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#44: Creepy Carl. Safety Manager.

December 4, 2019 | 57 minutes 3 seconds

On the eve of Thanksgiving, podcast series host Jill James catches up with Jason Maldonado, who is grateful for how his chosen profession of 15 years has influenced the risk perception of his children. Jason’s start in safety began in the Air Force, where he revived training efforts for Hazard Communication, HAZWOPER, and Lockout/Tagout (LOTO). He transitioned to the private sector, and, with the help of a great mentor, developed his characteristic style of employee safety engagement. Today, he owns his own safety consulting business and is the published author of The Practical Guide to the Safety Profession. You’ll learn about what happens when you have the wrong safety goal, and hear a bunch of terrific stories from his career.

Transcript

Jill:

This is The Accidental Safety Pro brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the Health and Safety Institute, episode number 44. My name is Jill James, Vivid's chief safety officer, and today I'm joined by Jason Maldonado who is a safety professional and the owner of relentlesssafety.com. Jason is joining us from his home in New Mexico today. Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason:

Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

Jill:

Yeah. So Jason, you and I are recording on the eve of Thanksgiving 2019.

Jason:

Yep. We are.

Jill:

Yeah, and we're both safety professionals. Been at this awhile. How many years into the profession are you?

Jason:

I've been saying 15 but actually just flips on 16 years in-

Jill:

16 years. Yeah. Wow. Great. So if we were to ask, when I'm just coming up with this right now, off the top of my head, if we were to ask one another today, right now, what are we like most thankful for for our profession? What would it be for you?

Jason:

And this is going to sound a little bit more introspective than I think you might've intended it to, but I'm just thankful for the outlook that has given me to raise my kids. Because I mean I've got two little kids that will nark on me if I don't put on a pair of safety glasses, which I mean it is just insanely cool to see them have the forethought and the ability to see the world through a safety lens and not be afraid of it because they're still crazy little kids and they jump off stuff and do all kinds of kid stuff. But they have this risk perception that I don't think many kids have, and that wasn't on purpose. I wasn't one of those parents that was like, "All right, that's not safe. You need to put on your PPE." I didn't do any of that. It just kind of happened naturally. But I think that came through me, and if that's a Testament to what you do being who you are then I think that's probably the biggest one.

Jill:

That's awesome. That's awesome. Yeah. And I guess for me, I think about the years that I was actively working as a safety professional in a facility, and how my why every day was to help people and humanity and workers be treated humanely, fairly and of course to keep them safe. And now in my present role I really had to think what's my why now? And it's really within our own safety professional network and connecting us and being supportive to our profession, and being able to have people like you be able to share their stories and wisdom so that the rest of us can learn and grow, because it's certainly a position or a profession where we were never done learning.

Jason:

Yeah, absolutely. I think I share that perspective a little bit too. I'm at the point in my career now where I'm trying to give back because there's been so many times where I've felt lost or alone in my role because I was the only one. And it's like you're on an island, and until you learn that there are people that you can reach out, that you can trust, you're going to be stuck in a pretty dark place sometimes, and I don't want anybody else to have to go through that like I did.

Jill:

Right, right, right. There's a lot of us out there to help one another. Yeah. Yeah. So, Jason, tell us your story. How'd you accidentally find yourself in this interesting profession?

Jason:

Very accidentally. So when I went to college, at first I thought I wanted to be an actor and then I found out that I hate acting. It's just boring and terrible and I didn't like it.

Jill:

It wasn't for you.

Jason:

No, not for me. And so I switched my, or tweaked my major a little bit and got into public speaking and got a degree in public speaking. Not a really useful degree when you're 20, 22 years old, because if you're going to get into advertising or anything else they want the standard typical five years of experience. So I kind of tinkered around. At one point I decided I wanted to be a singer. I was okay at that, but I had no drive. I wasn't one of those passionate musicians that just... that was all they were about. So I wasn't going to make it there. :

And my little brother joined the Air Force, and I was talking to him throughout his basic training and then his tech school and he was just as as true blue as you could be and I was pretty struggling, and then all my college loans came due and I didn't have any money. I think I was selling cars at the time. He goes, "Man," he goes, "You got a degree, go down and join the Air Force. Be an officer. Great job." And so I went down to the officer recruiter and they said, "We don't care that you have a communications degree, that thing's worthless. We want engineers." So I ended up enlisting and I became a munitions technician and-

Jill:

Whoa.

Jason:

Yeah, well... So there's that safety element there. You don't want to [crosstalk 00:05:25]-

Jill:

Yeah, right.

Jason:

Through that I kind of progressed through the ranks pretty quickly. I got a crew within my first, I don't know, six months and then I got Staff Sergeant within two years. And I just did some pretty cool things and I learned a lot. I got my leadership experience, which was the goal of joining the air force in the first place and supervisory experience. And the opportunity came up to run this program that tracked reliability of munitions as assets, and I won't name the program, but just a really cool program. The guy that wrote it was a Master Sergeant in like 1986, '87 timeframe, and he didn't have any way to track his missiles. So he went home and wrote this program on his Commodore 64.

Jill:

Wow.

Jason:

Yeah. And then he sold it to the Air Force and retired and came back and became the subject matter expert on this program. The guy was brilliant. I mean he made his millions, I'm sure. When I got involved in it though, they were transitioning the program from DOS to Windows, which was actually terrible because if you were good at typing, you could sit and jam through your records without moving, and now they added a mouse into it. So it was disruptive. So I was one-

Jill:

I was working for the government when we went from DOS to Windows too. I always called it DOS in sheep's clothing.

Jason:

It was so clunky. Because I could sit, I could go through a hundred records in 30 minutes, just bam, bam, bam, typing. Never moved from the keyboard. And then they throw that mouse in there and you've got to click enter, and it was terrible. So I did that and that had a really... I didn't realize it at the time, but that database work had a huge impact on the way that I think about safety because it was designed around reliability and predictability actually, and it's the only thing I've ever seen that accurately predicted anything. What they did was they would take all the maintenance records from all the missiles throughout the entire Air Force and they would put them through some crazy algorithm, I didn't know what it was, and they would predict which lot of this missile was going to go bad and they'd pull it out of service and do preventive maintenance on it before it ever blew up on the jet or had a malfunction and didn't fire or something like that. :

And they had like a 98% rate of correctness and just really cool stuff. But once we got done with that project, I didn't really have much to do, and I was sitting in the support office of the missile section and my boss, which is the support office is where they did all the safety stuff, and they didn't really do it. They just had books on the bookshelf. So my boss was like, "Well, you're not busy. Now start those programs, get them running again." And so the first one was HazCom, and then I think I did HAZWOPER stuff and got rid of chemicals and then I did Lock Out, Tag Out, and I did an annual explosive safety training. And that was sort of the thing that got me in at the beginning, and then maybe a year or so later they transitioned me down to the actual munition safety and training office. :

And I actually did most of the training. I wasn't really the safety guy at that point. I helped out on audits and stuff, but most of my focus was on the training. And then toward the end of my enlistment, I injured my knee pretty bad and I got put on Med Hold. so I knew I going to get out, I just didn't know when, which made it look at for a job really hard.

Jill:

Yeah. You're like, now what?

Jason:

Yeah, so I think it was September, somewhere around there. It was like August, September, and we got an email and it said, "Hey there's a job fair on main base in 10 minutes." And inside I hopped on my motorcycle, I drove down there, I said, "See you guys. I'm going." There was a giant construction company and they were hiring for two different sites. :

One of them went out of business, they lost all their funding, it was a federal job, and the other one kept going, but they only had one position available. And I started talking to the lady and she goes, "Well, we're looking for this technical safety data analyst." I said, Whoa, what's that?" And I said, "I work in the safety and training office." And she goes, "Okay, well that's nice, but what I'm really looking for is somebody that knows how to run a database." And I said-

Jill:

Ding, ding, ding, ding.

Jason:

I know how to do that. So I said, "Well, here's the problem though. This is exactly what I did." And I told her the whole story about the reliability thing that I just told you, and she's like, "Yeah, you're perfect for this. We definitely want to bring you in for an interview." So they brought me in, they interviewed me with everybody. They offered me the job and of course the whole time knowing that I didn't know when I would be available, and they held the job from September to December for me. And that's how I got into it. And of course I got out of the military with a totally different mindset than how safety really is, but that was kind of the second part of this story was figuring out how to do it in the real world.

Jill:

Yeah. Right. So this is already a crazy story, Jason, you went from acting to public speaking to, well maybe I could be a singer, maybe not, Air Force, munitions tech, data nerd. That's awesome.

Jason:

Jumped around a little bit.

Jill:

Yeah. So what did you think safety was and what changed, what shifted from that going in when you started in the air force by the time you got out?

Jason:

Well I got to back up just a little bit to tell you that part because... So in the safety and training office, we were sort of like a subset of base safety. So we weren't even... we weren't the people that were actually assigned by career field. We were still munitions troops. We just did safety stuff.

Jill:

Yep. It was a, it was an ancillary part of the job.

Jason:

Exactly. That's the word I was looking for. We had three, four guys in the office. One of them did self-inspection so he just did audits all day long. I did the training and then we had the guy that did safety, and we all kind of crossed cross functionally helped each other. And then we had a drunk Master Sergeant that slept in the corner all day who didn't do anything. :

So the guy that did safety, we called him creepy Carl, because he was, and I didn't even know that safety was a job you could have, but he was always... And he was going to stay in for 20 years, but he was always looking at ASSE, at that time, classes that he could go to and all that stuff. I'm like, "What are you doing man?" And he's like, "Oh, I'm going to be a safety manager." I'm like, "Whatever. That's not even a real thing."

Jill:

What is that. Yeah. Right.

Jason:

And it was just crazy that I ended up getting into that instead of him. There's all kinds of creepy Carl's stories. That would take another podcast.

Jill:

Creepy Carl. Okay.

Jason:

So when I got out of the, the Air Force, I thought that safety was just the rules. I mean, it's I say it, you do it. I could give, more or less, give orders to people that outranked me by two or three ranks and I did. They didn't like it, and I did it professionally. But if people weren't upholding their training I'd write their Master Sergeant and nasty gram and copy the Chief and the Colonel, and they'd get in trouble for it. And then lo and behold, I'd get my training completed. So when I got out of the Air Force, I thought that's how things were. :

And very, very luckily for me, I didn't think so at the time, but I had an uncle who lived in Las Vegas or where I was living and sat down and talking to him about this new job that I've gotten with this giant construction company. And he'd been in construction for, I don't know at that point, probably 30 years, and I was 27, never done construction, barely knew anything about safety. I was probably a little too confident in myself. And he looked at me and he goes, "Man, what the hell are you going to tell a 30 year iron worker about safety?" And I'm like, "I don't know."

Jill:

I don't know.

Jason:

And it scared the crap out of me because I'm like, he's right. There's nothing that I can tell this guy. So I kind of developed this defense mechanism to just go in and ask people, "Hey, what are you doing? That looks really cool. Can you show me? I don't know anything about this. Show me your job." Even if I saw something that was messed up or wrong or whatever, and it didn't work all the time, but most of the time, and then as I refined it, it got better and better because I figured out that people usually have some pride in what they do, especially tradespeople. :

And if you can break through that ice and get them to show you how they're the best at this or that or whatever, they're going to start talking and they're going to start smiling a little bit and, "Oh yeah, let me show you this and I made this and I did that." And you kind of break down that wall, and then you can have the safety conversation if you need to, because half the time at that point anyway in my career, I'd go out seeing something that I didn't think was right, and then the person would explain it to me and be like, "Oh, that's the only way you can do that."

Jill:

Right.

Jason:

So I learned a lot from it, but it gave me tremendous... people tremendous respect for me because they knew I wasn't coming out there to catch them doing something wrong, or-

Jill:

To be the safety cop.

Jason:

Right. And I never really wanted to be that. I didn't even like doing that in the Air Force, but that wasn't an issue because like I said there, I said it, they did it. So it wasn't like I was trying to catch people doing something wrong, it was just, that's how we did it because it was orders.

Jill:

Right, exactly. Yeah. Big difference from military to civilian life.

Jason:

Oh, for sure. Yeah, for sure.

Jill:

Yeah. So what happened next? And what you just keyed into Jason, by the way, is just genius and it's such a great thing for you to discover at the beginning of your career, so you didn't have to go through those uncomfortable mistakes of people thinking, "Who is this kid?" Yeah.

Jason:

And I still look like a kid. So there's still, oh what do you do? I actually had a guy... I took a job, it was my first regional job, this is just a funny side note, and we had this appreciation breakfast for everybody. So we're standing in the line and there's this big gruff guy. I don't remember what he did, but he had been there a while and he looks at me and he goes, "How'd you get a job like this being as young as you are?" And just off the cuff I'm like, "Well, I'm not as old as you think I should be, but I'm not as young as you think I am."

Jill:

How was that? How did that go over?

Jason:

He laughed and then we had a good conversation. I think I sat down and had breakfast with him, and we didn't even talk about safety. It was just who are you? And it was a good icebreaker.

Jill:

Life.

Jason:

And that's most of it, I think, just being... The rules and regulations yeah, you got to do them. But that doesn't scare people. That's not what workers think about. But the next thing that that really happened in my journey and that I think kind of solidified the path that I'm on is I got... we got a new manager and this guy came in, he was 69 years old when he came in. So he was old and frail... Well he wasn't frail. He was old and feisty, I'll say that. He had taken a few steps down from being a regional manager or a division manager, I guess is what they called it for Asia Pacific because they had sort of downsized their Asia Pacific region. :

So he came back to the projects and it just so happened that he had bought a house in Vegas and he wanted to kind of retire there and make this his last hurrah. So this guy came in with just tons of knowledge of overseas work and tons of stories. And the cool thing about him, his name is Nick, he was a pilot in the pre-Vietnam days, so 1958, 1959 when things were kind of getting heated up over there and everything he said was an airplane analogy, and to the point where we were like, "Shut up about airplanes. None of us know how to fly airplanes Nick."

Jill:

And you sort of could kind of see through his stories because of your experience through the Air Force or no, did it not matter?

Jason:

A little bit. It was similar. I get planes. But what was really cool about it was that he wasn't... he was a little bit old school in his thinking, but he was progressive enough to understand that safety needed to change, needed to get away from all the forms and just menial stuff that doesn't make an impact. So he just became... he took me under his wing. I was the lowest ranking person on the team, but he just groomed me because I guess he saw something in me that he wanted to make better, and gave me kind of free reign to do whatever I wanted to do in this sort of made up data analyst role, which it was. But one of the most powerful moments in my career, like I said, everything was a plane story. So he... and this is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever done, but I think it was about the time that my wife got pregnant with my son somewhere abouts in there. :

So I was stressed out and wondering about where money was going to come from because she was going to quit her job and all this other stuff, and he came up to me all excited and we had this corner office in Vegas that kind of overlooked the strip. So it was a beautiful location and where we were for a construction project, anyway, and he came up and he's just all excited. He goes, "Hey Jason, listen, the project manager and I talked, we're going to give you a promotion. You're going to get an 8% raise."

Jill:

Whoa.

Jason:

Yeah. It was huge. And he goes, "I got some bad news though. What that means is that this program that you've been working on," and I've been trying to revamp the database thing that they'd hired me for and turn it into something that actually worked. He goes, "You're getting some traction there and the boss wants you on that 100% of the time." And-

Jason:

The boss wants you on that 100% of the time. And I was pissed.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

I totally ignored the fact that I had eight percent because what he just told me was that I had to stay in the office all the time and I didn't get to go out and do real safety.

Jill:

Yeah. And he didn't want to be tied to the [crosstalk] slash Windows computer. Yeah, Okay.

Jason:

It was a Microsoft access program at that point.

Jill:

Okay. Progress.

Jason:

And for the fellow nerds, I named it Kuato after the bad guy in Total Recall.

Jill:

Oh my gosh. Okay.

Jason:

Yeah, that's way obscure, I know.

Jill:

Somebody is smiling ear to ear right now. Okay.

Jason:

That's my favorite movie ever. No, so I was just ranting and raving like, "This is crap. Nick." And I used many worse words and that was the kind of relationship we had. We could yell and scream at each other and then come back and apologize. And I mean it was just, it was a really ... I wouldn't call it like a father son relationship, but he really took me under his wing.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

But he kind of stopped me mid sentence and he goes, "You know what? You need to knock it off. You need to fly the plane you've got." And I stopped and I'm like, "What does that even mean? I don't fly planes?"

Jill:

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Jason:

And he goes, "All right, well I'm going to tell you this story." I'm like, "Oh great. How many times have I heard this one?"

Jill:

Uh-huh.

Jason:

And I hadn't heard this one before. And he goes, "All right, when I started flying for the air force, I had no idea I was going to do it." He said, "I graduated basic training in 1959 and this guy from the CIA came out and asked everybody in my class if any of us knew how to fly airplanes." He said, "Yeah, I do. I flew a crop duster for my uncle during the summers in high school."

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

And he said, "All right, well you're a pilot now." And they promoted him from an airman basic E1, to a warrant officer one, which is probably the equivalent of my eight percent raise.

Jill:

Yeah, wow.

Jason:

They flew him over to Laos, they did a little bit of training with them and then took them to Laos. And I don't know if you've heard or have you seen the movie Air America with Mel Gibson. It's old like, 1990 movie. I think, it's terrible.

Jill:

I'm sorry, I don't think so.

Jason:

Yeah, don't watch it. It's awful.

Jill:

Okay.

Jason:

But that was the story that he was actually in. So they took him sort of out of the air force and they assigned them to the CIA. They wore civilian clothes, they did reconnaissance. And there was a rumors that they ran drugs and all kinds of other crazy stuff. But who knows, he said they didn't.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

But he said the first day they get out on the runway and I'll send you the pictures of these two planes because to have the visual, it's pretty stark. So they go put on the runway and they've got the F-5 Fighter Plane. Right. And then they've got this F1-17 Flying Box Car, cargo plane, and it was ugly. And I've sat in a couple of them and they're just gross planes and he's looking at the fighter plane and like, "Oh yeah, I get to be a fighter pilot." And the instructor goes, "Nope, that's yours." :

And so they take him, they get in the fighter planes. So Nick was a really big guy. He was six foot three, six foot, four-ish somewhere in there. Really, really stocky guy. And then just long. So he crams himself into this cockpit and the way he ... And like I said, I've been in one before, so I can imagine I'm short and it was tough for me.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

So he's in there just talking about, oh, this knob needs to be down here and this is really stupid that I have to move my leg and cram it into this little spot to press this pedal and there should be a wheel here instead of a stick and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And the instructor stopped him and said exactly what he said to me. He said, "Son, you need to fly the plane you've got. Maybe someday you're going to engineer the greatest thing that was ever built. Today, is not it. Get us off the runway."

Jill:

Uh-uh.

Jason:

And it was all about, yeah, I mean it was such a cool story. And actually I put it in my book, so. With more colorful language than that. But the cool part and the takeaway, and I actually use this now, anytime I do an orientation. The message is, do what you can affect, do it ... Focus on what you can change, what you can make progress on. Because if all you ever do is focus on the things that other people don't do for you or other people owe you. Your life's going to be miserable.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) mm-hmm (affirmative) And get us off the ground, as he said, right.

Jason:

Yeah, and learn how to be the best at that and do it. And I don't think I'd be in my career at this point where I am. If I hadn't taken that advice. And I don't always, I still slip back into the, this is crap. I shouldn't have to suffer through this.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

But I mean it was just a really profound moment for me.

Jill:

Yeah. So what happened? You got the breeze, I'm guessing you took Nick's advice and you did the work and got him off the ground.

Jason:

I did, but I did it in a typical maliciously compliant fashion for me.

Jill:

Okay.

Jason:

So the program that they had hired me for this technical data analyst position was this like mishmash of behavior based and compliance. And it was just a mess of a program. And they had quotas for ... They had picked five categories, I think it was excavations, crane safety, housekeeping-

Jill:

Must be something in fall protection.

Jason:

Yeah, fall protection was one of them. And I can't remember the fifth one. The fifth one was like, shouldn't have been there.

Jill:

Okay.

Jason:

So they had like 10 categories and they had a checklist for each category and the questions on the checklist were compliant, noncompliant or not applicable.

Jill:

Okay.

Jason:

So yeah, it's a-

Jill:

I can see where this is going. Yeah, right.

Jason:

Right, then they had quotas for the five main, you know, the five life critical categories. Right. And the inspectors, because we were an agent for the client, we didn't actually have any tradesmen out there on the job. So we had guys that were just doing compliance inspections and making sure things were to code and all that. And they had to go out and do X amount of observations per week and X amount of observations in each of those categories. Even if, they didn't exist. :

I'll give you an example. So once we got done with all the groundwork, we had no more excavations. Still had to do excavation observations.

Jill:

Okay. Yeah. This sounds like the government, but this is private.

Jason:

Yes.

Jill:

Yeah. Okay.

Jason:

So here's the worst part about it. You had to get 95% compliance or you weren't doing good.

Jill:

But you had no dirt to look at.

Jason:

Yeah, exactly.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

So I'm sitting there like, "Oh, how do I make this good?" And we went out on a job walk with the project manager and my manager and Nick and we're walking around and housekeeping on the site was just atrocious. It was not at all to the level of what our company would have expected, but it wasn't technically our job. Right. It was another GC.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

And the project manager, he hadn't been out in months. And he's walking around and he's like, "Jason, this is awful. Like there's trash cans overflowing, there's cords all over walkways, there's nails sticking out of boards." I was like, "Yeah, I know. I stepped on one last week." Right in between my toes.

Jill:

Nice, nice.

Jason:

And he goes, "What was our compliance percentage on housekeeping last month?" :

And I said, "98%." :

And he goes, "How is that even possible?" :

And I said, "Because that's what you asked for."

Jill:

Uh-huh.

Jason:

And I said, "Well, I've got an idea on how we fix it." :

And he goes, "All right, well let's do it." :

So we launched into this just massive training effort. And because these were electrical inspectors and civil inspectors and structural engineers and people that didn't really specialize in safety. They knew some safety stuff.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

And so we gave them, I want to say like 30 hours of classroom training and it wasn't like an OSHA 30 it was like site specific. This is what our site does, this is why things are dangerous, this is what you need to look out for.

Jill:

Specifically what to look for. Yeah.

Jason:

Yep. That's exactly what we called it. This is what to look for, things to look for. And then we essentially gave him a blank sheet of paper and it was pretty old and antiquated. It was a Scantron form. But they still had to do, you know, two observations a week, but we gave him free rein to do whatever we just said, "All right, we've trained you what to look for, go out and find stuff. Good, bad or otherwise."

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

And at first it was kind of ... Well we ran it for two years. The first year was a terrible failure because it didn't have any accountability. It didn't have any management backing. The second year my boss went in and had a knockdown drag out fight with the project manager and said, "Look, this is your program, not safety's program. Either do it or we quit and we'll go play Facebook."

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Okay.

Jason:

I think those were his actual words.

Jill:

Oh, my gosh.

Jason:

And so they did, they said ... And the cool part about it was that he came out and said, "Guys, you have to do this program. You don't have to carry the cards with you. Just go out and look. And at the end of the day, oh yeah, nine o'clock, I saw this, write it down on the card, turn it in. And if you don't, there'll be consequences." Or he said, "There's going to be consequences with the program." He didn't make it a negative because it never was. We only rewarded positive things. So if a guy found a broken section of handrail and he grabbed a bunch of carpenters and had it fixed right there on the spot. He got a $5 Starbucks gift card right on the spot.

Jill:

Whoa. Okay, cool. Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

And that was how we had accountability and we had one or two that turned in some really malicious things and death threats to me because I made them do extra work and all that kind of stuff.

Jill:

Oh, geez. Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

But the second year though at this thing just took off and the one difference was that we were no longer just reporting because when they found a hazard, they were responsible to fix it. So the goal became not 95% compliance. It became fixe everything that you can on a spot with a rough goal of 98% of the time, we think we can knock it out right then. If it's bigger, we're going to track it until it's in bed.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

So everything got tracked and I mean it was hard. It was a really administratively heavy program. I'm not sure that I would want to do it again, but it worked. And what was cool about the way that we structured the accountability was that these guys who are naturally competitive anyway, started competing like, "Oh, he found something really big yesterday. I'm going to find something bigger on my area."

Jill:

Uh-huh.

Jason:

And we started coming up with just insane stuff on a project that really should've killed a whole bunch of people, you know? And I like said, I won't say who it was, but the same company that the GC there killed a whole bunch of people in that town. In those same years, so. And they didn't kill any on ours.

Jill:

Wow. Congratulations.

Jason:

Yeah, I mean it was ... At the very, very end of it, this guy who had never met before, obviously, who knew me came up and goes, "Hey Jason, I just want to shake your hand." :

I'm like, "Oh, okay. And how's it going? Good to meet you." And he goes, "Man, I've been working in this valley for 25 years. This is the safest job I've ever worked on. So thank you for that."

Jill:

Wow.

Jason:

And that was just really cool to be a part of that.

Jill:

Yep. Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yeah. Yeah. Makes the work worth it.

Jason:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jill:

Yeah. What a great story. And what an interesting progression and how you made that work. So you mentioned a little bit ago you put a story or a stories about Nick in a book.

Jason:

Yes.

Jill:

So Jason, you've written a book.

Jason:

I have. So I wrote a book, it was published by CRC Press in September of this year.

Jill:

Okay. Wow, brand new.

Jason:

Yeah, it's brand, brand new. I only have one copy.

Jill:

For yourself you mean myself?

Jason:

For myself, yeah.

Jill:

Okay.

Jason:

So it's called The Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit. It was originally going to be titled Thanks for the Stories, but that had nothing to do with safety. So my publisher asked me to come up with something different. But that's really what it is. It's sort of the ... Well, it's a very much longer version of this story that I just told you covering that span of years. And it starts off with Nick and the crew. And just sort of how we ... And it jumps around a little bit here and there. It talks about some of my air force experiences.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

It really started out, the funny part about it was that I was sitting on my dad's porch in October of last year and we were drinking a couple of beers just talking, chatting, and I was reminiscent about Nick who passed away in 2016. I said something to the effect of, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to bug you with these stories again dad. I know you've heard them 100 times." :

He goes, "No, no, that's, that's okay. He had a big impact on your life and these are great stories. You need to write them down." :

Then I said, "Yeah, I know, I know. I know." :

And he goes, "You know what? No, quit that." :

He said, "You've been wanting to be a writer or saying you want to be a writer since you were like seven and you're not getting any younger. So I expect you to have two chapters done by the next time I see you in two weeks."

Jill:

Whoa.

Jason:

Yeah.

Jill:

What an interesting thing for a parent to say.

Jason:

I know right at 38 years old and he's scolding me like I'm a little kid again.

Jill:

So is that what your relationship with your dad was like? Was he always sort of like, "Hey, here's a goal, here's a date, get it done kid?" Or was this a new thing?

Jason:

That's totally new because ... And as I was writing and I'm like, "This is so weird. He's never done this to me before. He never made me do anything."

Jill:

My dad gave me a job. Okay.

Jason:

No, but like, because I did. From the time I was like in seventh grade I said I wanted to be a writer. I said I wanted to do ... And then I've started books. I've never finished books. I've got stories and stories and stories on drives that are like four pages long and they're probably okay. I never finished them. But my mom and dad, when I finally convinced them, they bought me this correspondence course, I think it was called The Institute of Children's Literature or something like that. And it was you get a real author as your teacher and mentor and you get college credit for it and all this, it was this really cool thing. It was all by mail correspondence and it was supposed to take like a year to get it done. And it took me almost three.

Jill:

Okay.

Jason:

So I think that was the point where my parents quit pushing, but the fact that I still kept talking about it for another 30 years and I think it just finally got to him and he's like, "You know what? Put up or shut up."

Jill:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Fly the plane that you have. Start writing with the story. Interesting. Oh, that's fun. So why on earth did you not pick writing as your degree choice when you were struggling way back when and decided to focus on public speaking?

Jason:

I don't know. I think there was still probably a little bit of me that wanted to still do the acting thing. Because there was a little bit ... I did entertainment speaking and-

Jill:

You wanted to be a performer.

Jason:

I did. And there's still a little bit of me that enjoys that. I like doing the YouTube videos and things like that. But like I said, I don't have the patience for it. You got to have a serious passion for that kind of craft.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

I can do it in little, two minute blips, but I cannot tolerate sitting for 12 hours and doing a retake after retake and retake. It's too much, but.

Jill:

I know you've also shared with me that you've written something called the Stupid Simple Toolkit. Is that something that's part of your book or is that something that's separate?

Jason:

No, it's part of the book and I've got big plans for that, hopefully for the future. But, so the way the book started out, the first five chapters are kind of a rant about all the things that I see wrong with ... I mean, essentially it's the things that safety professionals do that separate us from the people that we're supposed to be helping and protecting. And there's tons of examples and there's some in the book and it's by no means an exhaustive list. But as I was writing the first two chapters that might, my dad challenged me to do, which I did finish on time.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Did you give them to him to read?

Jason:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. He read ... Well, and let me just, so you kind of ... I can frame it a little bit. The very first chapter after the introduction is called F..., or get OSHA.

Jill:

Okay.

Jason:

It was originally not titled that.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

And my dad looked at it and went, "You can't publish this.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason:

So I edited it a little bit and it is tongue in cheek. There's disclaimers in there. It's nothing about ... I'm not advocating, we don't comply. That's not the point.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

But yeah, so it started out as sort of this rant and I was actually listening to a book on tape or an audio book by David Goggins about sports performance and all these ... He was a Navy Seal and at the end of each chapter, it's really just a self help book. But at the end of each of his chapters, he has a challenge and I think it starts out with making an accountability mirror. So for him, he was in really terrible shape and he had this goal of being a Navy Seal and he wrote in dry erase marker on his mirror in his bathroom. I'm going to be a Navy Seal or something like that.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah.

Jason:

And that was his accountability mirror. So at the end of each chapter, he has, do this as you're challenge and they're just little progressive steps that you can take to get better as a person.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

And think I was like in chapter two or three of my book and I'm like, this thing can't just be a rant about how stupid all safety professionals are. Because number one, I don't think that. And number two, that's not valuable. So I was like, "Well what if I could take that idea, his challenge idea and makes some useful things for a safety professional." So I came up with this idea of this stupid simple toolbox. So there's 11 chapters in part two and at the end of each chapter there's a stupid simple tool. And I mean, I didn't make up anything earth shattering. They're stupid simple that like might better-

Jill:

Give us an example of one or two of them. If you don't mind. Yeah.

Jason:

Well I'll do this one first. In the chapter that's called Add Value, Not Words. The stupid simple tool is be useful. And I go through that idea that I talked about in the construction site where, you walk up to somebody and say, "Hey, show me what you're doing."

Jill:

Yeah.

Jason:

And it's just that kind of one on one, breaking down the walls, being a human, and having a little bit of interpersonal skill. And, which I think is really important in the story, in that chapter is about a guy that was just one of those in your face cussing, yelling, screaming at you guys. And long story short, he ran out on site one day and found this Hispanic worker who didn't speak a lick of English and started just berating him for his old crusty hardhat. And it had stickers from every job that this guy had probably ever been on since the 70s.

Jason:

The job that this guy had probably ever been on since the '70s, I would imagine. And so-

Jill:

Something he was likely proud of.

Jason:

Yeah. Oh yeah. The guy physically grabbed it off his head and I'll show you what happens when a hardhat gets worn out in the sun. He squeezed it and it snapped in half. It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen, aside from the fatalities and serious injuries. This guy was just crushed and he didn't even have any idea why this guy's screaming at him. That was, yeah. I told that story to someone who will remain unnamed and said there's such a better way to converse with people and to get a message through, even if you don't speak the language. The response this guy gave me was, yeah, well sometimes that's the only way to get through to people. That was just proof that I needed to finish this book and give people a reason to not do that because there's people out there that still act that way.

Jill:

Right, right. Wow. Interesting. Do you mind sharing one other thing that's in the tool kit?

Jason:

Sure. I know this was something that you wanted to talk about, so I think it's a good lead in. The item number three is write better. I've got a little writer's guide and it's a page and a half. It's my theory on how as safety professionals, we should structure procedures, guidelines and standards. It's the idea, standards, these are the rules that you want people to follow, but don't just copy OSHA. If that's all we needed to do, they don't need us. Write in plain English and when you're on this site, we expect you to do X, Y, and Z. I think there's a big value in structuring these things into those three categories because a standard shouldn't have any prescription to it. It should just be a requirement, right? The procedure is how you uphold the standards. In a procedure, my big thing and the title of this chapter is called Quit using shall, you're not Shakespeare. :

Yeah, I'm not the reverend safety professional by any means. In procedure, my first guideline is never used the word shall, should, must or will because, well, three reasons. They're legal terms, we're not lawyers. They're antiquated and old, so they don't resonate with today's workforce. The most important reason that you shouldn't use that is because they're statements about what you're going to do, not how we do it here.

Jill:

Yeah. I get it.

Jason:

When I say that people are like, oh yeah, that actually makes sense. We use shall so much and it just bugs me. A worker sees shall and it feels oppressive. It feels like the employer's trying to get one over on me or they own me. For guidelines I just gave kind of a... Guidelines for me would be an interpretation document. Maybe you go out and take pictures of how to do a sequence of steps so that people have something to put with the words and kind of in the words of Stephen King, there's always something to take out. These things should be short, concise, to the point. If you have a lockout, tag out procedure that's 80 pages long, I guarantee your site is not using it properly.

Jill:

Right. You're giving a practical guide to writing for safety professionals.

Jason:

Right, that's part of it. There's 11 of those tools like that and they're all just basic human stuff, you know?

Jill:

Yeah. Fascinating. Fascinating. Jason, for people who are listening who are like, man, I wish I had a dad who told me to go write a book because I've always kind of been itching to be a writer or maybe there are safety professionals who are writers right now. I'm fascinated by writing, love to do it myself, so I love to hear how other people approach writing. How do you do it? How do you get your inspiration? Do you sit down and crank stuff out? Do you get your butt at a keyboard every day and write or what's your writing process like?

Jason:

I write most days. I don't have a word limit or... I know a lot of people, fiction writers in general, set like... I want to write 2000 words a day. That's just not feasible for me, maybe someday it will be. There have been days when I've written that much, but I try to get an idea every day and then, you may have caught it, but one of my favorite kind of heroes in writing is Stephen King, not so much because I love his stories-

Jill:

I did catch that, Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jason:

... but he wrote a book in 2000 called On Writing and I think it's called A Memoir of the Craft. He really gets into his process and how he got to where he got... If you read his material, he is one of the most technically proficient writers that I think has ever been. He's just grammatically, lyrically everything, he's just amazingly proficient and very, very talented with words. I try to, I wouldn't say I try to emulate that because I don't know if I ever will, but I want all of the words that I string together in a particular order to make an impact. If there's something in there that doesn't add value, I'm going to take it out. Even if I really like it, even if it sounds really cool, it doesn't add to the story, I'm going to take it out. :

My process and this is one where I think I do, I did catch from him, from Stephen King, was he has this idea of letting the little people upstairs do their work. What I do is I write down... If I'm writing a blog post or even a chapter in a book, I'm working on the second part to the practical guide, I just write down the title of the chapter and the title might change, but I write down the thought of I want to write something along this category. I just leave it sit and think about it obsessively. For a week. Yeah.

Jill:

You're daydreaming in the shower, you're daydreaming through everything and you're thinking about it.

Jason:

Yeah. A lot of times for me it's, I get that starting point and I know I want to make an end point, but I don't know what fills in the middle and something will happen or I'll see something funny or... I try to, one of the big goals with the book and with my blog is that I try to make them entertaining and funny. I'm not going to make light of injuries and death or anything like that, but life is fun and funny and fun to experience. I want to convey that and then right at the end stick you with the really poignant message. I wait until something either occurs to me, I remember something or I see my daughter do something crazy or yesterday I wrote a post about having to break into my house because I left my keys and that clicked with something else. That's really my process is I'll sit and figure out what I want to write about and... The one that I wrote yesterday has been sitting in the queue for, I don't know, a month and a half. I just come back to it. I read through my list of potentials and I go, eh, not ready for that one today. Once I put something together, I'm pretty fast. I just sit and bang out the guts of it and then I spend a little bit of time editing. :

The biggest resource for me for editing is I usually read everything and write out loud to my wife. She's critical but in a good way because she's not a safety professional, so she doesn't completely understand what it is that I do. I mean, after 15 years she gets it, but if it doesn't make sense right away to her, then it's not right because it needs to be accessible enough to where I'm not speaking academically or speaking down to the audience because it people will turn off. It's kind of a chaotic process for me, I would say.

Jill:

My writing process is very similar, Jason. Something will pop in my head or I'll observe a story. Something will happen in life or with someone else and then I'll think, wow, I've got to... That's good, I want to write about that. It's not always that it's this really big, big thing that happened, but usually something tiny that was impactful but in a really tiny way. Then how can you blow that wider or dig into that deeper? Then I usually wait for some kind of sentence to come into my head and once that sentence is there, I write it down because otherwise I'll lose it. I write it down usually in the notes pages of my phone and then I go back to those sentences, I'm like, okay, what was that again? Oh yeah, that was the thing and it was tied to that story and sometimes it doesn't go anywhere because it's like, yeah, I thought that was a great idea that day, but no. The ones that keep itching and digging at you are the ones that you, yeah, that [crosstalk 00:49:37].

Jason:

There's one in my blog list that's been sitting there since April and it's going to sit there, but I don't think I'll ever get there. The one thing that I've found as I've really, I would say, really become a writer in this past year, is you've got to take care of yourself because when you're in your head that much it's a really fine line between severe anxiety and ultimate fulfillment when you complete a project. At least it is for me. It's something that I've-

Jill:

Yeah. Say more about that.

Jason:

My day job is safety. My night job is safety and social media about safety. It's always being on. I got to the point earlier this year where I just couldn't sleep anymore and I make the joke and I'm like, I don't sleep anymore. I just hang upside down like a bat for a couple hours. you really have to take care of yourself and I think a lot of artists in any genre have that problem because they're so focused on putting something great out. It's funny because if I finish a really good blog post and publish it or set it up to publish the next morning on the timer, I can usually sleep okay. If I'm like halfway through and I'm going through all the conversations and the funny, witty banter that I want to put in it or the really poignant message, whatever it is and I don't finish, I struggle. I mean you just have to manage that.

Jill:

Yeah. You got to give it up.

Jason:

You have to manage your time and you have to kind of learn how to shut it off. I thought I was really good at shutting it off and I think the case was actually that I just never really turned it on.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. What does self care look like for you then? How do you shut that off?

Jason:

I'm still learning. This week is a perfect example. Doing stuff like this is key when you get to converse and tell the stories and get it out with other people that understand. I think that's huge. Referring back to that post that I wrote yesterday, I think it's about your friends and your connection. One thing that my wife and I have started doing this year is we go to lunch once a week and just don't talk about work, which sometimes means we don't talk, you know, which is fine. Getting away and being able to just shut it off, turn off your mind, go to enjoy something else, have a sandwich, drink a beer, whatever it is and just not think about safety or fill in the blank with whatever you do. That helps.

Jill:

It's so critically important and I think it's very... It's critically important as a human being to take care of yourself and recognize that you need self care and then what works for you because we're all wired differently. I tend to want to get in nature. If I haven't been in a woods or on a trail or near a tree, I just sort of ache for that. Yeah, sometimes it's just also just being quiet and doing something mindless like organizing a drawer.

Jason:

I don't do well with quiet, I tend to slip back into things. One of the other things, you just reminded me, my nature is the gym and I say this because I'm kind of missing it right now because my gym buddy is working nights and we haven't seen each other in like three weeks. I made really good friends with a guy that's at the same level as me, which is important but also is forward enough and we are in, our relationship, if I get to talking too much or even even if he does because we both work at the same place. If we get to talking too much about our frustrations or whatever's going on, we'll just tell each other to just shut up. All right, we're done with that now. It's time to lift, you know?

Jill:

Yep, yep, yep. I get it. I get it. Yeah, that is another great outlet. Sounds like you and I are both weightlifters and that is definitely a place to go. I was having a little anxiety about not being able to get to my gym this morning for my normal 6:00 AM shtick because there was a snow storm and I live in the Midwest and couldn't get there. Last night before I went to bed, I went outside, shoveled snow. I'm like, okay, [inaudible] workout. Got up this morning, I'm like, I'm tromping through this snow, the deepest snow I can find and I'm imagining I'm Rocky when Rocky was training in what, Siberia or whatever. Yeah. Anyway, Jason, this has been so fun. I just really appreciate all that you've shared with our audience and I want to make sure you've mentioned your writing. You've mentioned your blog posts. If people want to find your blog, is it at relentlesssafety.com, is that where they-

Jason:

Yes.

Jill:

... Is that where people should go? Okay.

Jason:

Relentlesssafety.com. It's got all the book links as well. The books available on CRC press and Amazon and Barnes and Noble and all kinds of places.

Jill:

Sure. You're in the process of writing the second practical guide to the safety profession.

Jason:

Yep. The second one is, I'm not very far along, but the second one is really going to be aimed at executives and leaders and... To my knowledge, there's never been a book directed at them on how they should be a champion for safety. That's where I want to go with that. I'm doing some research there.

Jill:

It's critical. Yeah, it's critical. Fantastic. Jason, thank you so much for everything you shared today. I appreciate it.

Jason:

Thank you for having me. No, this was tons of fun. I appreciate you having me on.

Jill:

Yeah. All right. Thank you all for spending your time listening today. More importantly, thank you for your contribution, making sure your workers, including your temporary workers, make it home safe every day. If you'd like to join the conversation about this episode or any of our previous episodes, you can follow our page and join the accidental safety pro community group on Facebook. If you're not subscribed and want to hear past and future episodes, you can subscribe to our podcast in iTunes, the Apple podcast app or any other podcast player that you'd like. You can also find all the episodes at vividlearningsystems.com/podcast. We'd love it if you could leave a rating and review us on iTunes. It really helps us connect the show with more and more safety professionals like you and I. If you have a suggestion for a guest, including if it's you, you can contact me at social@vividlearningsystems.com. Special thanks to Will Moss, our podcast producer. Until next time, thanks for listening.