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#25: The singing safety professional

May 8, 2019 | 1 hour 2 minutes 47 seconds

Podcast series host Jill James welcomes Josh to the show. Now practicing safety on behalf of a large civil constructor, Josh’s unlikely path started as a teenage tagalong on his father’s construction sites, a go-fer. When his college pursuit of music scholarship was sidetracked by romance and relocation to the West Coast, he found familiar work back in the construction industry. While seeking heavy equipment certification, Josh caught on with a safety consulting firm and threw himself into learning the OSHA regs. Today, he’s also an authorized OSHA Outreach program trainer. You’ll learn the difference between a “qualified” and “competent” person, and why calling OSHA is a smart move when you’re stuck.

Transcript

Jill:

This is the Accidental Safety Pro, brought to you by Vivid Learning System and the Health and Safety Institute. This is episode number 25. Wow, we are halfway to 50, and we have a guest today who gets to be that number 25, which is awesome.

My name is Jill James, Vivid's Chief Safety Officer, and today I'm joined by Josh, who is a safety professional at Garney Construction, which is a heavy civil construction company. And Josh is joining us from California today.

Josh, welcome to the show.

Josh:

Greetings.

Jill:

So Josh, construction industry. We have not had a lot of people on the podcast from the construction trades yet, so I am thrilled that you are here, so thank you.

Josh:

Thank you for having me on here. It's kind of cool.

Jill:

So, Josh, I am interested to hear your story like we hear everyone else's, of how did you get into safety? And it sounds like you have a pretty interesting journey. I know we've spoken just a little bit, and I can't wait to hear more about the experiences that you've had along the way. But where did you start out? What were those first jobs, even before safety? What's the background in Josh's story?

Josh:

Well, that's a good question. There's a lot of stuff, a lot background to that and how I came to be in the safety business, and it's a complete accident like your title of your podcast.

It all started when I was young. My dad's always been in the construction industry, building houses and stuff, so I kind of started young, going to his job sties as a kid, and watching him do his thing, whether it's managing the work or actually performing work at the same time.

Started at like 14, 15 years old. I'd go to his job sites and kind of start with housekeeping and cleaning up, or basically the job sites and subcontractors, messes and things like that.

Jill:

So he was putting you to work.

Josh:

He's putting me to work, and I appreciate it now. Back then I didn't really like it too much because I wanted to play sports all day and pretty much that was it. So yeah, he'd bring me to work, and we'd go early, 6:30 in the morning. Summertimes were the same, so I didn't get any breaks in the summer besides being away from school. But like I said, I look back on it now, and I'm pretty thankful because it kind of made me who I am, well-rounded I guess you can say. Not old-fashioned, but my dad's kind of an old-fashioned construction guy.

Anyway, to kind or wrap that up into a nutshell, 14, 15 years old doing that, kind of naturally transitioning into the building aspect of things and operating equipment and stuff like that, to kind of help out as much as I can.

Jill:

And was your dad paying you? Or this is part of being part of family.

Josh:

It was both. It was kind of an interesting relationship because he didn't want it to come out of his pocket, or come out of his company's pocket to pay me as a 15-year-old kid without a work permit, because back then you had to have a work permit at 15 and stuff like that. But anyway.

Jill:

Sure. Sure, sure, sure.

Josh:

You can see where we're going with all this stuff.

Jill:

I can. Yeah. You have a big body of evidence of why you're doing safety.

Josh:

Exactly. But anyway, from there I started framing walls, doing drywall, digging out utility lines and things like that, and kind of being the jack of all trades, nonunion, and making things happen I guess you could call it, instead of being really safety-minded.

Jill:

Right. Getting it done.

Josh:

Getting it done. That's kind of the mentality in construction, and it still kind of is. And I've listened to most of your podcast before, and a lot of people talk about the struggle of not having an actual place where you can learn specific construction safety, or there's not really an institute, or a school for that, so it's really kind of like a general thing, occupational health and safety. Well, that kind of covers anything in occupational health, so if you work for somebody, you're going to be covered in that training, or that school, or whatever.

So from that point forward, just kind of getting heavily involved in building and stuff like that, mostly residential stuff. And again, it was nonunion.

Jill:

And by this time, have you branched out past to where your dad was working, and you're working at different companies?

Josh:

Yeah, yeah. I was working for different developers, and still within relationship with his company and stuff like that. I had my dad to thank to get my foot in the door in construction for that.

Jill:

Yeah, right? I think the same thing for me, by a way of just being, I don't know, maybe adapt at industry and how things worked. My dad wasn't in the construction trades. He was in the printing industry. And his printing factory was half a block away from my elementary school, and when he worked the swing shift and he got off work the same time my school got out, I would walk over to the factory and walk right into the factory floor, unheard of.

Like, I'm an elementary kid and I'm walking up to the whirling printing presses, and I knew all the people that worked on the presses. I knew there were seven press men as they were called, and they were all men, and I knew all their job functions, and I saw what they did, I saw the injuries that they had. I thought that felt sad, you know, when we were talking about somebody's finger got caught in the stitcher. Like, wow, that's bad.

But as a really young person, opened my eyes to what a piece of the American workforce, let's put it that way, and I wasn't fearful of industry, but respectful of it and the people that did the work. And I'm sure that's what your eyes were seeing as a 14 and 15-year-old kid starting out too, and it just grew and expanded from there, right?

Josh:

Yeah. And a lot of the times, when you're trying to get things done, or like you said, you walk into a manufacturing facility, and you're like, this is kind of where I grew up. You kind of get used to it and if someone doesn't tell you something, you kind of don't know what you don't know. So you keep going. And I'm sure I did a lot of things that I probably shouldn't have done on the safety side of things.

Jill:

Right, because we didn't know.

Josh:

Yeah, exactly.

Jill:

Yeah. So what happens next? You're working in the construction trades. How long did that last, and then what happened?

Josh:

Probably throughout high school to early college, before I left to Kansas City to go college... actually I went to college initially for music, but ended up going for my occupational health and safety degree. And I'm currently trying to get that down right now, trying to finish that up.

Jill:

So, music. What do you play? Is it an instrument, or vocals, or theory? What is it, Josh?

Josh:

Well, it all started, I was in a rock band when I was 17 and kind of just self-taught and try to do the rock and roll thing. It kind of transformed and evolved into a love, and I was like, "Well, maybe I should just hone this craft because I'm getting pretty good at it and maybe I should know what I'm doing, translate this into paper, or translate it into something that understandable."

So that's one of the reasons why I wanted to do that, and then I traveled in a band across the US. And that was fun, and it was also a chock-full of really interesting experiences.

Jill:

Right. Different safety exposures.

Josh:

Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Anyway. Music, vocals, I tried all.

Jill:

So do you still dabble in that?

Josh:

Yeah. Every so often, I have a guitar at home, and I still strum and stuff like that.

Jill:

The singing safety professional.

Josh:

Yeah, maybe I should incorporate that into my toolbox meetings.

Jill:

Right?

Josh:

See how that works.

Jill:

Write some lyrics around wearing personal protective equipment.

Josh:

Yeah. There you go.

Jill:

That's awesome, right? I mean, maybe no one's done that before. You may have just found a niche market.

Josh:

Maybe. Yeah, it's the different side of the brain, so maybe it will work. Who knows?

Jill:

Right? It will appeal to certain audiences for sure.

Josh:

Yeah.

Jill:

All right. So you went to college for music. You made a shift though, so what's going on then?

Josh:

I had my breaks in college, and I'd go back home and visit and do some work with my dad and stuff like that. I happened to meet my wife while I was in college, and she was in California, and I'm in Kansas City, so as a guy who is in love you travel to the place where your wife is in.

Jill:

Follow your heart.

Josh:

Follow your heart, exactly. Exactly what it was. So I kind of stopped doing the college thing for music then, and went back home, and started doing some construction in the unions, being at Operating Engineers, and operating heavy equipment and stuff like that, trying to make a living, and trying to figure out what I want to do.

And that's kind of actually where the safety started, because my gap between breaks in college and going back home and to actually finally going back home to California from Kansas City, it stirred some question for construction companies, and even the general industry, they were getting pretty strict with, okay, you had to be certified this, you had to have this training, you had to have an OSHA 10 or a 30.

So to me, no one ever told me anything about it. I know that you would have to understand the different risks of different scopes of work and stuff, but I didn't really take into account... I didn't even know what a job hazard analysis was. I'd just show up to work and hop in my piece of equipment, or grab my bags of tools and go to work, you know what I mean?

Jill:

Yeah.

Josh:

Not really having any communication, or like a meeting with a supervisor, or somebody, leading a cause to make sure we go home safe at the end of the day.

So it all basically came to a point where the company I was working for told me, "Hey, you need to go get re-certified on your telehandler." So I said, "Okay. I might as well go do it if I want to work." And I go to this safety training company who does these third party forklift certifications for class seven.

So I went there, and I was doing my training, sitting in a classroom, and then doing the hands-on portion, and got to talk in with the trainer, and he was like, "Hey, would you ever be interested in being an instructor for equipment and heavy equipment and stuff?" And I said, "Does it pay better than what I'm paid right now?" So that's kind of the turning point to be honest. Pardon me for a second.

Jill:

Yeah.

Josh:

That was a turning point for me, because I didn't realize, oh, I actually have to understand why we do things that we do in certain ways to help us go home at the end of the day. And from that point, I put the flag up and put it in the ground and I said, "Yes, I'll do it."

Jill:

And it pays more. Did it pay more?

Josh:

And it paid more. Yeah, surprisingly. And it was a little closer to home. I didn't have to travel from my house to San Francisco, or the North Bay.

Josh:

To kind of give you an understanding of what that looked like, was every day I'd leave the house at 4:00 AM or sometimes 3:30, to make it to San Francisco, only 80, 85 miles from my house, but sometimes it would take...

Jill:

That's a pretty big drive every day.

Josh:

Yeah. It would take some time. I'll just put it that way.

Jill:

Yeah. And California traffic is no joke.

Josh:

Yeah. No, you're right. And sometimes I'd take me four hours to get home, leaving the city at one o'clock or two o'clock even.

So it was more stable I guess you can say, and knowing I'm going to go every day, so I liked that. And that was another reason why I chose to do it. But what that meant for me was, I'm going to have to start learning all these rules and regulations, and learn about what OSHA is, and who they are, and how things work.

As you learn and go through those things, you learn different topics, you find out that there's so much stuff that you don't know. And I still kind of have that mindset. Every time I learn something now, it's like, man, there's so much stuff that I don't know [crosstalk 00:13:59].

Jill:

Yeah. I think that's kind of the beauty of our professional practices. It's not really an occupation like it's stagnant, because there's just always something new, something to learn that we didn't know because we didn't know, like you said before, or something that changed just in industry.

Josh:

Agree.

Jill:

So were you focused on heavy equipment certifications, that kind of safety? Is that first job, it's that what it was about?

Josh:

Yes. So the first year was learning the OSHA rules in construction, about operating heavy equipment, and forklifts, and cranes, and things like that. And as you learn and read through the standards and stuff, you tend to start reading more standards that don't really have similar application, but it's in the book so you read it.

And the company that I worked for happened to be a consulting firm that did a plethora of things to staffing safety professionals for companies, or doing compliance training, or like we talked about before the podcast, qualified person and competent person, trainings and things like that.

So naturally, my boss challenged me to start learning, and he would send me to different trainings so that I could be qualified to understand and tell people and train people about the stuff that's in the standard.

Jill:

Right. So Josh, I want to break from your story for just a second, because you brought up two terms that people ask about often, and it's what is a competent person and what is a qualified person, and how are those different.

And there are terms that are woven into the OSHA regulations, and people get really concerned about them. Like, "What does competent mean? Do I get a certificate? Is it something on a piece of paper? What does qualified mean? Who is qualified? How do I find a qualified person?" Can you kind of run through what those terms are and what they mean? And go ahead and frame it in the construction trade. That would be beautiful.

Josh:

Yeah, I'd be glad to. Qualified OSHA's standards basically state, for construction and also general industry, but in construction specifically, being a qualified person is you have a recognized degree or training, and you're qualified, and you have the knowledge to understand the scope and application and the duty to protect employees and people in the workplace. Doesn't necessarily make you competent. So you have all the attributes of someone who's been learnt I guess you could say, as a qualified person.

And then you get to competent person, where really, in a nutshell, the person or the people you work for are the ones that tell you, "You are the competent person for our company." I mean, you could have the ability to recognize hazards, and recognize what you need to do to change those and eliminate those hazards, and then stop work, which is exactly actually the definition of a competent person. But your company has to basically deem you.

For instance, in my situation, I'm a qualified person to teach OSHA 10 and 30-Hour in the construction industry, because I went through a training, I went to prerequisites, to get a certification I guess you could call it.

Jill:

Yes, it is. You're an authorized trainer.

Josh:

Correct. So in order for me to be an OSHA outreach trainer that's authorized to do this, I had to go through that training, so that made me a qualified person to do this. In my company, it's kind of a different thing there, but my company for instance, I guess you could say has said, "Okay, well, you are a competent person for OSHA 10 and 30-Hour," even though there's not really anything in the standard that talks about the 10 and 30-Hour training for that, but maybe something more specific, like what OSHA calls out for fall protection if you have fall risks, you have to have a competent person in fall protection on that project at all times.

So that means Garney Construction, or X, W, Z construction has said, "James," or, "Josh..." or whoever it is, "... is our competent person, and he's qualified, and here's how we prove it."

Jill:

Yeah, right. And has the ability, like you said, a work stoppage.

Josh:

Correct.

Jill:

If there is a hazardous situation, or an unsafe work practice, that that competent person has the authority through their company, to stop that work activity.

Josh:

Exactly. Exactly. So that's the main thing.

Jill:

And that word is also woven, competent person, within the excavation regulation as well.

Josh:

Yeah.

Jill:

What you deal with in your construction company too.

Josh:

Yeah. That's every day. Basically it's 90% of what we do.

Jill:

Right. So back to your story, you're doing training, you're doing competent person and qualified person instructing and training. What's happening with your career now? What's the next phase of your story?

Josh:

So I'm teaching heavy equipment, and like I said earlier, they kind of rose you into other subjects, especially since the company I worked for was so broad in their training, in construction and as well as the general industry.

So I learned eventually over the four years I was there, I learned construction and general industry, and was a consultant myself, and I'd go on to job sites, or go to a warehouse or manufacturing plant, and do job inspections, and audits, and trainings and things like that. So that required me to understand all the different scopes within the 1926 and 1910 Standard. So it wasn't just construction anymore at that moment, it was also general industry.

Jill:

Right. So when you were doing and getting your feet wet if you will in the regulations, specific to have the equipment, were you rewinding in your head thinking, "Man, in the times before I had any training and I was in a dozer, or a backhoe, or whatever it was, crap." Were you thinking in your head like, "What I didn't know."

Josh:

Yeah. There was a lot of those and you'll hear me laugh, when I laugh it's mostly like I'm agreeing with what you're saying. It's like you laugh now, but at the moment it wasn't funny at all. But yeah, so answer your question, man, oh my gosh, so many things that I can look back on and just say, "What in the world was I thinking?"

Jill:

Because you didn't know.

Josh:

Right, but at the same time, there should be some common sense there, right?

Jill:

Well, we can't legislate common sense, that's for certain.

Josh:

Not at all, not at all, but you hope, right?

Jill:

Right.

Josh:

You hope.

Jill:

Right, we can hope. That's why training is so vital. Yeah. Please keep going with your story.

Josh:

Okay. So with this consulting firm and doing all that stuff, I'm liking it, really getting in the groove and understanding how things work, and I really enjoy the construction part of it, and helping people understand the standards and how to apply it to their trades, which is in my opinion one of the biggest challenges for any type of work, is you have a set of rules, and trying to interpret those rules and then administering those rules in a way that's readily understood by the people working at your company, or different companies, especially as a consultant.

I mean, there's so many people that you run into, and it's not like you are dedicated to Garney Construction or whatever construction company it is, and you could get to know them, and learn their culture, and learn how they react to things and how they understand and receive information.

So it's a big challenge. I mean, consultants kind of got a hard job to be honest. Not saying that a dedicated safety professional doesn't, and they got their work cut out for them for real, but I wanted to end up making a much bigger difference than just being a source of information and just making recommendations I guess you could say, as a consultant.

Jill:

Yeah. So you talked about how you bridge the gap if you will, between standards and trades, the regulatory tech says this, but how to I make it real in the minds of the trade. How do you do that? I mean, I know that you've told me before that you feel like that's one of the things that you do well at. Can you give maybe for our audience some examples of how you do that, that they may learn from you?

Josh:

Yeah, I could try to give some examples that might help, but everybody's got a different situation so this information might not apply for your particular workplace, but for me, having the understanding and being a tradesman in the field and knowing how people's minds work when you're focused on getting your work done really, and then crossing over that bridge, we can call it to understanding the scope of work and applying different laws and regulations, and standards I guess you could call it.

So I think I got a little blessing to be in the field and do things the wrong way I guess you could say. It's not the best way to learn, but it's a way to learn. So I kind of had a better understanding of how the mindset was in the field I guess you could say. And as you know, I mean, your background with Federal OSHA being an enforcement officer, was it in inspection? I'm not sure.

Jill:

Yes, it was.

Josh:

Okay. There's a lot of things that are subject to interpretation because that's basically the definition of your understanding, is it's a subject to your interpretation. And there's also a lot of things that are just black and white, and it is what it is. You follow this, and that's the only way you do it.

Well, there's a lot of things in construction, and I'm sure the same in general industry, that you kind of have to stand on a fence so to speak, in order to get a job done, if that makes any sense. So bridging the gap between what the rule says and how you have to get it done, can kind of be in conflict with each other, so you have to come up with a plan, and kind of have a sitdown, or a toolbox, or a tailgate, or tailword meeting, whatever you want to call it, and recognize the hazards and follow the hierarchy of controls and adhere to the standards as best as you can, to the way that your company interprets it.

And there's a lot of resources out there. I mean, OSHA's got their consultation people, and they're happy to answer their phones. I've called them many times, countless times, to help me understanding things and stuff like that.

Jill:

I think that's really powerful that you just shared that little nugget, because there are so many people who are still so fearful of calling OSHA and asking questions.

Safety professionals, some are absolutely afraid, but their employers are more afraid. Like, "You did what? You can't do that." Like, "They're going to be right out here." And nothing could be further from the truth, because you have to have probable cause in order to do an inspection and making a phone call to ask a question does not give OSHA probable cause.

So I think it's really great as someone in the construction trades for you to admit like, "When I need help, one of my resources is to actually call the horse's mouth," so, good work.

Josh:

It's something that kind of took me a little while to do, because there was that fear like you're talking about of, wow, maybe they're going to use this information against me or something, which it totally not the case at all in my experience.

Jill:

Plus you never have to say who you are or where you work when you call.

Josh:

Exactly. And the interesting thing is they don't ask either. I mean, every time I've called them, they just are a wealth of information really, and if they don't know, they answer to the question and they ask you for your information and they try to get back to you on a timely basis. It's pretty cool. I mean, it really is a good resource.

That's not just the only one, but you have other colleagues and horizontal trades. Those are people that have experience and have done it, and walked the path that you are on before you. Those are really huge things that we need, for me at least, in the construction industry, help with, because you don't want to I guess reinvent the wheel I guess people like to call it.

Jill:

Yeah, exactly.

Josh:

Well, I hope that helps and I hope that kind of gives an idea of it. But to give a personal example, for me, as a tradesman, I'd be in an excavator, and I'd be digging out a trench line, and doing it open cut so I can protect the people that are going to be going into the trench and stuff like that, and I'd have safety people that would come out to me and kind of have that safety cop mentality, like you're talking about... my brain's going off, "Here comes so-and-so. I wonder what they're going to say now."

And there was complete understanding of why you would think that, because every time that person would come out, it would just be spouting this rule and saying, "No, you can't do this, you can't do that." And the worst part of it was there was no solutions or team mindset in trying to fix it.

Sometimes I'd be sitting in my excavator and just like I don't even want to work, I don't even want to pull this lever, because he's just going to say something else. So there'd be times where I say, "Hey, come in the rig with me and show me what you want me to do."

Jill:

Right, exactly.

Josh:

And they wouldn't, unfortunately. I get it, but... you get what I mean, right?

Jill:

I do, I do get what you mean, and I'm picturing the way that I did my job when I was with OSHA on... using what you've just set up with an excavation is a great one. I would get on an excavation scene, and number one, I'd have to figure out who's that competent person and how am I going to approach this situation first. So that was always the first question as the safety person on the scene, is who's my competent person. And we were talking about that earlier. And then often it was the operator, whoever was actually digging that whole.

And I don't know if that's common, but it seemed like it was common when I was doing inspections. So rather than coming at it from an accusatory standpoint of my eyeballs think that this is not assured properly, or you're not using a trench box and maybe you could be, so I would begin by asking what kind of soil are we dealing with here, and that would lead into the rest of the questions I would ask.

So the competent person, if they said, "I'm dealing with a class C soil," "I'm doing a class B," and then I would say, "Okay. Well, then how did you determine that? What test did you use?" And depending on their answer, which sometimes was, "I didn't do any. I don't know. I've been doing this for 20 years and I know what I'm doing, and it's a C," or, "It's a B. I know it is," but if they said, "I did this and I did that," I'm like, "Okay. Then let's talk about what that would mean for assuring. Let's get out a tape measure. Can you help me with it?"

Like, "Let's measure it together so that we're all verifying this at the same time. What's the width of your bucket so that we can try to guess what the bottom width is." And we'd go from there.

So then that's sort of the way that I would use in bridging that the standard, the regulation says this, and what the trades are doing is this, so how far off are we? Are we right, or do we need to do something more with this? So in that situation that you put out, that's how I would deal with it, and I guess in other regulatory senses it would be, I would say, "The regulation says this, so what that means so you and your work environment is this. And here's what could happen if we weren't doing it this way, or it's not right right now. So here's the risk that puts you at."

So even though the rule book says this, let's try to figure out how do we practically give an example of what that means for you in your life right now. And usually that would work, or people would say, "Oh yeah, because that one time I got a shock when I did this." And, "Oh, okay, that's why. That makes sense."

That didn't always work. It wasn't like the crystal ball and everybody's eyes went, "Oh, you're the smartest safety person ever." It didn't always happen that way, but it was a safe way to walk into the conversation without someone coming at you and saying, "You're just the safety cop."

Josh:

Right. That's key, extremely key. Everything you just said is actually common practice for me here, at the company I work for, is some very much team effort, team mindset rather than just saying this is what it is and this is the way you have to do it. There's some moments when there's egregious action, or reaction to something that needs to be addresses.

Jill:

You need to be that safety cop in those moments.

Josh:

Yeah, exactly. But I think, like we talked about earlier, bridging the gap between the field and standard, meeting people where they are, understanding your audience and your delivery. So basically everything you just said is how I usually bridge gap. That's one way. And you want to make your program a living and breathing program instead of just checking off a box, "So you've been trained and we'll see you in a couple years on this training again."

Jill:

Yeah, right? Exactly.

Josh:

You know?

Jill:

Yeah, it doesn't work that way.

Josh:

No, not at all.

Jill:

Well, it ought not.

Josh:

It shouldn't, yeah.

Jill:

Yeah. So Josh, you had mentioned earlier education and background, and I know you said that you started college, but I know you came back to it. So let's talk about kind of your educational background and what that path was, and where you're at now.

Josh:

Yeah, I'd be glad to. So after high school, I went to a trade school really I guess you could call it. [inaudible] Boston Reed College for health care safety, and they kind of run you through blanket programs like, this is what medical systems have to go, this is what nurses have to go through, this is the risks, this is the understanding of their scope, and this is what doctors have to go through. So kind of bridging the gap in that area. I mean, that's a little bit different-

Jill:

Interesting.

Josh:

Yeah. It's interesting.

Jill:

Yes, so you went from construction trades in your young childhood and young adulthood, and then all of a sudden you switched over to health care.

Josh:

Yeah. It's a crazy journey, just because I'm the type of person that I like to think a lot about, okay, is this particular type of work the one I'd be around in the next 50 years?

Jill:

Right. You wanted to do your own successful planning.

Josh:

Yeah, exactly.

Jill:

"Is this sustainable?"

Josh:

Exactly. I think there's going to be sick people, or there's going to be people, people are going to get sick or going to need help. And then the people that work in those facilities are going to need assistance in making sure that they're safe. So kind of took a second step instead of saying I want to be the person who helps the sick people, I want to be the person who helps the people who help the sick people, I guess you could say.

Jill:

Right. So what did you do with it?

Josh:

I did an internship with a I would say hospital, more of a clinic rather. Worked six months at a Kaiser Permanente. I'm not sure if you guys have that back East.

Jill:

Yes.

Josh:

So I did that for six months. And I worked in pediatrics, I worked in adult medicine, orthopedics, and sometimes had my walks into the surgery, in the operating rooms. We'd do our audits and walks and talks to the people, the doctors, the medical assistants, nurses, anesthesiologists, and kind of figure out what their days look like and their risks, and ask them questions about what they're concerned about, so we can get a good collection of data to kind of, "Okay, let's sit down and write down the risks of each trade and how can we apply a safe rule, or a safe standard according to a horizontal rule that's set in place."

You can kind of put that as an OSHA thing. You have your OSHA rules, or your federal, or your state rules, and then you have your standards as a company, that you tend to lean towards a more safer practice, or best practice rather.

Jill:

Sure. How did that feel for you? I mean, you had been at the controls of heavy equipment and all of a sudden you're in health care. I mean, that's a really pretty big shift. What was happening in your mind career-wise at that time? Did you miss the trades, or-

Josh:

Missed it. Yeah.

Jill:

You did? Okay.

Josh:

Missed it too much. I still miss it.

Jill:

It's in your bones. Okay.

Josh:

Yeah, it's in my bones. I mean, I don't know what it was as a kid playing video games and stuff like that, translating that to pulling levers and operating stuff. I don't know, I guess I thought I was pretty good. I mean, there's definitely better operators and tradesman out there than I am, but...

Jill:

It is an absolute art.

Josh:

Yeah, for sure it is.

Jill:

It is an art. Marvel I loved watching, especially backhoe operators, or crane operators. It's so intricate. What they're doing is so intricate with this massive piece of equipment. I just loved being on a construction site just to watch that art.

Josh:

Yeah. And like you said, I do miss it and that's why I'm at where I'm at right now. I deal with 250,000 pound heavy equipment every day and walk in our job sites and making sure people are safe on those and whatnot.

Jill:

So how long this did this health care gig last for you before you went, "I miss construction."

Josh:

It was six months. It really was. It was that. And it didn't go any further than that. My mom worked at a Kaiser, and she told me what the benefits were like, so a part of my decision-making had a lot to do with future benefits and stuff like that.

Jill:

Yeah, of course.

Josh:

I'm sure that's the reason why we all do job switches, or career switches, or-

Jill:

It often is.

Josh:

But to kind of answer your question...

Jill:

Education, yeah.

Josh:

Yeah. That was the reason why I made the switch. It was just a suggestion, and I did the schooling for two years, and tried it out. And if I didn't like it, which... it's not like I didn't like it. It's just it wasn't for me.

I was used to being outside and in my atmospheres and stuff like that that would be ever changing. You're in a hospital or a clinic, or let's say in the general industry for instance, there's a lot of repetitive motion and stuff like that, you don't really see much of what's within that box I guess you could call it. But anyway, I just like being outside.

Jill:

Yeah. Excellent. So then you came back to the construction trades and found yourself in a consulting role for a while, and getting your feet wet. And I think you had mentioned earlier that, are you back in college now?

Josh:

Yeah. So I'm back in college, I'm doing my occupational health and safety bachelor's in science and trying to finish that up through Columbia Southern University, which is an online platform, and it's kind of at your own pace.

I figured out I could do that when I started going to all the OSHA Training Institute training classes that they had, and they had basically recommended those things through the instructors and things like that.

Jill:

So you spent some time at one of the OSHA training institutes as well, getting some additional training.

Josh:

I spent a lot of time at OTI centers.

Jill:

That's pretty intense.

Josh:

Yeah, they can be. It depends on what class you're taking and stuff, so it cam be pretty cumbersome if you're not used to sitting in a classroom for five days.

Jill:

So people who are listening, in case they don't know what we're talking about, OSHA in the United States is divided into a certain number of regions, and I should know this off the top of my head, but I feel like it's... no, I think there's more than five. Anyway, divided into different regions, and each region of the country then has what's called an OSHA Training Institute, a center if you will, where not only OSHA investigators go for specific training, but people who are not government employees like Josh, can go and learn specific aspects of safety.

For example, I've had a week-long training on scaffolding, or a week-long on just excavation, or machine guarding, electrical safety, those kind of things. So if you're a safety professional or doing that work right now and want additional training, know that you can find the OSHA Training Institute in your region, and you can actually take classes there.

So Josh, I'm glad that you've done that. At least I enjoyed that training. I mean, like you said, it's intense and it's a week-long, but where else would've I had the opportunity to actually build scaffolding in a safe environment. That was pretty cool. I really enjoyed that training.

Josh:

Yeah. A lot of the trainings are hands-on too, like you're saying, so that's a key to bridge the gap between standards in safety and showing people how it's done the safe way.

Jill:

Yeah. So Josh, how long have you been at Garney?

Josh:

It's been almost a year now here at Garney. I was also at the general contractor before this, who specialized in concrete, construction, and tilt-ups and stuff like that, and building schools and hospitals.

Before that, kind of heavy and kind of general construction safety I guess you could call it. And now it's really specified for the type of work that we do here at Garney, is work for municipalities and developers basically, and Federal Government. So it ranges from plant construction, whether you're building water storage tanks, pump stations and water treatment facilities from the ground up, we're also doing the pipelines for water. So all the water that you get in your toilets and your sink, Garney helps it get there essentially, and then treat it and recycle it essentially.

Jill:

So what's the safety picture like at Garney? I know that you're pretty proud of the work that's happening there with regard to safety, so talk about what it's like.

Josh:

Yeah. It's a really great culture honestly. One of the best ones I've been a part of. First of all, there's a really huge agreement on the culture to be actually safe. Because a lot of people say, "Oh yeah, safety is our number one, and safety is at the forefront of what we do," and you really don't know until you see it. And one of the things that I kind of lived my life by is, "If you know it, you show it."

Jill:

That's right. That's right.

Josh:

Like I said, you don't know until you actually see what it's like yourself and you experience it. It's been a really cool year of learning how healthy and how proactive this company wants to be with their safety program, and the people they let in I guess you could say.

Because a lot of the times, companies will want, "Okay, this is our safety professional, this is our group of safety professionals, and they've been trained. They've gone to school," and that's who they let in. And sometimes, or a lot of the times, it's important to get the people that actually do the work in on those sessions, or involved in sculpting the culture that you're trying to create, which Garney's done a really killer job of doing.

We have our committees and it consists of safety professionals and executives, as well as field craft, superintendents, foremen and labor hands. We get everybody's hand in the pot. If my suggestion sounds really cool and it's a really good idea in my head, and all the other safety guys had, and the guy from the field says, "Oh, I don't know if that really would work, so let's figure out another way we can do this." So I think that's one thing Garney does really well.

Jill:

It builds the culture.

Josh:

Yeah. Yeah. And it's a lot of repetition. It's not a one and done, okay, train you on this topic, and like I said earlier, in another two years you'll get another training. They really want to focus on making the program living and breathing.

Jill:

Woven into the company's fabric.

Josh:

Exactly. And getting everybody involved with safety, because everybody should be a safety person in my opinion.

Jill:

Yeah, right. Right. And you had said that what you led when you talked about what... I asked you the question what's safety like at Garney and you said, "It's the culture." And you didn't lead with, "Well, we do this kind of training, we do that kind of training, or we have this many policies, or I check, check, check all the boxes off," which obviously are parts of what safety professionals have to do, but what you put your finger on immediately is the culture, and you didn't describe it as posters hanging on a wall.

You didn't describe it as slogans that you live by, but you went right to the heart of giving an example of how you get multiple voices to tables so to speak, so say okay, this is how we think that we can do this kind of work. Now, what do you all think? Is it going to work? And if it's not going to work, then how do we modify, pivot, change what are everybody's ideas? Kind of dump them all out on the table, and like, how can we construct this?

Josh:

Yes. Very good. And that's kind of a Garney way I guess you could call it. We call it Bleeding Blue, because that's our colors, the blue. But the whole mindset behind it is, someone, and I don't know who said this, but somebody within the company at one point said the phrase, "Get somebody in the boat with you," and it really resonated with me.

I like to go fish, I like to do that once in a while, so I guess that kind of helped me understand, okay, well, if you get someone in boat with you, that's another pair of eyes to help you spot what you can't see. So that's the precedent of that team mindset, is getting somebody in the boat with you, because if you don't, you're going to miss a lot of things. More people are better than one when you're trying to figure out a solution.

Jill:

Yeah. And tell me more about the Bleeding Blue. What does that mean in your company?

Josh:

You live and breathe the culture. With our company, it helps a lot because 99% of our company, I would say close to 100% really. I mean, 99.9% of our company is employee-owned, so people get a buy-in, you get a stock or a stake in the company and you can literally go out to the job site and say, "This is my work. This is my..." So there's a real ownership. I guess that's what it is, an ownership and understanding.

Jill:

Yeah, literal ownership.

Josh:

Yeah, exactly. And it helps you want to be involved with the different programs and quality and safety and making sure everything is a well-oiled cog in this giant machine that we're in.

So Bleeding Blue for Garney is, you're employee-owner, you live and breathe the program, you are a constant assistant when it comes to helping your colleagues or your brother or sister out in the field, "Hey, look out for this," or, "Let's change this." And you're constantly pointing out things we could do better, and making suggestions and being involved really.

I mean, isn't that what it means? You're all encompassed, you're heavily involved. So that's what it means for us, is number one philosophy, safety, and making it leaving and breathing, and then building the bench I guess you could call it, having a succession.

Jill:

Right, right. And then getting somebody in the boat with you.

Josh:

Exactly.

Jill:

Yeah. And you stretched that into people home's as well, your employees' homes, right? Talk about that.

Josh:

It's a new thing we're trying. It's kind of a California thing right now and then I'm going to see how it works, but it's called Safe at Home, and basically the idea is safety doesn't stop at the end of your shift. It's continuous.

Basically you're not compartmentalizing your life I guess, in the way of, okay, this is work and this is home, or something like that. And people like that, which is fine, but they kind of help with the culture we're trying to build here, having people have a continuous, I guess you could call it a safety angel on your shoulder.

But HOME stands for something, and it has to do with occupation, but it's Healthful Occupational Management Environment. So we call it Safe at Home and we kind of apply that to our homes and we ask people to take a picture of this, something you see outside the house, and how can we apply this in a training, or how we can we apply this in the toolbox, because you're basically going to work to support your livelihood, and to make it back home.

So that's the main thing of it, is you want to be safe so you can go home. But we wanted to continue and it's not like we're requiring you to do that because you can't really do that as an employer, your shift done, you clock out, you're done for the day.

Jill:

Right. But how does that knowledge transfer to your home environment, which impacts your ability to come back to work, but also, at the same time you're keeping your family safe, and your community safe if you're applying the knowledge that you're learning at work to situations outside of where you're getting your paycheck.

Josh:

Yeah. And that's kind of the idea, and it kind of rolls into people who might have an injury in the job, and safe back to work programs that we have and stuff like that. That's all encompassed within that.

Jill:

Yeah, it makes sense-

Josh:

It's still kind of being... sorry to interrupt you. Go ahead.

Jill:

No, that's fine.

Josh:

It's kind of in the first fruits, and we've rolled it out, and we've introduced it, and we have stickers and things like that, and kind of marketing stuff for it, but I haven't really been here long enough to have it render the results that I want to see yet.

Jill:

Yeah. But it's not that you don't have some bragging rights. I mean, it sounds like... for anyone listening, and you hear that your work is in a heavy civil construction company, that's a high hazard industry. And to hear about what you're doing and that you're actually achieving it, for anyone who's like, "Well, it's construction. This is just how it is. It's dangerous. There's not a lot we can do," you're hearing it here. There's a lot you can do. And I think you've got a pretty decent track record with injuries to brag about as well, don't you?

Josh:

Yeah. I mean, to kind of give you a general, or a broad understanding of it, our experience moderate as a company, and we have close to 2,500 employees, is 0.4.

Jill:

Wow, that's phenomenal.

Josh:

So to kind of give a context of that. Industry standard is 1.0, and I am sure you understand how that all works and stuff.

Jill:

I do.

Josh:

I think that kind of gives you a good understanding of this is actually number one amongst our philosophies here.

Jill:

Yeah. So the number that you just shared is absolutely bragging rights and to be applauded. That's phenomenal. And if you hear Josh saying, "Experienced modification rate" and gave that number of 1 being average, and you're below average and below average in this case means you're saving a lot of money in you're hurting hardly any people. It's phenomenal.

And if you want to know more about that, I'd encourage any of the listeners to just back up one episode to episode number 24, where I have a Worker's Compensation expert explain in great detail what that modifier number means, and what it means for companies. So congratulations to your company. That's really excellent. That's really excellent.

Josh:

Yes. It's cool. I mean, it's cool to be a part of something that's come so far. I mean, I've only been here for a year, but it's a lot of hard work that goes into that, so it's a lot of team effort. So everybody gets the pad on the back.

Jill:

Yeah.

Josh:

Go ahead.

Jill:

Yeah. And you had mentioned a little bit ago about you're seeing the first fruits. Talk more about what means. First fruits with regard to culture, or progress? Or what does that mean?

Josh:

Both really. First fruits basically is the evidence of the program that you're creating, coming to fruition. Here in California at least, we've been a company for five years here, and the rest of the company has got a lot of experience in years.

Garney Construction in California is pretty young, and trying to catch up with the rest of the company, and there's some differences and things like that, but to give you an example, the mindsets are really changing in the field. That's my number one goal here, is if I can change our mindset into evolving what you think is productive, and making it one with being safe, then I'm doing my job.

So changing the mindsets, and seeing it with your own eyes. You're training your guys, you set your expectations, or your girls, whoever it is. You set your expectations and you train, I mean, you show them how to the things and you continue through repetition, training, whether it's through... what I do here is I make my own specific toolbox cards, we call it safety focus cards here, but I make it specifically for our trade and scope instead of just buying a 53-week solution offline, which really doesn't have anything to do with what we do.

But really going out in the field, what's our struggles, what are we doing really well, and how can we make it better? Well, this is what our policy says. Thank God it's safer and we lean on best practice and stuff like that, but how do we do this?

So going out and telling people about... giving the information, like I said, setting the expectation, showing them how to do it, giving them access to people who know more about certain things such as what types of gloves are we going to be using for this scope. That's just a small example.

Jill:

It's the people that are in the boat together with you.

Josh:

Exactly.

Jill:

Yeah. Who knows... yeah.

Josh:

Exactly. So I'm seeing the fruition of that type of work, because I'm going out to job sites and people are wearing their PPE, people are talking to each other, "Hey, why aren't you wearing your safety glasses? Hey, why aren't you wearing your gloves?" Or, "Hey, let's stop, let's think about this. Let's go back to our job hazard analysis, which we have," we call it our STAC meeting or safety task analysis card, and doing it every morning. If the task changes, you're supposed to account for the risks involved with those hazards before you begin the scope.

And a lot of the times, when you're in the field, you just go, go, go, go, and your mind is so focused on one thing, get this work done, and it's not, "Hey, let's stop this and think about it, and then ask someone else what they think about how we can get some solutions about controlling the hazards," and then you apply it. It takes extra time, but it's worth it.

Jill:

It absolutely is. It's like you're taking that breath to say, "Okay, what's the job today? Who's here? Where's everybody going to be? How are we going to do it? And how are we going to do it safely?" Instead of like, okay, pull my car up to the site, get out, start doing whatever. It works better to work as a team.

Josh:

Yeah. No, you're right. You're right. And there's a lot of different examples I can bring up, but the mindset is the biggest one that I'm seeing. Teaching the old dogs new tricks I guess you could call it, and people-

Jill:

And learning from them too.

Josh:

Oh my gosh, I'm learning a lot from those guys. I tell them. I make sure that I tell them that. We're all humans and we all deserve the same amount of respect. Whether you're a manager or you're a field hand, we all deserve the same amount of respect. So if you understand that, I think you'll go far.

Jill:

Yeah, that's exactly it. That's exactly it. Lead with that first. Lead with that first.

Josh:

Exactly.

Jill:

Josh, as we wrap up our time together today, for any safety professionals who are listening, particularly in the construction trades, do you have any advice for people, other than that beautiful nugget that you just dropped five seconds ago?

Josh:

Yeah. Don't isolate yourself, because if you think that you have to do a job on your own, like if you're a part of a construction company that wants to be safe, or whatever company that wants to be safe, and they hire you as the safety professional, don't think that it's just your job. It is everybody's job, everybody has a responsibility of being safe, so it doesn't all fall on that safety professional.

The safety professional is really there as a reference tool, as someone who could, and I guess we talked about a lot during this session, is bridging the gap between standards and application in the field.

But don't isolate yourself. You're not alone. There's a lot of resources out there, whether it's through colleges like Columbia Southern, or OSHA Training Institutes, or podcasts like this, or having a meeting with a group of safety professionals that you've gotten together in your local area, kind of like how ASSP does it, and they do a lot of informational things and stuff like that, which has a lot to do with the Safe at Home thing. I forgot to add that.

There's a lot of resources out there, so you're not alone. And that's kind of how I thought I was alone when I first started this, and it was really overwhelming.

Jill:

That's beautiful. That's beautiful. I love that. Don't isolate yourself. That makes so much sense. Yeah. Thank you for that. Really appreciate it. And Josh, thank you so much for your time today. This has been great. And congratulations on your work and progress at Garney, and I'm interested to keep following your career and the company, and see what happens next with this singing-safety professional. Tell me if you develop something around that. I want to know.

Josh:

I'm going to have to get back to you on that. I have to get some I guess you could call it pride, or some confidence in bringing my guitar to the field and seeing how that works.

Jill:

I want to hear how that works.

Josh:

I'll get some standards on a piece of paper and put a melody to it and see what happens.

Jill:

Beautiful, beautiful. Thank you, Josh. I appreciate it.

Josh:

Yes, ma'am. Thank you for your time and having me on here.

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. And special thanks to our podcast producer, Will Moss.

And remember 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 yourself, please contact me at social@vividlearningsystems.com.

Until next time. Thanks for listening.