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#20: Get up on the roof or find a new job.

February 27, 2019 | 42 minutes 24 seconds

Podcast series host Jill James talks to Robert, whose career in safety led him to the closely related discipline of risk management. Robert came to safety through a popular pathway—the trades, skilled labor. As a teenage apprentice electrician, Robert was struck by an arc flash. Then, as a carpenter, he slid off of a roof without any fall protection gear. After that, while clearing trees, a large log rolled up on him. Naturally, each incident let him to question the unsafe conditions of employment experienced by hundreds of thousands of workers, ultimately starting his journey in professional safety.

Transcript

Jill:

This is the Accidental Safety Pro, brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems, an HSI company. This is episode number 20. My name is Jill James, Vivid's Chief Safety Officer. Today I'm joined by Robert, who is Risk Manager with M3 Insurance, an insurance broker in Wisconsin. Welcome to the show, Robert.

Robert:

Thanks, Jill. I appreciate you having me.

Jill:

Robert, I would like to hear your story, like everyone else does. How did you accidentally fall into safety?

Robert:

Yeah. Absolutely. I'll start off real early in life, started working on a farm when I was very young and did that until I got out of high school. Once I got out of high school, I got into construction. I was an electrician at first, became a carpenter later, and experienced some things that kinda led me towards safety. The first one as an electrician was my boss was trying to keep the power on for the company that we were working, on one of the main panels, and it didn't work out how we had planned it. There was an arc blast and I experienced the auditory issues and the visual issues for a period after that arc blast. It was really something that struck me as ... I didn't realize how big of a deal it was until it happened.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

Something that I was amazed that I was not protected against, I guess, at that point, still not really knowing much about safety. Moving-

Jill:

If-

Robert:

Oops. Sorry.

Jill:

Yeah. Let's unpack that one a little bit. At this point in your life, you're pretty young I'm guessing.

Robert:

Yes. Correct. I'm 19 years old at that point.

Jill:

Yeah. Right. You had likely never heard of what an arc blast is.

Robert:

No, and I honestly didn't know what it was called until I got into safety.

Jill:

Right. Exactly. When I say unpack, let's unpack that piece just a little bit more. You had gotten into the construction trades as a team, it sounds like.

Robert:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jill:

Did you go to school to be an electrician or is this an apprenticeship program? How did that work?

Robert:

It was a non-union apprenticeship. A lot of the companies I worked for early in construction were non-union smaller outfits.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

There was a lot less there for safety.

Jill:

Yeah. Right. Your boss, now, this doesn't sound ... let's see. How do we say this? This doesn't sound out of the ordinary for someone to not wanna turn off power and work on live parts, right?

Robert:

Correct. Yep.

Jill:

It's not the correct choice, but sometimes it's what happens.

Robert:

Yeah.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

I think even if you are gonna work on live electricity, there's some things that you can do from a PP perspective-

Jill:

Right.

Robert:

To protect yourselves, but I don't know that he was even aware of that, honestly.

Jill:

Right. Right. Right. Yeah. I've had the same experience in my career with different trades as well not fully understanding all of the risk associated with the job. Just before we move on, in case someone who's listening isn't familiar with arc blast, do you wanna explain what that is from your perspective now, the thing that you didn't know when you were 19?

Robert:

Yeah. Absolutely. It's kinda like a lightening bolt. I like to think of it that way, where energy is jumping from one place to another. Typically, this is on an electrical panel bus bar or on some of the wires connecting. Basically, there's a gap and that electricity jumps, which creates light and heat. It's something that, on a 120 volt, your house outlet, it's gonna arc but it may not be severe. When we talk about ... we start getting up in the higher amperages and voltages, that's where I've even seen video of somebody getting vaporized essentially by that.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

That's my take on it.

Jill:

Yeah. Right. When the arc blast happened to you and you're 19 years old, were you standing in front of a breaker panel?

Robert:

Correct. Yep.

Jill:

Yeah. You said the sound of the blast effected your hearing. Were you burned at all?

Robert:

I was not. I was wearing leather gloves. My boss was smart enough at the time to have me turn away from the panel. I was not burned. The gloves were charred.

Jill:

I bet that was really scary.

Robert:

Yeah. I think it wasn't something that was immediately scary because of the reactions of the people around me. It seemed like it was commonplace or it wasn't that big of a deal.

Jill:

Wow.

Robert:

Of course now I understand how serious it could've been.

Jill:

Right. Exactly. You experienced some problems with your hearing. Did it have lasting effects?

Robert:

It did not. I haven't been tested with an audiogram-

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

Or anything like that, but I don't have permanent tinnitus or anything like that.

Jill:

Yeah. Wow. What a lesson at 19 years of age. Yeah. I'm interested to hear, where did this take you next and when did the safety light start turning on? I'm guessing maybe it took a little bit longer.

Robert:

It did. It took a few-

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

More-

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

Brushes with death.

Jill:

Oh gosh. Yeah. After that, yeah, keep going. You were saying something about carpentry.

Robert:

Yeah. After the electrical debacle, I'll call it-

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

Started getting into carpentry, everything from stick framing, roofing, siding, windows, just kinda the whole gamut there. There was an incident where I slid off a roof. We never wore fall protection on roofs. Some of the residential roofs can be pretty steep.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

It was one of those occasions where you slip, you catch yourself. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal at the time, but when you start thinking about what could've happened, it really sinks in.

Jill:

Right. Right.

Robert:

That continued where we're not using guarding. We're not using PPE. That's just kind of that, again, non-union small shop, the employer was not aware of safety regulations and things like that. There were even instances where we do know about some things for safety. Fall protection, for example, I brought to his attention and was not something that he wanted to purchase anything for. It was kind of get up on the roof or find a new job. I think that's one of the attitudes that stood out to me as a real problem as I got into safety.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

It's one of the biggest barriers.

Jill:

Yeah. It is. Agreed. Unfortunately, it seems ... I don't know. I don't want to dis the construction trades because there are so many that are doing such a great job.

Robert:

Yep.

Jill:

However, my experience, particularly with OSHA and keeping in mind that I was ... we were targeting employers who were being more risky than others as well, so my experience was with people primarily who had that kind of attitude, like it was a cost center, it slowed work down, it was that safety stuff. Insert any cliché you want, makes work more dangerous because we ... I'm agile on my feet, whatever cliché you wanna insert, it sounds like you experienced it all as a really young person working in the trades.

Robert:

Yeah, and I would say there's two angles there. From the employer's perspective there's, "We gotta get the job done. Just get up there and get to work." There's also the attitude that I grew up with. It may be a Wisconsin thing. It may be a construction thing. I'm not really sure. Just that kinda beat your chest, "I can do it anyway. I don't need a harness. I can just get up there and do it."

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

There's the perspective from the employees just wanting to be hard and get things done, but there's also that employer side as well. When you combine those two, it just does not lead to safety.

Jill:

Yeah. Right. Right. Yes. Where did your road take you next?

Robert:

Yeah. There was a number of injuries with different employers. I had a ecological restoration company, I'll call it, that I worked for. We were doing some clear treeing, an invasive species clearing, working at the bottom of a hill. Someone rolled a log down the hill. I was standing in front of the wood chipper. The log hit me in the back of the leg. Luckily, I fell down to the ground rather than forward. It was a pretty big log. That was something that pushed me more towards evaluating what I was doing with my life.

Jill:

Literally.

Robert:

Yeah. I just continued to experience these things throughout my career of, "It just doesn't seem like that's the right way to do it." Or, I felt like the employer really didn't care about me. That just kinda pushed me forward I guess I would say.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

Then I had herniated discs that I'm not sure where they resulted from. I worked for an asphalt company and we used to load 550 pound machines into the back of a truck without a lift gate and things like that. Had a pretty serious pole in my back and went to the doctor. There were two herniated discs there. There was a mild defacement of the cord, not serious enough to do surgery, so recovered without surgery. I thank God for that. Surgery is never the answer in my opinion, unless it's an emergency surgery, which then led me to go back to work. Definitely took a little bit more care for my back in that scenario, but all the walking I was doing for that asphalt company led my hip to have problems. Part of it was a genetic problem where the joint and the bone in the hip was formed a little bit differently. There was some wear and tear. Ultimately, I need a resurfacing of my hip. I had that resurfacing surgery and kinda went through the process of recovery, which was a couple months. During that couple months I was almost ... I wouldn't say bedridden, but I was on the couch for-

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

The most part and really started to think back on some of these things where I nearly got blown up with an arc blast. I nearly got electrocuted. I nearly broke my leg with a log coming down the hill-

Jill:

The wood chipper. Yeah.

Robert:

Yeah. I started thinking, "Where does this lead? In two months when I get back on my feet 100%, where am I gonna be?"

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

I think that's what really made me evaluate going back to school. Safety was still not on my mind at this point, surprisingly.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

Because I think it's not something that's talked about in school growing up in middle school, high school, those types of things.

Jill:

Yeah. You don't know it's an option.

Robert:

You don't. You don't. Unless you investigate it on your own, it's not something that's brought to your attention.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

In investigating colleges in the area, investigating careers and really trying to do a good job of forethought and planning, I actually ended up signing up to go back to school for environmental science, just something that ... I've always been an outdoors man. I've always liked the outside. It made sense from, "I might like my job perspective."

Jill:

Yeah, a reason to get out of bed in the morning-

Robert:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jill:

Other than the paycheck.

Robert:

Yep. Yep. I found that in starting to take the classes, that it was maybe not exactly what I was thinking. It was something that maybe I needed to consider a little bit further. It was brought to my attention that they had a real strong safety program. This is at UW Whitewater now.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

I went in and talked to Dr. Todd [Leuchine] who you've had on the show before.

Jill:

We sure have.

Robert:

Yeah. Great guy. I love that guy.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

Just kinda got a better idea of what is safety? What does it mean? Really, at that point, elementary understanding. OSHA.

Jill:

Right.

Robert:

There's regulations that employers have to follow. Employees need to be safe. They need to come back home the way they went in. That really struck me to thinking back again on what had happened to me. I thought, "Gee, if I could make a difference in one person's life, i.e. they don't have a back ... a hip surgery, they don't have back problems, if I could just make one difference I think that would be worth it."

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah.

Robert:

I started down that path.

Jill:

You know, it seems like, Robert, the universe, if you believe in the universe giving you signals or nudges, the universe was pushing you so hard.

Robert:

Absolutely.

Jill:

I mean, like literally a blast, a fall, a surgery, a hard stop lay on the couch, "We need to do a re-evaluation." You're thinking back about what's happened to you up until this point of your young life-

Robert:

Yep.

Jill:

And where are you going? Congratulations on you to listening to the universe, finally, though. It took some really big emphasis it sounded like.

Robert:

Yeah. I think that the next step would've been I wouldn't have made it.

Jill:

Right. Right. Well, we're happy you're here. You're at UW Whitewater. You decide to make a shift from environmental science into safety.

Robert:

Yep.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay.

Robert:

Yep. I think, honestly, the program there is excellent. The classes I was taking initially were really opening my eyes to things, but it wasn't until I got more involved with the Student Safety Organization and started spending some more time with Dr. Leuchine that I really started to see the opportunities open up.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), like what would it mean as a job, being able to see what that might look like. Is that what you're talking about?

Robert:

Yeah. Absolutely. I think early on, again, it was, "Okay. I'm gonna be OSHA or I'm gonna be a huge corporate ... a huge corporation needs a safety person for if OSHA is coming in or to make sure that they're up to compliance and things like that." Real basic understanding of what it meant.

Jill:

Yeah. I think-

Robert:

Started-

Jill:

Yeah. I think that's where lots of us start out when we think about that.

Robert:

Yeah.

Jill:

Not uncommon. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

Yeah. The exposure, I think, is what really pushed me to explore and get more involved in safety.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

I would say if it wasn't for Dr. Leuchine at that point in my life, I probably would have gotten a degree and gotten a job in safety and that would've been probably the extent of it. I really got involved in organizations and mentoring and a lot of other things that really led me down the last part of my path to where I am today. I was encouraged to explore internships, and not just one internship that's required for the program, but I took I think three different internships before I accepted a position. I got-

Jill:

That's fantastic.

Robert:

Yeah. I got a lot of exposure. I think the way I went about it was to go into manufacturing and safety. I worked with Osh Kosh Defense, defense contractor here in Wisconsin. I then worked for a construction company, Hoover Corporation in Madison, Wisconsin, a mechanical contractor. Then, my third internship was with M3. I kinda got that full exposure of general industry, construction, and the insurance side of it, which I think is a bit of an emerging piece to safety.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

I think the exposure, again, I've heard a lot of people preach about it on the show here, but you really have to take advantage of opportunities. You really have to go outside your comfort zone and get exposure to things to know if you like them or not.

Jill:

Exactly. Those three internships, were they all paid?

Robert:

They were. They were.

Jill:

It allowed you some flexibility during that time to check all of them out. What a bright thing for you to do. It probably took me ...hm. Different places of my career I would stop when I'm going to make a job change and ask myself, "What do I really want?" I think it wasn't until about five years ago ... I've been in the field 23 years, so you did this very early. Good for you. Where I really stock of looking across all the industry types and asking myself, "Which one do I really love? Which one really gets me excited to want to contribute to?" Kinda had that conversation with myself for my next job. You did that coming right out of school. Nice work.

Robert:

Thanks. Yeah. It was something that kind of, again, a path that was laid in front of me. Worked with Osh Kosh Defense and frankly that's a world class safety-

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

Program up there. That was great. Actually, my boss who worked there, who hired me there went to Hoover Corporation and I followed him there. It was one of those things where the exposure was awesome. It led me down another path and ultimately led me here.

Jill:

Yeah. Right. What was it like when you did that internship in construction, assuming that corporation kinda had their safety stuff together? What was that like for you to see it being done well compared to what your early experience had been?

Robert:

Yeah. I would say that even with Osh Kosh Defense, but particularly with the construction, the attitudes were completely different. The mentality of, "We've gotta get it done. Just get up there and start roofing." That was not the mentality there. They truly cared about each other.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

It was eye opening to me that there was a possibility that construction was that way. For a long time, I had, in my brain, rationalized that this is the construction attitude. Get it done. We don't really care about your personal life. I think that really changed my perspective.

Jill:

Yeah. Good. Good. Yeah. Like I said, there are people who are doing it well. There are companies that are doing it well. Happy that you had that experience.

Robert:

Yeah. It was great.

Jill:

M3, insurance broker. Tell us about what that's like from a day-to-day basis. I'm not sure we've had anyone in the insurance industry on this show before, so set that stage for us. Tell us what it's about.

Robert:

Yeah. Absolutely. The difference, I think the important to call out here is an insurance carrier actually writes the insurance. The insurance broker, we're basically partnering companies with the right insurance carrier.

Jill:

Right.

Robert:

My role in loss control or risk management is a lot different than on the carrier side.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

My day-to-day varies so much. That's one of the things I love about my job. Sometimes I'm answering a quick email question about, "When do I need to post my OSHA log?" Other times, I'm doing training in front of 300 to 500 people.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

Other days, I'm just having a planning meeting. "Based on losses, here's what we project your mod factor to be over the next year. Here's where I think you should focus your efforts. Here's a few things I think you could do." Really, it's a consulting role.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

I think the flexibility to not be under a safety budget at a company, not be housed inappropriately in the corporate structure of a company, I don't have those challenges that a lot of people in safety have.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

I get all the benefits of being able to help people who really want help.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Robert, I think it would be so wonderful, if you wouldn't mind, to take some time with our audience now to explain a little bit more of that work as a risk manager and a broker. When you're working with companies, or when you're working with other safety professionals within companies, you already threw out a couple of things, you're helping them project what their mod rating is, their experience modification rating, which is going to set the tone on what their premiums are going to be. You have the ability to really help coach safety professionals or company owners on how to reduce cost. I don't think it's something that all safety professionals know they have access within their brokerage firms. Could you maybe talk about how you help them and what that means from even building a business case?

Robert:

Yeah. Absolutely. I think at M3 we have a very robust risk management team. Not all brokers have what we have, a dedicated risk manager to the account. The benefit that that provides us is that we're able to ... we have a data analytics team, so a team that is literally taking your work comp losses as far back as we wanna take them and doing trending analysis. That really helps me guide me to guide the company.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

I think there's a lot of options as far as what we can be used for. Really, our bread and butter is you've got a sticky situation, a tough situation, your mod's been increasing or whatever it might be. You can't figure out how to guard a machine. That's really where we come alongside and partner with people to come up with innovative solutions based on our experience across the industry. We're really housed in industries. For the most part, I'm somewhat of a generalist. We do get the opportunity to partner with people on those tough questions, as well as, "When do I post my OSHA log?"

Jill:

Right. Right. Yeah. You had mentioned data analytics and you're able to do that for safety professionals. If you have a client who's like, "Gosh, I wish I had some data to show my management structure to maybe move the dial on something to ask for funding for training or redoing a process or machine guarding on something and I need some statistics," you can do that for them. They just simply need to ask.

Robert:

Yep. Absolutely. I think both safety professionals and a lot of who I deal with is maybe HR or they don't have a specific safety person-

Jill:

Right.

Robert:

So there's multiple hats there-

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

But the loss run data analysis is, I think, often overlooked in safety as a good way to provide motivation to do some of those things you talked about, to improve safety, to show that, "Hey, if we can reduce slips, trips, and falls by 20% or 80% or whatever we might do by doing these three things, here's the expected return on investment that we're going to have." Being able to articulate that and actually show the data analysis, I think, is something that more safety professionals should be aware of. I think that's one of those things that people kinda miss.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Anyone listening, remember to reach out to your insurance broker if you have one and insurance lines as well can provide data analysis to companies, too. You do everything as a risk manager from what we just talked about with data, but you also go into companies. You may be providing training. You might be going in to specifically look at a particular instance that someone's having trouble with, like, "I need another set of eyes on this." Do you also provide industrial hygiene services, too.

Robert:

Yeah. We have a certified industrial hygienist on staff. I do perform the monitoring and get it reviewed by that CIH.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

We do noise, air sampling. We really do just about anything when it comes to industrial hygiene. We also have force pull meters and all sorts of good gadgets to kinda give us a better idea of where the problem lies from a technical perspective.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Right. Talk about, if you don't mind, when we ... as safety professions are always looking for help, we need help because the job is complex, and I've often given people advice to go to their insurers, to go to their brokers, to get this kind of help because there are normally not fees associated with most of it, correct? Because you're already paying a premium.

Robert:

Yeah. That's correct. It depends on the carrier. It depends on the size of the company and the premium and things like that, but I would say that's a fair statement that most of the time it's not gonna be an additional cost.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. I know that in the last job I had in safety, I needed some industrial hygiene monitoring done, specifically a study on hexavaling a chromium in a welding area. I'm not in IH and I don't have the equipment. I reached out to my insurance broker who was able to provide that service. I know there was a nominal fee associated with it, but it was much less than going and trying to find my own IH to do it. It was something that I could easily convince the management structure to do.

Robert:

Yeah, and then-

Jill:

Then work with my broker. Yeah.

Robert:

Then you've got a partner, too, that is not gonna just give you the results and say, "Good luck," or, "Yes, you need a respiratory protection program. Good luck." We really partner from beginning to end to evaluate, "Do we need to do IH monitoring? Does it make sense? If so, what type of monitoring do we need to do? Okay. Here are the results. Here are some things that I would recommend that you do. Here are some costs associated with that." Really, from start to finish. You may not know that you have an issue, but we're gonna take you step by step, show you that there is or isn't an issue, show you what you need to do about it and then help you implement that.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

I think that's the benefit of using a broker. Just the experience across 75 or 100 companies that we work with each can really give us some good ideas that maybe most people aren't using or thinking of.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. In the insurance world and in the insurance broker world, I know that you have specific frequencies that you're going to reach out to a company to offer assistance, but if it's a safety professional listening now and they wanna reach the other direction and reach toward you, do you have a recommended frequency that ... to provide help with them? Is there a limit or is there a recommendation?

Robert:

I would say that there's not really a limit, at least from M3's perspective. We're really trying to partner with clients. We really wanna make them better and be a good partner in all aspects.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

We don't have a limit, per se. I think recommended, we like to touch base quarterly.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

It really depends on the frequency of claims. If we don't have only a handful of claims, it probably doesn't make sense to touch base that often, but we typically recommend at least quarterly claim reviews and then annually we go over the big picture to say, "Okay. Here's last year in a nutshell. What do we need to be paying attention to?"

Jill:

Right. Right. Right. Well, this is good information. My intention wasn't to make it into an insurance show. However, I think it's really important that safety professionals, anyone who's working in workplace safety, knows that this is really a viable and important resource with risk managers and loss control people in the insurance world to be another helping hand, because let's face it, we all need a little bit of help every once in a while, and sometimes more than others depending on what we're doing and what we're challenged with.

Robert:

Yeah. Even very high functioning safety professionals, it never hurts to get another set of eyes on things.

Jill:

Yeah. Agreed. Agreed. Robert, tell us about ... you were saying what a great benefit it was for you to have Dr. Leuchine as a mentor and some of the organizations that you were introduced to. Tell us about what's that like for you now in this phase of your career. Are you still part of organizations? Are you still seeking out mentors?

Robert:

Yeah. Absolutely. I think that's something that I'll probably do the rest of my life. Active in the Wisconsin Safety Council, the ASSP, used to be ASSE, on a risk management committee for that Wisconsin Safety Council and often partner ... M3 partners with OSHA on a lot of things, doing construction breakfasts and things like that. I'm always trying to meet new people and learn new things, I guess I would phrase it that way. It's never been something that's been negative to me. You could say a little bit of nervousness going in to present in front of 300 people.

Jill:

Right.

Robert:

Ultimately, it's never been something that's been detrimental to me. I think it's ... if it's always positive, I'm gonna keep doing it.

Jill:

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

Robert:

I think it's important that people do that throughout their career, especially starting early in school like we had previously talked. I think anybody that gets into a box and isn't looking outside of that box is not going to do well. As things change, you're not aware of them. As new ideas come out, you're not a part of them. Those types of things can really be detrimental to a safety person's career.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

The dreaded getting stuck in the safety coordinator role for 10 to 15 years, that's ... you really circumvent that by getting out there, meeting people. You'll improve your knowledge and potentially your career.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). When you get stumped, as we all do-

Robert:

Yes.

Jill:

Yeah. Right, 'cause we never know it all. What are your resources? Where do you usually go for help?

Robert:

Yeah. That's an awesome question. I would say nobody knows everything. To try and remember the 1910, every line in there, you're gonna have a hard time with it. Typically my first reach out is ... depends on where we're going with it. If it's an OSHA question, obviously I'm gonna go to the CFR and try and find an answer in there. I've got some great mentors at M3 that have been in the industry for a long time and have a lot of knowledge. That's another resource. I think one that I would encourage employers to use more, if they don't have a broker that they can reach out, is just calling OSHA. It's something that most people are afraid to call OSHA. They think, "Well, they've got caller ID. Now they're gonna come visit my site," or something like that.

Jill:

Yeah. They can't do that.

Robert:

They can't. I think, at least my experience with the Wisconsin OSHA and the local OSHA offices, they just wanna help.

Jill:

Right.

Robert:

They're not there to penalize you. It's really focused on worker health and safety and if you're reaching out, it's a great resource. They're not gonna penalize you for it.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Wonderful.

Robert:

Yeah.

Jill:

Yeah. When it comes to that first part of your early working career and all the risks and ... that you experienced and near misses and some things that were harmful to you, how do you think that informs how you do your work today? Do you sometimes lean back into those times to-

Robert:

Yeah. I would say from the perspective of understanding what it's like to wear foggy safety glasses.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

That perspective of having been an employee on that level, I think, gives me a different perspective in that if I'm wearing safety glasses that are 50 cents, they're fogging up on me all the time, it's more of a hazard for me to wear them-

Jill:

Right.

Robert:

Than it is to not wear them at that point. Some of the psychology behind why people do what they do when they're working hard and their exhausted and those types of things I think are very helpful and I draw on a lot in my career, because a lot of my job is not just working with CEOs, CFO, Safety Director, HR, but really bridging the gap between employees and those people.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

I think that that's a skill that not every safety person has. If you haven't worked in the industry, you really can't understand what those people are going through on a day-to-day basis. You can't prescribe solutions if you don't know the whole picture.

Jill:

Yeah. Robert, how do you ... when you're on a site, on a work site with someone, or in a company with someone and you're with employees, how do you build your credibility with them? Do you often tell your story about where you came from and what you've done? How does that work for you?

Robert:

Yeah. That's actually probably my 30 second elevator speech that I do, depending on the situation. In trainings, when I'm talking to employees, that's something that I always start out with, how I got into the industry, that I understand what their job entails. I've been there. I've done that. I think it provides a better attention from employees when I'm talking to them that, "Hey, this isn't just an insurance guy," 'cause I've heard that before.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

"You're just a fancy insurance guy. You don't know what's going on." I think that helps them understand that I do and I get it. I get it's tough to wear safety glasses when they fog up. I get that your go home at the end of the day and you are so physically exhausted that you eat dinner and fall asleep on the couch.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

I think that really helps get them to be more open to what I'm saying.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, Robert, where do you ... you're still pretty new in your career. How many years have you been at this now with safety?

Robert:

I think I'm coming up on five years this year-

Jill:

Okay.

Robert:

Including all internships and things like that.

Jill:

Yeah. Right. What do you see for a profession going forward?

Robert:

Yeah. I think this is a good question that has a lot of answers. I think the biggest things that we're gonna start to see is obviously with millennials coming in, what you can get away with from a lack of safety, I'll say, is a lot less. Millennials aren't putting up with 60, 80 hour work weeks. They're not putting up with having their stick their hand inside of a cardboard bailer without locking it out. I think that's gonna be a big change in the industry. I think that will lead to automation, which is gonna provide a whole 'nother set of safety problems if we're working on computerized equipment and robots and things like that. We'll see the need for a PPE program will probably go down quite a bit 'cause we'll only have a couple employees there. When we do lockout tag out, there's gonna be a lot more involved on that side of it.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

Those are two big things that are gonna conjoin and really impact not just safety, but really the working world and everything that we do every day.

Jill:

Yeah. Interesting perspective in that you feel that millennials, maybe, are more risk intolerant than other generations.

Robert:

Yeah. I think that goes back to when we first started talking about the kinda beat your chest, "I'm just gonna get it done. I'm a tough guy." Attitude.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

That has been an inhibitor towards safety for a long time. I think I'm starting to see that change where they don't have to be the toughest guy on the job site. They just wanna go home with all their fingers and toes. You know what I mean?

Jill:

Yeah, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's completely noble, normal, and appropriate to want to go home with-

Robert:

Yeah.

Jill:

All of your digits. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Robert:

I think when you look at the world compared to the United States, that's more commonplace. We're not overworking people. We're not putting them in dangerous situations. Then you come back to the United States and it's kinda that ... still that Wild West of we're trying to move towards safety, but there's still a lot of people that are behind on it.

Jill:

Yeah. Interesting. Interesting perspective. Maybe as we round out our time today as someone who was in the trades and decided to go to school for safety, anything you'd say to someone who's maybe needing to make a change in the trades and someone in their world is gonna share this podcast with them?

Robert:

Yeah. Absolute. I would say just start exploring. Go to an OSHA construction breakfast. Go talk to your insurance broker about what their ... that risk manager or loss control person's job is like. See if you can job shadow. I frequently do that with students where they'll just come out and see what a day would be like. I don't think that you can go anywhere in life without exploring your options. I think if you think that you're in a box and you can't get out and you just continue to do your work inside of that box, you're never gonna progress. I think the only way you do that is by exploring, getting experiences. That's really the best option.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), learning into the ... leaning into those mentors and finding them.

Robert:

Yeah.

Jill:

Asking for help. Yeah.

Robert:

Yep.

Jill:

Yeah. Well, Robert, this has been such a joy to have you on today. I also wanted to give a shout out to University of Whitewater for producing so many great safety professionals, including yourself and the mentorship you received from our friend Dr. Loushine. Always appreciate that, too.

Robert:

Yeah. They do a great job over there.

Jill:

Yeah.

Robert:

They continue to improve.

Jill:

Yeah. Thanks for explaining the insurance world to our guests today, and so people can remember that that's really a resource for us to help us do our jobs.

Robert:

Yeah. Absolutely. Glad to provide some light on that subject.

Jill:

Yeah. Thanks so much, Robert. Appreciate it.

Robert:

Thank you.

Jill:

Thank you all so much for joining in and listening today. Thank you for the work that you all do to make sure your workers, including your temporary 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.