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#47: Almost like a bad spy movie

January 15, 2020 | 54 minutes 

Podcast series host Jill James speaks with Jim Allyn, MarTech Media’s resident subject matter expert for reliability training. Jim is one of the most experienced training instructors to ever grace the podcast, with too many stories from the field to pack into one episode.

After leaving a 20-year career in the military (8 years as a training instructor), Jim briefly entered the oil & gas industry, leaving soon in the interest of literal self-preservation—it’s dangerous work. Tapping his background in reliability systems, Jim moved on to work for an engineering firm, developing preventative maintenance strategies. He successfully pursued OSHA Outreach instructor certification.

Today, for MarTech customers, Jim blends industrial skills training with safety and compliance, for a unique approach. He’s delivered hands-on mechanical skills training all over the world; Jim’s work takes him into the engine rooms of large power generators, hydroelectric power plants, and manufacturing facilities, where he trains millwrights, industrial mechanics, and operations managers.

Learn about Jim’s experience working with safety professionals, his approach to training craft trades personnel, and what it feels like to experience high-risk work in far flung locales when ‘safety culture’ is non-existent.

Transcript

Jill:

This is the Accidental Safety Pro, brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the Health and Safety Institute, episode number 47. My name is Jill James, Vivid's Chief Safety Officer. And today, I'm joined by Jim Allen, education safety and training professional with Martech Media. Jim is joining us today from Houston, Texas. Jim, welcome to the show.

Jim:

Thanks for having me, Jill.

Jill:

Well, so Jim, you're a little familiar with the podcast, now. And you know that it starts out by asking people to tell their safety story. And I'm really interested to hear yours. I know you have a background in mechanical, electrical and safety instruction and training development, and so I can't wait to get into that and how you got there. So do you want to start us off and tell us, how did you accidentally get into this profession?

Jim:

Absolutely, I'd love to. And it's funny that you mention accidental, because it was so accidental how I literally got into this field.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

My safety saga, or drama, as we'll call it, started off when I was in the United States military.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And what we were told safety was, really wasn't safety. And over time, and just being in the military realm of current events, you really come to realize that what they're calling safety is really nothing more than risk management.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

So it's definitely not identification and abatement; it's definitely like, "Hey, how do we reduce the chances that we have to do a safety report?"

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

So we always had that. And we always had risk tools to help us get around safety instructions, regulations, so on, so forth.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

So I definitely knew, after 20 years in the military that that wasn't the way to do it. That wasn't right. So when I retired from military service, I got into oil and gas, because I didn't want to go from the world's lowest paying professional, which is the military, to the next lowest paying profession, whatever that is, I didn't want to find it.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

So I got into oil and gas, and I started out operations on the rig, and looking for absolutely no responsibility whatsoever. So I was working floors and just every day operations. And it started to have a very similar feel to the United States military, safety-wise. We would have what I would call unsafe briefings in the morning, where we'd talk about all the unsafe stuff we would do. And if we ever, as the operations specialists, ever tried to invoke some sort of safety stop or safety common sense, you would get told, "If you don't do it, we'll find someone else who will." So it really wasn't safety. It was risk assessment again.

Jill:

Yeah. So was it more like, "We're going to do this stuff. It's dangerous. Watch out, be careful. Next subject"?

Jim:

Yes. But a lot of times, we didn't get the, "Hey, watch out and be careful."

Jill:

Okay. Okay.

Jim:

We would get the, "Don't break the equipment. It's all about the money. And if you get hurt ... " It was almost like a bad spy movie. "We'll disavow all knowledge of what's going on."

Jill:

Okay. Great.

Jim:

Oh, yeah. So then I dug into it a little farther, once I continued my career in oil and gas. And I've come to find that the standard of safety in oil and gas is less than pathetic. And it would turn out to be that companies would expect one to two fatalities a year. A major accident event wasn't categorized unless there was eight fatalities or more. So if seven people became deceased, it was bad; but thank god it wasn't eight. And I'm like, "This is just absolutely crazy."

Jill:

So the risk bar was different and obtuse to what you thought was acceptable.

Jim:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

So that really piqued my interest in operational health and safety and OSHA and I kind of realized, for my own self-preservation, "I think I need to get a little smarter in this."

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

So I left oil and gas, because as lucrative as it was, I'm like, "You know, the chances of me losing a finger, a head, toes, teeth is just not worth it," because there's not a culture of safety there.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

It's window dressing.

Jill:

Yeah. Particularly where you were?

Jim:

Oh, particularly.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

And I went to an engineering firm, because I have a reliability background. And I was doing reliability training. And the firm-

Jill:

What does ... Do you mind explaining, for our audience, in case we don't know, what is reliability training?

Jim:

Okay. Reliability training is developing preventative and predictive maintenance plans and strategies for companies. So it leverages the hard skills of mechanics, electrics, so on, so forth. But it also includes regulatory compliance, safety compliance, and it's really creating a more efficient way of doing business.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And it's evidence-based. Basically, evidence-based decision making.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

So I had the opportunity to take a couple OSHA classes from a local college. And they put me in touch with a program to allow me to be an outreach instructor.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And I'm like, "Well, this all is very fascinating." So I pursued that course. And when I got hired on at Martech, every time I'd go out in the field, I would see just huge safety voids in the training we were doing and what we were trying to create. And my training became the perfect media, combined with the OSHA outreach instruction to kind of meld the training that I'm doing now. And-

Jill:

And when you OSHA outreach instruction, you're talking about the ability to teach the OSHA 10 and 30?

Jim:

Yes, ma'am.

Jill:

Yeah, okay, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

Yeah. And even just when I started off, becoming a general industry outreach instructor, for some reason when I would mention safety in a class, all of a sudden there was credibility. And all of a sudden, people started to listen and pay attention. And as the reputation gone on that, "Yes, this Jim Allen guy is providing mechanical skills, but he's also weaving safety, compliance and everything into it," it just came as, that was almost more important than the mechanical skills, was getting the safety knowledge for the guys.

Jill:

Yeah, so Jim, you were hired to do mechanical skills training. Is that right?

Jim:

Yes, ma'am.

Jill:

Yeah. So for our audience who might be wondering, "What does that mean," if that sounds like a foreign word to someone who's maybe starting out in safety, what are mechanical skills?

Jim:

Okay. Very good question. Mechanical skills is very broad, but I'll take it from my strand of mechanical skills.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

I will instruct industrial mechanics, millwrights and that of the sort, and we'll start dealing with fundamentals of mechanical skills. And then we will work with certain original equipment, or OEM manufacturer engines of certain brands. And we'll provide the instruction, the fundamentals on how to work on them. We'll go out and work on them, and we'll just provide a hard series of skills.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Can you give some examples of what some of the equipment might be for people who are thinking, "Okay, like what kind of equipment?" What's the breadth of this?

Jim:

Okay. Recently, I've been doing a lot of work with the larger diesel engines that power power plants.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

So we'll have a engine hall, so to speak, of 12 very large engines that weight up to 50,000 pounds a piece, two stories tall, driving a generator that produces the power in everyone's house nowadays.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

So we'll go, and we will learn, or will sharpen the skills of the mechanics who work on them to the safest way to work on them, the proper way to work on them, the OEM specifications, get rid of all the bad habits of, "Well, that's how we've always done it."

Jill:

Yeah. And what does OEM mean, for people who aren't familiar with that?

Jim:

Oh! Original equipment manufacturer.

Jill:

Yes, okay.

Jim:

So we pretty much take the owner's manual of a car and apply that to the equipment. And you would be surprised at how many skilled mechanics, technicians, what not actually learn once they have a chance to stop doing what they've always done and actually get into what the original manufacturer intended or wanted.

Jill:

Yeah. You know, that's so interesting that you talk about that and know that someone like you does that kind of training. In the time that I spent with OSHA over the years, whenever we were trying to figure out a hazard or determine, "Is this a hazard," how would you do it, what would we do with something, and it wasn't in the regulation book. Because let's face it, not every single piece of equipment or situation can you find in the 1910 or 1926. The advice was, on our end, to the employer, was to always go back to that manufacturer and what their instructions were on the proper use of it, or modifications thereof, or how to maintain something properly. And it was often met with, "We don't have the manual. It's so old, it must have came over on the Mayflower," or, "That sounds hard."

Yeah so you work with people on this exact thing?

Jim:

Oh, absolutely. I also have a background with the hydroelectric power plants, like the Hoover Dam.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

And that is literally stuff that was built in the previous century.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

None of the engineers are still alive. And in industry, there's always a turnover of personnel. And it's usually a 20-year cycle. People move up, they retire, so on, so forth. So when we have to instruct for that environment, I have to go on engineering journals like Scribd and pull up handwritten manuals from the early 1900s and whatnot. So yes, it is not uncommon for operators of equipment to go, "We don't have that book."

Jill:

Yeah, right. I'm just thinking about so many punch presses. You know? They're so varying of different ... They're so old, many of them, in manufacturing facilities in particular. Yeah. Interesting. Interesting. So you're training people on that, and you're weaving safety into it. You mentioned millwrights. Talk about what that is, and what kind of equipment and personnel that includes.

Jim:

Okay. A millwright, I don't want to offend anyone out there, is a fancy term for a mechanic, but their mechanical training is very specific to an industry. Whether they are a hydroelectric millwright, or they're a factory millwright.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

But really, they just have a specific set of mechanical skills that deal with the equipment that they're very likely to encounter. So they receive a very broad training. So someone who goes to an automotive college will receive completely different training than someone who finds millwright training.

Jill:

Got it. Okay. Okay, that makes a lot of sense. I'm picturing, in my mind ... Well, for anyone who follows Vivid Learning Systems and the Supervisor Safety Tip series, the last place I filmed was a sugar beet processing plant. And I suspect, Jim, that I came across a lot of millwrights.

Jim:

You absolutely did.

Jill:

All right. And so they would be needing this training that you're talking about; this mechanical skills training.

Jim:

Absolutely. And also, when we talk about the mechanical skills, because we weave the safety into it, there's a lot of identification and abatement that we all can do in the class. Because hands-on is where all knowledge, I believe, is obtained and transferred. So we'll teach the fundamentals, we'll teach the classroom. And then, when we go out, whether it's a beet plant, an electrical power plant, or wherever the place will be, we can always apply safety.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

Saying like, "Hey, should there be guards on this piece of equipment?" Or, "Hey, we're using the overhead hoist. Has there been an inspection done on it? Is it documented? Are you trained for it?"

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). "Have we done the lockout tagout step by step procedures to identify all of the energy sources for this particular thing?"

Jim:

Oh, yes.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And even deeper with that, I usually ask the students, "Do you know exactly what we're doing when we lockout and tagout this equipment? When I shut this valve off, when I throw a lock on it, or I flip the switch and put a tag on it, what is that actually accomplishing?"

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

And so, I mean, it's amazing how much safety is interwoven into everything that happens in the mechanical ... or industry, and people just don't even realize it.

Jill:

Yeah. So Jim, where ... I'm just thinking about ... I mean, this seems like a critical training. And do some employers, when they're hiring, can they hire employees who have mechanical skills training already, or a little bit of it, or is this something that's an apprenticeship program on the job, or how doe this education piece work for industrial mechanics and millwrights?

Jim:

Okay. When it comes to millwrights, that is usually an apprenticeship type of program. There is X amount of college or industrial skills training. But a lot of it is ... I don't want to say intern. Sorry. I just lost the word for it. But a lot of it comes from the apprenticeship programs. Some are union-sponsored, some are company-sponsored. It's very desirable for a manufacturer or an employer to find someone who's been through an apprenticeship program. Because nine times out of ten, they have the safety aspect, and they have at least a set of hard skills that, with experience, they can bring them up to be a productive member relatively shortly.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

Now, the question comes, is what if we don't have that pool of knowledge available?

Jill:

Yeah, right.

Jim:

And that's where I come in to set that up and actually go out there and provide that hands-on training, albeit much shorter than a standard two-year apprenticeship. But it's still a really good starring point. And it's great to allow the company that has brought us on to ... They get a skills assessment. They get a gap analysis. So it really kind of helps everyone to provide training. Because you can't train experience. You have to get that experience, but before you get that experience, you have to have some sort of knowledge to get experience.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

God, that sounds such catch 22-ish.

Jill:

Doesn't it? It really does, but it makes complete sense. You know? You want to bring somebody up in the ranks that has some talent, or you bring them into an industry that they've never been in before, but they've been in other industries, so you need to get them familiarized with your equipment and the way that you do things, and the risks. Yeah, and so you need to do that training.

So Jim, do you often find yourself doing kind of deep dive in particular subjects, depending on the employer with whom you're working?

Jim:

Absolutely. Usually in the first two hours of any instructional session that I lead, that's usually ... We'll identify what deep dive subjects we need to go into. And shockingly enough, the majority of it is safety. Because before I take someone even out to the field, I want to make sure that we're all working safely; we're all on the same page.

Jill:

Right.

Jim:

That we'd all have the same standard, same want to be safe. So there's always a deep dive into safety, usually followed by a deep dive into the reliability aspect of where we're working.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, makes sense. So I think ... And pardon me if we've gotten off track from your career story, because I think this is just so interesting to me. In the years that I've been a safety professional, which is 25 years, I would never feel qualified to do what it is that you do. And so I guess my question is, when people bring you into do this training, are the people that are reaching out and asking for your help usually the safety professional, or an operations manager, or a union leader? How does that work, when ... For anybody who's listening, who might be a safety professional, and they're thinking, "Okay, I think we need this where I'm at," who's normally reaching out to you?

Jim:

Okay. Once again, Jill, very good question. A lot of times, it comes from the operational managers, where there will be a reduction in production, an increase in downtime, an increase of equipment out of service. And that's usually followed by an increase in safety reportable incidents. So usually, it's the operational manager that'll say, "Wow. We're not making money. All of our equipment's broken, and we're getting hurt. Oh, crap. We need to get some help."

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

Now, unfortunately, in that situation, there's a lot of politics that goes on with the safety department. Because usually, they're real resentful that someone else is coming in here, into their territory.

Jill:

Oh, interesting.

Jim:

Oh, yes.

Jill:

I would think just the opposite. Because I'm just thinking, "Gosh, how would I ever teach someone to tear down and rebuild a diesel engine?" You know?

Jim:

Oh, no, it's ...

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

But usually, with the good ... And I've met more very good and intelligent safety professionals than the latter.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

So usually when you incorporate them into their training, that's where we get this interwovenness. Like, "Hey, what are your company policies? Let's look at your policies and see how I can weave them into my training to make an overall safer environment; to make a more aware employee?" And then everyone kind of warms up when they realize like, "Okay, Mr. Jim is not here to cost me my job. He's here to help."

Jill:

Yeah. And you're doing things side-by-side. Because I imagine that in order for you to do what you do, you need to be ... Even if it's the operations person that has reached out to you, and establish a relationship with, you quickly find yourself with a safety person to say, "The things that we're going to be looking at today are involving confined spaces. School me on what you have for confined space entry program."

Jim:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Yeah, okay.

Jim:

And usually, a lot of times before I even get in that environment, I try to reach out to the safety representatives and say, "Hey, what training do I have to have? What certifications do you guys want? What certificates do I need to send over?" So on and so forth; in an attempt to try to stem off the hostility, so to speak.

Jill:

Sure, sure. Well, it seems like a fantastic need; and need number one, and opportunity number two, to really take things from basic compliance to really digging into the specifics of exposures that employees may have on the job, and at the same time, you're teaching maintenance skills. Right?

Jim:

Yes.

Jill:

And, yeah, the way to maintain and repair; would that be the right way to talk about industrial skills, as well?

Jim:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And you know, like when we're talking about industrial skills, a lot of the industrial skills that we'll look at is ... I will assess people performing a task, and then I get a chance to put my safety hat on and say, "Okay, technician one and technician two: Technician two, do you think you are standing in a safe place while technician one is using this powered piece of whatever?" Or, "Technician one, do you think putting that 15-foot cheater bar on that wrench ... Is that the best way to do this?" Or, "Technician one and two, did you guys look below you on the lower deck to see if there's anyone there? Do they have their safety gear?"

Jim:

So yeah, so as we're teaching these skills, part of teaching the skills is, "Hey, let's get them some best practices."

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

And a lot of it is driven by safety.

Jill:

Yeah. Sounds like a job hazard analysis.

Jim:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

It ... Yes. It's a live job safety ... Yeah, JHA.

Jill:

Yeah, right.

Jim:

Sorry. Had to get my acronyms.

Jill:

Well, yeah. I know it gets confusing in our field, definitely. Yeah, so Jim, while we've been talking, I'm thinking maybe people are putting in their minds, a picture of a factory or oil and gas industry operations, like you had talked about before. But these sort of skills training isn't just exclusive to industrial settings. These sort of skills and equipment exist in other places of employment as well, correct?

Jim:

Absolutely. [crosstalk]

Jill:

Yeah, give some examples of that, too.

Jim:

Okay. Any place that employs robotics will have to have technicians. Any factory that has equipment, has machinery, has to be maintained.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, so a robot ... I mean, you said robotics, I'm thinking even healthcare.

Jim:

Yes! Without a doubt. Any place that where equipment's used for profit, there has to be a team to maintain that.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

So any industry can use these skills. And any industry can use fundamentals, where you always have to walk before you run. So you have to learn, "Okay, this is a bearing. This is what a bearing does," before we get into, "Hey, how do we troubleshoot an equipment with 136 bearings that's making a squeaky noise?"

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Jim:

And it doesn't matter what industry you're in. If you have the OEM manuals, if you have blueprints, if you have schematics, you can develop training from there.

Jill:

Sure. And if you have maintenance personnel, I'm guessing.

Jim:

Oh, absolutely.

Jill:

Right? Okay.

Jim:

Yes, absolutely.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, yeah. So applicable to most places of employment.

Jim:

Yes.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah, maybe not an office setting or building unless you've got your own maintenance team that's maintaining everything that makes the building work.

Jim:

True. But here's kind of a caveat, or a yeah but with that.

Jill:

Okay, okay.

Jim:

What about your contractors? A lot of trends in industry nowadays is to get rid of overhead and will maintain a skeleton force, but will have contractors come in to maintain our equipment.

Jill:

Yes.

Jim:

That's also a prime territory for us. Let's go provide the contractors with the knowledge and the standards that this company has to perform their maintenance. So even if you don't have your own dedicated maintenance crew, the ones who you hire, you're still responsible for them from a safety aspect, from a performance aspect.

Jill:

Yes because you're the host employer under the multi-employer work site policy with OSHA. That makes sense. So then, would your job in those cases be to develop those processes for when they bring on certain contractors, maybe some of the reliability training, would that be right?

Jim:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And if nothing else, we would develop and set the maintenance standards for them.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

As in, you have to have everyone with an OSHA 10 or an OSHA 30 for safety-wise, prior to coming on the site.

Jill:

Sure.

Jim:

You have to have your mechanics, or you have to have all of your torque wrenches calibrated prior to coming on site.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

You have to have passed a basic skills test, that usually, we could develop, to just establish their knowledge base and competency. And-

Jill:

Yeah, and that's so the host employer can feel comfortable with whom they hire; who they contract with.

Jim:

Yes.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

So like we said, if ... And this is going to sound so strange, but if wrenches are turned or electrons are being checked, there should be training for that.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Makes sense. Yeah, this is really good. And so when ... For our audience who's listening today, the thing that ... If they're interested in finding this kind of training, would the keywords they would look for or ask about is, industrial skills training, or are there more words that they could ask for and search about?

Jim:

That is a-

Jill:

Terms, or other.

Jim:

That is a very good question. Industrial skills, craft training.

Jill:

Okay, okay.

Jim:

And you could put whatever craft in front of that; electrical craft, mechanical craft, so on, so forth.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

Or, you could look at any provider online that has online content.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

There will usually be links or access to instructor-led content from them.

Jill:

Okay. Okay. So you can do kind of combinations of online training and instructor-led training to provide the hands-on piece that you were talking about?

Jim:

Oh, absolutely.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

I always try to blend an online pre-requisite prior to the actual class, so I'm at least establishing some base of knowledge for when we start. So yes, the blended approach of instructor-led and e-learning; that's a very impactful approach. Very value-added.

Jill:

Okay. Okay, very good. So Jim, you've been doing this kind of training for how long now?

Jim:

Okay. In the civilian world, I've been doing this for about 10 years.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And in the military, I had a stent as a training instructor for eight.

Jill:

Oh, wow. All right. So where has your training taken you? Into what kind of environments, what sort of things have you seen? Do you have any stories that you like to tell that were particularly impactful, that keeps you doing it for, that sounds like 18 years now?

Jim:

Yes, absolutely. Okay. I have performed training everywhere from African countries, which was super interesting, because that is, in general, a conscript workforce based on politics of who you have to hire, and that's not necessarily qualified people; more as indigenous people. So that is always interesting, especially working with a translator.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

I have worked in, I don't want to say Beirut, Lebanon, but Beirut, Lebanon; where we've had to have armed security guards drive us from our building to the plant and back and forth. That's always interesting.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

But some of my favorite places I've worked at is in the Caribbean. Because on an island, you have to be self-sufficient. So if their power plant is not working effectively, everyone on the island pays for that, or feels that effect. And-

Jill:

It's not like you can get parts down the road.

Jim:

Exactly. Or, it's not like you can look for another power provider and get better service.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

So one story that I have is ... I'm not going to mention the client's name.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And I was out there to do an assessment. And when I was doing my assessment, I walked off the job site after being there for a half an hour, and told them, "I want to jump on a plane and go home, because I've never been so scared for my life."

Jill:

Oh, wow.

Jim:

And of course, the client's like, "What?" You know, totally shocked. And I'm like, "Look. I've seen a guy improperly rig a 2,000-pound piece of equipment and almost drop it over three or four people. I have just seen someone using that large wrench in an inappropriate manner and have it go flying off and hit somebody in the lower deck." And what was scary about that is, I'm watching these guys work, and I'm like, "They have got to be playing with me. They know I'm out here doing an assessment." And it took me a couple seconds to realize that they're not acting; this is every day operations. There is not a safety culture, here.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

There is not a maintenance culture here.

Jill:

Not an awareness of what hazards or risk is.

Jim:

Absolutely. There was definitely not a risk assessment. If a job safety analysis or job hazard analysis has been performed, it was just window dressing; it was just paper that everyone had to sign. And there was no real meat or meaning behind it. And as I'm going on with this assessment, watching this improper tool being used in an improper manner, like I said, it goes flying off, bounces off the deck. And because we didn't have toe boards on the deck, it didn't get stopped. It went down, and I heard it hit someone, because I heard him moan. Then I heard him drop his tools and hit the ground. And by the time I ran to the lower deck, because I'm thinking, "Oh my god. I just watched someone get killed."

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

Like, "Man, that's going to be a lot of paperwork." But anyway ... That was humor. I was going down there, and this contractor, who didn't have his PPE on, gets up, he's staggering. So I immediately go and look at his eyes, see if they're dilated. And I'm like, "Hey, are you okay? Are you okay?" You know, "What day is it? What time is it?" He could talk, there wasn't anything coming out of his ears or nose or anything like that. And I'm like, "Dude, do I need to get you to the hospital? What's the plant's emergency action plan for this?" And he was just like, "No, no. I got to work. I got to work." I'm like, "Dude, you got a big lump on your head forming. I'm watching it form."

"No, no. I'm okay. I didn't get hit." It's just like, "Oh, okay."

Jill:

Wow.

Jim:

But a success part about this is that drove me even further, and I was able to talk to the C-suite of the company and give them my report. And-

Jill:

So did you literally leave the island after being there for 30 minutes, or how did this work next?

Jim:

Okay. How it worked next is, they were like, "You are embellishing." I always take pictures of everything, because a picture speaks 1,000 words.

Jill:

Yes.

Jim:

After that, they're like, "Oh. Please don't leave."

Jill:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Jim:

I'm like, "Okay." I'm like, "Well, before we go any farther, we need to do some safety training. Let me talk to your safety people."

"Well, we don't have a safety team, we have a safety advisor."

Jill:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Jim:

I'm like, "What?"

Jill:

Thus, the problem.

Jim:

Yes.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

I'm like, "Okay." I'm like, "If you want my services and you want me to step out of this office and go back to the money making process," because it's all about money, unfortunately, I go, "We need to do an assessment on your safety program. We need to do a deep dive on that. And we need to provide education and the tools necessary for it."

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

"If not, I'm out. I'm leaving, I don't care what you guys say."

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

So they did that, and I was able to provide three months of intensive safety training, where we went over all the company polices. Because it was a Caribbean country, they weren't required to use OSHA, but all of their instructions were written directly from OSHA. So whoever they paid to write their instructions knew that OSHA had a good thing and a good, proven system. And that's what they wanted to implement. So I got a chance to leverage some OSHA experience that I had, go over. 100% of plant personnel got trained. And then, for a couple months after that, I was out doing safety assessments; basically being the safety man. They called me the safety man.

Jim:

And I was able to see changes. It wasn't perfect. It was progress, not perfection. But I was able to feel safe enough and see that the initiatives that were happening, that I'm like, "Okay, I feel like I could work out here without losing a finger or my life."

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

So like I said, that was one of those stories, and that's what really kept me charged, because I was able to identify and provide a solution.

Jill:

Yeah. So Jim, when you started with that particular company, and you started giving people information, did that information empower them? Were they resistant to it, or were they like, "Oh, man," or like, "We've been waiting for this." You know? How was it received?

Jim:

Okay. It was received very well, but the students provided a lot of really good dialect, which allowed me to identify another issue and go and try to fix that, or provide a fix for that.

Jill:

Which usually happens when you start talking with people.

Jim:

Oh, absolutely.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

I mean, the best way to do an inspection is just to ask people, "Hey, what's wrong?" They'll tell you.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

So we come to find that the people, various education levels, were ... They went from, "Wow, we didn't even know there was these safety policies," to, "Our management will never let his happen. They'll never let us stop the job. They'll never let us ... " There's a whole bunch of never, never, never.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

So I'm like, "Well, okay. Fantastic." So I was able to take that information back to the C-suite, which is the CEO, CFO, for those who don't know.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

And so on, so forth, and say, "Hey, here's what we've discovered. Here's the test that these guys have taken. They took a before test and an after test, so they have retained knowledge. We have done hands-on. They all have their links on their computers now, to all the safety instructors. But the problem that we're having, is we're having laggards at the middle-management and upper-management." So we were able to develop training to kind of meld the two, upper-management and mid-management. And like I said, the guys, even now, this has been three years, still see me and say, "Mr. Jim, thank you. I realized we were doing this wrong." And, "Look at what I've done. Look, all my guys have their PPE on." So that was very warming, and that's one of the few warm safety moments you have. Because nine times out of ten, if you're having anything to do with safety, you're the bad guy. You're telling someone, "You're doing it wrong. It's unsafe," or whatnot. So to have a positive ending; to be able to affect someone positively is outstanding.

Jill:

Yeah, it is. Congratulations on that. Thanks for sticking it out for all of those people.

Jim:

Well ...

Jill:

That's pretty cool.

Jim:

It is. You know? When you do instructor-led training, especially with a longterm client, you really develop a rapport and a relationship with the management, the students, the workers, the leadership.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

You know? And it's a really great feeling, when you feel like you've been accepted into the tribe.

Jill:

Yeah, right.

Jim:

You're a contractor, but you're a part of their team.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). So Jim, how do you help, or how would you advise people; what's the frequency or cadence that you do with training? How often are you going back, and are you always doing same thing, same audiences, or how does that part work?

Jim:

Okay.

Jill:

And is there a best practice to it?

Jim:

Yes, there is. Whenever you start down the road of improvement, you always have to have the end game in sight, which is sustainment. Because giving knowledge one time and never applying that knowledge; you just wasted that time and money and resources.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

So you always have to have a plan on how to sustain. And usually, that could be refresher training. A lot of times, that's developed into an e-learning type of refresher.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

So we always have that type of refresher training. And continued assessments, or continued observations. So you have to have that set in place before you try to set up on any type of training.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

Now, usually my cadence will ... To go into a company, set up some sort of knowledge-based test so I can establish my baseline, "Okay, where are they weak at? Where are they strong at?" Bridge the gap between the two, provide that initial infusion of knowledge. At a later time, come back for followup training, just to make sure that it took. And then it's time to reassess and say, "Okay, where else are we weak? Where do we need to go from here?" We talked about the engine, for example. "We've got the guys, we've got the serviceability rates better with the engine. Let's look at the support equipment, now. What's the serviceability on their support equipment?" Separators, pumps, whatnot.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

So, that's usually how it goes.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And I haven't found a company yet that we work for that has said, "You know what? We've spent enough money," because the training provides results.

Jill:

Yeah, results as in things aren't breaking down, things are continuing to work, people aren't getting hurt; those kind of results?

Jim:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

Serviceability rates are higher, it's costing them less money to make money. Like you said, people aren't getting hurt. People are working faster and harder, because when you give them training, that's an investment in them. So they tend to, when they've received the training and are able to apply it, I don't want to say they become better employees, but they become vested employees.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah. Makes sense. Yeah. So Jim, you talk about, in your training, some of it has to do with safety. And we've talked about OSHA regulations, compliance, that kind of thing. You've also talked about using the OEM or the original equipment manufacturer's information to do things properly. Are there other regulations that you're often working to comply with when you're working with employers on some of this industrial maintenance?

Jim:

Yes, absolutely.

Jill:

Yeah, what are some of those regulatory bodies?

Jim:

Okay, ISO, the International Standard Organization's one of them.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

IMSA. I will have to get back to you on that exact ...

Jill:

Uh-huh (affirmative), what it ... Yeah, uh-huh (affirmative).

Jim:

But generally, the regulatory bodies that we have to smart up on and comply with depends on the geographic area that we're going to work on.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

Certain companies we'll say, are Dutch companies. So we would have to look at Dutch safety laws as well as ISO and any international standards. Some use ANSI, A-N-S-I, and some use just ISO. So it really is client-based.

Jill:

Okay. Okay, that makes sense. And sometimes, do you derive some of that based on maybe what you read in some of these OEM manuals, as well?

Jim:

Oh, absolutely.

Jill:

Okay. Yeah.

Jim:

Yes, everything has to be able to be tied back into the OEM manual.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And a lot of times, what I've found with OEM manuals is if an OEM writes something down, they are now legally liable for it. So the best risk assessment that you can possibly have is to read the OEM-specific instructions for what they consider safety is; how to take a part out, how to put a part in, so on and so forth.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

Because they're liable.

Jill:

Yeah, I mean, and isn't that a good tip for anyone who's trying to work on a JSA or a JHA or write a process or a lockout tagout step-by-step procedure, or something, and they're like, "As a safety person, I don't know where to start." Well, start with that manual, and maybe the blueprint's already there.

Jim:

Oh, absolutely, yes. That is the best place. And as you said, probably 90% of your work will be done right there. So all's you'll have to integrate, as a safety professional, is now your company's specifics.

Jill:

Yep.

Jim:

So, yes, [crosstalk]

Jill:

And teaching the hands-on, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

Yes.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). Wonderful.

Jim:

And also, the OEM manual, usually a lot of times when I go out ... I'm sorry, it's story time, now.

Jill:

Yes, please.

Jim:

Whenever I go out to a piece of equipment that is malfunctioning or is a bad actor, which is known for historic poor performance, I will evaluate the guys doing tasks. And then I'll say, "What's the OEM manual say?"

"Ah, that's not how we ever done it," blah, blah, blah. But the second you get them follow the OEM manual, like magic, go, "Hey! It's working better," or, "That was the easiest I've ever done to install it."

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

So the OEM manual, whether you're a safety professional, a maintenance professional, an electrical professional, or management, it should be the gospel of what you should follow.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). So Jim, when I was doing inspections with OSHA, or whenever I do a safety audit and I'm observing people working and just trying to take in a process or a system, I'm also always watching for what I call ... Well, I don't know what I call it, but weird homemade tools.

Jim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jill:

The half a broomstick in the corner with the duck tape on it and a hook on the end, or a weird piece of water that's bent in a particular, precarious fashion. And then I ask people, "Okay, now what do you do with that?" And they're like, "Oh, yeah. The thing always does this, and then we stick it here and then we do," blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I bet you have seen some really interesting ones, based on your work.

Jim:

Oh, goodness. I've seen some very creative people out there. And unfortunately, a lot of the special tools or homemade tools are some of the most unsafe tools out there.

Jill:

Yeah! Talk about some of that. I mean, I think that's an aspect of a safety audit, for people who are listening, is to really watch and look for those things. And as I'm listening to you today, Jim, I'm thinking, "If I've seen a number in my career, I can't imagine how many you've seen doing what you do."

Jim:

Oh, good god. Jill, so true. Okay the first thing I usually do whenever I see a unofficial looking tool; it's usually rusty, it usually looks like a seven-year-old put it together. People are usually very uncomfortable with the guy with the clipboard standing out there when they touch it, so they treat it like it's hot or on fire, usually.

So when I see that, the first thing I usually ask is, "Have you guys done a management of change to use this tool?"

Jill:

Oh. Okay, what is ... Yeah, talk about what that means.

Jim:

Okay. Management of change is a process that deals with the company's technical services department, the engineering sections and it's basically a way a company is saying, "Hey, we know this tool is not specified by the OEM, but it works for us for whatever reason. We've done a risk assessment. We've done an engineering assessment on it, and we feel we can use this tool properly. So we're going to write it into our policies." Which, that's perfectly fine. If you've vetted this tool, and the company says, "We accept the risk, and we feel it's safe," then knock yourself out.

But that's usually not the case, because management of change seems to be, or people feel that it's a very long, drawn-out process. Which, from my experience, it's generally not. People who run management of change in large companies, or even small companies are ecstatic when people come to them and say, "Hey, we want to do this right. We just don't want to hide this in someone's locker until we need it, and then hope it doesn't break and kill someone."

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

But oh, yes. I've seen a lot of it, I've seen it all, and I refuse to allow it to be used in my classes.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah. Makes sense. I could've used that term when I was just starting out in my safety career in my 20s when people would ... I'd be like, "What is that thing on the side of the forklift?"

"Oh, that's where so-and-so sits because it's a long drive out to the field." I'm like, "You can't put two people on the forklift." I could've used that term, management of change, for that little add-on seat, here.

Jim:

Oh, yes. Or speaking of evaluating or inspecting, it is always funny, to me, to see how people react. I'm a huge people person. I know that sounds strange. But I'm a huge people person, and I love to just see their mannerisms and how they react. And whenever you're evaluating or inspecting, you can see when people are doing something that's ... they're putting on a show, and you can see what, every day, really, what we do. And it is just so easy to find people who are trying to put on the show because OSHA's here, or the safety man's here, or the third party contractor's here.

Jill:

The auditor, the insurance person, yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

Oh, yes. And I've seen people break out in sweats. I've seen people almost doing rock-paper-scissor to see who has to use the special tool in front of the auditor. And right at that moment, that's when I'm like, "Oh. Let's have some fun with this."

Jill:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Jim:

"Hey, what you doing?"

Jill:

Yeah. It's certainly ... Yeah, certainly an opportunity to teach.

Jim:

Yes. And that is a very important part about being a safety professional; is that it's always a learning opportunity.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:

You know? Because I've found in my experience no one goes out on the job and says, "You know what? I'm going to do a horrible job."

Jill:

Yeah, "I want to get hurt today." Nobody says that.

Jim:

Yeah, exactly.

Jill:

Nobody sets out for that.

Jim:

Yeah. No one says, "Hey, I'm going to lose a finger, and the company's going to pay me $5,000 for it." No one does that.

Jill:

Right, right.

Jim:

So it's always an opportunity.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah.

Jim:

Very true.

Jill:

So Jim, when you started ... Early in your life, maybe prior to your military service, what did you ... Growing up, what did you think you wanted to do?

Jim:

Okay, depending on when you ask me ...

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

At age four, it was probably firefighter.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

By age 12, it was probably millionaire. Let's see ...

Jill:

Is that an occupation? Okay.

Jim:

If it is, I'm still looking for it.

Jill:

I know. Me, too.

Jim:

At age 16, it really turned into a military professional.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

I come from a military family; multiple generations. And it was during the height of the Cold War. I'm dating myself a little bit. Dad served, grandpa served, uncle served.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

But I wanted to serve in a different way. I'm like, "I want to be involved with airplanes."

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

And I went to college prior to the military, and I didn't want to fly. I'm like, "I want to do something with my hands, get a skill, be valuable to my country." So it was about 16, is when I'm like, "I want to be the smartest person in my family, and I also want to have some skills dealing with airplanes."

Jill:

Yeah, yeah.

Jim:

And it was just like one, two, three, go from there.

Jill:

Uh-huh (affirmative). And from there, the safety drama, as you called it, unfolded.

Jim:

Oh, yes. Rapidly unfolded.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). What an interesting journey you've been on.

Jim:

Well, thank you. And it's not over. There are new challenges every day. It seems like, in the safety world, if we find a solution for one problem, they'll find a bigger problem.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

And it's just super challenging. And what I love about the safety world is there's so many resources out there. The OSHA website is ... Oh my god, it's amazing.

Jill:

Not very many people say that, but I agree with you wholeheartedly. It's my first stop, yeah.

Jim:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

I mean, just about anything safety-wise you need to create, go to the general industry.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

That's a really good starting point.

Jill:

Jim, what other resources do you use and go to to help you stay up to date and educate yourself? Because I think that's a powerful thing to share with our audience, as well.

Jim:

Okay. Over here, because I'm in Houston, Texas, University of Texas has a very strong safety program. They are one of the OSHA certifiers for outreach.

Jill:

Okay.

Jim:

And I use them as a resource as much as possible for continuation courses, continuation credits, all that. So there's formal education for it. The OSHA websites. And also, a lot of different blogs, chats, engineering websites; anything where there's a community that we can discuss or we can have forward thinking, and just real, live conversations, so to speak.

Jill:

Yeah. So you might be part of community groups to be able to share information back and forth and ask best practice questions?

Jim:

Yes, absolutely.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

And it is amazing, the safety community wants to talk. And I love that.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jim:

Whoever wants to share experiences or say, "Hey, these are some of the issues I'm having," so on, so forth. So you really remain forward with the trends of safety. And also, some of the solutions, too.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Yeah, we're very willing to share. Very willing to share. So thank you for sharing, today, Jim. This has been very educational for me, and hopefully for our audience, too. I really appreciate it.

Jim:

Oh, no problem, Jill. Thank you for having me.

Jill:

Yeah. And so, just as we're wrapping up, if you've been paying attention and listening and this sounds like something you need to be doing to enhance the safety at your facility, remember some of those keywords that Jim shared were craft training, and to insert the word for whatever craft it is you're looking for; so electrical craft training, mechanical craft training. Am I getting that right, Jim?

Jim:

Yes, ma'am.

Jill:

Yeah and industrial skills training would be something else to be searching for, as well. So Jim, thanks again for being a guest. Really appreciate having you here.

Jim:

Awesome, thank you.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And thank you all for spending your time listening today. And more importantly, thank you for your contribution; making sure your workers, including your temporary workers, make it home safe every day.

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