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#6: Turning a really great story into some story about death in like 5 seconds.

July 25, 2018 | 40 minutes 22 seconds

Series host Jill James talks to fellow self-avowed “safety nerd” and Board Certified Associate Safety Professional Michelle, who’s audited just about every high-risk work environment imaginable over the course of her career, laying the foundation of occupational health and safety programs from the ground on up. Somewhere on the path between chemical engineering, and her dream job of designing landfills, Michelle started consulting, and got a taste of “compliance” and audits (a taste one has to acquire), and along with it, her first real exposure to safety in the workplace, where she discovered her niche. Over the course of this conversation between two of Minnesota’s finest, Michelle shares her experiences managing safety across multiple facilities, talks about the importance of building relationships with the workforce to resolve real safety issues, starting over in the wake of the recession and working her way back to the top of the profession. You’ll learn about the fine art of staying flexible when facing inflexible regulations. Fun/weird fact: Their brothers share the same profession.

Transcript

Jill:

This is The Accidental Safety Pro brought to you by Vivid Learning Systems and the Health & Safety Institute, episode number six. My name is Jill James, Vivid's Chief Safety Officer and today I'm joined by Michelle who is the director of environmental safety and security with Vista Outdoor. Thanks for being here, Michelle.

Michelle:

Thanks for having me.

Jill:

Michelle, before we get into your story about how you accidentally got into this career like so many of us, I've been thinking this week about what it's like to be a safety professional outside of our jobs. Like how do our family, our friends, the people that we associate with view us? The word I'm kind of settling on this week is nerd. I often get that from my own son who calls me like worst case scenario mom. "Mom, you always think of the worst things that could happen." Then just with like friends in the community they'll like, "Oh, maybe we shouldn't tell Jill that" or "What would she think about that?" or "Hey, safety lady, could you look the other way?" What's your experience outside of your work life with people around you? Do you feel like you're a nerd sometimes too?

Michelle:

Totally. Like you said, my kids constantly are like, "You're so overprotective. You're so worried about all the stuff happening." We don't use a box cutter to open boxes at my house. We've got the safety supplies, totally a nerd and I'm fine with that. The way that I look at it is if I'm at work, keeping people safe and having them go home the right way, why won't I want to bring that home to my family and make sure that we're doing everything the same exactly?

Jill:

What's it like with friends or even at parties?

Michelle:

There's times where like you said they'll be like, "Oh, don't let her see us do this. Can you walk away for a second? We need to string this thing, Christmas lights up here. We don't have the right ladder, but we're going to get this done. Just take a quick walk."

Jill:

That happens to me too. Last week someone told me, "Jill, you have a way of like turning a really great story into some story about death in like five seconds." I'm like, "Oh God. I'm so sorry." You've been in the job long enough. You've experienced enough things. You see enough things and that it just spills over in every aspect of your life.

Michelle:

For sure.

Jill:

I guess we need to just wear that nerd moniker proudly, right?

Michelle:

Absolutely and totally well.

Jill:

When did you start getting into workplace safety like what was your journey like? When did it all start for you?

Michelle:

It didn't start for me until after I had graduated from college and actually started working as a consultant. I actually went to college for engineering, chemical engineering to be exact. I did my four year degree in chemical engineering and then just decided that, "You know what? I don't really like this, but I have my four year degree, so I probably should figure out what I can do to build on it." At that point, I looked into environmental engineering and I went and got my master's degree in environmental engineering. My dream job was to design and build landfills around the United States. I actually went and work for a consulting company and starting at the bottom you got to learn the ropes of everything and started off doing phase one, phase two site assessments and more the grunt work at the consulting firm and didn't really get into any of the engineering stuff, but then kind of got a taste of compliance and going out to different facilities and doing compliance audits and looking at what they were doing. That was my real first exposure to safety in workplace in general. I had taken some safety classes in college and I was aware of what OSHA was and what their type of regulations were, but never really had applied it until I was going out and telling companies, "This is what you need to do to comply with these regulations." It was a quick learn while I was out there and I realized that this was my niche. This is what I really like to do was to make sure.

Jill:

What do you think it was that turned in you that said, "I really want to focus on the safety piece."? When you were doing that, did something happened or was it just that you're really jiving on the regulatory thing?

Michelle:

Well, it is the regulatory thing like I was that dork in college too that for my electives I would take like environmental law while everyone else is taking softball.

Jill:

Awesome.

Michelle:

A lot of it was just being out there in the factories and talking to the people and building those relationships and hearing the problems that they have out there and their ideas toward solutions and just being able to work with them and make things better. The big thing for me was being out in the factory with the people and listening to their stories and hearing where they have issues and problems and what their ideas are and building those relationships and just coming to develop the solutions to different problems out there.

Jill:

What kind of stories were you hearing from people in those workplace settings? I've myself not been in many of them. I've been in some, but not very many in that particular environment.

Michelle:

As a consultant, I was in numerous different areas. I could be in a woodworking plant one day and then the next day I could be over in an automotive plant and then in a chemical plant. It was a lot of different stories, but a lot of just ideas of how to make things better like dealing with chemicals. If you did it this way, it would be better or dealing with the equipments like this guard is really hard for us to work around. It makes our job really difficult. What if we change it to be more like this? Just working with them one-on-one with stuff like that was very gratifying and at the end of the day you go home and you're like, "I helped somebody and I made things better."

Jill:

I thought you were talking about the landfill industry specifically, but I get what you're saying in all these different industries. I felt the same way particularly with OSHA. I had the opportunity to be in 500 different work environments just in that phase of my career. I would get in my car sometimes after an inspection and I would either feel so sad like, "Man, those are harsh work environments" or knowing that I was going to be able to affect change somehow. Someone's story they had told me just like you I'd be able to make a change for their work environment for the better and it is so gratifying. It is so gratifying. That's awesome. How long did you do that and when did you decide to take the next step?

Michelle:

I was a consultant for probably four years right out of college there and then decided that ... I was going to all these facilities and I was giving them ideas of how to fix these problems, but I wasn't never really part of the solution unless they wanted to pay me to be part of the solution. It was like I want to see the stuff from beginning to end now. I want to go into industry so that I can identify the problems, come up with the solutions and implement them to see how this actually works for people. At that point-

Jill:

When you were doing that consulting job, was that like on your own? Were you trying to drum up your own business or were you working for a consulting company?

Michelle:

I was working for a consulting company.

Jill:

Thank goodness. It's so hard to drum up your own work.

Michelle:

For sure.

Jill:

Then you decided to move on.

Michelle:

Then I went and worked in industry for a metalworking company where they had never really had safety and environmental person specifically at their location. I pretty much walked into nothing being developed. It was like a clean slate for me to start and say, "Okay. This is how I think we should do this. Put this programs in place, train the people, get their buy-in on all these programs, roll it out and then have this nice program." Everyone is onboard because they helped.

Jill:

You had been a consultant for a while and then you moved into this next area in the metalworking industry. How many years was it before you got into that job?

Michelle:

I've been a consultant for about four years and then went into industry.

Jill:

Great. Was that sort of overwhelming for you or was it more exciting at that time? They didn't have anything when you walked in the door and you're going to have to build it. Was that energizing or you're like, "Oh my gosh. Where I'm going to start?"

Michelle:

To me, it was very exciting because then I got to customize it to how I thought it was going to work best for the facility and I get to put my stamp on everything and work with the people and build those relationships a lot easier than if there was already a system in place and I'm just trying to dredge it up and keep it going. It was great. I loved it.

Jill:

How long were you there?

Michelle:

In that role, I think I only stayed two years because I actually got promoted into a regional supervisor for environmental and safety for that company. Then, I had nine plants under me in that part of Michigan. At that point, they were impressed with my programs, so they wanted me to take my programs and help these other nine facilities to get to where I was at.

Jill:

That's a big honor and a big undertaking.

Michelle:

It was great. I loved it.

Jill:

Did you have other people working under you at that point when you got to that position?

Michelle:

Each of the locations had their own environmental and safety person, so I was working with them on a day-to-day basis just to help them build their programs.

Jill:

Sure.

Michelle:

They didn't directly report to me.

Jill:

I got you.

Michelle:

But we worked together very closely.

Jill:

That's also sort of rare in our industry. Often times people in safety are sort of an island. They don't always have other counterparts particularly in their same field. Maybe it's somebody else that has that as an additional job that you get to work with.

Michelle:

That's pretty much how it was at all these other locations is that safety was a part-time job for them and then they were still doing quality or they were still doing maintenance. They wear very many hats and I was the only actual full-time person doing just environmental and safety.

Jill:

Similar experience as to many people listening. Where did your journey take you after that?

Michelle:

That was probably back in 2009 when the auto industry hit rock bottom. At that point, just in evaluating positions and stuff, my job was eliminated and I had to figure out, "Okay. Now, what do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What type of job do I want to work in?" At that point, I decided I still wanted to stay in industry. I didn't want to go back to consulting. I ended up actually getting a job here in Minnesota at Federal Cartridge Company as a safety and environmental engineer there and pretty much go through the ropes again of learning all the processes and how the programs apply there and getting to know the people and building those relationships. It's just been a continual journey for me. I stayed at Federal in that capacity and actually had been working my way up through the ranks, became a safety supervisor and then just over a year ago now is when I became the director for the parent company.

Jill:

Wonderful. Congratulations.

Michelle:

Thank you.

Jill:

That's a big deal. As you're building relationships at these subsequent jobs, how did you do it in terms of building relationships? It's often in safety about building rapport not only with the people you're serving, but also your leadership. Is there a style that you've developed over time to do that?

Michelle:

To me, it's talking just frank with people, telling them what your thoughts are, listening to what their thoughts are and just being genuine. You can't go out there and be the safety cop and just be on them that you can't do this, you can't do that. You need to be able to work with them. They're out there to do a job and there are going to be hurdles and you need to have discussions and understandings about how we can compromise, but still be meeting the regulatory requirements of things and keeping people safe.

Jill:

I love that you said safety cop. It's a term that I've used as well. For anyone listening, it's the safety persona you really want to stay away from because being someone who's either black or white doesn't build consensus and it doesn't show that you're flexible to work in business great, which were essentially challenge to do as safety professionals all the time.

Michelle:

Every day. When you do the black and white, people don't feel comfortable coming to you and bringing you a problem. Whereas if you'll sit and listen to them and work with them, it makes it so much easier and they're comfortable doing that.

Jill:

You moved from industry to industry. Are you finding that when you're trying to understand just the hazards of the industry that they're essentially similar or very different every time you walk into a new door?

Michelle:

I would say the struggles that each industry has are very similar. They all struggle with, I would say, the same programs and I think it's just because they're not black and white at all. It's kind of left up to the discretion of the employees and the employer of how are we going to make this work for our company. It's a little more difficult so like take ergonomics for example. Ergonomics is it's not this is what you have to do. It's how can you design this to make it better where a lockout-tagout procedure is very specific. These are the steps that you take and this is how you keep your people safe. To me, the focus is more on these programs that aren't so black and white that we need to work through and that's where I see the struggles at most industries.

Jill:

Which of those things do you prefer tackling? Like what's your favorite? Is it the ones that you have to figure out how's it going to work here or the black and white ones?

Michelle:

I'm always up for a good challenge. I always like the ones that we have no idea how we're going to do this. Where do we start?

Jill:

And make it work?

Michelle:

Yes.

Jill:

That's cool. I'm wondering where do you go for help like when you're stuck professionally? What are your resources for reaching out?

Michelle:

We are members of a couple of different groups where there's other technical people that we can reach out to and then also I've built my own personal network of other safety people in different industries that I've met throughout the years. If I have a question, I can just contact one of them and bounce an idea off of them and get some feedback.

Jill:

I do the same. I sent a text message yesterday to a safety professional friend of mine that I've known for 20 years. I'm like, "I'm reading the law. I'm interpreting it this way. Is this how you would see it?" It's just a way to bounce things off of one another and the great news is that we like to help each other in this profession.

Michelle:

You learn so much just by talking through different things.

Jill:

Michelle, it sounds like you really take joy in challenging yourself and I'm noticing that maybe that next challenge is reaching your Certified Safety Professional or your CSPC that you have your ASP now. Tell people about what that pursuit has been like. Why did you decide to do it and what's the time commitment been like for you?

Michelle:

I've been thinking about doing this for years and I just never actually stopped and did it. Back when I was working in industry the first time, I was going to attempt to get my CSP at that point, but there was just so much going on and I just didn't feel like I had the time to devote to it that I needed to and I needed just a little more experience. Recently, I decided, "Okay. I've been working now for 15 years. It's time. This is crazy. You need to just set a goal to get it done and get it done." That's pretty much what I did last year with getting my ASP first and those tests are no joke and the studying is no joke. I spent numerous hours just going through books and doing sample tests and questions. Just making sure that I could understand everything and answer the questions as best I could to pass the exam. I did take the ASP and pass that one. I was very nervous.

Jill:

Congratulation! Did you take a prep class to do that as well?

Michelle:

I did not. I thought about it. I thought back to college and stuff and I was never really good at going to class and listening and learning. I was better with give me a book and leave me alone. That's the approach that I did take with this one with the ASP. The CSP now I've been looking over some of the materials already and I plan to take the CSP exam within the next year.

Jill:

Wow!

Michelle:

This one looks daunting. It's going to be a lot more studying for sure, but I find that I just have to set that date and sit down and do it.

Jill:

Absolutely. Good luck to you. To that end with regard to safety and health in particular because you have this environmental background as well, do you think you're more of a generalist or a specialist? Do you feel like you're specialized in certain areas or more of a generalist across the health and safety spectrum?

Michelle:

I would say pretty generalist except for the area of explosive safety. That was one area that I really focused in Federal when I was working there. That one is pretty specialized and has a whole lot of nuances and differences to it. I would say I did specialize in that explosives area.

Jill:

I'd say the same about myself. Sometimes over the years of beating myself up for not going very deep in some subjects and then I just decided, "You know what? This is such a broad professional practice. It's nearly impossible to specialize unless you're in the same place for many, many years." It's important to know a lot of general things and then take that deep dive when you need to like with regard to explosives. I did the same thing with chemotherapy drugs. I was working in a healthcare setting for a while and compounding medications and the people that did the compounding. I didn't know anything about that and I needed to teach myself quickly what the hazards and risks were with that as well. How did you teach yourself about explosives? What was your approach?

Michelle:

You follow the regulations and you start learning and then you talk to people that have worked with the explosives for years. You find out how do you keep yourself safe. What are the lessons that have been learned in the past? That was the best way.

Jill:

That's tricky and that's not one you can ... There's not a lot of margin for error when you're dealing with explosives.

Michelle:

No, there is not.

Jill:

With regard to that, what keeps you up at night with your practice or your job now even?

Michelle:

For me, it's feeling like I never got enough done like I could always be doing more. I would say that that's the one thing that I want everything perfect and I want everybody safe and I want there to be no more accidents and no more injuries. I know I can't. We'll never get to that state because it's an accident. I mean, it's going to happen, but I just wish, how I wish.

Jill:

You never do feel like you're finished with this job.

Michelle:

Yes.

Jill:

I completely agree. I completely agree with that. Can you describe your best and worst day in safety and maybe what happened?

Michelle:

Well, I guess I would say one of the best days that I've had in safety would have to be back when I was working in the automotive industry in Michigan, working with a stamping plant that had gone numerous years without a recordable injury and had developed their programs to the point where they were able to achieve the VPP award in Michigan.

Jill:

Wow! For stamping, that's huge.

Michelle:

It is. It totally is.

Jill:

That's great.

Michelle:

To achieve that and to be able to get through the inspections and stuff and pass with flying colors and have everyone on that facility so onboard and so engaged in the process, to me that was probably the best safety experience ever.

Jill:

That just sounds like professional fun all the way around. That's really cool. You've got that as well. Look at you, you're making yourself famous in safety. That's pretty cool. Congratulations. How about worst day? What does a worst day look like or what was or has been?

Michelle:

Thinking back to the worst day, it always has to do with somebody not being able to go home at the end of the day. I can think back to when there was an incident down at one of the army ammunition plants where they were dealing with explosives and somebody lost their lives. Even though I wasn't directly working for that facility, knowing that our processes are similar and the chance of it happening at your own facility is right there, that's hard, very hard.

Jill:

Agreed. I think those were, have been and continued to be my hardest days at work too. Of course, it was part of my every day when I was with OSHA was to investigate death and I did it often. Today, it continues that employers will reach out to me because they know about my background and they want help walking through what to do like what do I do from how do I contact OSHA? Do I contact OSHA? What's going to happen? How do I do this? Just the technical part of those incidents is I'm happy to coach people on that, but moreover it's really talking with people and meeting them where they are emotionally and how do we support our company. How do we support other companies emotionally when that happens to us? That's hard stuff. Michelle, one of the things I've developed I guess in this profession I'm wondering how you approached it as well is writing. When it comes to writing about safety whether it's like set a safety program or policy aside, not that kind of writing, but when you need to make an appeal maybe to management and you need to write something, how have you like approached that through your career and has it changed?

Michelle:

I would say it has changed just with experience. In the beginning, you go to the management team with all this technical information to explain to them why, why do we have to do this and what will it mean for the company. You dig in so deep and it goes right over their heads like, "All right, it's just too much." Now, I want to have to approach something like that. It's much more simplistic. It's how is this affecting the company without all the technical information? Just what's the bottom line for the company here? How will this change, make things better and what that just mean for the company overall?

Jill:

What data do you usually share for something like that and where do you get the data? I think people listening as we're trying to particularly when so many of us don't have budgets in safety and you're trying to make that appeal for change and often that requires monetary funding. What evidence do you use and gather?

Michelle:

It's always hard because you want to go back and say, "Okay. We've had these safety incidents and this is what they have cost us, so going forward we want to make sure to eliminate that and it's going to save the company money." You can't really put the price tag on an injury because everything is so different depending on the type of injury that it is. We don't plan for those costs every year because we don't know what's going to happen. It's hard to tie it to that. You want to look at your recordable rate and say we're going to be able to decrease a recordable rate if we do this. Well, we don't know that. It's hard to say that as well. It's a challenge, it really is.

Jill:

Proving ROI is pretty difficult on the front end. It's easier to show it after.

Michelle:

Yes, for sure.

Jill:

Do you prefer when you're having to go to the wealth to either ask for money or ask for permission? Do you find yourself doing it in writing more often or do you like to get face-to-face with whoever the decision maker is, whoever the gatekeeper might be in your facility?

Michelle:

I find it more effective to get face-to-face rather than a written. I think just having that discussion with them and for them to see the passion that comes from you doing your job and enjoying your job and wanting to make things better for people. I think that really makes a difference versus just getting this written proposal on this is what I want.

Jill:

How have you worked over your career to get access to that power? Has that been difficult or how have you built those relationships to be able to either request a meeting or walk in someone's office?

Michelle:

No. I've never really had a hard time with that. I think because I try to build a relationships with everybody right off the bat. It doesn't matter to me if you're working on the floor or you're the vice president of the company. I still try to build those relationships with everybody and keep everything genuine so that they know where I stand on issues and how I want to make improvements.

Jill:

To do that right away, not waiting until something is going on where you need to ask for help or permission and then go, "Oh, darn. I don't have a relationship."

Michelle:

Always got to be proactive with everything. I mean, it's not just relationships, it's the problems and the solutions.

Jill:

Michelle, what's your opinion of safety committees and do you have one now?

Michelle:

I think they can be good and they can be bad because sometimes I'm concerned that safety committees are just checking the box in certain companies. They're not used for what the actual purpose is. It's more we said we were going to do this, so let's just check the box, get it done and move on whereas other companies can take it and use it for its intended purpose. When I heard the word committee, to me it's more of a, "This is what you need to do. This is the check the box exercise." To me, it's more of a safety team that comes together and just everybody gets their ideas out there and works together. To me, that's where you start building that culture that you really need within an organization is when everybody is comfortable just coming together and working. By just singling certain people out, I'm not sure that that's effective.

Jill:

What's your opinion of what you think a high functioning safety team as you put it? What do you think that looks like or what do they do for people who maybe are either struggling with the committee or team they have now or thinking, "Do I need this?" Like what would I have them do?

Michelle:

It really all goes back to that culture and the people that are involved knowing and understanding why this is important and wanting to make the difference.

Jill:

What kind of tasks does your safety team do? Like what do you work on?

Michelle:

It's hard to say because we don't have a designated safety team if that makes sense.

Jill:

Yeah, sure exactly.

Michelle:

Because we're trying to get everyone encompass into safety, not just the safety people.

Jill:

Understood. I was thinking about my experience with safety committees or safety teams. I kind of like that term better, safety team. I wanted representatives from each of a location once where I was working so that everybody had somebody that we could go to with safety and I thought I had these grandiose ideas like we're going to get over our safety programs written and we were going to distribute that workload among this team and we get all that stuff done. It just really fell flap because they didn't have the background or talent to do that kind of thing. Then, when I gave them task like, "We need the fire extinguishers inspector. We need the eye wash stations inspected. We need to do an audit to look for all of X, Y, and Z sort of hazard." They're all over it and did a great job with that, identifying hazards and risks where they work and that was effective. I know that people used these teams for all different sorts of things and I was just wondering how you've seen it operate where you've been over the years.

Michelle:

In the different places, we'll do it different ways. It's been beneficial in some places doing it one way and not so beneficial in others. To me, like I said, the biggest thing is safety is everybody's job and people have to know and understand that. If they want to work some place safe and have things safe around them, they have to be part of that. They have to be looking out for each other.

Jill:

When you run into safety cliches such as, "We've been doing it this way for 30 years and nothing happened."

Michelle:

I love that one.

Jill:

What do you do? What advice do you have for people of ... How do you buck up against those safety cliches when they're meeting you in the face?

Michelle:

It's hard. It's really hard. A lot of it I hate to keep saying this, but it goes back to that relationships. When people start telling you that, you've got to be able to call a [inaudible 00:30:43] on in and say, "Well, horse and buggy work too, but we definitely got cars. Why would we want to make that change?" It's more of that, "Okay. I understand that we've been doing it that way and it's been working fine, but can we try it this way just to see if maybe it makes it easier or makes a difference?" It's the trying to get them to work with you and understand it and not mandating. "You have to make this change because I said so."

Jill:

Not being the safety cop.

Michelle:

Exactly.

Jill:

Speaking of horse and buggy days, how has technology entered into your professional practice over the years and what are you seeing like that's good about technology that's helpful to our work right now?

Michelle:

Technology is coming in so many different places. You can look at it from the administrative side where it's easier to identify the hazards and get the information out there to supervisors or anyone to get hazards fixed just through email and different systems of notification. The technology that's been developed for different types of equipment when you're looking at guarding and light curtains and different types of interlocks that are placed on equipment to keep people safe, to shut down the machines if doors are open. I mean, those have in great advancements in technology when it comes to the safety world.

Jill:

You certainly learned a lot about that in that stamping company you are with and those are complex solutions too. What about technology that's missing from our profession right now? Do you think there's something that you wish that you had to maybe level the playing field compared to other counterparts and other parts of organizations whether it's solutions that operations has that you wish you had or HR or accounting or purchasing stuff like that? Do you think there's technology improvements to be made for our practice?

Michelle:

There's definitely advances that can be made. To come up with anything specific off the top my head, I don't think I could. If I could, I could make a lot of money.

Jill:

I guess I was just thinking about some other departments across industries have access to a lot of data that they can use to analyze the way that they're doing their work or even purchasing programs or HRIS systems that are tracking things about employees and safety professionals don't always have that. Sometimes we're cobbling things together.

Michelle:

Without a doubt and just being able to have everything electronic makes a huge difference rather than having to shuffle through all these paper systems to try to find this information and pull it together, definitely. Management systems in environmental health and safety to me are extremely important and I know a lot of companies haven't made that transition yet to those electronic systems. One of my locations right now is in the process of doing that and to see the benefits that are going to come out of that is just amazing.

Jill:

Why do you think that's so slow with our professional practice compared to other departments and industry?

Michelle:

I think because of not affecting the bottom line as much. I mean, it doesn't help us get products out the door as quickly. As we talked about before, the return on investment for safety improvements isn't always as easy to identify as it is for things in other areas such as quality or some of the purchasing stuff. To get facilities to move and spend this money on these management systems is sometimes difficult.

Jill:

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could all have that in our safety lives to be able to just level that playing field compared to other departments. When we come to the table, we have equal information compared to our counterparts.

Michelle:

For sure.

Jill:

Technology advancements. We talked about that. I'm wondering if we're going in the way back machine in a different direction. Is there a part of your life growing up that you think maybe set you up for a career or want to help people or in safety? Was safety or some aspect of it part of your life growing up? Maybe based on your family's occupations or kind of what you learned from them in your formative years.

Michelle:

My dad was a cop while I was growing up. I got to see the different things that he dealt with as a police officer in helping people and doing investigations and figuring out accidents and things of that nature. I think that may have led to it because I was extremely interested in that. I had actually taken criminal justice classes while I was in high school thinking that maybe that was an avenue I wanted to go down, but then ultimately I decided to go with engineering.

Jill:

You certainly had a role model when you were growing up and someone whose job was legal and winding through how do you apply these legal aspects to work. I bet you brought home some stories about the human impact too.

Michelle:

Without a doubt. It's funny because even my brother has ended up in ... He's a paramedic. He's taking that same focus as well.

Jill:

My brother is a paramedic too.

Michelle:

That's funny.

Jill:

Our dad growing up wasn't in a safety profession, but his life was greatly impacted by an accident and I often think that like it's that what made me into this. Way before I was born, my father was in a farm accident and he had a traumatic brain injury. Part of his skull, believe it or not, was missing like there was like a silver dollar size hole in his frontal bone that couldn't be closed and it was only closed by a flap of skin. I know if anybody sort of like grimacing right now, I apologize for that. When I was a kid, everything was about my dad's head and protecting his head. The cabinet above the refrigerator where we may be stuffed the cereal boxes and you're going to push them shut. We didn't do that in my house because if the cabinet popped open and hit dad in the head with curtains. It took me years to think about, "Was that impactful on how I chose what I did or that I just easily slid into it because I was wired to look for hazards since I was a kid?"

Michelle:

For sure.

Jill:

Isn't that weird and then my brother becomes a paramedic. Maybe there's something too we learn things from our parents. We want to believe that we did and we do. I certainly know that I did. Whether or not that shifted my reality and career choice, I guess I'll never know for sure, but interesting that your dad was a cop and you certainly don't want to be the safety cop. That's cool. What do you think about the future of our occupation, safety in the 21st century? Where do you see us going or what do you wish for for us?

Michelle:

It's definitely always going to be a need in all industries. It's definitely to me a necessarily evil of doing this job and working with people.

Jill:

Would you encourage young people just starting out or maybe they're trying to decide what they want to do to get into it?

Michelle:

I would. I definitely would encourage young people to do this. You learn so much about so many different things. Even if you learn it at work the way that you'll take it and you'll it in other parts of your life is it's amazing.

Jill:

Whether it's raising your own kids or being active in your community, right?

Michelle:

For sure.

Jill:

I would agree with that. You started out thinking you're going to work in landfills and you're taking a deep dive some days in explosives. Who would have thought, right?

Michelle:

Yeah, for sure.

Jill:

What a great career and an unexpected one for you as well. I think Michele I'd like to end our time here together and I really want to thank you for the time that you took with us today and appreciate your insights and hopefully other safety professionals listening picked up some advice from you today.

Michelle:

Perfect.

Jill:

Thank you all so much for joining in and listening today and thank you for the work that you all do to make sure that your workers go home safe at the end of every day. You can listen to all of our episodes at vividlearningsystems.com or subscribe in the podcast player of your choosing. If you have a suggestion for a guest including maybe it's yourself, please contact me at social@vividlearningsystems.com. Until next time, thanks for listening.