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#31: Body after body

July 31, 2019 | 59 minutes 56 seconds

Podcast series host Jill James speaks with former professional boxer, firefighter, and elephant stampede survivor, Tony Taylor. Tony’s start in safety began while serving as a Marine, where he pushed leadership to support injury rate reduction efforts—and won (26% down!). No small feat in the armed services (or any organization, for that matter). As a civilian, he later found work fighting fires for the Department of Defense, where he focused on fire prevention. Eventually, he was orchestrating fire drills and Life Safety training for a major healthcare provider. Today, he’s carrying safety in the construction trades, where there’s a lot of work left to be done. You’ll find a ton of great advice in the episode and a new idea: job shadowing for safety.

Transcript

Jill:

This is The Accidental Safety Pro, brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems, and the Health and Safety Institute. This is episode number 31. My name is Jill James, Vivid's Chief Safety Officer, and today I'm joined by Tony. Tony is the vice president of safety services at Unlimited Safety Solutions in the State of Washington. Welcome to the show, Tony.

Tony:

Hi, thanks for having me.

Jill:

Well, I appreciate you willing to do this with us. But when we talked previously, you said that your daughter was saying, the week before you and I got in touch with each other, "Hey Dad, you should do a podcast," and I'm so glad she pushed you. What was it that she was thinking?

Tony:

Well, we were talking about safety and what should she go to college for, and of course, I did not go to college for safety, and I've been meeting with a lot of different individuals in the field that have went to college for safety. I was just telling her it's a good field to get into, and she's like, "Well, I don't really hear that much about it." I just said, "What do you think is a good way for us to elevate the platform of safety, and make it more sexy?" Which is a really weird word to use. But-

Jill:

I use it all the time for that. Yeah.

Tony:

Right.

Jill:

I mean, because it's not a sexy thing, right?

Tony:

It's not.

Jill:

I mean, nobody thinks safety is like, "Ooh, that's a cool occupation sounding."

Tony:

Right. You're always thinking of the guy or girl hiding behind a truck somewhere with a clipboard on a construction site. She said, "What about if you post pictures of your Instagram of construction sites, and we can edit it, make it look cool?" Then she's like, "Oh my God, you should get on a podcast." I'm like, "Oh no. Nobody wants to talk to me on a podcast about safety. They don't exist." Then you E-mail.

Jill:

Oh, yeah?

Tony:

Yeah, right? Then that's when you contacted me, probably about four or five days later. Here we go.

Jill:

It was the universe, I guess.

Tony:

There we go. The safety gods.

Jill:

Yeah, right. Exactly. Your daughter and I somehow had a universal connection and decided we going make this happen for you.

Tony:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I'm excited. Anytime I can talk about safety, it's let's go.

Jill:

That's awesome. Tony, like everybody on the Accidental Safety Pro, we ask, "How did you get into safety?" Because you just said, "I didn't go to college to get a degree in safety," but somehow I found you. Would you mind sharing your path? How'd this happen for you?

Tony:

Oh yeah. No problem. I joined Marine Corps at the age of 18, and I joined the Marine Corps and all I thought about was, “I want to go to the Marine Corps, I want to shoot guns, and I want to do this, I want to do that, I want to deploy." I did that, and I deployed a few times, and I came back off of a deployment, and I was told that I was getting ready to get a promotion. I was excited, so excited about this promotion. I got promoted, and probably maybe about 20 minutes after I was promoted, they said, "Okay, congratulations, sir. You are now going to be working with our battalion safety officer."

Jill:

Oh-oh.

Tony:

Yes. They didn't ask me. I like to use the phrase [voluntold] I was voluntold to do it. But it wasn't necessarily working as safety, it was basically sitting in an office and recording all the injuries that we had. That's how I got my start, and my boss, I mean, that's what she did too. We just waited for the phone to ring, and we put it into, I think it was called, the [MarTrack] system, and that's how we did it and we failed miserably at it.

Jill:

It was reactive safety too. You were just waiting for something bad to happen.

Tony:

Very reactive. Yeah, and there's a lot of safety programs that are like that today.

Jill:

True. Yeah. Right. What happened next? How long were you in that role, where you were waiting for the phone to ring or somebody to walk in the office?

Tony:

Yeah. I sat in that role for probably about six months. I start realizing that I needed to get out of the office, and I needed to take a little bit more initiative instead of just going what my job description said. My job description was ... it was take out the trash, wait for the phone to ring, wait for an E-mail. What I started doing was I started setting up classes and started investigating the injuries and incidents that we were having, which ... I mean, this is almost 20 years ago.

It's crazy to say that that was almost unheard of in the unit that I was in. They're like, “What are you doing? We need to talk about weapons, we need to talk about PT, which is exercise. We need to talk about all this different stuff, but we're not going to talk about safety. We want you to basically just get your box of crayons and go in the corner and color." So I pushed-

Jill:

Wait for something to happen, yeah.

Tony:

Right, and wait for something to happen. I pushed and pushed and pushed, and I'd gotten to the ears of one of our senior leadership members, and he said, "You know what, Tony or Taylor? Sergeant Taylor, you got the green light, go at it." That's what happened. I went at it, and I started showing up, I start giving classes, I started looking at some of the leading indicators of why these injuries was happening, and just started to basically be the face of safety in our organization. We were able to decline our injuries by 26% that-

Jill:

Wow.

Tony:

... next year.

Jill:

Wow.

Tony:

Which was [crosstalk]

Jill:

You did that by just teaching yourself?

Tony:

Yes. I taught myself. This was before Google was prevalent. I would go on AOL and just look at, what am I supposed to be dealing with as a safety officer? Yeah.

Jill:

I know AOL.

Tony:

Yes. Oh yeah.

Jill:

Some of our listeners will not.

Tony:

But that's all good. Right?

Jill:

Wow. Yes, it is. Yes, it is. Well, that's interesting. So self-taught, and you were actually able to show value in that by decreasing ... What did the Marine Corps say to that? Were they like, "Keep going," or, "let's give him some more stuff," or what happened?

Tony:

Oh, yeah. Well, as you know, the military is always changing, and jobs are always changing around. After I had that assignment, probably about a year and a half, I then went to Japan and went along with my original duties, working in infantry, being a truck driver, which I loathe. Then I got out. I got out of the Marine Corps and I basically came back home to Indiana. I just felt this need for me to be able to get back into society and be able to help. The best way that I found out that that was possible was to go and be a firefighter.

I took a job as a firefighter for the Department of Defense. That's how I ended up here in Washington State. Worked as a firefighter, worked my way up from a firefighter to a lead firefighter to captain, and then fire prevention. The reason why I ended up in fire prevention was because we would go and do the whole, somebody gets injured at a job site, go and pick that person up whether they're alive or not, and basically get the body bags. Then we would go back to the fire station and play Xbox and nobody would think of it. Well, me, I would be thinking, "I wonder why that happened? What could they have done differently?"

Jill:

Yeah. It's like exactly what you had done with the Marine Corps.

Tony:

Yes. Yes. Yes. I loved my job as being a firefighter, but it was just so reactive, and it just ... body after body. That's why I ended up going into fire prevention and safety, to help combat that. I felt like I was very instrumental in helping the Department of Defense with their safety program as well. Well, safety and fire prevention.

Jill:

Interesting. Interesting. How long were you in the fire prevention role?

Tony:

I was in fire prevention for about eight and a half years.

Jill:

Wow.

Tony:

Yap. For about eight and a half years. I was poached by someone ... by a company out in the civilian sector after eight and a half years. I was working in the hospital setting for quite a bit there in Tacoma, and I fell in love with that job as well because you're basically protecting the patients who are vulnerable. Most of them are non-ambulatory, meaning that they can't move. I mean, it was a very interesting job and definitely something that's near and dear to heart.

Jill:

Yeah, that's fascinating. I've just been thinking recently that I wanted to be able to have a safety professional on the podcast who worked in healthcare, and actually put out a request on LinkedIn to see if anybody was in that field or wanted to make a referral, because we haven't ... My goal is to continually represent lots of different industries, and I thought, "Gosh, we don't have healthcare, yet it's really a growing industry. It'd be fun to talk to a safety professional in healthcare." I've done some work as a safety professional in healthcare in my career, and now, this is so great, that you have too. When you were in hospital-

Tony:

Wow. That's the universe.

Jill:

I know it is. It really is. When you were in the hospital setting, were you using ... did they hire you for the fire prevention piece? Were you doing a lots of employee safety stuff or what elements? Because, I mean, hospitals have a lot of different safety elements.

Tony:

Right.

Jill:

What were you working on?

Tony:

Right? I was hired because of my fire background and the fact that I knew somebody that worked at the hospital, and he was the one that picked me up. He was my advocate for getting me in that space, because it was something that I had always wanted to do, was to work in a hospital. I was mainly hired to give classes because that's what's near and dear to my heart, is being able to teach because it's ... Probably in my career, I've sat to maybe a thousand plus different PowerPoints, I sat through a bunch of different lectures.

I mean, even as ... probably last week, sitting through it and just doodling, and just bored out of my mind because that material, I mean, it's good material, very competent instructions. But I was basically brought in to make it more lively, so then I'm not sitting in front of a group, clicking a PowerPoint.

Jill:

You're making it engaging. What training were you doing at the hospital?

Tony:

Doing everything from working, Life Safety 101, doing fire drills. Fire drills was a big deal working for a hospital because you have maybe 2000 people in one building, a couple hundred people in one building. It's really hard to get those people out within the two minutes that you need to be able to get them out in.

Jill:

Sure. We're talking about employees and patients and guests.

Tony:

Yes. Yes. That was a lot of my training, was mainly egress. How do we get these patients out of a building in a timely manner?

Jill:

Gosh, that's a lot. That's a big background in fire prevention, work and life safety like you're talking about. I'm wondering for people listening, who maybe don't know a lot about life safety or even fire prevention, are there some things that you'd like to share just about that or misconceptions or myths or, "Gosh, if I had a magic wand, I wish everybody would do or would know," whatever it is in that field?

Tony:

Right. I would say, being a firefighter, one thing that a lot of people don't talk about is how hard it is. It's really hard being a firefighter. I mean, ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a firefighter. I thought those dudes and girls, they're so cool. They would have all the barbecues, and they would have the big red truck. I like to eat, right?

Jill:

Uh-huh (affirmative)

Tony:

I like trucks. I thought they were cool.

Jill:

You were thinking of the community impact part?

Tony:

Yes, and that's it. That's it. That was all I was thinking about, was that part. One thing that I didn't realize was being a firefighter or being in the fire service, I mean, there's a lot of liability, and a lot of that liability lies on your family. You're away from your family. For me, I worked two days on, two days off, two days on, two days off. Half of the time I was at work, and I missed a lot of different activities, like my daughter's first steps. Yeah, I missed a lot. I missed a lot. A lot of things that we don't think about when we're thinking about going in that career path is, you're meeting your patients on the worst days of their lives, and that takes a toll out on you.

That stuff that I'd never forget. You never forget some of the back calls that you went on, and thinking of that stuff and having that stuff in my brain and having that imagery, is what drives me as a safety professional because ... Yesterday, I'm telling somebody, "Hey, you need to put your eye protection on." They're like, "Oh man, nothing's going to happen. We're just doing punch lists. It's all good." I'm like, "Well, I can tell you a story. You want a story time, let's talk about this now." Firefighters ... I think that's what helped me, is being able to have those stories, to say, "No, I think you're wrong because of this or because of that."

Jill:

Yeah, right? I mean, that's so true. That's so true. I feel exactly the same way, and then sometimes we get ... because we have so many stories and they're not happy ending stories-

Tony:

Right.

Jill:

... that people are like, "Gosh, is everything that you have to talk about have to do with maiming or somebody dying?" My brothers spent over 20 years as a paramedic in major metropolitan areas. He and I happened to be together yesterday, and with another friend. The two of us just started talking about some of our stories of fatalities that he responded to, or serious injuries he responded to, and fatalities or serious injuries that I responded to. He as a paramedic, me as a ... when I was with OSHA.

Our friend was like, "Man, you guys have so many stories." We both said ... Yeah. I mean, that was a big part of the job, and you're so right, Tony, they'd never leave your mind, and you view and walk through the world differently because you see something that is somehow linked to that story, that situation, and you're right back there. That's where this whole prevention piece comes in, because you've seen the worst of it, so you want to talk about it so it doesn't happen to somebody. I think we get a bad rap sometimes, those of us with this large collection of stories where people go, "Do you have to only just talk about all this terrible stuff?"

Tony:

Right. You can't talk about unicorns and rainbows all the time. Right?

Jill:

Right. Yeah, the answer's no.

Tony:

Yeah, oh yeah. It's definitely hard trying to find hat balance. I don't think a lot of safety professionals would agree with me. It's hard to find that balance because you don't want to be that safety professional that's running around like Chicken Little, "The sky's falling in. The sky's falling."

Jill:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right, exactly.

Tony:

You want to be positive. At least some of the time.

Jill:

Exactly. You develop this cadence. At least I have in over 20 years of doing this. It's like, "Okay, what am I going to drop that story? Is this a hill to die on right here? Is this the situation that needs this story to be deployed, or are we just going to let this one ... we're going to correct it in a different way, or not bring it up at all? Yeah.

Tony:

Oh yeah.

Jill:

Yeah. Oh man, that's funny. What else about life safety? You had mentioned fire drills, but what other life safety things do you think you wish people knew since you've did that job for so long? Maybe somebody who's just starting out in the field is trying to figure out like, "What should I do? What should I focus on?"

Tony:

I guess, if I can give my own self advice for when I first started looking into the code, as we call it, I would say don't get intimidated by all the numbers, and do your research. You'd thoroughly want to do your research. I wouldn't necessarily take that book and make a highlight a bunch of different things, and then go out to whoever you're working with and just start quoting that stuff. You definitely don't want to be that professional. You want to know the code, you want to know the information.

But what I think is more importantly is knowing the people. You want to know the people, you want to capture your audience, you want to be able to have that street cred that we talk about in safety. You want to be able to have that, instead of just being that person that's out reciting the code, "NFPA 101 tells us that." No, you don't want to be that person. You want to know your stuff, but more importantly, you want to know your people, and you want to build up that trust. One thing that I've just started doing was going to different seminars that they've had. I've used to be like, "No, I'm not going to go to that stuff, and get all nerded out on safety."

But that's one thing that I definitely would tell my younger self, "Hey, you need to go to those seminars because you sit down and you start networking with different people." You're going to learn something. There's always something you can learn from everybody. Definitely getting into code, definitely getting subscriptions to all the different magazines, and trying to find new and innovative ideas to be able to project everything that you're learning, and talking to the professionals that have been doing it, that have been in the field, that know it.

But, more importantly, what I think what helped me was, for being a younger guy in the fire prevention field was, I was working with individuals that had already retired from the fire service, and you can tell them nothing. I mean, they knew it all. One thing that I tried to make sure that I did, was not to necessary to look at things with the old lens, or it's never going to get fixed. This is just the way that it is. I'm a millennial, so it was just like one of those deals like, "No, I get it. You guys been doing it this way for these many years. There's got to be a way to simplify, there's got to be a way that we can make this easy because I'm not understanding it." That means that there's probably-

Jill:

Somebody else, yeah.

Tony:

Somebody else isn't understanding it. How can we fix it?

Jill:

It sounds like that's how you've approached your career all along. You're not accepting the status quo, and you're looking ahead and like, “Okay, what more can I do here? How can we do this?" It sounds like that's what you did with your job. You're in the hospitals [crosstalk] Yeah.

Tony:

I try. I mean, you know how everybody tells you, "Think outside the box, think outside the box," or, "let's think outside the box." I always tell people, "I don't think I'll sit inside the box because I was never in it."

Jill:

Excellent.

Tony:

Yes.

Jill:

Yeah, excellent. That's great. Good analogy. You were in the hospital for a while, the hospital setting, what had happened with your career after that?

Tony:

Well, I worked in a hospital and that's like ... After working in a hospital for a while, I migrated to Indiana and I was working with a couple of different contractors as far as construction. I just got fascinated and I fell in love with construction because those are all very hard working individuals. They work really hard, but they are under a tremendous amount of pressure to get the job done. For lack of better words or better terms, I mean, safety is one of those things to where I don't think that is always placed as high as it should be. I want to make sure that I carefully choose my words because I got a lot of friends that are construction workers, because I don't want them coming for me. Right.

Jill:

Right, right. Yeah.

Tony:

But I don't think we hold it as high in regard as we should. One thing that I thought about, I was thinking about this the other day. I was walking through one of our construction sites, and I saw someone had the word organ donor on a hard hat. Yeah. I asked him about it, and he was like, "What's the matter?" He's thinking that I was getting upset with him, but I was not upset with him. I was more upset with our industry. There's not too many jobs out there where you go to work ... My wife is in real estate, she's not going to go to work and write organ donor on a name tag. Right?

Jill:

You're right.

Tony:

I get it, but at the same time, I think we need to do a better job, and that's why I've migrated more to construction now, is because I feel like there's a great need.

Jill:

Yeah, right. I mean that is ... having those words and thinking about the industry in that regard is such a throwback to the industrial revolution.

Tony:

Right, right.

Jill:

I mean, when the expectation was that a certain amount of people just would simply die on a job project. It's like the iconic picture of the-

Tony:

Oh God.

Jill:

... New York. You know what I'm talking about?

Tony:

Yes.

Jill:

The New York City iron workers sitting on the high beam, right?

Tony:

Yeah. I had-

Jill:

I mean, and knowing that everybody ... people needed work so badly then that they were literally waiting to replace someone who fell so they could have a job. I mean, organ donor, I mean, they probably didn't even have anything ... they didn't have organ. But yeah, the industry can't ... it can't wear that moniker.

Tony:

Right, right. Every time I see that picture, I just, "Oh my God."

Jill:

Right?

Tony:

I think of the phrase, "We've always done it this way," every time I see that picture.

Jill:

Wow. That's a good caption for that photo.

Tony:

Yeah. I actually put it on my LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago.

Jill:

Interesting. Interesting. Wow. Yeah, construction industry. You've been doing that for a while. I know, from seeing your LinkedIn profile, that you are also a boxer, and I'm just curious to know, when did boxing come into your life, and how has lessons learned from boxing impacted, if it has, your safety career?

Tony:

Well, I've been a boxer since probably the age of ... I would say, probably the age of 12. Yeah, since the age of 12. I was a big, stocky kid, and actually I was too big to play Pop Warner football. He told me I was too heavy. So I went to the boxing gym to lose a little bit of weight so that I can play. Then I just fell in love with boxing and I kind of been doing it ever since. I've been boxing for a while, and I turned professional ... I turned pro in the year 2008 and I boxed for a few years. I was-

Jill:

Wow.

Tony:

I was a much better amateur than professional. I already had my career and I had kids and I had a wife, and-

Jill:

So you've got a job and a family and you're professional boxer?

Tony:

And I was firefighting at a time. Yes.

Jill:

Whoa.

Tony:

Yes.

Jill:

That sounds intense, Tony.

Tony:

It's a weird combination.

Jill:

You might be an adrenaline junkie.

Tony:

I think so. I think so, and that's so bad. It's so bad because I'm a safety guy, right?

Jill:

It just keeps you moving forward in safety and making things better.

Tony:

Oh yeah.

Jill:

You're not sitting on your laurels, you're moving things forward.

Tony:

Yeah. But, one thing that I can say that it taught me, is being able to get punched in the face for a living, and you know that the punches are coming, you're taking those calculated risks, but it's just ... How many punches are you willing to take? Then once you get punched, what are you going to do after you get punched? Are you going to keep taking the punches? It also helps you with dealing with the winds and dealing with the loss, because I've been knocked down before. I'm proud of the fact I've been knocked down before. I've gotten up a bunch of times, and I think that's not just in the safety field, but in life period. You're going to get hit, but you have to keep getting back up. That's the measure of a person's character, is how many times they get up.

I did that for quite a while, and luckily my wife was able to step in and say, "Listen." She actually saw me on the news one day, and I was basically, what she calls it, plan on high five. There was a big car collision, and she could see me on the news, right? Doing my thing, and I'm thinking, "Hey man, she's going to be so proud of me when I get home. I'm getting a steak dinner." She's going to be like, "Oh, look at my husband out there whooping it on."

Jill:

And this is as a firefighter?

Tony:

Yes.

Jill:

In the [inaudible] Okay.

Tony:

Yeah, as a firefighter. I'll connect it in a second. I get home and she's just like, "Honey." I don't know what to say. She's like, "You go to work, and you're putting out fires and you're on the freeway with cars whipping and whizzing around you. Then, you go to a boxing gym, and Jesus, you have a very dangerous career and a very dangerous extracurricular activity, something has got to change." Yeah. I said, "You know what? You're right," and I gave up boxing.

Jill:

It sounds like she became ... what was it? An Adrian with Rocky, like, "Come on, Rock. It's got to be a hard stop. I'm sick of seeing this."

Tony:

Yes, yes.

Jill:

Right?

Tony:

Yes. When we watched that movie, I'm like, "No, Adrian, let him keep going. Stop. Don't take it away from him. Let him keep going." But yeah, it was definitely a smart decision. Definitely a smart decision because going back to the whole safety thing, I have a lot of my friends that I grew up with, and this was during that time where it was up there, as far as the numbers to where I would be talking to somebody ... This is back into Myspace days. I'd be talking to somebody on Myspace, a boxer, and then I'll see them on TV, and he'll be knocked out or he'll be in a hospital. One of my buddies, good buddies, he passed away from complications of injuries that he suffered in the ring. It's just not enough protection, and it just wasn't worth it at the end.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Do you still box recreationally now?

Tony:

I'll maybe shadowbox when nobody's looking, in my office when we're printing out the OSHA logs or something like that. I'll do a couple of punches in celebration. But no, not really. Yeah.

Jill:

Oh, that's awesome. What a great story. Oh, that's so fun. There was one other thing that I'm curious to ask you about, before we keep moving on with your career, that I also saw in your LinkedIn profile, is you had some interaction with an elephant. Does this have something to do with boxing? Did you box-

Tony:

No.

Jill:

... an elephant? Yeah, right.

Tony:

No, I didn't.

Jill:

What's the-

Tony:

All right.

Jill:

[crosstalk] story, Tony?

Tony:

I actually forgot about this story. I forgot about this story until probably not too long ago. I was sitting in a conference room, and it was a heated discussion. I don't like heated discussions. I like everybody to get along, and I like everybody to be happy. I feel like that's like my job as the safety guys, to be the wellness person as well. I started-

Jill:

Healthy conversations?

Tony:

Oh yeah. I said, "Hey guys. Do you guys know that I am, in fact, an elephant stampede survivor?" Everybody just looked at me.

Jill:

Everybody stops.

Tony:

Yeah. They're like, "What?" They couldn't believe it. I was like, "Yeah, I'm not lying." I even called my mom, without no coaching or anything like that. I was like, "Hey, what was that one traumatic thing that happened when I was six years old?" She was just like, "Oh." I mean, we're sitting in a board meeting, and she goes, "Oh, that's when an elephant stomped your beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep." It just went off talking about it. I'm like, "Mom, I'm at work." She's like, "Oh! Oh my God." Anyways, I did that to get that street cred too, right?

Jill:

Uh-huh (affirmative) Uh-huh (affirmative)

Tony:

What happened was, I was six years old ... either six or seven, and we're at ... I don't know why somebody thought this would be a good idea, but they figured that they would bring the circus to the neighborhood. They have elephants, they have all these different carnival rides, and of course, I'm like, "Hey, I want to ride an elephant." I go and I ride it and I tell my mom. I say, "Hey, it's really hot outside. Don't you think the elephants probably need some water. I don't see any water around." She's like, "Oh, don't worry about it. It'd be all right."

Yeah, I think I mentioned it to one of my aunts as well. Everything's okay, and then next thing you know, I hear the noise that elephants make, big old, loud noise like a trumpet. There's over hundreds of people running around, and I am underneath a gate, and an elephant foot is standing on top of me-

Jill:

No.

Tony:

... and it just keeps walking. Yap. Yap. Yap, yap. It happened, and went to the hospital, got patched up and I was good to go.

Jill:

Oh my gosh. How did you get under this gate? Were you trying to slide under there to bring the elephant some water or what?

Tony:

No, I was under the gate. I was just watching. I was just being a spectator. It was one of those gates that keep you ... like a crowd control gate. Yeah, I was just looking at it, and I was ... Cinder blocks was actually that was holding the gate up as the elephant stomped my body, but it wasn't 100%. I would say [inaudible] maybe 1% of the elephant's foot was on my body. But-

Jill:

Oh my gosh.

Tony:

Yeah. It was-

Jill:

Do you remember being scared?

Tony:

Yeah. It happens so quick that it was just like, "Oh my God, what's happening? Oh my God, that's an elephant."

Jill:

In safety, when we think of crushed by and caught between hazards, I've had really never pictured nor used the description elephant before, but it happened to you.

Tony:

Yes. Yes, which is really weird.

Jill:

It is. Did that disrupt the negative conversation in that meeting that day?

Tony:

Yeah. It was funny because, I mean, everybody ... I mean, it decreased their productivity as well, but that's all everybody was talking about for the rest of the day, was how I got stomped by an elephant, which ... I mean, sometimes I don't know. I'm willing to do that, be that person to take the heat, especially when it's getting really hot.

Jill:

Yeah. You're right, that's funny. Back to your career, you've been ... you were in the construction trades, and doing that for a while. What happened next in your career?

Tony:

I think I'm going to stay with construction. I think I'm going to stay with construction because there's a lot of work to do. There's a lot of work to do. Of course, there's a lot of policies written, but we're not applying it. We're not applying it at all in the construction industry, and I'll be bold to say that. I can look outside my window right now, where they're building houses, and you got crafts personnel on top of roofs without fall protection. You go and you talk to a lot of these different companies that have subcontracted out, they're like, "Okay. It's old hat." There's a lot of work to be done.

Jill:

Agreed, agreed. I mean, just that example alone that you're using right now with fall protection on roofs and roofers, I mean, anyone who's got any trained safety eye, I mean, lack of fall protection is not uncommon to see. Yeah.

Tony:

Oh yeah. It's really bad, and it's not ... That's why I feel like it's meant for me to be in construction, because once you talk to a lot of the people out there on the field and you explain to them how easy it is to protect themselves, they don't forget it, and you explain to them why it's important, they don't forget it. But a lot of people, they just have never ... nobody has never taken the time to actually explain it to them.

Jill:

Yeah. I think that's it, Tony. I mean, if you don't know there's a way to protect yourself and you think, "Well, I just have to do this, this, and this, or contort my body in this position, I'm only going to be in this situation for a little bit." But you didn't know that there's actually a tool, a thing, a method. What would you do? How do you know any better?

Tony:

Right, right. Especially how ease it is these days. It's so easy to set up our protection.

Jill:

Yeah, right? Lights go off on people's heads when you're explaining it doesn't have to be like this.

Tony:

Right, right. It does not have to be like that, and I think it's all in the delivery, how you educate people. I mean, because I've seen people go out and they're screaming, yeah, they're going to do what you tell them to do. But, at the end of the day, they're going to go back to those old habits because that's what they know, or if you take the time to teach them how to do it correctly and also explain to them what will happen if they don't do it, as far as ... Sometime you got to get morbid with them, and let them know that you care about them. I'm really big on that. I let my people know, "Hey man, I care about you. This is why I'm correcting you because I care about you," and I feel like in order to get into their heads, you need to go through their hearts first.

Jill:

Yeah. Say more about that, because I know you feel passionate about not being the bad safety guy.

Tony:

Right. Right. When I was in the military, it's all about ... not necessarily all about, but it's perceived that you have to have this bravado, you have to get things done, and you have to ... Sometime you got to get your point across with yelling. I believe there's a time and place for everything. But, when you're dealing with safety and you're dealing with people, in general, I think is important to be kind. I know it sounds really simple and this is a conversation that my daughters and I have all the time is, be kind. I think that that's important. You need to be kind to people in order, not just to get your point across, but because it's the right thing to do.

When I go on a construction site, and I think this is because, and I'm bringing out this up because I feel like I am kind to a lot of our people out in the field. When I go to a construction site, I don't have to worry about are people ... Not all the time, but I don't have to worry about are people hiding things from me? Most of the time they're like, "Hey Tony, let me show you this." Or, Did you get my text?" I'm like, "Yeah, that's why I'm here."

But they're willing to show me that stuff because I built that trust with them, and I'm being kind to them. I'm saying things like, "I care about your safety. I care about you going home to your kids," and using, saying things like, "Okay, I know your wife's name is Janet," and using that stuff just to be able to get it to sink in. I think that's what's important. I think that is what's important, is making it personal.

Jill:

Yeah, I agree with that Tony. I think that it's sort of that, you were talking about street cred and the things that we do as safety professionals to get a buy in from employees, to say, "Hey, I'm willing to do what you do," so that we can have some commonality there. But I think just as important, is what you're talking about right now, is that being kind and knowing them, and knowing that you've got their back, and yeah, it goes both ways then.

Becomes reciprocal. Yeah, that's cool. I think that's where the magic happens, so that we're able to do their work. Yeah. Maybe your daughter pushed you into this one, but I recently saw a pretty funny but poignant YouTube video that you did, that it looks ... I think it was featured in the American Society of Safety Professionals magazine as well. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Tony:

Yes.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Let's hear the story behind that because this is a piece of being kind, is what you were portraying in that YouTube video. Also, I want to know, were your girls instrumental in you doing that?

Tony:

Yes. Yes, they were. I saw that OSHA had the Safe and Sound Campaign, and I was going through the list of different avenues that you can take to your personnel to promote this event. I was just like, "Okay, I don't want to come up with a new policy. We got enough of those."

Jill:

They collect dust on them, yeah.

Tony:

Yes. I don't want to do that. I don't want to do a PowerPoint. I love teaching, but what can I do to make them laugh but still get the point across? What can I do to take them away from the construction site? I went around the office, and I'm like, "Hey, I'm thinking about doing a safety video. Do you guys want to do it?" Then they're like, "Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope. I'm good. I don't want to do it. I'm shy or I've got better things to do." I'm just like, "Oh, man. Okay." I came home and I started telling my kids about it, and like, "Oh yeah, we'll do it." We came up with this concept and basically it was, let's make fun of that concept, because-

Jill:

He's a safety nerd.

Tony:

Yeah. Because I am, right? I mean, my kids, my girls, they are ... You'll see my girls. They have wrists pads, they have elbow pads, they have their knee pads, they wear their helmet. You'll usually hear my wife or myself yelling at them, "Hey, put your hard hat on." Even the neighbors, kids, we don't discriminate. Right?

Jill:

Yep.

Tony:

Like in the video, sometimes I'll stop and I'll see workers out and I'll not see them having, or not see them wearing their eye protection, an I keep a trunk full of it, or whether safety vest. "Here you go, buddy. Here's the safety vest." Then in that video, they were doing everything perfect. I thought that that would be a good opportunity to highlight the positive side of it. Yeah, both of my girls were in the video, and my son, he actually produced it and filmed it. He's a film producer at Darron Taylor promotions. Yeah.

Jill:

Oh, cool. Now that we're talking about it, people are going to be like, "How do we find this video?" What's the title of it? I can't remember, Tony.

Tony:

It is called Be Safe Okay.

Jill:

Be Safe Okay. Then ASSP, I think, featured it in 2018, right?

Tony:

That's correct. Yes ma'am.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Just to give our listeners a little visual, the video starts out with, Tony's in bed sleeping, alarm goes off in the morning, and he's already to get up, and Adam hits the alarm and right next to your bed is a caution cone. It got me laughing right away. I'm like, "Oh, this is going to be funny." It was poignant, and he really did stop at a job site, and talked to people who were doing their work. Right. It takes you, in a couple of minutes, through Tony's day. It was really well done. It was funny but instructive as well.

Tony:

Yeah. Thank you for saying that. The point behind it was ... One thing that I was trying to get through was, yeah, you want to be safe at work, and yes, you want to be safe at home, but there's no difference. It's all together. If you're safe at home and you're practicing the same, wearing your PPE, looking at the different risks that you're taking, you're going to do the same thing at work, and vice versa. Your kids are going to want to do the right thing. If you start them early, and putting on their PPE. The little girl in there ... My daughter that played the ... I think everybody's calling her the skateboard girl.

Tony:

We get on her all the time about wearing her PPE, and there's been a couple different conversations that we've had with her on why it's important. She's also able to now go and talk to the neighbors about them wearing their hard hats, and educating them. I think that is important that that translates over to the workforce. There's too many kids getting injured, there's too many adults getting injured at work as well.

Jill:

Excellent. That's a fun story. I'm glad that you did that video. Thank you for that.

Tony:

I get teased-

Jill:

That's a good [crosstalk]

Tony:

... about it all the time. Oh my God. Yeah.

Jill:

I bet you do. I bet you do. You've been in the safety profession now for how long, Tony? Did you say 20 years?

Tony:

I would say probably about a total of 17, up to now.

Jill:

Okay. Okay. Yeah. People who are listening who are maybe just getting started reflecting on what you've learned so far, are there particular best practices or things that you would ... pieces of advice that you'd like to give people?

Tony:

Like earlier, I would say no matter what industry you're in there's always a compliance element to that industry. I would always tell somebody that's in that generation of new safety professionals, yes, seek and know and understand compliance, but you always want to shoot above and beyond compliance. You always want to have, in your head, what can I do or what measures can I take to make the worker safe? Not, what can I do to please an inspector? That was also one of the mistakes that I made earlier on in my career, when I was walking around with my stupid little clipboard writing everybody up, was there weren't in compliance, and I would write it up.

That's one thing I would do. Again, the continuing education. That's huge. All of the different laws and codes, they change pretty often. School, that's one thing that I think is important, is to take advantage of the fact that health and safety is offered in university curriculum now. I think that's actually a big piece, because you get people like me that got a feel promoted to be in the safety professional. There's a lot of times that I have certain mentor or mentees right now that ... I won't know something, stuff that I should know, right? I'll shoot them a message, "Hey, what's the answer to this?," Or, "What does your textbook say about this?" You know what I mean?

Jill:

Yap.

Tony:

It's almost like my generation leaning on their generation. I would say that's a good way to keep yourself marketable, is know what you're talking about.

Jill:

Right, right. Yeah. No, you don't know it all.

Tony:

Right.

Jill:

I think something that you said, just a little bit ago, was you were that safety cop for a while and you learned that wasn't the right thing to do, and it goes-

Tony:

Yes.

Jill:

I think that's something for people who are in our profession, well, in frankly anywhere. I mean, this is life and growing, right? You make mistakes, you learn from them, or you try something, and you're like, "That wasn't the right way to do it." It was like you said with boxing, you get knocked down but you got back up again, and you kept going and you kept going, and you kept improving and improving. I think that's what it is with our career in safety for certain, but also just life in general in any career. It's not where we're going to have victories and do everything exactly right. We're not going to get it right all the time, but it's what you do in those moments. Right?

Tony:

Right. You can't get stuck in your ways. Yeah.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Right. As we start to round our time out together today, Tony, I want to go back to that conversation you started with, where you're giving your daughter advice about college, and what fields she could go into, and you two were talking about safety and don't forget it's an option. I'm wondering, when you're thinking about that, what do you think we as professionals can do to lift up and encourage particularly minorities, including women, to choose safety? What can we all be working on?

Tony:

Honestly, that's a good question. I think that you're doing it. I think that you're doing it by having a podcast. I mean, I haven't heard of too many safety podcasts. But getting to the minorities and actually letting them know, "Hey, we're out here. We exist, and we're making safety sexy," right? We talked about that earlier, making-

Jill:

Yeah, right.

Tony:

... safety sexy, because safety is boring. Safety is boring. I mean, back when I started, I had to be voluntold. Nobody wanted that job. There was nothing cool about being in safety. Nine times out of 10 if you're in safety, you're doing admin, you're sweeping floors, you're doing this, and you're doing that. But I think it's important to let everybody know, just like I told my daughter. I said, "Hey, you need to understand that once you're a safety professional, or if you choose to go that route, you are one of the most important people out there on the job site, and it's not because you're high and mighty, but you're in charge of the most important asset of a company, and that's the people."

I think if we can push that and we can get away from the Bourne safety stuff, the Bourne safety stand downs, and we target those groups ... One thing that I'm seeing right now that I am in love with is, I see on LinkedIn, I see on YouTube, I see all over the place, that there's young safety professionals, there's blacks, Spanish. All of these different nationalities. There are females in safety. That is so cool. I love it. I was on the construction site the other day, and I came across an individual, she had on a pink hard hat. I thought that was so cool. I thought that was so cool.

I think that we need to keep that momentum going, and I think we're going in a good direction. I think we're going in a positive direction. But yeah, I definitely would say keep marketing ... market those issues, just like we market everything else because it is important, and it is a great job. It's the best job that I've ever had. I wouldn't change it for anything.

Jill:

That's so great to hear. That's so great to hear. I think that our profession is just evolving right now. I mean, it really it's an opportune time for a lot of changes to be happening with our baby boomers retiring out of the profession, and more industries getting more engaged with safety, there's more opportunities for it, and it's a stem practice, and it's something for us to be talking with our kids about, as we're mentoring people, like you said. I think that's really important.

Tony:

Right. I worked for a job. I was on the job one day, and there was a foreman, one of the supervisors. His daughter goes to Bloomington IEU, and he was saying that she was getting ready to crossover into safety, and what I mind, maybe sitting down and talking to her about it. We actually did ride along, and it was so cool.

Jill:

Oh, that's cool.

Tony:

Yeah, it was so cool seeing her face light up out there, walking on the construction site and given the guys the girls high fives out there, just doing the deep dive into all of the different safe work practices, just talking about safety in general. It was so cool to see another generation appreciate it as much as I appreciate it.

Jill:

Well, what a good tip, Tony. I mean, I think that's a good tip, that job shadowing in safety. We don't really think about that. I think that's great. I think, I mean, that's maybe something more of us could do, is make those opportunities available for a job shadow, even if it's for a day or a half a day, just to open up someone's eyes to the possibility that it's a career.

Tony:

Right, I agree. I agree.

Jill:

That's excellent.

Tony:

An actual real job shadow not to deal where it's like, "Okay, go file all these papers."

Jill:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, not like how you started out with waiting for the injury to come in the door, and I'm going to put it on the 300 log, or whatever it was. Yeah, right. Exactly. Well, Tony, as we close today, I want to say thanks to your daughter for encouraging you to do a podcast, and somehow it all connected. The dots connected. Shout out to Tony's daughter. Thanks for encouraging your dad to try something new in addition to the YouTube. It sounds like they got you on Instagram doing safety. That's awesome. That's awesome. Well, Tony, thank you so much for being a guest today. Really appreciate it.

Tony:

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. I greatly appreciate it. Just like I said, anytime I can talk about safety, I'll do it in a heartbeat.

Jill:

Thank you, and thank you all so much for joining in and listening today, and thank you for the work you do to make sure your workers, including your temporary workers, make it home safe every day. Special thanks to Will Moss our podcast producer. You can listen to all of our episodes at vividlearningsystems.com, or subscribe in the podcast player of your choosing. You can also find us, and Tony, on YouTube. If you have a suggestion for a guest, including if it's you, please contact me at social, at vividlearningsystems.com. Until next time, thanks for listening.