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#56: Printing Companies, Paper, and Safety

May 6, 2020 | 1 hour 31 seconds

In this episode of The Accidental Safety Pro, podcast series host Jill James is joined by Jeff, a seasoned safety & health professional with over 20 years in the industry. Jeff currently works as an environmental health and safety pro in a manufacturing setting in Wisconsin. Come listen as Jeff recounts his early days of safety, from getting his degree at UW-Stout to working in a paper mill, and much more.

Transcript

Jill:

This is The Accidental Safety Pro brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the Health & Safety Institute. This is episode number 50. Wow. My name is Jill James, Vivid's chief safety officer and today I'm joined by Jeff. Jeff is an environmental health and safety professional in a manufacturing setting in West Central Wisconsin. Jeff, welcome to the show.

Jeff:

Thank you for having me, Jill. I appreciate it.

Jill:

Jeff, right off the bat, you and I came from competing colleges, didn't we?

Jeff:

Yes, we did.

Jill:

Well, you can tell the audience where did you graduate with your safety degree?

Jeff:

Sure. I actually got both of my degrees from UW-Stout.

Jill:

Mine are from the University of Minnesota in Duluth. When I was a student in Duluth, we're always talking about those dope grads in the safety program.

Jeff:

It went both ways, trust me.

Jill:

It did.

Jeff:

Yes. Especially when I was there, we had a lot to do with the semiconductor field and students trying to get either internships or jobs for those in the semiconductor industries.

Jill:

Yeah, same for me too. We must have graduated in a similar time and you might be my first dope grad guest.

Jeff:

First out in Episode 50. Look at that.

Jill:

I know. Right? You're just paving the way.

Jeff:

Right.

Jill:

That's awesome. Well, Jeff, how many years have you been in that career now?

Jeff:

Oh, well, let's see. I started in 1998, so that's 20, 21 years, something like that.

Jill:

Right. A while. Yeah. I've got you by a few years, but not by much.

Jeff:

It's been a long career. When you think back, I've been at this number of different employers, but I've been at this for a couple decades and it's like, "Wow, this changes." All the changes that have occurred since I started and stuff, learning on the regs in a book, highlighting.

Jill:

That's exactly how I learned them and it's still my favorite way to look at the OSHA regulations, is to take out my physical copy of my well worn coffee-spilled book.

Jeff:

Me too. I prefer paper over digital.

Jill:

Yeah, I do too. It's easier to read them. Speaking of long career, this week, I happened to do just a little bit of statistics for myself. I was thinking about the number of workplaces I've been in, just in my career with OSHA, which lasted about 11 years, and I counted up how many inspections I'd done in that time and the number is 528, where I was lead investigator. That doesn't count the ones that I was a partner on. I thought, yeah. I guess that's why every time someone says a business, or a company name, or what they do, I have that cloud caption over my head that, yeah, I've been in a place like that. Oh, yeah, I've been in a place like that.

It was certainly worth the time. I'm interested to hear and have you share with our audience, this storied career. What happened after... Well, actually, you know what? Let's start before that. How did you decide you wanted to get into safety and then go from there. Yeah.

Jeff:

I don't remember exactly when it occurred, but I know I was still an undergrad at Stout. I guess it was a conversation I had with my father who was HR for a manufacturing company in Central Wisconsin. I don't know how we got on with it, but obviously, he's talking to me about a story about an unfortunate incident that occurred at their plant and it was a very severe injury where an employee had taken their hands out of the pullback restraints onto press. Unfortunately, and I don't remember the exact details, but then the unfortunate was a loss of limb. Then he's telling me more about workers comp, and it wasn't so much about the story of what had happened is and it was very tragic, but it was how some cases can go or there's a workers comp, but it was supposed to be the sole remedy, and yet there was litigation going on.

Not knowing anything about safety, I'm like, "That's not fair. If workers comp is supposed to do as you say, it's supposed to do that. How can this person turn it into a lawsuit?" That stuck with me? I might have been home for a break or something. I went back to school and I was nearing the end of my undergraduate degree and as maybe some students do, you start to wonder, "Well, is this really what I want to do?" Or is it, "What am I really going to do with this degree?"

Jill:

What were you pursuing as an undergrad?

Jeff:

It was business administration and I thought, "What Avenue am I truly going to take?" That kept resonating with me, that situation and it really bugged me and I didn't know why, other than the obvious human impact that it has. I saw that there was an OSHA class, voluntary OSHA compliance, in fact, is what it was called at the time and I took it as an undergrad. There was graduate level students in there, so by taking this undergrad I didn't have to do all the work that they did, but I got to learn the regulations and then learn a little bit more about, what is OSHA? What is safety? It helped me really understand and tie the two together, of this individual who was really seriously injured and maimed and how can people help with those situations? And make the people understand that, just because it's not working right, you do never take your hands out of the pullback restraint, so you don't bypass certain things. That's what started it.

Then when I graduated, I decided to go straight into grad school and then eventually graduated in 98 and went on from there. That's how it started. It was just a weird conversation, just a conversation between my dad and I and moved on from there.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Fabulous. Fabulous. Yeah, interesting to have that HR perspective growing up in your house, as well. What was that first job out of grad school?

Jeff:

It was a printing company in the Twin Cities that-

Jill:

Twin Cities of Minnesota.

Jeff:

Yeah. It's Minnesota, correct. I had to cross the dreaded river into Minnesota and it was a safety coordinator position. Maintenance, actually, at the time took care of the environmental so I hadn't yet really started full-fledged into the environmental, but it was interesting.

Jill:

Yeah. Paper know itself, gosh, everything.

Jeff:

Well, this wasn't a paper, it was a printing company.

Jill:

Oh, printing company. I'm sorry.

Jeff:

Yeah, if I said paper mill, I apologize.

Jill:

I don't think you did.

Jeff:

Okay. It was a printing company and never seen equipment like this before. You had talked in some of your other podcasts, your mentors called you kid. Well, I wasn't called kid, but I had a lot of, basically, "Well, prove it." Type because I come in as certainly the youngster of the group, being the only safety person there, but still this the youngster in management. Who am I to tell somebody of, say, 20, 25, 30 years of experience, that there's a better way to do things. Even though I knew at the time being fresh out of school, I could just about recite the regulations and what they mean, to especially one supervisor, I had to literally print it out, highlight it.

After doing that two or three times, I broke through the barrier, and stuff like that. It was also learning how to deal with bilingual individuals and-

Jill:

Challenges with training and all of that?

Jeff:

Yeah. Yeah, and finally found an employee who was bilingual enough, actually more than enough, to help us translate documents and orientation and things like that. It was things that we didn't talk about that kind of stuff in school and there was a new twist on things.

Jill:

Right. Right. Right. Did that particular shop didn't also have union representation too.

Jeff:

No, it did not. That came much later in my career.

Jill:

Yeah, which is another different partnership in our field of practice too.

Jeff:

It's very unique. That happened to be actually, I had a paper mill.

Jill:

Yeah, okay.

Jeff:

There's a lot of paper, when I think back, yeah, in my work career.

Jill:

Well, I got my first manufacturing exposure as a kid like a tiny kid, elementary school. While growing up, my father worked in the printing industry and so I sold my girl scout cookies among the whirling web presses. Oh, my God, why did they ever even let a kid on the plant floor with these giant, giant rolls, and rolls, and rolls of paper and all these moving parts? Which started my career.

Jeff:

You'd never get away with that today, I would hope.

Jill:

No, I hope not. I hope not. Yeah. What was your next stop?

Jeff:

It was actually, I was there for about three years. I was actually there when 911 occurred and so that actually put a twist on things. Is there anything that we can do from a safety perspective? Obviously, the world changed for those of us of our generation and so site security was always pretty tough, but there are other things that we had to worry about. Shortly thereafter, there was an opportunity to move back to Central Wisconsin, actually at a place that I did an internship for my master's degree. That one was not in paper, but in painting and chemical industry.

Jill:

Did you get to lean into the health and environmental piece in that job?

Jeff:

Yeah, this one was strictly safety manager role. I helped a little bit with environmental, but they had an engineer who was strictly environmental, but yet with was some of the experience I had learned at my first job, I always wanted to just still sit in on a meeting or two and all that, but this one was, yeah, very much my also first exposure to industrial hygiene in the workplace, but with things of ergonomics and safe lifting because there was not little too much material, manual material handling and static electricity because we're dealing with flammable liquids from the painting perspective, and making sure that the final liquids rooms are at the good draw out of there, so we maintain good air quality and things like that.

Jill:

Did you feel like your education prepared you well, at least as you got into these first couple of jobs? Do you recall at the time thinking, "Okay, I remember learning this. I at least know how to get it started." How did that work for you?

Jeff:

Well, to start anyway, I'm not sure how Duluth may be different or anything, but they took a more holistic approach, where we're going to teach you a whole lot about everything.

Jill:

Yeah, right. It was really generalist.

Jeff:

Yeah. It was generals and from fire safety, DOT, insurance, things like that in all the hardcore confined space lockouts, and those kind of things, industrial hygiene. Certainly, there were specializations that you could focus on, but there were more generals and so it was still a very much of things that we learned about, but yet, even in the regulations to a certain degree, they don't talk or touch on every aspect of what you might see in the workplace.

Jill:

Yeah, they can't. Right?

Jeff:

Right. Otherwise, that reg book would be probably 10 times the size that it is, if not more. It was okay. We read the regulation and try to figure out what are they trying to tell me and how does that apply to this situation? And I'm struggling. Okay. Now I'm going to call a colleague and say, "Hey, I'm trying to figure this out and use that network that I have in my young career at that time." If not, I call professor and say, "Hey, I'm struggling. This is what I read. Am I reading this correctly? Am I interpreting this right?" So I can go back to management and/or the safety committee or whatever the situation may have been at the time and make sure that we take care of things.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. I still do that to this day.

Jeff:

Yeah, I do as well. I don't necessarily go back to the college as much.

Jill:

No. Me either.

Jeff:

It's colleagues that I've worked with over the years or certainly at my current employer, just-

Jill:

Work your network.

Jeff:

... work the network and especially in those plants that have similar hazards, similar operations, really work those sources. We eventually figured it out and it all works out in the end.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Good. Good. What was your next stop?

Jeff:

Actually a competitor of theirs. I didn't have to worry about non-compete because from a safety perspective, what is there? We shamelessly steal from each other anyway.

Jill:

Stealing share and it's all good.

Jeff:

That's right. It was similar hazards, similar risks. They had some aluminum extrusion in that facility, which was a different animal than what I was exposed to before, very intriguing and very interesting line of work or industry that that is, but a lot of spray painting of powder, powder coating, and liquid spraying and things like that. A lot of similar things that I saw, but the aluminum extrusion was new, and ultimately some fabrication came into play and really learning about and taking the machine guarding to the next step.

What I had to worry about a lot, unfortunately, and I remember from one of your other podcasts was just, dealing with the sheer volume of workers comp that we had and trying to get the employees back, one, in a very healed up manner. They're ready to come back, but also in a timely fashion. It can be a struggle when you try and educate the doctors because they don't go to school for OSHA regulations or anything like that, so coordinating with them and I remember holding a couple training sessions with some of the local physicians, trying to educate them on how can we work together to still treat the employee the way they need to be, as far as, medically speaking, but yet work with me, to get them to come back to work on light duty or work hardening and things of that nature. That was tough, but also, I think, very educational for both sides.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. That's a good tip for the people who are listening as well, to make those relationships if you can, with the medical community, where you're working. Particularly, if the medical facilities in your area have occupational medicine departments, they often will welcome an opportunity to tour a work environment, so that they can picture in their minds where employees are working. When they get someone to treat from your facility, they can go, "Oh, yeah, I know what that's like. I've been in there." It helps break down those barriers and build some trust as well, if you're inviting them into your facility to say, "Hey, we actually do have a light duty program. These are the types of jobs that we have." When someone is coming to you, trying to build that relationship early, prior to something happening, so that they feel okay with releasing their patient back to work in some capacity.

Jeff:

I agree. 100% I tried to get them to do that as often as possible. Some were willing to, some just say that they'll and they're busy, but even to the extent to say to the physical therapists, throw them from the Occupational Medicine Department and if not, the OccuMed department themselves is to, let's have you guys come out and give tours, so they get that understanding, they see the risks that we have and also to a different extent, but leveraging the insurance companies that do give us workers comp insurance. I use them. I've used, I'm now forgetting the name, voluntary OSHA, Wisconsin consultation. I use them a lot and to the extent that I could, at one point we got too big for the program, but utilizing them really helped a lot.

Jill:

Right. Jeff was talking about the OSHA consultation programs, which is a different piece of OSHA compliance, so different than the people who investigate you, it's always in every state, whether it's federal or state run OSHA program, they have a consultation division where you can invite them to come into your workplace. You can invite a health professional or safety professional to come in and help you with anything that you'd like help with until you can limit the scope of what you have them help you with, like, maybe you can say, "I'm really interested in having someone work with me on some ergonomic solutions for a particular area." And they can come and work with you on that or some industrial hygiene monitoring or machine guarding issue, anything like that.

Jeff:

Yeah. I've used them for both. Most of the safety side of things and the IH side of things. Very, very good people. I doubt the people I worked with are still there. They're probably retired by now, but they were really helpful and helped us really move the program along.

Jill:

Yeah. Good and free service too that does not trigger an inspection though a lot of people believe that it can.

Jeff:

Right. Right.

Jill:

Fake news there.

Jeff:

Exactly.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. What's next?

Jeff:

Let's see. Well, the economic downturn have always sort of led me to look elsewhere and I decided to take a job at a paper converting company. The paper is coming back again and in Northern Wisconsin. That one had a fairly established program already, but yet they hadn't really had a full time HSE person there before. Sort of, that was part their job and otherwise there wasn't. This is where, other than the place in Central Wisconsin, but this is where really, my environmental continued to take off. By the time I left there, there was three production lines where they converted paper, basically, paper from a mill, a paper mill, added value to it, rolled it back up and sent it out as a raw material for their customers. Each line had its own oxidizer, for example and really learning more about intrinsically safe devices and spill containments.

The whole company as a whole, really understood, not just the site itself, but the corporate level really understood what it meant to take EH&S seriously, give it the funding that it needed, which is always important for us. It was a good employer to work. For me, it was, "Hey, we need to do this or get a competing quote for our class, for example." One was $8,000 or so cheaper than the other one, but yet the product we got from the more expensive one was better and so the plant manager said, "Well, it makes sense. Let's spend the money to do it right and get the better end-product beyond just the labeling of everything, but the training and even the one lines and the spreadsheets that we get talking about the hazards and how we can correct them and those kinds of things." That was refreshing to experience. The previous employer struggled a little bit to fully try to fund everything that needed to be done, to make the right changes needed.

Jill:

When you say funding, Jeff, does that mean that you actually had a budget since that's a legit question to ask you. So many of us don't.

Jeff:

No. I did and I didn't. It was a percent of sales.

Jill:

Okay. Interesting.

Jeff:

It was. I'm like, By the time I know what your percent of sales are, I've already spent it. I've already gone through that time period. Over time, I got to figure out a rough estimate of what I'm allowed to spend and in the later years that I was there, we started developing a better budget, but there's things like safety glasses and resistant gloves. Those are just the consumables. Yes, they're they're budgeted, but there's really no preventing us from buying them. You have to have those.

Jill:

Right. Okay.

Jeff:

From a budgetary standpoint, it might be taking our four gas detectors and instead of buying a new one, maybe we send it out to be refurbished, instead of buying brand new. Those are the things that we would look at budgetary-wise.

Jill:

Right, or deciding what your budget would be for that arc flash study you were talking about?

Jeff:

Yep. Yep. That came very early on and so, fortunately, I didn't have to worry about it as much. There was other things that we-

Jill:

What a great place?

Jeff:

Yeah, it really was. We would do pinch point studies, or we got to beef up our machine guarding or What are we going to use from your light curtains or scare floor scanners? From that kind of perspective, we were really able to make a great impact in employee safety. The employees always didn't think it was a great impact, because they would forget that they were there, they would trip the light curtain and the machine would stop.

From that perspective, it keeps going back to say, "Well, here's why we're doing it." Keep educating them, and saying, "Hey, this is why this is here. If we don't guard this hazard, things will happen." That's one site. The second site that I had, that something major happened in the workplace, that shaped how I take things, how I approach people and things like that.

Jill:

Yeah. Talk about that.

Jeff:

Sure. The first one was in my first job right out of college and that one was a very unfortunate incident. A gentleman had a, we later find out a massive heart attack and he was almost immediately dead apparently. Still, I was one of the first responders and having first aid CPR training, just three weeks prior in my first job and all these things that... Yeah, right. It really shocked me. We basically started a maintenance tech in myself for the first two. We're in the same class, in the same boat. Those wonderful thoughts of, is it 15:2? Is it 30:1? What do we do?

Jill:

Under duress trying to remember what you just learned. Yeah.

Jeff:

Exactly. Basically I told him, I said, "It's better than nothing. I think it's 15:2." I think it was, actually, back then. We just started. We were just wrapping up, fortunately, for us because I was admittedly scared, and another person who had more scenes experience in first aid CPR and all that, took over. I did everything else. I made sure the scene was safe. I made sure we got everything cleared out of the way for the emergency responders. I checked, where are people out the street on the edge of the parking lot? Did we have people halfway at the door? Everything that we're supposed to do, and people were already doing it, which was phenomenal.

Jeff:

The next one was at that place in Northern Wisconsin. We had some expose rollers and unfortunately, without going into much detail, that the employee ended up being pulled through two rollers that were eight and a half inches apart. It was never identified on our pinch point assessments, which we did annually. I was there, I think, five or six years at the time. It never crossed our minds. It was extremely troubling to everybody because when we're doing our pinch points assessment, we're looking for belts, and police chains and sprockets. Those things that are so close together, that it's, well, obvious.

Jill:

Yeah, right.

Jeff:

And... go ahead, and I'm sorry.

Jill:

Yeah. Well, I was just thinking the number of times that I was told when I was with OSHA, people would go, "Why didn't I see that? Why did you see it and I didn't? I've been walking past the same thing for..." And they would cite whatever period of time, years or months or whatever. It's that fresh eyes' perspective. It's simply that and giving grace to people because literally there's so many moving parts like literal moving parts. It is difficult and I think that's the beauty of occasionally bringing in fresh eyes because you get used to those things or even if you are struggling with how to bring fresh eyes in, it can be as simple as doing a department swap with someone else who isn't normally in that same area to be looking in a way that your eyes might not be seeing it.

Jeff:

Yeah. Fortunately, the employee, he did get hurt, but it turned out okay. Everything worked out in the end and that was great. We did get a visit from your counterparts and things like that and it worked out it. We got cited for lockout-tagout because it was a cleaning operation and so forth. It's easier from an ergonomics and employee strain perspective, to do it while moving. Ultimately what we would say, we figured out a way to do it through machine guarding and enabling switches or live man switches. They call them dead man switches and I said I don't like that term, so enabling switches. Actually, we showed OSHA our corrective action and they said we need a video on that because that's an intriguing way of dealing with a lockout issue, but through machine guarding and things like that, so in tool selection and things.

It had some silver linings, but it wasn't without its struggles and difficult time. How that had shaped my career was really explaining to people that you might not like these rules, even though we explain to them and you understand them, so, look, my job is to make sure you go home at the end of the night. It's all of our jobs to look out after each other. We don't have to like each other, but there's no reason why everyone can't go home at the end of the day. Sometimes you can't get through their heads, so you try to go through their hearts.

Jill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's right. Just like when asking for money.

Jeff:

Yes. Yeah. Most certainly.

Jill:

There are many things that we ask for in life where we need to partner with someone on. Not everyone's motivation is the same as yours and so understanding that sometimes it's a cerebral motivation, and sometimes it's a heart motivation and understanding that, how can you approach this in a couple of different areas so that you can come to a common agreement, regardless of what your motivation is. Right?

Jeff:

Yeah. I think that really played well with the employees. Say look, it's not just this these cold hard facts or regulations. There's reasons why these regulations be it from OSHA, or DNR or even a corporate perspective, there are reasons why they exist. One of my professors long time ago said, and it doesn't sound well today because of PC and whatnot, but it goes, "Basically all these regulations are written in blood." Unfortunately, as Industrial Revolution, all these things took place. People have been hurt and so it's been a reactive culture to a certain degree because they were written after and developed after somebody got hurt and things like that.

It's, try to explain it to them from the heart side of things, "Guys and girls, this is where this started from." Yes, it may not be comfortable if we had to wear bump caps, for example. "Yes, it's hot sometimes, but tell you what? Here's why. Do you really want to go home or have to go to the hospital with, at least, just a bump on your head or worse?" Over time, you build that rapport with people, and they really get to see where you're coming from.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Nice. Yeah. Thanks for sharing those incidents and how they shaped what you do. I appreciate that. Yeah. You're in a manufacturing setting now. Was that the next stop after the place you were?

Jeff:

Oh, not at all. It was an actual paper mill just in between. That's a short stint and that was eye opening. You're talking about something that had its roots that were literally over 100 years old. The water wheels are still there, and still in place, and still functioning, and things of that nature and you look at machine guarding in a certain light and all of a sudden you go to a paper mill and it's shocking how things-

Jill:

Massive scale.

Jeff:

Yes it's. These aren't even large paper machines compared to some plants that I learned about once I was there. It was, again, a somewhat of a relief. I didn't have to worry about environmental. They had an environmental manager there and so it was strictly safety and, of course, workers comp that goes with it. This was the union facility, my only one in my career so far and that was eye opening and I remember on one of your podcasts, it was talking about and because I had the exact or fairly similar circumstance where there was a slip trip fall hazard, and I asked, this case, it happens to be a maintenance person, if they would help clean that up and or take care of it. They said after break because it was break time and I said, "Well." I said, "No, nevermind. I'll take care of it."

Of course, that didn't sit well with the union and I'm like, "Look, I get it that, that may be their job to do, but I'm not going to let a hazard just sit there." I said, What if I say, "Okay, fine." Billy, whatever his name was, and say, "Okay, you promise you're going to take care of it right?" Two seconds later, someone can walk through, slip trip fall and who knows what could happen as far as an injury goes. I said, "I'm going to fix these things no matter whose job it is because I don't want someone to get hurt." The issue was dropped fairly quickly. They knew it's not exactly a right or wrong, but it was the right decision to make because in the end, we don't want anyone to get hurt either.

Jill:

Yeah. Well, and regardless of union or not, that could have simply been a piece of a belief system in a human being who was like, "Yeah, that's fine. That's going to set it there. I'm going to go get my cup of coffee."

Jeff:

Or the misguided understanding that, "Well, I saw it. They'll see it too."

Jill:

Yeah, right.

Jeff:

And it's pretty obvious. Well, no, it's not. It's not obvious sometimes. It's not common sense sometimes. Like I said, it wasn't there very long. Little under a year in fact and it was eye opening. It was a great experience and it then came to the facility, to the company that I'm at now and which has some paper in it, but not 100% like some of the other employers.

Jill:

You have a literal paper trail in your career-

Jeff:

A literal one, yes.

Jill:

It sounds like you've had literal bit of paper everywhere you've been.

Jeff:

Sometimes you don't think about it and also you think back and like, "holy smokes." I like paper manufacturing in one way, shape, or form, or another. Yeah, I came to my current employer and it's another type company that does it right. I don't really have to tongue in cheek a little bit, worry about a budget too much. I have Environmental Health Safety workers comp responsibilities, but this is the first employer in my career that I actually have a staff. Otherwise, I've been a one-man wrecking crew in my whole career and it's-

Jill:

Yeah, which is really common, which is really common. We're often solo operator.

Jeff:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jill:

Yeah.

Jeff:

I have a HEC analyst.

Jill:

What sort of existence do you have on your team? Interesting title. Okay.

Jeff:

Yep. She lost an employee to an internal job bid, so I'm actually looking for another. We're going to actually increase the requirements and so we're going to have another HSE tech. Then I have a contract environmental gentlemen.

Jill:

Wow.

Jeff:

I'm, to be honest, blessed because of the amount of work that the employer requires, demands of this facility, I don't know that any one person could last very long here. Yes, it's interesting, it's challenging and refreshing, all the same time to have a group of people who have common interests. They've been the HSE field and especially a team that I know that if I were gone for training like I was last week, they have it covered. I'm not going to get a text unless of course the worst of the worst occurs saying that, Hey, can you help us decide some basic thing?" It's very refreshing and knowing that, if I get a phone call in the middle the night, it's for the worst of the worst, which fortunately, has not happened very often, that there's people here. There's even the onsite supervisors who are trained enough to know how to deal with some of the basic things. That's been a relief as well, because it's not something I've had the benefit of, for most of my career.

Jill:

Right. Talk more about this HSE analyst position, because I think that's probably perking some ears like, "What is that?" Is that like a data person?

Jeff:

Basically, but this individual does more than that. The fact is, shortly after, this person started before me, worked themselves beyond the role. The way that the role is intended to be is, basically, and I don't want to diminish the title or the person's role or certainly contributions, but crunching data. We look at our leading and lagging indicators and to a certain extent some data entry that has to be reported to corporate. That, in a nutshell, is really what it is and it affords us. Especially if we're a solo operator, you always are trying to look at your leading and lagging indicators, to help you figure out where do I focus our time and things like that. It's really a helpful position, but like I said, the individuals work themselves out and beyond that.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. Jeff, for people who are listening or maybe starting out and are wondering what sort of numbers or where would you be gathering when you're looking for leading and lagging indicators, can you give maybe an example of some places that you're gathering data from?

Jeff:

Sure. Well, simply you can start with near misses or near hits, close calls. It depends on what you call it. First aid reports, unfortunately, that's a lagging because the incident already occurred, but then unfortunately, you have recordables so you're looking at those things that where the event already occurred, you're looking at the data generated from those investigations, or root causes and so those will be your lagging indicators. Hopefully, you're looking for and can find trends that would point you in the right direction, whether, is it training or is it procedural or wholly codes machine guarding we need to improve there?

From a leading perspective, and each site, and each company, or person can do it a little bit differently, but we have a variety of different tools that we look at and from an ergonomic perspective. We assess a job or a task and it generates a score through the software that we use, and it risk ranks it. Same with our hazard identification risk analysis, so HIRA. Even MOC, management of change, these things that we have and even through our machine guarding assessments, so you are able to tie a number to it or some sort of identifier to it or risk ranking tool, and figure out, and through the software, it tells us, "Oh, this is a red, or an orange, or a yellow. It depends on how it breaks it out. It helps you identify where to start to make corrective actions. We apply the same principles to energy, water and waste.

Jill:

Interesting. Jeff, is this software something that's specific to safety or is it part of the manufacturing software that you use?

Jeff:

This is something that is safety related. It's not something that's generic. It's something that the company subscribes to, at least, from the ergonomics perspective. The MOC and the HIRA, the machine guarding is company driven. They create the tools that we use. Those are internally generated. Again, it just gives us, say, Okay, "Well, I'll throw out just an odd number, but average risk score of ergonomics of 12, excuse me, 16. Our goal for 2020 is to reduce the overall average risk score to a 12, versus saying, "I'm going to reduce from a 12 red categories to 11. Well, that you have no idea how many risk points that might take to get it out of that category. It might not be feasible to get it out of that category. Those are some things we do and, quite honestly, the analyst position that you talked about, created something, that's also what we use from a leading perspective. We call it safety champions.

Jill:

I talked about that.

Jeff:

It's been used even before the analyst was here, but yet that person modified it, updated it and put some fresh light to it. What that is, a topic is created. In fact, this month, we're going to talk about lockout-tagout. It's a one-pager information. We talked a little bit about policy procedure. Then what we do is, for example, next Thursday, we have an on-plant safety meeting, so we'll talk about some generic topics in that meeting. The second part of that meeting is going to be our safety champion part and so, I or even one of my team in the near future will say, "Well, here is what the topic of the safety champions is about, February lockout-tagout. Then, we're going to go out and hazard hunt.

The second part of that or the third part of that meeting, I guess, is more hands on. The safety champions are the leadership staff that we have here at the site. Quality Manager, operations manager, materials manager, maintenance manager, HR like myself, plant manager, we all share and have a department that we are assigned to. This is the format we're going to try for 2020. Last year, it was a little bit different. When I roll out the topic, everyone hears the same message and then we go out in the floor and we execute it. whether it's a hazard hunt, we're going to allow the lockout placards hanging the way they're supposed to be, are they legible? Even some basic things like that. It could be container labeling, slip trip falls, are their single pallets, hoses, extension cords? And whole host of things that we will look at. Again, different topics and things of that nature. It's unique to this workplace that I've been a part of. Maybe there's others that are doing it, but.

Jill:

Right. The champions piece you said that's made up of people from the leadership team, when you're doing the hazard hunt, you said you'd sort of assigned a different department. Is that what I heard?

Jeff:

Yes, that's correct.

Jill:

To be the champion in that particular area, well, employees are coming together to put ice on things and to make sure that it has an identification.

Jeff:

Correct. They'll do a refresher. Just say, "Hey, okay, now remember, we're looking for lockout-tagout." Oh, by the way, though, there's always, if you spot anything else, we're not going to ignore it. We said the old adage of see something, say something and things like that. We're looking at lockout, or looking at GHS, or whatever that might be. We're always on the lookout for something else. What else popped up that we need to address? Then so we take all these findings and we pack them into a spreadsheet and I wish there was a magic tool for that, but it's old school Excel spreadsheet. If workers agenda are entered in, we track things through work orders, and basically HSE will track it to completion.

Jill:

Yeah, yeah. Fantastic. That's a really great model and I bet people who will be listening to this episode will think, "Hmm. Maybe I want to try that in my facility." There's a couple of other things, Jeff, that you had shared with me when we've talked before, that I was wondering if you would mind talking about, one of them being partnerships you've had with regard to safety with community partners in the community where you live and operate. Then the other one was about zero waste. I remember you talked about that too and I think that's just interesting.

Jeff:

Sure. In fact, I know what we talked about and my most recent employer, we did a mass casualty mock event. The county approached us and asked if we would be interested in helping and, quite honestly, I thought it was just my, time my resources, things like that from a manufacturer's perspective. As these meetings wore on, all of a sudden, I figured out, "No, they really want us to do it on site. We are the guinea pigs of this drill and I'm like, "Wow, okay, yeah, sure. Now, this is even better." Over the course of about a year, I had meetings developing the plan.

Quite honestly, was it was interesting. At the time that we started this we said, "Well, let's have it where it's in the middle of winter and there's a lot of snow cold temperatures, et cetera."

Jill:

Let's make it bad. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff:

Yeah. Yeah.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jeff:

Well, quite honestly, as we started getting closer to the date when we did it, which was late summer last year, even as we're developing this, the February of last year, came in and certainly, everybody who listens to this is not going to know, but when we have 50 inches of snow in one month and 50, 60 degree below zero wind chills, we are starting to really wonder that this may come true. It got us to thinking about, "Well, what is the snow load on our roof?" And things like that. We basically launched it. We had a script, but we did a 911 call. I already had employees who volunteered their time. We did this all outsides to minimize impact to the facility and production. We had the local hospital who was involved and those individuals actually did some moulage or put some makeup on some of our people and to make it a little bit more live.

Being a little smaller community, had a bunch of different mutual aid agencies involved, sheriffs, police, fire, EMS. Life Flight participated, the hospital and then certainly us as well. It was a real test to everybody's policies, and procedures and correct reason and things like that. It went well. Everybody really enjoyed it. Sometimes it's just triage on site and say, "Okay you're dealt with." No they're actually transported to the hospital. Then the hospital had to do their thing.

Jill:

Yeah. Yeah. What a massive undertaking and how smart?

Jeff:

It was very well thought out. I think everybody did a really good job. As we were talking about this, I forgot that one of the employer that I was at up North, we did a mock spill drill with the local fire department up there and what would they do if we lost containment of a tanker that was on site and things like that? The local communities, if those who are listening can do it and can pull it off. Yes, it serves the local emergency responders very well, but also to a certain extent it's self-serving. They know what your hazards are, and to a certain degree, and then they can better respond and things like that.

Jill:

Yeah. Someone's listening to this, and they're thinking, "Gosh, I want to do this in my community." Was the entity that spearheaded it EMS at the county level? Is that how it started?

Jeff:

Yes. Yeah. It was the county emergency management manager or coordinator, whatever their title would be, initially sought us out. If there's someone out there who wants to do something, I believe, and I'm not sure about every state, but at least in Wisconsin, what I'm learning is that, every county has to do some sort of drill, and document and things like that. That might be something that, if you're interested, yeah, then you'll contact that person.

Jill:

Yeah. Wonderful. Wonderful. What a great idea. I know, one of our other podcast guests, Brandy, I believe it's episode number 2 talks about something similar that she did in the facility where she's currently working as well and in partnership with the local law enforcement agency. I think they were the spearhead there, the sheriff's department in that setting. Yeah.

Jeff:

Well then you mentioned something about landfill or zero landfill.

Jill:

Yes, zero wasting initiative.

Jeff:

Zero waste. We have been working very diligently. In fact, it's a corporate mandate. Even though it's costing us a fair amount more money per year, it has been, so far, we're almost an year, been able to eliminate our waste streams from the landfill.

Jill:

Oh wow.

Jeff:

100% goes to a waste to energy site, which means that our trash rationale has nothing to do with our recycling. We still recycle, and stress it and still look for ways to do better with that. Everything that would normally go into the trash compactor, goes to a location that, without going into 100% details on what they do and how they do it, but in essence, they incinerate the trash and they make energy with it and stuff like that. It's pretty interesting. Yes, we're coming up on one year, next month. That's just step one in order to get certified within our company.

We're pretty excited about that, and that we're able to achieve it and-

Jill:

Yeah, congratulations.

Jeff:

Thank you. Thank you. Even though it's costing us more money, the company I work for, really strives that even though cost more money and things like that, it's the right thing to do. That's sort of the mantra that we have been able to do this and stuff like that, so it's really good.

Jill:

Yeah. Well, Jeff, as we wrap up our time today, I'm curious to know, you've given examples of the work you've been able to do in environmental, work you've been able to do in health, work you've been able to do in safety. Do you have a favorite of those three?

Jeff:

Well, I would say safety is probably my favorite and in part because I think it's a little bit, even to a certain extent easier. Sometimes dealing with the EPA and the DNR can be quite challenging.

Jill:

It's complex for sure.

Jeff:

It can be, depending upon where you are and what permit you might have. From the safety perspective, and I think for the most part is, it's because you're dealing with the people to go back to the opening story I gave, it's that, human side of things is, yeah, you're dealing with equipments, the cold equipment and all that. When you deal with the people and working, where there's the human machine interface and interactions and really, even from maybe almost from an educator's perspective, where else can you see the light bulb go off in their face or in their head, that they finally get it, where they understand what you're doing, or you're educating and training them. You can see that they're excited about it or how they can apply something. Those are the rewards or the thank yous that you, all too often don't necessarily get, but where they appreciate your efforts. That's why I continue to do what I do.

Jill:

Yeah. It sounds like that's what intrigued you right from the start from that conversation that you had with your dad all those years ago, that human-

Jeff:

I did think about it exactly like that until you asked the question, and I'm trying to answer it and it's like, "Wow, this really does a full Circle."

Jill:

Yeah.

Jeff:

Yeah.

Jill:

Yeah. Wonderful. Jeff, thank you so much for your time today and the wisdom that you shared, and for the work that you've been doing all this time in the great State of Wisconsin.

Jeff:

Yeah.

Jill:

Yeah. Wonderful. Jeff, thank you so much for your time today and the wisdom that you shared, and for the work that you've been doing all this time in the great State of Wisconsin.

Jeff:

Well, thank you and thank you for doing the podcast. I enjoy listening to those as well.

Jill:

You're welcome. You're welcome. 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 you want to hear past and future episodes, you can subscribe 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 and health professionals like Jeff and I. Of course, go ahead and share any episodes you'd like with your friends. If you have a suggestion for a guest, including if it's you, you can go ahead and contact me at social@vividlearningsystems.com. Special thanks to Will Moss, our Podcast Producer. Until next time, thanks for listening.