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#66: Safety in the Sewer

November 18, 2020 | 54 minutes 37 seconds

In this episode of The Accidental Safety Pro, series host Jill James interviews Sheldon Primus. Sheldon is a safety consultant and trainer with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in environmental policy.

He’s also a trainer for the Certificate of Occupational Safety Managers and Certified Occupational Safety Specialist programs of the Alliance of Safety Council, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Also, Sheldon is the author of “7 Steps to Starting a Profitable Safety Consulting Business” and the host of the weekly podcast, “Safety Consultant with Sheldon Primus.”

This is an episode you won’t want to miss!

Transcript

Jill James:

This is the Accidental Safety Pro, brought to you by HSI. This episode was recorded October 23rd, 2020. My name is Jill James, HSI's chief safety officer. And today, I'm joined by Sheldon Primus. Sheldon is a safety consultant and trainer.

Sheldon has a Master of Public Administration degree with an emphasis in environment policy. He's also a trainer for the certificate of occupational safety managers and certified occupational safety specialist programs of the Alliance of Safety Council, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Sheldon is the author of 7 Steps to Starting a Profitable Safety Consulting Business and is also the host of the weekly podcast, Safety Consultant with Sheldon Primus. Sheldon is joining us today from... Are you in Florida today, Sheldon?

Sheldon Primus:

Yes, I am. I think a good month, and then after that, I am on the road again, but yeah.

Jill James:

Awesome. Well, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here.

Sheldon Primus:

It's awesome. Thank you. I'm like, "I made it. I'm on the Accidental Safety Pro Show." [Haven't I? 00:01:08].

Jill James:

Well, and I've been on your show recently, so thank you for that. I appreciate it. It's always fun to be on the other side of the microphone.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah.

Jill James:

Yeah. So for our listeners today, for anyone who is a safety consultant, I think this is going to be fun for them to hear from someone who's in the biz as well, and some of the resources you're providing for people in the safety consulting world right now.

But before we get to that, the burning question always is, "How in the world did you, Sheldon Primus, land into the role of safety?" And plus, I want to hear about this degree in environment policy, and so many questions. But what's your winding path?

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah. My winding, winding path was truly, I wanted an office, and I wanted to actually spend some time away from everything.

Jill James:

Okay. Now what?

Sheldon Primus:

That's really what it boiled down to. Right? So let's break this down. I was working for the city of Orlando in Florida. And they had a two-year revolving safety officer position, so they would basically every two years, choose another person. They'll be responsible for our wastewater treatment plant.

And if you don't know about wastewater, you pour anything in the drain, or you flush it, it goes somewhere. It actually goes somewhere. And I was one of those operators that was treating the wastewater. And I was learning it. I was really brand new.

I was roughly around a year and a half as an operator, and then they threw this safety curve, and I was in my early 20s, and I'm like, "Hold on. I get an office and I get a card, I could buy stuff. I'm in."

Jill James:

That's cool. I've got two family members who work in wastewater.

Sheldon Primus:

Get out.

Jill James:

Yeah, doing the job that you're describing. And I will have to ask them if they ever got asked to do any safety stuff.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah, yeah. And it's truly when someone smells a wastewater plan and automatically they're just repulsed, us in the business we're like, "Smells like money."

Jill James:

That's a normal smell.

Sheldon Primus:

That's a normal smell, yeah.

Jill James:

I don't know if we should go down the road of describing what you find in the filters of a wastewater treatment plant. We might have to ask people just to set down a cereal bowl, or anything they might be eating right now.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah. Well, one of the first things that they told me when I got started, and this is even before the safety part, was well, always hold your glasses when you look down into one of the lift stations, or when you look down into a sewer system, or don't have anything in your pockets. So practically speaking, that makes sense.

Jill James:

Right?

Sheldon Primus:

And then the other thing is even before it goes through any of the process water goes into the field, you really want to screen out the heavier, bigger material that gets flushed. And you could tell the lifestyle of a community by what they flush. And it's truly amazing.

I remember one time I was doing what's called package plant work, and basically, you're your own boss. You get to go out. You go into a very small plant. You go into that small plant, and you do everything, all the operations, the maintenance and everything.

And at the bar screen, that's the name of this machine, and the bar screen that picks up this material, all I could see was condoms and little, I think they were cocaine baggies right [crosstalk 00:04:54].

Jill James:

Oh my gosh.

Sheldon Primus:

And this was in Orlando. Well, who's the biggest employer of Orlando? Do you know?

Jill James:

Disney.

Sheldon Primus:

Yes.

Jill James:

Okay. Oh my gosh.

Sheldon Primus:

And this was in their area. And truly, it was just a resort area for Disney. And so it wasn't part of the property, it was just one of the many, many, many resort areas that uses their name to get people there.

And I have never seen so many drug baggies and condoms in my life when I was operating in the plant. And that's the kind of material you get. And truly, I was there and I was like, "What are these people doing? They are living it up."

Jill James:

The backstory that you know if you are working in the wastewater treatment plant. And I mean, even this is fascinating work. I mean, people don't necessarily think about what happens after the drain opens and after you flush the toilet, right? But I mean, during our pandemic, there are communities who are doing tracing through the sewage to identify clusters.

Sheldon Primus:

Get out of here, Jill. You know about it. Look at you.

Jill James:

I do. I actually know someone whose daughter is at a university in, I think it's Texas, that's doing that. And I think there's some other communities as well.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah. And if you follow the technology because with COVID-19 is the disease, but the actual SARS-CoV-2 is the virus. The virus lives in fecal matter, and I believe it's up to four to five days.

So basically, what happens is if you could take at the very lift station that people will flush, usually lift stations are gathering a certain community. And so you could sample that community, and now you could tell if there's a cluster of people that are carrying the virus.

Therefore, that is contact tracing. And if you now could put in the money for contract tracing for this community, you could then say, "This school system, this mall, these people that go to this church, or wherever, they will have to be on notice. Let's go ahead and just do what we can with mask mandates over here. Or let's see what we could do in this cluster over here to door knock and just let people know." And door knocking of course has its own hazards related to that one. But if the hangers-

Jill James:

Sure. Yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

... You hang a little sign that says, "Your neighborhood has been identified as a-"

Jill James:

Public health messaging.

Sheldon Primus:

That's right.

Jill James:

Yeah, yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

That's part of it.

Jill James:

So Sheldon, that would mean... I want to get back to your story, but that would also mean that the employees who are working at the wastewater treatment plants are exposed right now.

Sheldon Primus:

Correct. And-

Jill James:

And so... Mm-hmm (affirmative)?

Sheldon Primus:

Okay. I'll go.

Jill James:

No, go ahead.

Sheldon Primus:

Well, the exposure is many ways, many things. It's typical exposure as in when you have a cluster of people that work together, they feel they're family, and they'll act as if they're family. So therefore, when they come into work, even if they're going to, they're laborers in a construction site and they're driving together to a field, or their oil and gas area, they are all in one truck together.

And they don't think about wearing masks. They don't think about any kind of precautions. That's one of the hazards with the wastewater operators because, yes, they think of themselves like everyone else. But then the other is the normal handling of the biological matter. Or we don't know the concentration, which is the key factor.

What concentration will then equal I can now have a disease because I'm sampling this raw wastewater? And if I have the mode of entry, usually is going to be inhalation, possibly, because a lot of aeration equipment is used to kind of add air to where you have organized-

Jill James:

Stir it all up. Yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

Stir it. And you're literally stirring the shit.

Jill James:

Yeah, yeah. Right.

Sheldon Primus:

You might have to beep in there for me. But that's literally [crosstalk 00:09:17].

Jill James:

That is it, yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

And that becomes aerosolized, and therefore, someone can inhale it, mode of entry. And therefore, it can be concentrated, especially in what I just described as those package plants because usually it's a small 30,000 gallons, and that's tiny in wastewater standards.

That tiny plant can have a big concentration of virus, and therefore, aerosolized virus is the same thing as we're talking about when you're hearing microorganisms. Excuse me. What is the micro? I forgot. When they say the virus is now aerosolized and being transmitted through air, micro droplets, that's what.

So it becomes a concentrated micro droplets for wastewater, so that means they have a higher possibility of transmission by occupational hazards. And if you don't have a state OSHA plan, you have no one that is going to protect you.

So therefore, your city and your county, your parish, whoever, has to be the one responsible for making sure that they set whatever engineering control is appropriate for that setting. So people with state OSHA plans, yes, you can have a state OSHA that has jurisdiction over the public sector.

They can go out there and monitor that, but with a public sector with no state OSHA plan, it always boils down to, "What does that city, that county, that parish, that township, what do they feel about safety health? Are they committed to it?"

And that was my career. My career was, I worked in a wastewater facility with no state OSHA plan. And I have to convince people that 1910, 1926, for those activities you're doing, I know they don't mean anything to you, but let's at least try to follow those, and yeah.

Jill James:

Right, right. So let's unpack that a little bit. So Sheldon, what you're talking about has to do with jurisdiction with regard to safety and health laws that are on the books across the country. And so we're talking about because when you're working for a wastewater treatment plant, which usually has to do with a municipality, so that's a government entity.

That's not to say that every municipality, I mean, that wastewater treatment plants exist outside of municipalities, because they do. Some campuses have their own colleges and universities, and some bigger campuses may as well.

But when each state, you kind of have to go into your OSHA laws, find out who's got jurisdiction. Is it the federal government? Is it state government? If it's state, does that state government agreement to run an OSHA program include public sector employers? Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't.

And in the sometimes they don't land that you just described, Sheldon, then it's like, "We've got to cross our fingers and hope somebody's watching the safety here." Yeah. So this is an interesting, when you talk about essential workers, wastewater treatment plant, water treatment plant workers, definitely essential.

And wastewater definitely has hazard exposure, and so hoping they have the same personal protective equipment opportunities as other workers right now.

Sheldon Primus:

And usually they do. And truly for instance, when I was learning to be an operator and I decided to take on that safety role, the city of Orlando, and this was really early, I started in '94, I believe. So in '94, back then, they were committed to, and they still are committed to safety and health for their city workers. And I do still work with them from time to time, and mostly just the people, not the organization.

But they took the time and took me to, or sent me to some OSHA classes when they wouldn't practically mean anything. But I got to learn hazard identification and exposure control and hierarchy of controls, and that really meant something to me because I took the job for an office. And I took the job for a pro card. But then all of a sudden, I had to answer questions.

Jill James:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Sheldon Primus:

So [crosstalk 00:13:49].

Jill James:

So did you do a two-year gig? Or did they keep... I think that sounds interesting that they kind of just rotate people in and out. And so you did it for two years, and then what?

Sheldon Primus:

I did. I did it for two years. And what I ended up doing is after my safety, where I was the actual head of the department for the time period, I ended up being a committee member throughout my whole career with the city. And then later on, I progressed in my career, ended up managing one of those facilities that was an 11 and half million gallon plant in South Florida.

Sheldon Primus:

If you're familiar with the Jupiter area, that's where I was. And at that time, I was plant manager. At one time, I was maintenance foreman, AKA plant manager, and also in charge of operations, the laboratory, and truly I was cook, bottle washer, everything. And then one day, they're like, "Hey, Sheldon, we need an industrial pretreatment coordinator," which is basically someone regulates an industry that would pour chemicals down the drain. I now have to be the regulator for them and write permits and everything.

And then they're like, "We also need a safety officer." So I went back into safety full-time after that, as being a compliance and safety officer for a special district of the state of Florida. And it was just one of those things where I was just too many hats, but I remembered that initial training on hazard recognition control. And then I took on the certified occupational safety specialist degree or designation, and that helped me out too.

So I had to create systems as a safety officer, but then I was also in charge of hiring and firing at the same time, so I needed to get people to trust me saying, "Okay. Here's my safety function. Here's my managerial function. Let's work this thing together where you could trust me that I'm not going to fire you if you tell me that you just created a safety hazard," or if my root causes analysis says, "Eh, you've got kind of good culpability here." [crosstalk 00:16:00].

Jill James:

Powerful needle to thread if you could do it well.

Sheldon Primus:

Oh my goodness. It was so tough trying to.

Jill James:

Yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

It was my contention of, yeah, I don't know if you're the same thing, but I'll go ahead and lead the witness on this one. I feel HR under safety is an injustice. And the reason why I say that is if you're human resources, and most people have a grievance, or most people need to call something, or even you've got something where you get written up, and it goes into your permanent records, that's HR.

And now you're asking that person, and I know there's a lot of people in that role, that is HR and safety, and now they're in that role where you're like me, you could hire, fire, you influence things. And you're also supposed to be the empathy of the organization. And you're also supposed to be the person that the workforce trusts. I think safety's better in risk instead of HR. So that's me, I don't know. What's your thinking? Am I way off on that one?

Jill James:

No, you're not. One of the jobs that I had actually before I came to HSI, I reported to an HR manager. And when I was interviewing for that job, I said, "What? I don't think this works. Why?" Because of the reasons that you just stated. And essentially, the answer with that organization was they had never had a safety professional in the history of their company, which was 65 years deep at that point.

Sheldon Primus:

Wow.

Jill James:

Yeah, right? And they really didn't know where to put that person. And so I was put in the HR department, and then also given the task of workers' compensation case management, which I hadn't done anything with at that point. And some safety professionals have that responsibility, some don't. It's not common. And then not common to report to HR.

And so we really talked through what was that going to look like. And it worked for the person that I reported to and the department that I worked with because of the moral compass that that manager had. It worked for us. But it is a really sticky kind of odd place to be. And then at the same time, there's so many HR professionals, some probably listening to us now, who got the safety job tacked onto their HR role.

Sheldon Primus:

And they're probably like, "You're speaking to the choir. I don't want it."

Jill James:

Right?

Sheldon Primus:

I don't want it, but I have it, and I'm stuck with it.

Jill James:

Yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

And I think of it. I really do. It's one of those paths where you get in there, and along the way, I had to figure out systems so I could create kind of a split between my manager side and then my safety and health compliance officer side.

And truly, what I ended up doing was literally putting it down in calendar form as in to what time of day, and block out the time of day that I'm doing certain roles. And it helped me out just quite a bit.

Jill James:

That was smart. That was smart. Yeah, Sheldon, so how long did you stay in those city roles before you moved on? And was this all before you got your master's degree or after?

Sheldon Primus:

During.

Jill James:

Because we... During? Okay. Because we talk about, I had mentioned in the introduction that you have an emphasis in environment policy. And gosh, this is all making sense now based on what your functions were. Yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah. So when I was working for Orlando, I actually got out of high school, and that was in Queens, New York. And when I was 18, I went on a teen mission trip, and this was the last one. That was the fifth year, I was doing a teen mission trip, where I would give over my summers and actually do missionary work for a full summer.

Sheldon Primus:

And the last teen trip I did was to Kenya, and that was in '89. And after I got back, I knew my family was moving to Florida, so I never really had a chance to say goodbye. I didn't even walk at my graduation because I had to fly out to Kenya. And then when I came back, I was in Orlando. And when I got back to Orlando, life was completely changed.

So throughout that time period, I didn't actually go to college per se, except for Bible school. Little known fact, I'm a Bible school grad.

Jill James:

Wow.

Sheldon Primus:

Look that up. Oh my gosh.

Jill James:

Okay.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah, when I decided to go back to college, I was already had my family, two young kids. And I was working midnight shift. So my wife was a teacher, and she held down the family during the night times. I worked midnights, and then had the kids during the day because they were really, really young.

So I decided I wanted to go back to school. I went to school for my bachelor's in marketing first. And I didn't know when I was ever going to use it. Now I use it more than ever.

Jill James:

Now, I was going to say, as a consultant, you're using it a lot.

Sheldon Primus:

I know. So I had to do that during night school, so I had worked at the wastewater plant, then pick up the kids from, we had a little hour overlap with daycare for when my wife had to go to school and when I could pick them up. And then I would be the father during the day.

And when my kids stopped napping, I was like, "Oh, please. I just need a nap. Can you guys nap so I can nap?" And they're two years apart. But what I ended up doing though after a while when I got my bachelor's, I really wanted to progress in the utility field.

And all the other people that were getting the utility director jobs, which was the quintessential spot for me, they had either engineering degrees or some sort of bachelor's of BA, or even something similar to that for an MBA. And I figured, well, let me just get my master's in public administration. I don't want to be an engineer because truly, that's a different discipline than I've had.

So I decided I was going to go back and get my master's in public administration, and so I could run a utility is really, so I could keep going in government work. And then truly, environmental policy made the most sense to me because I was doing title 40 stuff before I got to title 29.

When title 29 was a new title, which is OSHA's title, for you guys that don't know, but EPA is title 40 for environmental. And when I was doing the environmental side, that was what I grew up in. So when I switched over to occupational safety, I had to kind of learn that stuff. And that was the pathway to education for me.

And then I think I've walked out of literally working for the government. You've worked for the government. You had [crosstalk 00:23:15].

Jill James:

I did. I did. I mean, there's definitely advantages, and then there's time that you say, "I'm done with this."

Sheldon Primus:

I was done. I got passed over for a position, and I'm 100% sure it was race. And I was like, "All right. I'm done. I got my master's degree. I could do this myself." And that's when I started my business in 2008, and then took the big leap in 2012.

So it's been a little minute, but I'm glad I did it. I would not have done it any other way. I'm glad I did it incrementally. But when I left in 2012, I never looked back.

Jill James:

That's awesome. So Sheldon, what does the path look like for a consultant when you were getting yourself started? For people who are consultants and are listening, kind of where did you kind of get your first foothold? And what has it blossomed into, and yeah?

Sheldon Primus:

Well, great question. When I first got started, I was going to say, "I'm going to be the best consultant for the wastewater field. Everyone's going to love my wastewater process control and operations because I nailed this thing." It was just complete just a mess. There was nothing I could do. And I'm out there in the field and no one wants to hire me long-term.

And I'm like, "All right. Plan B." And plan B was I already knew occupational safety and health, and I already knew engineering principles. And then I also knew a lot about your basics for general industry and construction together. I had that experience throughout my whole career.

So then my path was since I can't make a living from this one thing, let me see if I could add more services to what I do. So I ended up having to pay a little out of pocket to get some OSHA training in there, and I got the basics so I could become a 10 and 30-hour outreach trainer for both general industry and construction, and that was good.

And then later on, I was trying to... My path was just a little bit harder. And what I teach people now when I mentor them into the consulting is you really want to look for places that already have memberships.

So if you have a safety association wherever you are in the globe, those are the people you want to reach out to and just say, "This is what I have experience in," and start with your experience. I know eventually you're going to want to do more things, but start with what you know.

So if you know oil and gas, go to one of those oil and gas associations, even probably associations you used to belong to. Go to your local chapter and then say, "I know this industry. I know safety and health. I could do maybe a seminar for an hour for you, and/or I could write a blog post or something similar to that."

And that gets you to multiple people instead of having to always try to get marketing to the one tree. And so that was that.

Jill James:

Yeah, makes sense. Yeah, makes total sense. And with the 10 and 30-hour training certificate, that's kind of a good bread and butter line.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah.

Jill James:

Right? I mean, because people are always needing that.

Sheldon Primus:

They do. And then if you live in one of those states, I believe Arizona's one, New York's one, there's a couple others states.

Jill James:

I think there's five. I know what you're talking about, where it's required versus 10 and 30-hour, which people get confused on a lot. So maybe we could just set the record straight there, Sheldon, that a) 10 and 30-hour OSHA training does not replace annual or at hire training on all the different OSHA regulations that are out there, though employers believe it does, it does not.

Sheldon Primus:

It doesn't.

Jill James:

Yeah. And that it's a curriculum that was put together by OSHA to teach hazard recognition skills and explain employer and employee rights. But it's not required, except as Sheldon pointed out, there are some states and one city, the city of New York, who have said, "Yes, it is going to be required if you're on this kind of job, or if you're in construction, or if you're on a government site."

It kind of depends. And I think, Sheldon, you and I are remembering, we think it's about five states in the country that require that.

Sheldon Primus:

And if you're in New York City, unfortunately it's not just enough to be authorized person in construction and general industry, maritime, whichever discipline you have. You actually have to be in their department of buildings. They have a whole just a pathway for you to be an authorized instructor through them.

And they're actually even more stringent than OSHA. For instance, federal OSHA fall protection is six foot for construction. City of New York is five foot. And so you really have to know the regulations for the city very well.

So if you're in New York City planning to be a consultant, it'd be very, very beneficial for you to be on that list. And there's another tip that I would add is your local municipality, especially if you don't have a state OSHA plan, they need safety and health training.

So what you would do to help your business is there's licenses that most of these operators once they get to a certain level, there's an introduction license that they need. And it's either by letter or by number depending on the state. That license is to say that they are qualified water, wastewater, distribution, collection system operators.

And you don't have to know what all that means. All you have to know is how you could provide training for them and offer continuing education units. So get your continuing education training approved by their state, and it's usually the State Department of Environmental Protection or Department of Water Quality, whatever the name is.

You get your training approved by that entity for CEUs. Every operator needs to get CEUs for the renewal of their certification. You can now go and you offer this safety certification with, it doesn't even have to be certified safety course, with CEUs. Now what you're doing is you're offering something that will keep coming back every CEU cycle, two year, three years, whatever the cycle is.

You get involved in a utility with city, county, township, parish, they usually keep going back to someone if it's a good experience. Now you have built in clients once you do that.

Jill James:

Fabulous. Fabulous. And if people are listening who are consultants and they're thinking, "But okay, now which states? How am I going to know that?" And so the way to find out who has jurisdiction over safety for municipalities or not, if you go to osha.gov, and you type in state plans, that will bring you to a landing page for state plan OSHAs.

And then you'll be able to see a map of the country. And it'll highlight which states have state OSHA plans and which ones do not. And then if you click on those individual states, it'll give you the details of which entities the state has jurisdiction over in that particular state. So you'd be able to figure it out in that regard.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah. And then also, even the state plants though, the operators, and there's plenty other fields that need CEUs, I'm just giving you one example.

Jill James:

Yes, definitely.

Sheldon Primus:

So with the utility field, then what you would do is go to the department of environmental protection, or water quality, or environmental quality, and look for how you could be a CEU provider.

So and this is for any industry that has licenses, like nurses, or teachers, or anything similar to that if you're teaching safety and health. They're probably going to need a component of safety and health in their job, even office managers or human resources. Now you create a curriculum specific for that industry, and offer CEUs, you have a business.

Jill James:

Yeah. That's awesome. So Sheldon, you said you started your business in 2008, and you completely went on your own in 2012, if I'm remembering correctly. When did you feel like, "I did it! I'm feeling confident in this." What did it take? Or is it-

Sheldon Primus:

What time is it, Jill?

Jill James:

Yeah. Okay. So today years old. Okay. All right.

Sheldon Primus:

A big key to that is, and truly, sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don't. And what I would say for that is you have to trust your partner. So if you have a partner, it's great. If you don't, then truly, you're working on yourself, so you're going to trust your friends and your influencers in your life.

But whoever your significant other is, they have such a wonderful view of who you are. And then they'll tell you when you're doing well. They'll tell you if you need to step it up. And they'll also tell you, "Hey, take a break. You're doing well here, but you're looking a little pasty. You haven't been outside in a while. Take a break and go outside. Go walk in the woods."

Jill James:

Is that one of the tips that's in your book, the 7 Steps to Starting a Profitable Safety Consulting Business?

Sheldon Primus:

No, that actually came out in the course. The book came first, and then the course later, so in the course, I definitely tell people you need that balance. And you and I have talked about balance. I listen to the meditation you did on my show often in episode two, which I love. Thank you.

Jill James:

You're welcome.

Sheldon Primus:

That balance is so key, but it's funny because you hear the work-life balance, and sometimes you think of it as being a constant balance. But in some ways, the balance is more macro than micro. So when you're in a project, you're probably going to be gung-ho on that project, like I am right now.

I'm writing two courses for one of my clients for online. And in that role, I'm usually in the role, I'm a subject matter expert for doing that. And this role, I'm actually the designer for the course. So that is 100% of, let's say 95% of my time, so I'm out of balance.

But once I get done, I already promised myself I am going to spend some time in writing music. If you ever hear my show, most of the music on the show is mine. And there's only that isn't mine, and that's basically the background music that I play during the interviews. That one is not mine, but everything else you hear is my music.

So my reward after this, I'm doing 40,000 words for each course, my next goal is I'm going to give myself a good two weeks of writing music. And that's going to be fun for me. That's when the balance is going to kick in.

Jill James:

Wow. What a great tip. Well, hey Sheldon, this is a good tip for all of us, whether you're a consultant or whether... Any stage of life is to find a balance, right? And so you're using your scientific mind for the work that you're doing, and you're balancing it with writing music.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah.

Jill James:

And you said you also have a meditation practice, and we've talked about that before. Yeah, that's [crosstalk 00:35:34]-

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah. I've been doing that a lot lately, the meditation in the morning has truly helped me. I choose morning versus night. And the reason why I choose morning is if I get too busy with something, or I start off the day, I sometimes would get two or three hours in on work, and my wife will get up and she'll be like, "Hey, you didn't even have coffee yet?" And I'm like, "No."

So in those cases, you truly have to figure out. Some people are better in the evenings, but for me, I wake up, I'll do a little meditation. Sometimes it's guided. Sometimes it's not. And I'll do some affirmations in some cases.

And I am going to be set up for that day. I'm feeling good. And then when I get run down, I literally sometimes stop work. I go into bed. I'll put on headphones, and I'll do it again. And it's almost like a little booster shot, yeah.

Jill James:

Yeah. Right. I tend to find it useful for just sort of settling and calming, but also for opening up creativity channels. When you're just mired into something and you need to pull yourself away. It's the pulling yourself away that sometimes opens up things that we're trying to be creative on.

And as safety and health professionals, it sounds funny to say that we need to be creative because our work is often science-based. But we have to be creative in our delivery, in the way that we approach people, and the way that we're trying to be influencers.

And so we do need to open those channels. I find I get that through, I have a meditative practice as well, but I'm becoming aware of a term called walking meditation.

Sheldon Primus:

Yes.

Jill James:

And when I'm in nature and when I'm hiking, and I'm processing and thinking, or maybe I might be thinking about, "Oh, my next podcast guest. I really want to ask them this question." Or I'm trying to solve a problem for work, or find a creative way to engage with someone. It just sort of tumbles out during that time.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah. And walking is really great when you get to do that, especially in the woods. My wife and I, we just took a two-week vacation from... Now, for us, we're caretakers at home. So we needed a caretaker just excursion. So we had some extra help from family. They came over, took over some duties for us. We got away and we went into the mountains and just truly started walking and giving us that time that we need as a couple, but then also truly the breather.

And if your business is getting stagnant, if there's a time where you can't seem to get clarity in your next word you're about to type when you're working on a written program or something else, that's your body, your subconscious, the universe telling you, you need something to pick you up. Go meditate. Go take a break. Go walk.

Sometimes it's actually, for me, I'll watch something completely stupid. I love this one Netflix show where it's same line family of Hello Kitty, if you remember the Hello Kitty line.

Jill James:

Yes, I do.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah, you do. Well, there's this character, and she's supposed to be in Japan and just a very demure cat, if you will. And it's all anime, and it's a little bit me.

So she actually is very proper and prim, and then all of a sudden, her outlet is she'll go into a private karaoke room, turn on death metal and start screaming at the top of her lungs in death metal.

And something like that just resonates with me, and I watch it. And they're 15 minute episodes, and I watch it. I wish I could remember it. My daughters probably going to... She loves it. Me and her watch it together. She's 23, so that's right up her alley.

Jill James:

Oh, that's awesome.

Sheldon Primus:

That's [crosstalk 00:39:46].

Jill James:

We all have our ways, yeah, right? When I'm mired in writing, I listen to Hawaiian music.

Sheldon Primus:

Ooh, nice.

Jill James:

Yeah. I can't listen to music with words or many words, so if it's not classical music, it's Hawaiian. But my default is Hawaiian music and listening to some slack guitar, or ukulele.

Sheldon Primus:

Really?

Jill James:

Yeah. It makes you feel a little warmer too when you're living in the Midwest like I am and it's winter.

Sheldon Primus:

It's winter in Minnesota, and hearing Hawaiian music in your ears, oh, that's a good escape [crosstalk 00:40:24].

Jill James:

Yeah. So Sheldon, yeah, consulting. So you're doing training with your consulting work. You're doing subject matter expert work as a consultant as well. What other ways have you been working your business? And you're an author.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah.

Jill James:

And you're a podcast host.

Sheldon Primus:

A podcast host, the Labor of Love.

Jill James:

Yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

Right now, I'm truly trying to start doing more live videos, and it's for promotion, yes. I can't say everything, but most of the things that you're doing has to have a purpose to it because you are everything. You are your marketing department. You're truly everything that your organization is, is you.

So I have to do the marketing side, and now I'm doing some live. So I'm doing Facebook Live. I've got LinkedIn Live now. I'm starting to work on that one as well. And I'm doing OSHA compliance help for those. So truly the business side, I love helping people become consultants. And usually, I do that through a Facebook group that I manage, Facebook.com\groups\safetyconsultant, no S.

And it's a national group, and there's roughly somewhere around 1,500 or 1,800 members throughout the world, so truly, when there's any questions, and it's not just me, we're helping each other out too at that time. So I do that.

And then the other things is truly trying to make sure that I could grow the business incrementally. And I've been trying to help with courses again. So I'm writing my own courses now as opposed to courses for other people, so that's the key. I'm trying to keep advancing.

Jill James:

Yeah. That's awesome, always moving ahead, Sheldon. So when it comes to your career, and you've been at this for as long as I have, is there a particular story, event, experience that you've had in safety and health and environmental work that just kind of is one of those things that comes back to your mind over and over again, that's a motivator for you, or that inspires you, or a story that you tell over and over again that was pivotal in your career?

Sheldon Primus:

One I really have, and I honestly, there's a few, one that is one of the biggest things that impacted me as a speaker was when I was trying to become one of the teachers for the cost safety designation program. They have you go through a pathway in order for you to be an authorized instructor.

And this was right around 2013 that I finally got approved, but I started the process right after I went full-time. And one of the process that you have to do is you'll be team teaching with an experienced instructor and that's 50/50 for the week long class, and then after that, they have you do the whole week by yourself. And they watch you and monitor you.

And then the final stage is for you to do your own class without anybody monitoring you, but they may come in every now and then. So what they're looking for, for evaluation, is what the students say about you. So if the student evaluations come back positive, then you're in.

So I was in the last stage where I was doing my final just me and the students. And I happened to be at home base for the Alliance Safety Council, which created the cost program. And while I was there, they had one of the person who was in charge of the program at the time.

She actually came and watched me do a session and fell asleep while I was doing walking and working surfaces for 1910 and subpart D. And I was the [crosstalk 00:44:43].

Jill James:

Dang. Yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

She fell asleep. And I'm like, "How is that possible?" So they allowed me to do it again. So I decided at that point that when I'm doing any kind of anything, if I'm talking to the camera and it's just me and the camera, if I'm talking to a group, or if I'm doing ASSP conferences and all the other things that I speak at, I am going to speak as if there are two or three people in the room, and we're just friends exchanging information.

Sheldon Primus:

And so [I'll 00:45:21] let down the hair, I'm going to be as corny as I normally am. I'm just going to have fun. If I'm having fun, they'll have fun. I don't care. So I am doing that. I did it again with that mindset. The class had fun. I had fun. I delivered the material they needed to pass the test because they do get tested at the end of the week. And I really, really learned a lot from that experience.

Sheldon Primus:

It created my teaching style, my learning style as well because I did learn from the class. But then it also helped me with the new delivery for what I do, and I use it still today. I try to deliver anything I do through an authentic me. And if I can't be an authentic me, it comes out crappy. And I don't want to be crappy. I need to be authentic me, my goofy whatever self, I embrace it. And I just go with it.

Sheldon Primus:

And that was the experience that helped me. And I truly, that's a lore for myself. It was a pivotal change in my business. Yeah, so I always mention that one if this question's ever asked.

Jill James:

That's wonderful, very good. Yeah, I mean, becoming a speaker is a practice, right?

Sheldon Primus:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jill James:

It's like a yoga practice. They call it a practice because it's always evolving, right?

Sheldon Primus:

Hmm.

Jill James:

And I think when you're on a quest to become an excellent speaker, that's how I see it. I see it as, yeah, trying to find what is that? How do you find your voice and how to do you stand in your truth to be powerful and convey what it is you're trying to convey with an audience.

I think that's fun, but I'm also pretty nerdy when it comes to admiring and paying attention to people's speaking styles and delivery methods, and breaking down presentations. I love to analyze that.

Sheldon Primus:

Does that mean you're one of the, what's the speaking group? Toastmaster. Were you in the Toastmaster?

Jill James:

I had been invited to be part of Toastmasters many years ago and I can't remember why that didn't work out for me. Something was happening with my career and work life or home life or something that I couldn't participate in that. But I have to say I've noticed I like to study people's delivery methods and styles, and I love listening to speeches.

Jill James:

And I'm listening to a podcast right now, which is brand new called It Was Said, and it's hosted by a historian named Jon Meacham. And he breaks down historic speeches and brings in the context of how they were written, how they were delivered, body language that was used. And he's bringing in all kinds of other people who study history and talking about why that was pivotal at the time. Yeah. Anyway, very fascinating.

Sheldon Primus:

Awesome.

Jill James:

Yeah.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah. That's hmm.

Jill James:

And I used to-

Sheldon Primus:

What else are you listening to? What other podcasts is going on in there, in Jill James world?

Jill James:

Yeah. Should we exchange our favorite podcasts as we're kind of wrapping up our time together as... I listen to podcasts when I'm hiking often and when I'm walking as that's time that I do that. And so yeah, It Was Said is one of my new favorites.

Jill James:

I listen to a financial podcast for women called Women in Money. I'm listening to another one by that same host, Jon Meacham, called Hope Through History, which breaks down different historic times and phases of our country. Like there's one on the 1918 influenza pandemic and what was happening at the time and what then president Wilson's response was to it, which is really fascinating to listen to.

Yeah, I'm listening to a podcast hosted by Brene Brown, sociologist, and it's called Unlocking Us, which is great. It sounds like I listen to a lot of podcasts. I do. But I also hike a lot. And we're living through a pandemic, we're eight months into it and I'm moving my body and getting in nature every day. And that includes listening to people's stories and podcasts. How about you, Sheldon?

Sheldon Primus:

Oh, man. Those are awesome. I don't know, because I listen to like variant comics, deep stuff. [crosstalk 00:50:14]. I'm really shallow Jill. I am completely shallow, yeah but.

Jill James:

No, you're not. This is just how you rest your brain and I'm filling mine up. I also don't read non-fiction. I mean, fiction rather. I'm sorry. I don't read fiction. I'm always about like, "What am I going to learn from this?" So I'm more interested in memoirs than I am some fantastical say, story.

Sheldon Primus:

Listen to Mike Rowe, The Way I Heard It. Have you ever heard that show?

Jill James:

No, but I know who Mike Rowe is.

Sheldon Primus:

Well, Mike Rowe and it's 15 minutes to 20 minutes long. He starts a story out and you don't know who he's talking about, but gives you the whole backstory of how this thing happens. And then all of a sudden he hits you with the punchline and here it is, you've been listening in about this backstory of John Wayne or something.

Sheldon Primus:

And then he'll end it, "And that's the way I heard it." And it's really a quirky show, but I love it.

Jill James:

That sounds fun.

Sheldon Primus:

It is more [crosstalk 00:51:17].

Jill James:

So we're talking about Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy?

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah. This guy is so smart.

Jill James:

Oh yeah, he is.

Sheldon Primus:

Amazing. So I listen to that and I'm a news junkie. So I do listen to that and I listen to a Rachel Maddow almost every night, or I should say every morning. If I missed a show at night, I'll listen in the morning, which [crosstalk 00:51:39] the first thing I listen to.

Jill James:

Yeah. For news, I listen to the daily podcast, which is put on by the New York Times.

Sheldon Primus:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I do listen to a boatload of audio books, and so I do have that in my audio.

Jill James:

Same. Yeah, same.

Sheldon Primus:

All right. We've just nerded out to nerding out.

Jill James:

Yeah. We've nerded out to nerding out. We love podcasts. We like meditating. We love safety. We love safety and health. We love the environment. And gosh, we started this all out, Sheldon by talking about wastewater.

Sheldon Primus:

And we went full gamut. We went full gamut.

Jill James:

We have filtered through, well, parts that are your life, Sheldon, your professional life anyway. Thank you so much for sharing your story today and thank you for sharing so much about safety consultants.

There are many people who do this work, and/or are thinking about it, and, "Is this the right fit for me?" Or trying to get started, and I'm sure you have shared some wonderful tips for people. And if you want to continue hearing more, of course you can find Sheldon's podcast.

We may as well plug that since we've been talking about podcasts. I know I said it in the beginning, but your weekly podcast is the safety consultant with Sheldon Primus. So those of you who are working in consulting certainly can hit Sheldon up over there.

But thank you so much for your time today, Sheldon.

Sheldon Primus:

Thank you. I appreciate it. And it was awesome. And thank you.

Jill James:

Yeah. And thank you all for spending your time listening today. And more importantly, thank you for your contribution toward the common good, 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. And if you're not subscribed and want to hear past and future episodes, you can subscribe in iTunes, the Apple podcast app, or any podcast player you'd like.

You can also find all of our episodes complete with their transcripts at vividlearningsystems.com/podcast. We'd love it if you could leave a rating and review us on iTunes, it really helps us connect the show with more and more safety professionals like Sheldon and I.

Special thanks to Will Moss, our podcast producer. And until next time, thanks for listening.