly," that type of thing.

But my wife says, "Just drive through, forget about it, don't worry about it."

Jill:

But it's like, "I can't turn it off."

Harold:

Hard to do.

Jill:

Right, right. So, 35 and a half years, Harold. That's a long time in a career, that's wonderful. First of all, congratulations. Congratulations for serving the industry and our practice for that long and for getting to a point where you can enjoy retirement. So, congratulations to you and thank you for the work. Yeah.

Harold:

Thank you, Jill, I greatly appreciate it.

Jill:

Yeah. So, take us back to 35 and a half years ago. How on Earth did you wind up in the safety field? Where were you at the time, and how did you find your way into it?

Harold:

How did I end up where I am today, huh?

Jill:

Yeah!

Harold:

Well, you know, as we all have, there's many, many twists and turns in my life, and you look back and you think, "Well, if I just would've gone left as opposed to right at this one juncture, I would've ended up here, as opposed to there." But through the whole time, I can say I've had no regrets on any decisions that I've made or anything.

Harold:

Basically, just to kind of start from the beginning-

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

Well, I'll start at college. That's probably a good place to start, because usually, that's where most people are kinda, their future kinda gets formed when they're in their college years. And I graduated from Shippensburg University, it's a state university that's in the Pennsylvania university system. And I had a major in biology, and a minor in chemistry.

Now, what my goals, at least what I thought my goals were at that time, was I was ... I would've liked to have worked for a fish and game commission, something like that. Or get into the environmental field. And unfortunately, as we all find out from time to time, when I graduated ... That was in 1981, by the way, so many, many, many moons ago, most of the federal and state agencies that did that type of work, they ...

It was a period of time where they had hiring freezes, and that type of thing.

Jill:

Yeah, right.

Harold:

Okay. So, I go on the job search, as we would do when we graduate from college, and I actually became aware of a chemist position at a nuclear power plant. Now, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would work or even want to work as a chemist at a-

Jill:

Yeah!

Harold:

You know, at a foreboding nuclear power plant.

Jill:

Sounds kind of like your parents might go, "What?!"

Harold:

Exactly, exactly. But it's like, "Okay, so, let's pursue this. Let's see what's available there." So, I actually went and I interviewed, and see, here's where my minor in chemistry paid off for me, because they offered me a position as a chemist. So, I started working at this nuclear power plant, and I was in that chemist position for about two years, rotating shift. Was exposed to all the nuclear regulatory commission regulations and procedures and, you know, all that very, very strict, formal structure that was there.

Which was good. I mean, that was a good thing for me, because throughout the rest of my life, I kinda kept going back to some of the practices that I learned there. I was in that position for about two years. Really enjoyed it! You know, I love doing that type of thing, working in the laboratory as a chemist and all that. Well, after about two years of that, I was offered a supervisory position in that same group, which was quite an eye-opener there, because I was working with peers one day, and the next day I was their supervisor.

Jill:

And you're in your early twenties, I bet.

Harold:

I was! I was, yeah. I started there when I was twenty-two, so, now I'm twenty-four and I'm supervising these people who, the day before, I was a company-worker with. That was quite an education for me, and made it through it. Again, that was a type of thing that was a good learning opportunity. And that certainly helped me out as I went through the rest of my career, too.

Jill:

Right, and so, Harold, what was it like? When you said it was a learning opportunity, when all of a sudden, overnight essentially, you become the supervisor. Yeah, what was that like? Was it challenging, or did you immediately feel some sort of shift in power structure?

Harold:

Yeah. Well, it was kind of a peculiar time, I guess I'll say, because it's like some of the, certainly the vast majority of my now my employees, who were before my co-workers, they accepted me, they congratulated me and all that type of thing, but there were a few who felt they should have had that position. And that wasn't something that went away overnight. In fact, I was in that position for ... I guess about, maybe five years or so, and that never really went away with some people. They always ... certainly, it wasn't an adversarial working relationship, but there was always that in some folks, it's like, "Well, you know, that should have been me at that point in time."

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

They won't express that to me.

Jill:

Right, right, right.

Harold:

But, of course, you know, it was just kind of always there. But it was a very, very positive experience in the fact, you know, when I got into the ... as a supervisor, that's when I really started concentrating more on the safety aspect, because as a chemist working in the lab, going out taking samples, going into radiological areas and all that type of thing, I was certainly well aware of safety, but it was really my safety.

Jill:

Right.

Harold:

You know, I was responsible for my safety, and that's really pretty much the extent of what I was concerned about. But now, as a supervisor, I had all these people that were working for me.

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

I had, at that point in time, I think about eighteen to twenty folks that reported to me. And now, you know, I was responsible for their safety.

Jill:

Yeah, your circle widened, not just from an introspective position like some of us experience when we're in our early twenties, but now, "Oh, man. There's people on my watch and I have to be concerned about them."

Harold:

Right, so, it was a maturing process for me. It was quite the eye-opener for me that now I've got some responsibility for ... I wasn't married at the time, so I didn't have a family or anything like that, so I hadn't experienced that type of-

Jill:

Being responsible, sure. Right.

Harold:

Exactly, exactly. Anyways, that's where it was. I was in that position for I think about maybe five or six years. Good position, good ... being a supervisor, again, that carried me through for most my career. And then we came to a point where this nuclear plant was actually in the process of ...

They were phasing out some positions, because one of the units was actually going to be shut down. And so about half the workforce in that whole group, which, I would say there was probably, as far as full-time employees, there might have been about a thousand full-time employees there. About half of those folks, they were assigned to one unit and the other half were assigned the other unit. You didn't really mix too much.

Anyways, at that point in time, it was like, all right, these positions are going to be phased out down the road. Six months from now, a year from now, something like that. So, I saw the handwriting on the wall. I didn't lose my position but I thought, you know, I don't know that I want somebody else to be making my career decisions for me. So, I started looking for other opportunities.

And within the same company, and not too far geographically from where I worked, there was another supervisory position that was becoming available, and it was in a, believe it or not, a hydro plant. So, I went from the high tech nuclear world, to a hydro plant that was built in, well, it was right around ... I think it was 1904. It was built in 1904.

Jill:

Wow.

Harold:

I was fortunate enough to get that position. I was, at that point then, I was operations supervisor.

Jill:

Oh, wow. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold:

And now, I became even way, way more responsible for safety because there were, it wasn't a large workforce there. There were maybe forty people. But because you had so few people, you know, and there was only two supervisors and a manager, so my areas of responsibility was of course, the operation of the plant. It was a run-of-the-river hydro plant.

Jill:

I mean, what a shift for you, Harold, to go from that nuclear energy to .. I mean, if you just wanted to crop up an image in your head, when you said hydro plant, I'm thinking, "Oh, my gosh, you stepped so far back, it's like the water wheel."

Harold:

Basically, that's true. I mean, I'll put it to you this way: when I first got there, I felt like I'd died and went to heaven because it was, like, we didn't have procedures for this, we didn't have to get sign-offs to do this task and that task and that type of thing, so it was kinda like a breath of fresh air.

Now, that changed-

Jill:

Yeah, was it, though, over time? Right?

Harold:

That certainly changed over time, because that was more indicative of the management that was there-

Jill:

Sure.

Harold:

More so than just the nature of the beast. But the thing about once I got there, you know, now I was actually responsible, safety was one of my hats, okay?

Jill:

So, this was in your job description, now.

Harold:

That safety, right. I had safety, I had training, I had environmental, I had all the administrative functions, I had the operation of the plant. We had recreational facilities; I was actually the representative to the National Water Safety Congress that promoted public safety in power and power generating, hydro facilities. So, I was the representative for that, and under that umbrella, I dealt with the public and ... Now we're getting into a whole different area as far as safety, because now, it wasn't only our employees that we were concerned about. We were concerned about the public while they were boating, and fishing and using our facilities-

Jill:

And the environment, too.

Harold:

Yep, yep. And environmental aspects was part of my job responsibility, too.

Jill:

Did you feel the weight of that then, Harold? Do you remember, you know, as a young person, thinking, "Gosh, what have I stepped into here? Now I have ... "

I mean, did that feel heavy to you?

Harold:

Actually, it was kind of exhilarating. If I step into it right now, it would probably kill me. But at that time, I really thought it was great because now I had all these different things that I could get involved in, and the nice ... Some of the nice things about it were the environmental aspect of it. I mean, that went right back to my college major, with the biology-

Jill:

Sure, your biology, yeah.

Harold:

And the chemistry, and all that type of thing. So, I mean, that took me right back there.

Jill:

Professional fun, you were having.

Harold:

Yeah, I was. And the employees were, they were just basically the salt of the earth type of employees who just were wonderful to work with. They were very, very ... even though, you know, it wasn't like today's environment where safety is really in the forefront. I mean, back in those days, you work safe ... These guys worked safe, because that's the way they always did, and that's how they got to go home at the end of every day. And these guys really lived safety. It wasn't just a flavor of the month, or a buzzword or something. These guys really cared about each other. And I could see that. Like, when a new employee would come in, they would really take this person under their wing and they would not allow them to do anything that could potentially be in a dangerous scenario, until they had enough experience and these older workers had enough confidence in them that they could say, "Yep. I've seen Carl do this before, and I think Carl's ready to do this task."

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

And I'll tell you what, that was kinda sobering to me, when I saw that, how these older employees would actually ... they felt totally responsible for the younger employees who were working with them, and that was another thing that I kinda carried inside me the rest of my career, and the rest of my life, too.

Jill:

Right, and they also, I'm sure, saw anyone they were bringing on board as someone who eventually would need to have their back, as well. And so, they needed to have confidence that that person could have their back, so to speak.

Harold:

Right.

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

Exactly, exactly.

Jill:

Do you remember, Harold, back then, you're not necessarily brand new in your field, but like you said, this was the first job where safety was really an assigned duty. And you know, you're put into a work environment that you've not been in before. Do you remember any of the things that you were learning by way of safety that surprised you, that went ...

I'm sure there were lots, but does anything stand out like, "Oh, man, I never even thought of that as a safety thing,"?

Harold:

Well, yeah. That was actually the first time ... Now, of course, when I was a chemist working at the nuclear plant, I certainly was aware of safety data sheets, that type of thing. But now, now, I was responsible for them, for the whole plant. That was back in the day when ... we're talking early nineties now, where the way you tracked your safety data sheets was you had a spreadsheet, and you actually had paper copies of every single chemical, every single substance, that you used in the workplace. You had a paper copy there in a book; you had three or four books. So, yeah, that was something that was kind of new to me, and it certainly made sense that, yeah, you gotta have this stuff here.

But again, first time I really needed to work with it, was certainly the first time when I ever dealt with OSHA coming in. OSHA would come in for just period inspections, and of course, we did have a couple, thankfully, not really severe incidents while I was there, but you know, that was a new learning experience because I'd never dealt with OSHA directly like that before.

Jill:

Sure.

Harold:

Just that, the training aspect of it. You know, again, earlier in my career, I took whatever training I was told I needed to take. But now, I was actually responsible to look at what the people, you know, the jobs that they performed, do a task analysis and determine, "Oh, okay, so, because this employee does this type of work, they need X, Y, and Z training." They go into an enclosed, confined space, so they need enclosed confined space training. They also need enclosed confined space rescue training, and what goes with that is respirator training, and all these-

Jill:

All the cascades.

Harold:

Yeah, all these different things that kinda are all linked together, and now, that is my responsibility to make sure that that'll happen. Now, we had ... I will say, I was fortunate throughout my whole career, I worked for a very large company. So, we had corporate safety people that would come visit from time to time, but we really were kind of like an island on our own. We had to do a lot of this on our own.

Jill:

Right.

Harold:

So, as far as actually being responsible for safety aspects, I mean, as far as the training goes, too, getting back to that. I was responsible to track the training, and make sure that everybody ... "Okay, you sign an attendance sheet, make sure that that gets logged in." And again, that was just all spreadsheets and that type of thing. We didn't really have anything more advanced than that.

Jill:

Right, right. When you were doing that work and really kind of finding your feet in safety, you had a corporate safety department or office, you said, at the corporate level. Is that where you went for information, or did you have a mentor at the time? Or, were you creating a lot of this stuff on your own, or did you have, where you starting to build your network, I guess, of people you'd go to.

Harold:

Yeah, I would say, you know, some things were kind of in the infancy stage, where we're getting into some new technology so, of course, we needed new training. Some different things like that. But this corporate safety group, you know, they were in a role that they were kind of there to drive the higher levels of safety, but we were still kinda like an island on our own where ultimately-

Jill:

Yeah, figuring it out.

Harold:

Yeah. Ultimately, we were responsible. They would kinda give us some general guidelines, but, "Okay, so, here's what you need to do," but that was really my and the other supervisor and manager there, it was kind of our responsibility to figure out how to get it done.

Jill:

Right, right. Yeah. And so, when you're in that particular role, you're operation supervisor now, and you've got a number of years of experience. You walked in with supervisor experience with people. Was it a little less bumpy, or was it bumpy for you because you were the new guy?

Harold:

It was less bumpy, I would say. Because now, I had some time under my belt, and I had some supervisory type training. There was actually one course, I think it's actually a Ken Blanchard course, it's probably even still out there; it's called Situational Leadership, and that was one of the ... I would highly recommend, if it is still out there, and I'm pretty sure that it is, I would highly recommend anyone who's a supervisor, especially if you're a new supervisor, if you could take that class, you should because what it deals with is, well, basically, the title: situational leadership. You can't be the same person, you can't have the same response, to every single one of your employees because what motivates one employee is not, it could actually de-motivate the other employee.

And one way to deal with an employee, you know, some employees need you, and they welcome you being right there, basically looking over their shoulder all the time. But then you have another employee who, they're at a certain level where they would resent the fact if you were looking over their shoulder all the time. So, what I learned through that, and what I learned through the experience of actually being a supervisor, was that you need to treat people fairly, but you definitely don't wanna treat them all the same.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold:

That does not work. Never did work.

Jill:

One size does not fit all.

Harold:

No. Absolutely not. So, when I was in that role, there at the hydro plant, I'd say that was probably one of my best learning experiences of my whole career because I had so many different areas ... I was a budget coordinator, too! I mean, you think, yeah, okay, you've got budget, you've got environmental, you've got administration, you've got all the computers, the IT stuff. I wasn't an IT expert, but I was the one who was responsible to make sure Joe had a computer on his desk, and you know, that it worked and all that type of thing.

I had such a large area of so many different things, I would say, at that job, there was never a time when I ever got bored, because there were just always something new. Always something new there.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Sounds fun! It sounds fun.

I looked quickly, for our audience who's listening. Situational Leadership does still exist, and it's through the Center for Leadership Studies. And so-

Harold:

Yeah, I think that's the name of the corporation. I think it's Steve Blanchard-

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

I would highly recommend, anybody, if you have the opportunity to take it. In fact, I was even certified to teach that class, and I taught that class many times throughout my career.

Jill:

Interesting. Yeah.

What was the next stop on your journey?

Harold:

Well, at that point in time, here again, I seem to always kind of jump out of the plane before it would crash, okay? I get out of that nuclear plant before people actually-

Jill:

Your job might be eliminated, yeah.

Harold:

Yeah, people lost their jobs. And okay, so, now I'm in the generating facility, and it's kind of like a lot of companies are right now in the utility business. It's like, "Oh, we wanna kind of divest ourselves of any of our generation, because the generation, that's an unregulated environment." So, you know, as far as cost and profits, and all that type of thing, it's kind of a very sharp edge and it's much more competitive where in the transmission and distribution area, it's much more regulated.

Anyways, the handwriting was on the wall again of, my company was gonna sell off all their generation. And that's pretty much the direction it went. So, again, I thought, "Okay, well, here again, I don't want somebody else being able to make my career decisions for me." So I started looking at what potentially ...

I always ... See, that's kind of a little different philosophy than what I see today. I see some of the generations since me, the Millennials or whatever, I see them very much more prone to go from one company to another, but-

Jill:

That is a trend.

Harold:

It is, but you know, back in that day ... And there were certainly people who did that, but there were people who tended to stay with their company longer. And of course, I did, because I was there for 35 and a half years. Essentially, I was looking for what else may be out there. And then, I probably moved into the position that I enjoyed the most out of any of them.

now, you probably think, "Well, you went from that hydro plant. You said you enjoyed it." I did enjoy that, but moving ... excuse me. Moving onto this new position, I actually enjoyed it more. And what that was, was I actually had a relocate, but this time I was married.

Jill:

Okay.

Harold:

I had ... let me see. Yeah, I had both my sons. I have two sons. Had both by that time we had to move. We moved about sixty miles east, because now I was working out of the corporate headquarters. And I was working out of the corporate headquarters, but I was a regional employee. The utility was broken up into corporate group, and then each of the regions. Now, these regions were ...

I was basically in eastern Pennsylvania, pretty much all of eastern Pennsylvania, other than one other utility. That was our service territory. And so, I moved into a position where I was responsible for training and environmental. I was the environmental coordinator now for half of the state, and oh, I loved it! I loved that because, now, I was ... boy, now, this is right down my alley now, you know? Now, I'm going out on the oil spills. I'm going out dealing with SPCC plans for substations, I'm dealing with environmental impact studies of streams, and we're having new construction, so any place in this area, that's my baby.

Jill:

Yeah. Maybe sort of akin in a little bit of a way, to what you thought you might do with environmental stuff when you-

Harold:

Right.

Jill:

You know, your environmental wish job that you had when you were finishing college.

Harold:

It was.

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

It absolutely was.

Jill:

Moving out and about, and getting to see different parts of the state, and meeting different people.

Harold:

Right. And even with that, you still have the safety aspect, of course. But then the other part of my job, which is something ... See, I found out that when I was at the hydro plant, when I was responsible for safety, I found out that I really, really enjoyed presenting safety programs. I really liked that. So, this position, it just, I mean, it was perfect for me at the time, because it was training, and it was environmental. The other side of that, the training aspect, was I was responsible and it wasn't just for me to do the training. Although, at that point in time, I did a lot of training.

I was responsible to make sure that all of the regulatory, whether it be OSHA, EPA, DOT, any of that, I was responsible to make sure that all of that training got done for our regional employees. That involved rescue training ... The vast majority of training, I actually did myself. I had some other people working with me. I wasn't a supervisor now at this point in time. I didn't have anybody reporting to me. Which, I guess, kinda was a little bit of a relief for me, too, because I liked being a supervisor but it does wear on you.

Jill:

Sure.

Harold:

Because as you're going through, you know, somebody has an issue, somebody has a problem; well, now that's your issue. That's your problem.

Jill:

Right, whether it has to do with the direct work of the day or something personal.

Harold:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

Yeah, and the personal aspects of it, many times, were, you know, they were tougher to deal with than the work type issues. But anyways, I had the opportunity to step away, and as you'll hear as we go down the road here, only for a few years, but for a few years there, I didn't have anybody reporting to me. And now I guess I got to see, by this time, now we're at the point where everybody has a computer on their desk. Up to that point in time, you know, computers were, it just wasn't ...

Jill:

They weren't common.

Harold:

They weren't common. The admin folks who, back in those days, you know, they were called secretaries. Of course, now, that's not the terminology, but they did word processing on the old Wang systems, that type of thing. That's what they used. So, now we're getting into the realm of, okay, so now you got a computer. Use that. We got a lot more sophisticated tracking systems for our training.

Jill:

Sure.

Harold:

I mean, that was a, there were some big steps forward there, and we got to the point where we could actually ... I could look at one regional office, and I could tell you in five minutes, in ten minutes, or probably in thirty seconds, I could tell you, "Oh, okay, Joe Schmoe needs bucket truck rescue training. He needs a CPR first aid training." All that type of thing, I could tell that, whereas before, I'd have to pull out a whole stack of papers and look at that.

Jill:

Technology was becoming your asset to be able to do the job.

Harold:

Absolutely. And there, again, in that realm ... Again, safety was kind of overarching in all that, because of training. That was all really to meet safety requirements, and the environmental was to meet safety requirements.

Jill:

Right. You know, you were saying, Harold, when you took this position, you were responsible for training in an environmental and safety and DOT. And I think you listed off a few others. And, you know, for our audience that's listening, when people who aren't doing the work of safety jobs ... So, maybe it's your boss, maybe you're trying to explain what your work is to someone else. Oftentimes, managers or presidents or CEO's don't really know what fits in that box of safety, so they always think it's just safety. Maybe it's just OSHA.

But that's rarely the case. It's more of the experience that you had, and it's on us as the safety professional to be able to educate the people to whom we report to, what the breadth and the depth of that job is. Instead of them thinking, "Oh, you know, they're just the annoying people that are just talking about lockout, tagout, or whatever it is." When in fact, you're trying to meet regulatory compliance with so many agencies, it makes your head spin!

Harold:

That's certainly an issue because, you know, as my ... in my role there, I had to report to ... report it all the way up to the whole regional president, you know, the regional management, that type of thing. And you had to really be able to convey to them why it was important that we're doing what we're doing, you know. "Why is it important that we have these plans for a substation?" Well, that's because we have the oil volume there, we have the oil capacity, and yeah, this is required by EPA, it's required by the state, this type of thing.

As far as the training goes, and safety. "Well, why does this employee have to do this rescue training? He's probably never gonna have to do it in his whole life!" Well, true, but there is that possibility that they might have to, so ...

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

Yeah. It was something that was always a challenge.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, interested to hear where this role took you next.

Harold:

Well, again, I was in that area now, so, okay, I'm environmental and training.

Jill:

Training, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold:

Okay. So, now we're getting into mergers and, you know, one region would ... This was all now still internal to the same company, but-

Jill:

But you're looking out and ahead, like you had been since the beginning, to say, "Is there an arterial bleed coming up somewhere where I need to-"

Harold:

Right.

Jill:

"Make a shift?"

Harold:

Exactly. But now, either fortunately or unfortunately, there were some decisions made where I didn't really have the choice. It was basically like, "Okay, some regions are gonna get together ... "

This was a painful time for me, now, in this era, because, okay, you're gonna combine two regions, they're gonna be still the same company but you don't need as many training people. You don't need as many environmental people. You don't need as many engineers.

Jill:

Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold:

All this type of thing.

I went through the period of time here where I had to apply for my own job a number of times. You know, I was sitting outside my management's office. I saw people going and interviewing for my position.

Jill:

Oh, how stressful.

Harold:

Yeah. That was tough. But I survived all that. I survived all that. But you kinda get that survivor mentality, when you go through that, because there's good people who you work with side by side. One day they're there, the next day they're gone. Really, no fault of their own other than that position's not needed anymore.

So, that was kind of a tough time.

Jill:

Right, and what was home life like for you then? I mean, by this time, you've got a spouse and some kids that you're raising-

Harold:

Yep. Yep. And that was ... now, I'm thinking about different things than what I ever thought about in my life before, because it's like, everything was just [inaudible 00:37:50] I get promotions and everything, which is kinda like going along, no problem, no problem. Now, all of a sudden, okay, so this job ... Now you're in this job, and guess what? It's posted. You have to apply for your own job.

Yeah, it was tough. Me and my wife and I, we had a lot of conversations about, "Well, maybe you should look some other places." And I did. During that period of time, I looked outside of my company because I thought, you know, this isn't gonna be-

Jill:

Who knows?

Harold:

Yeah, it's not gonna be a lot of warm fuzzies, you know?

Like I said, I see people who were good employees and they left, so, that definitely was a lot of wear and tear on me, during that period of time. But ultimately, what occurred was they basically had an ... I'll call it an NFL draft.

Jill:

Okay.

Harold:

Where they looked at, "Okay, I got this employee, I got this employee, I got this employee." Just like the draft. "Okay, this guy, Pittsburgh wants this guy. Seattle wants this guy." Well, it was like, "The corporate training department wants this guy. The corporate environment department wants this guy." And this other guy here, well, I guess nobody really wants him, so we'll put him at the bottom of the list," and he's one of those undrafted, free agent type guys, okay?

Jill:

Uh-huh.

Harold:

But I was fortunate enough to be-

Jill:

Good analogy!

Harold:

Yeah, I was fortunate enough to be picked up. "Okay, so, Harold, now you're gonna be in training."

"Okay."

So, now, I'm in corporate training, and that's essentially where I've been ever since. I was pretty much in the corporate training group.

Jill:

And then, were you responsible for all types of training, whether it was like you had done before, with safety and environmental, and other regulatory bodies, as well?

Harold:

Yeah. Pretty much so. Because what occurred was ... I had some other things kinda by this time, in this corporate training group, we were not only responsible for regulatory training, which was, like I said, the OSHA and DOT and all that type of thing. But we also had a group that was responsible for more soft skills training. For instance, like that situational leadership that I mentioned.

I kinda worked in a couple different groups there, because I had some of that experience from the past. I was a facilitator; I got certified to be a facilitator [inaudible 00:40:28] by Franklin Covey. I can do the seven habits of highly effective people, and some of those types of things. And I really enjoyed those.

But, here again, now, as I ... I'm kinda looking out for myself, as time goes by, and I'm seeing some of these soft skill type positions being looked at as, "Do we really need these going forward? Do we need as many of these?" See, I had the background of the hard training.

Jill:

With the added benefit of this other thing.

Harold:

Right.

Jill:

You had effectively diversified your portfolio.

Harold:

I did. I did. But really, unknowingly, that's one point in time, but certainly consciously later. And basically, I was asked at one point in time, "Okay, Harold, you know, we wanna keep you here in this group." This is, again, another reorganization, of course. "You wanna go the soft side, or you wanna go the regulatory training?"

Well, I went regulatory training, and it was a good thing I did because that soft skills group, they kinda loaded off and kinda disappeared into the sunset. But I continued on. I became, during that period of time, then, I became a supervisor again.

And I welcomed it, because, again, I like being a supervisor, but there was a part of me that kinda, my gut was like, "Do you really wanna get back into this again?" You know.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), that's a lot of responsibility.

Harold:

Right. But I did. And I stayed in that, then, for the rest of my career. When I retired, I was a supervisor. And I was responsible for ... now, through different mergers and things like that, now, I'm working for a company that has 15,000 employees.

Jill:

Wow.

Harold:

Okay? So, now we're big, all right?

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold:

One of my responsibilities was, as you mentioned earlier, was actually with Vivid Learning, and I'll just kinda tell you a little bit about that, because ...

Jill:

Sure.

Harold:

Because I was responsible for the regulatory training, for all ... Transmission and distribution are our generation's side, and nuclear side, they had their own separate training group. I wasn't dealing with any of that anymore. Now it was all transmission and distribution.

But I was still 10,000 employees.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Wow.

Harold:

Anyways, in 2003, our company decided we go out and we do all this training. We do ... ergonomic training, we do things like some of the rescue training, we do some of the fire safety, we do a variety of things like that-

Jill:

The gamut of safety, yeah.

Harold:

Basically, it was refresher training. Some of that type of training, wasn't something that somebody actually had to put their hands on something and demonstrate to me that, you know, you can do CPR. Some basic safety knowledge, and certain things like that.

Jill:

The theory based off that meets the regulatory-

Harold:

Exactly. So, how do we do that? How do we do that now, without having to have ... training instructors go out, and we had, I think we were covering service territory now in, like, six states. So, we're all over the place.

Jill:

Wow, and you said, what did you say, 10,000 employees under your purview or something like that?

Harold:

There were 10,000 employees under the transmission and distribution group who my group was responsible for giving them their regulatory training. And I had good instructors working for me, and all that type of thing, but yeah, that was our responsibility. So, how do we get this routine refresher training done without having to go out and visit these people and stand in front of them?

Well, we know we looked at some different platforms. We looked at some different companies, and ultimately, what we did in 2003, we brought Vivid in. They interviewed us, we interviewed them-

Jill:

This is long before I was with the company, so I've not heard this history-

Harold:

Oh, okay.

Jill:

So, this is fascinating! Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Harold:

Well, I'll tell you right now, most of the people that are in Vivid right now, they were not around at that period of time.

Jill:

I'm sure, we've grown a lot.

Harold:

Yeah! Anyways, we looked at, "Do you meet our needs?" And yeah, the decision was made, "Let's start going to Vivid training, online training." And that was some major growing pains with all that because, we had lineman at that point in time that maybe never even touched a computer.

Jill:

Sure.

Harold:

So, we had to have just some basic computer training classes, so that people knew how to access a computer and use it, and all that type of thing. And then, of course, we had to educate our supervisors and we had administrators, we made administrators who, you know, could add people and take people out and run reports in the Vivid system and all that.

Jill:

Well, and it was probably really a time, also, of not only were you seeing right before your very eyes the evolution of technology from where you had started to where you were, but many of the employees were, too. Because it was ... you were probably early adopters, to online training, whereas people today may have had experience, or have experience with a computer, or know how to operate their phone and navigate things in a way that people just simply didn't know because of the time.

Harold:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this was the first time we ever did anything like this. And most other companies, they didn't really have much experience with it, either. And we didn't really know if this was gonna work for us or not, because the thing about it is, okay, we're gonna provide this training. Is OSHA going to even-

Jill:

Accept it.

Harold:

Recognize this training-

Jill:

Uh-huh.

Harold:

As something that's, you know, that something is acceptable for whatever. And that was, I got involved in that with some OSHA inspectors and things, and we found out down the road that, yes, all of the Vivid content that we had ... when OSHA would come in, an incident would occur, "Hey, we need to see your training records."

I'll tell you, all the Vivid course material always held up. It worked for us. And we had ... it was a very, very much of a success for us, using that platform. And I guess the fact that it's fifteen, almost sixteen years later now, that that company is still using Vivid as their safety training, refresher training. I mean, that says something for Vivid.

Jill:

Thank you.

Harold:

It really does. It really says something for Vivid.

And I will say, just from my own person experience, dealing with Vivid as far as customer service goes ... I mean, I dealt with many, many, many vendors and many other contractors that, you know, we dealt with for training programs and whatever it may be, and not just saying this, but I've told other people, Vivid always second to none as far as your customer service response. You know, the knowledge of your employees and just customer service attitude, was second to none.

Jill:

Thank you for that. My co-workers will be thrilled to hear that compliment, because we do really work so hard on that aspect as being a differentiator to our clients' experience, to our customers' experience with us. So, thank you for that, Harold.

Harold:

You're welcome. And I'll tell you, that's one of the reasons why, you know, like when I was asked to kinda help out with a few things here after I retired, I was thrilled to be able to do that because I've always been a great believer in Vivid, and everything that you guys have done. Maybe not now. Now there's new products and things out there, things that, you know, I never really used in my past, but I can certainly see the value of them and-

Jill:

Right.

Harold:

Just, I mean, your group's a great group, and-

Jill:

The evolution continues.

Harold:

Yep. Thrilled to be working with you. That's all.

Jill:

Aw, thank you. Thank you, yeah. For full disclosure, for our audience, in Harold's retirement, we've asked him to be part of our focus group. We have a focus group at our company that's made up of safety professionals from around the country. Some are retired. Harold is our one retired representative, and we have people who span the industry from just starting in their career to people who have been in it a long time in all different types of industry and in education. And we're so grateful to our focus group, who really help shape what our offering is going to be. Without sounding too commercial-y. The fun part is, we've codenamed our focus group The Avengers. And so, Harold, you have a title in your retirement and it's Avenger.

Harold:

Yeah! There you go.

Jill:

And we're so grateful for your contribution to it.

But it sounds like you and I both, you know, before I joined Vivid, I, too, was in a situation similar to you where, you know, how are we gonna get this training done with all of these employees? Without having to hand-write all this curriculum and then figure out how to deliver it to the masses across multiple regions and states?

And so, just like you, I looked for a solution, as well, and chose Vivid and was, in full disclosure, a client just like you, with Vivid, many years after you had been experienced with the company. But yeah, thank you for that history lesson in that piece. It's interesting to hear how our company came to know you, and now I have the great privilege of getting to know you, as well, and occasional working with you, too.

Harold:

Sure. It's my pleasure. And there's kinda my life in a nutshell.

Jill:

Yeah! Well, that's a pretty interesting nutshell. I mean, you weathered a storm in the same company, but you had all these job changes. You know, you were saying before that different generations change jobs more often, but you're not necessarily unlike them, you just happen to make those job changes within the same organization.

Harold:

Oh, no, you're absolutely right. Some people say, "Oh, you were in the same job for 35 and a half years." No.

Jill:

No, no.

Harold:

I wasn't in the same job for 35 and a half years, and I actually moved physically three times-

Jill:

Yeah.

Harold:

Because it was different areas, and that. Yeah. It certainly wasn't like ...

And I do know some people, you know, who have worked in the same job, same location, forty years, fifty years, but no, I've been around a lot of different places, without a doubt.

Jill:

Right. Right. So, Harold, for people who are listening to this who maybe are just starting out, what would be your sage advice to someone starting in our career?

Harold:

Well, some of the things I've seen over the years as far as safety goes, is many years ago, it was more of a punitive type thing. Like, somebody who was a safety professional was basically looked upon as a policeman. And I don't see that so much anymore. Now, I see a safety person as more of a consultant and more of someone who's there to help you, not to hit you over the head with a stick when you make a mistake.

So, I think people who aspire to be in the safety realm, they really need to approach it in that way. I think something that's important for a younger person coming into the safety realm, is actually get out. If you're gonna be working with a group of people, and you're gonna be responsible for some of their safety ... I never liked to look at a safety professional and say, "You're responsible for my safety." You're not. Each individual person is responsible for their safety, but a safety representative or a safety manager, supervisor, whatever, they do have some responsibilities for an area.

And I guess, some advice I would say, is get out, spend some time with those people. See what they do. Don't just sit at your desk and fill out reports and fill in spreadsheets and that type of thing. Get out and get to know the people. Get to know what their jobs are, and you're gonna be a lot more respected than if you're just the kinda person that shows up when there's a problem.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's right. That's right, yeah.

My co-workers often ask, you know, kind of profile what a safety professional is like, what are their jobs like, who are they. And my response often is, "They are rarely ivory tower dwellers. And those who are, may not be very successful in their job."

Because you're right. It's so important to understand the workforce, the people you're working with, the type of work activities people are doing, not to do guesswork about it. But at the same time, it buys you respect and trust with the employees to whom you're responsible for providing the right education and training so they can be responsible for their own safety.

Harold:

Absolutely.

Jill:

You certainly can't do that from a ivory tower perspective.

Harold:

No, and I've seen that approach. I've seen folks in safety group that ... they're the holier than thou type of personality, where the only time you'll ever see them is when there's a problem. And then, what they're coming out to do is to punish people, to come out with, you know, "We're gonna suspend you, we're gonna do this, we're gonna do that."

And where that person, that safety professional, early on, months before or a year before or whatever, they could've been out interfacing with these people, and maybe seeing that there's a problem or maybe seeing there's a work practice that could be done more safely.

Jill:

Prior to.

Harold:

And at that point in time, you know, make some changes, then a year from now, you're not gonna have to sit in a meeting where somebody got hurt.

Jill:

Right, right. Yeah.

Harold, as we start winding up our time together today, I'm wondering, do you have a favorite safety story, or maybe something impactful? Something that kept getting you out of bed year after year to do the job? Or when people say, "What did you do in your career?" What's your favorite story? Whether it's fun or whether it's something that is really motivating.

Harold:

Well, yeah, I would just say ... I guess what motivated me more than anything was, you know, when I ... Like I said, I really did like to provide training, and I haven't really done ... I didn't do much of that in my last few years because I had people working for me, but it really made me feel good, and it really made me feel like I accomplished something. When I did a training class and some old, grizzled lineman who, you know, hates training and did not wanna be there, he'll come up to me at the end of the training and say, "You know what? This is boring stuff, but you made it interesting for me, and I actually learned something."

Just getting some feedback like that, you know, that always made me feel like, "Okay, I guess it's worthwhile doing what I'm doing."

Jill:

"I made a difference for somebody."

Harold:

Right.

Jill:

Yeah, one person-

Harold:

Just that day!

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)! Just that day! Yeah.

Harold:

"I did that, and I don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow," but that day, I did what I accomplished to do that day, and that was a good thing."

Jill:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, and that is our job, right? And sometimes it's one person. Sometimes it's a whole group of people, and you never know, but knowing that we're laying our hand on that arc and we're bending it toward a safer workplace, and sending people home the same way they arrived is ...

Harold:

That's exactly right.

Jill:

Yeah, that's it. That's it.

Well, Harold, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and thank you for what you contributed to the greater good in all of our careers, and those 10,000 employees in the east.

It's a great body of work, and thank you for sharing it with us today.

Harold:

Well, again, thank you for the opportunity. It was a real honor to be on with you here today, and it was my pleasure. Thank you very much.

Jill:

You're welcome. And thank you all so much for joining in and listening today, and thank you for the work that you all do to make sure your workers make it home safe every day. You can listen to all of our episodes at VividLearningSystems.com, or subscribe in the podcast player of your choosing.

If you have a suggestion for a guest, including if it's you, please contact me at social@vividlearningsystems.com. Until next time, thanks for listening.