Safety 101: When Safety Needs Explaining

Safety 101: When Safety Needs Explaining

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Welcome to today's EHS Daily Advisor webcast, Safety 101: When Safety Needs Explaining. It does need explaining. People tell us this all the time, and that's why we're here today. My name is Barrett, and I'm with Vivid. We're your sponsors for today's session, and I'll be serving as your host. For those of you not yet familiar with our company, Vivid is an online safety training provider, but our business is really more about making life easier for safety professionals.

Now I'm going to ask for your attention as we take only a minute to get acquainted with our interactive tools. At the bottom of your screen, you'll find the dashboard with a series of options for participation. Please just take a moment to toggle through each icon and get familiar with the tools. Notice that when you click on each of the icons, a window pops up. It's all pretty simple, but pay special attention to the Q&A and live chat icons today. Both are easy to use. Send us your questions any time or chat with fellow attendees throughout the webcast. That's one way to get the most from this experience is to talk to your peers. So post a question. Say hello. Start a discussion.

Today we're saving the unscripted, live Q&A portion of the webcast with Jill James for the end of the program, so topic-specific questions can accumulate as we go along. You don't have to wait until then to send in a question. Feel free to do it now if you have one, or going forward, as you're prompted, maybe something piques your interest. Send us a question. If your participation is interrupted or you feel that we're moving too fast, don't worry. This session is being recorded, so you can watch on demand at a later date and share with your work force. We will send you the link after we're through, via email, so just watch your inbox over the next 24 hours.

Now we've got a fun session planned today. I think safety can be fun. Safety 101 is for anyone out there in a safety role that's been frustrated by a lack of understanding around occupational safety where they work. It's also for those folks who want or need more education and context around the topic, so the people you work with. We've got a little something for everybody today. We'll learn something new.

I'm going to introduce Jill James now. She's Vivid's chief safety officer. As a former OSHA inspector and private sector safety pro, Jill truly knows her stuff. So if you went to school for safety or serve in a safety leadership role or are starting out from scratch, consider Jill your peer. She has absolutely lived the frustrations around safety, from nobody cares where I work, to they don't get it, and beyond, with a lot of stories to tell. Jill, why don't you take it away now by providing some additional context for the audience today?

Jill James:

Great. Thank you, Barrett. Thanks everybody for joining us today. I'm glad you're here. Good morning to those of you on the Pacific Coast, and good afternoon to those of us in Mountain and Central and the Eastern Time Zones. I'm speaking to you today from the Midwest. So I would like to just start by saying thanks for those of you who have gotten the task of safety landing in your lap where you work. Thank you for the work that you do to send people home whole and safe every day. I really appreciate it. If no one has thanked you for your work, I'm going to thank you now. We can kind of thank each other. So I'm going to invite you to relax into this next hour, which I'm going to really attempt ... This shouldn't be too hard, to be a message free from anything that ends with I approved this message. So we'll radio silence on all that is politics, and we're just going to talk about safety today. I hope you enjoy what we've got planned.

So what is safety 101, anyway? Why do we want to talk about it? Maybe it's because workplace safety seems like a mystery to anyone who's not practicing it every day, or maybe you're just starting out and you've been tasked with this job. It's overwhelming, and you're trying to figure out what's my starting point. We're going to talk about what that starting point could look like today. Or maybe you are someone who's managing someone who has the job of safety and you don't really know yourself very much about it and you're trying to build your base of knowledge today. We're also going to have a little bit of a history lesson on why workplace safety came to be and what's really minimally expected for those of us tasked with the job. I'm seeing that we have some echo in the chat. Maybe put yourself on mute. That might help.

So first question in your ... I invite you to write this into your group chat window. I'm interested to know, when you think back in your history, what was your first job, maybe the thing that you got your first paycheck for? I'm interested to hear what some of you did for your first jobs, and then we'll talk about maybe what safety might have looked like in some of those jobs, if you want to enter. In the Navy, wow. You had some safety going on in the Navy. Purchasing, all right. Hazardous materials, a lifeguard, construction since 1974. That's interesting. We will come back to that one a little bit later. Waitressing and manufacturing. So everyone's had some great jobs. Babysitting, right? Probation officer.

Well, one of my very first jobs was at one of those drive-up motels. Can you picture one of those nasty kind of places in your heads right now? Where my summer job was to clean the bathrooms. Actually, it was to clean the guest rooms, but I was the new hired help for the summer, and all the people that were there year-round took one look at me and said, we're going to give the bathrooms to that kid. This was long before there was any talk about hazard communications or chemicals or the use of personal protective equipment like gloves or talk about bloodborne pathogens or other infectious agents I could have been running into while I was doing that. Brian's writing that he was skimming the floor of a meat packing plant. So I wonder if anyone was talking about electrical safety with what you were doing with cleaning floors or chemicals that you were using when you were doing that. Or someone who saying they were a waitress, and the inherent risks with being a waitress, which will often involve workplace violence and slipping and tripping on floors.

Howard says he was shining shoes. I'm wondering about maybe some of the chemicals that you were using that could have bled into your hands at that time and whether or not you had training on knowing that. Oh, chemical lab tech during the Vietnam era. So I'm wondering how many people actually had any kind of safety training. Bailing hay on a farm, right? There's a lot of machine guarding hazards that are associated with that.

So when we think back to those first jobs and maybe where we are now, safety has always been part of our work. Whether our employers were addressing it or not, it's always been there. As you think back about maybe risks that were taken either by you or something your employer did provide for you or did not provide for you, it's been part of our existence, but we don't often take time to think about it until something goes wrong. Printing industry, Lana, I grew up in the printing industry. My father ran a web press. If I think really hard, I can still smell the ink in my mind, and that's a place that was wrought with machine guarding hazards. As a little girl, I was allowed to walk among the presses while they were running and sell my Girl Scout cookies, so talk about things that weren't safe. That was the '70s. Anyways, safety, it's been part of all of our existences.

Where does all this notion of workplace safety come from? Well, it comes about because people died, and people continue, unfortunately, even today, to die on the job. Some of you have probably had exposure to workplace fatalities or serious injuries in your workplaces or have crossed your path in one way or another. So if we look back in time, when we first started collecting data on this, back in 1970, we had an average of 38 workplace deaths per day in the United States, compared to our most recent day now, which is at 13 workplace deaths a day on average, meaning we are still killing people on the job. We're killing less people now than we were in the 1970s. If we look back to 1972, we were averaging 10.9 injuries or illnesses per 100 workers in the US, compared to 3.3, which is also a shift, and it's a shift in the right direction. But people are still not going home or not going home whole and healthy, and so we had to do something about that.

So those statistics were starting to be gathered in 1970, and we're like, well, what was magical about 1970, and we're going to get to that in just a minute. But I invite you to maybe think about what workplaces looked like during the industrial revolution, before we had labor laws or before we knew that there were inhalation hazards and we didn't have respirators, and people were working in mines or in other areas where they were breathing in things that were contaminants that we had no idea could hurt them down the road. Or a time when we had workplaces that looked like this, where machine guarding was nearly absent, where we didn't really have any delineated exit ways or pathways. If you look in the very center of the photo, you'll see a young boy standing near that big flywheel, so we didn't have guardrail systems or any kind of guarding systems. We didn't have ways that were clear accesses to exits.

You've probably all seen this iconic picture of steelworkers in New York City. These guys ... We had such a job shortage at that time, people were waiting on the ground below for someone to fall to their death so they could have the next job. We were really void of paying attention to safety at that time. This is a picture of the Hoover Dam, again, before fall protection systems were in place, before safety net systems were in place, before guardrail systems were in place as well.

But we weren't completely void of safety, so I did a little research and looking. Was anybody ever talking about safety? I found one example, and it comes out of the WPA or the Works Progress Administration, back in 1936. They put together a handbook, and in their handbook they were actually addressing safety, but it's really kind of funny safety stuff, things that we take for granted today. So one of their questions that they were answering for people in the handbook was, "Am I supposed to work in water without boots on?" The government says, no, you shouldn't. That wouldn't be good. If you can't provide your own boots, think about that, the government will furnish boots for you if your work requires it.

Or another question that they were answering was, "Am I supposed to furnish my own drinking cup for water?" The answer was, yes, you should, because disease spreads that way. So you think about that. In 1936, those were the kinds of safety things they were addressing. Does that happen in our workplaces today? To that particular example, I can say, by personal story, it does. I think Barrett had mentioned in the introduction that I had worked for OSHA for a little more than half of my career. One of the complaint inspections that I was called to once at a meat packing facility, one of the complaint items was the employees didn't have drinking water, and they were drinking out of the eye wash stations. Now their employer was providing eye wash stations, but they weren't providing drinking water. When I asked the question why, it was because they said employees were stealing the cups and bringing them home, so therefore they decided to pull all drinking water. So you think about that happening, being addressed in 1936, and then something that still occurs today is pretty amazing, pretty amazing, sadly so. That's not to say that all employers are like that, but I've certainly seen it.

Then we waited. So we waited through a depression and two world wars before anything really happened with workplace safety. So I'm going to show you a short video next. It's an old one, but it tells the story of how we came to be paying attention to workplace safety in the United States. You can turn up your volume on your screen now, if you would.

All right, it sounds like many of you are having problems with the video, and so I'm just going to cut that out. It worked fine in our testing, so my apologies to that. What it's talking about is that we had all these political movements that were occurring in the late '60s and into 1970, parallel political movements with environmental rights and civil rights and with safety laws and safety rights. All at once, all of them came to be, and they were all born, essentially, at the same time. So those of you who are Baby Boomers and laid your hand on that arc of change back then, thank you for that, because all at once we had OSHA. We had the Environmental Protection Agency, and we had the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They were all born at the same time.

It wasn't that we didn't have anything that wasn't specific to safety in those arenas before then, but they were in the form of what we call consensus standards. So if you've ever heard of the National Fire Protection Agency or the National Electric Code or Underwriters Laboratory, all of those kinds of places existed before, but they weren't enforcement arms. They couldn't compel or make anyone do anything. So when these laws were passed, OSHA and the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, they took these consensus regulations. They just didn't get together in think tanks and write these big books of regulations. They actually collected consensus regulations and adopted them and placed them into these law books and then gave them the ability of enforcement. So Consumer Product Safety Commission would cover those things that we all know, when there's a recall on a car seat, or we've heard about a coffee maker that's burning up in a house, or hoverboards that are catching on fire. That's the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We know about the Environmental Protection Agency, and then we have the birth of OSHA in 1970. Barrett has shared the link to the video. Thank you so much for doing that, Barrett. I appreciate it.

So when OSHA was born, they wrote these bibles of regulations. There are three of them, and they gave them really fancy ... That's very facetious, silly names in my opinion. They named one 1910, one 1926, and then the last one you'll see there was given the name 1915, 1917 and 1918. Those have nothing to do with years, which is so confusing. So the book that's titled 1910, though it was adopted in 1970 ... The one that's called 1910 is for general industry settings, so that's the book that has all the regulations in it if you are a general industry employer or if you work in a general industry setting. That could be everything from the meat packing plant someone was talking about earlier, to the printing organization, to being a waitress, to working in a chemical plant, to working in a pretzel manufacturing company, or maybe you're a hairdresser those would all be in ... or a medical establishment ... in the 1910 regulations.

1926 covers all construction settings. So if you're engaged in construction activity or you're a contractor of some sort, the regulations for your safety are in that book of laws. Then the maritime regulations are in ... Yes, Jessica, you're right. 1928 is, I believe, to agriculture. Maritime is covered by 1915, 1917 and 1918. So the first thing to know when you're tackling safety is which book of regulations pertains to me. Many of you on this call are going to fit in that 1910 realm, though not all of you.

So what do the OSHA laws ... What's their major intention? Well, their major intention is to assure, so far as possible, safe and healthy working conditions for every person working in the nation and to preserve our human resources, meaning our people. So back when I was working with OSHA, that was kind of like my creed. That was my job. That was my mandate to assure so far as possible in the way that I approached and did my work.

So the federal government comes up with OSHA in 1970, and they push it out to all the states with this caveat, and they say, okay, states, here's the law of the land. This is what we're going to do, unless you want to do your own thing. So the federal government gave the states the ability to opt out, essentially, but they had to opt in to something to address workplace safety. So they could do their own thing with safety in their own state, but it had to be as good or better than the federal government. States decided to do that, and the states that you'll see in blue have their own OSHA program, and it's a state-run agency, not a federally run OSHA program. The ones that you see in gray did a little bit of a hybrid. They said, okay, well, our state is going to cover anybody who's working in a state or local government facility, but federal government, you can have everybody else.

So some of the differences that you may see, and you're all from different states across the country listening right now, each state did it a little differently. There wasn't a magic way that everyone did it. So in my home state of Minnesota, for example, we have a state-run OSHA program, and we adopted all of the federal regulations, the 1910 and the 1928 and the maritime regulations in their entirety, and then we wrote our own Minnesota rules and statues, which are over and above the federal regulations. So employers have to comply with both sets of regulations.

The state of Virginia, for those of you who might be on the call from Virginia, they have adopted the federal regulations as well and then have written their own statutes as well, but they're just tiny. There's just a couple of them. There aren't very many, by comparison with Minnesota. California has renamed all of theirs California OSHA or Cal OSHA, but basically all have the same flavor of the federal regulations, with some nuances. Every state has kind of done it differently, and so if you're an employer with multi-state responsibility, you really need to kind of pick into what's different about your state. You can read about that on the federal OSHA webpage as well. They give a pretty decent breakdown of resources and what the differences are.

When you're approaching a training or a resource need for yourself and you're looking to a marketplace and maybe a vendor like Vivid Learning Systems, where you would be looking for training, what would you expect a vendor to have designed? Would it be to fit your own state needs, or would it be designed for the federal needs? In our case, all of our content and courses are built around the federal requirements as the baseline, and then we have some nuances that are added in for different states occasionally. So that would be a question that you'd want to ask while you're looking for resources. Was this built to meet minimally the federal regulations?

So if you're tasked with safety in your workplace, where do you start? What would be a good starting point for you? Or what should the expectations be if you're reviewing what you've got in your workplace right now? I like to describe it as the four pillars of safety, so the four pillars of having a good safety program that's just meeting the basics. If you're floundering, if you're just starting out and you're thinking I don't even know where to start, where would I start, let's start with the pillars. We'll be sending you some resources after this even that explain the pillars as well.

The first pillar has to do with written safety programs. Every employer has to have things that are in writing, so policies, procedures, SOPs that need to be in writing, according to the law. So if we take that 1910 book, if you can picture that, that's the general industry, and we open that book up, we'd look specifically to the law on respirators for this example. There's a law that's just about what's expected of an employer and an employee with regard to respirators. This slide isn't intended for you to read through; it's for you to go, oh, my gosh, that's a lot of text on the screen. That's exactly what it is. At the very top, this is a slice of the law, just to respirators, in the 1910 regulations that say employers have to have a written safety program.

Then all of the rest of the text on that slide is explaining what elements the written safety program for respirators has to have. So if you're going to write something on your own or you're going to try to find maybe a template program that you want to use or ask your insurance company if they could give you one on this particular subject or others that you're mandated to have, you would want to assure that the plan is covering all of those elements of the law, or ask the vendor that you're working with or the insurance provider you're asking if it's written to be compliant with the OSHA regulation on that.

Then we move into the second pillar. So first pillar, written safety programs, policies and procedures and knowing which ones you need to have in writing. Then we move into which laws say we have to train our employees on a particular subject. So, again, we open that law book, and we look at the section in the law on training. Again, this is the example from respirators. At the very top, in the tiny print, it says training and information. Then the rest of that slide is listing all of the items that have to be included for training, the information that you have to give employees and what they must cover.

So, again, if you're looking to find what training needs you have for, let's say, respirators and you're going out to YouTube and you think you can find a video, if you find a video that you're going to use, you need to make sure it covers all of those training points in the law. Or if you're going to write your own training program or find a vendor who's going to provide training for you or hire a consultant to do it, then you want to make sure that all those elements of the law are being covered.

Then the third pillar is correcting hazards. So this is going through your workplace, finding things that are considered physical hazards, and correcting them. This one is really important, but it's also really difficult if you don't know what you're looking for. So I'm going to give you just a couple of ideas to get you thinking about what identifying hazards might look like. Some people might call it a safety audit. This is an example of a horrendous extension cord that has been chewed up by something, that when I took this picture in my neighborhood, actually, a few weeks ago, it was being used. So the insulation is taken off of that cord. It's laying in water. There's an electrical hazard here for electrocution, electric risk to employees who could be exposed to that. That would be something that you'd look for in a safety audit.

Another example of things that people look for ... And there's myriads of things to look for in safety auditing and looking for hazards. I'll give you a resource about that in a second ... would be fire extinguishers. So in this picture, we can see that not only is the fire extinguisher missing, if it was there, it would also be considered obstructed with the things that are piled in front of it. Both of those things are hazards, because employees need to get at that in the case of an emergency.

This particular hazard has to do with electricity. We can see that we have a lot of electrical things that are plugged in to one another. We've got some strain relief, meaning we've got cords that are pulling on one another. We've got one cord tucked into another piece that can be building some heat, and we have a nice water source on top of it. So if those cords aren't plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter to save you from exposure to a water event as well, we've got a number of things going on here that just aren't favorable.

So I said this is one of the hardest things, is trying to figure out how to identify those hazards and knowing how to correct them and having an eye for it or expecting your employees or your managers to be able to do the same. So I've got a video series. This doesn't have anything to do with our training, and it's a free resource that I invite you all to go to our website at We have something called the toolbox. In the toolbox, you'll see something called the supervisor safety tip series. That's really teaching people hazard recognition skills one subject at a time. They're also released through mailing every week. The one that was released today has to do with arc flash or compliance with NFPA 70E. They're just short clips that you can use for yourself, so I invite you to use those at will. It's a free resource for you to use, compliments of our company.

The fourth pillar and the one that I think really is where the rubber meets the road with safety, after you have all of these other things in place, is enforcing safe behaviors and work practices. So what does that mean, and what does it look like? Well, this is where all of your training and all of your policies that you have comes together. This is where your employees, your managers and yourself have the ability and confidence to say to someone, hey, you're climbing that ladder. You need three points of contact. You're supposed to be wearing those safety glasses today, and you're not. The respirator needs to be on, and it's can't be just over your mouth. It needs to be over your nose. It's enforcing those safe behaviors. It's not a job that you need to do alone. This is a two-person list. Or your sharps container is overfilled, and when you're trying to jam that in, you're risking exposure to yourself, and being able to correct those behaviors and enforce or reinforce positive behaviors.

Then when you're finding behaviors that aren't what you want, that you're actually documenting it so that, if something goes sideways, you've got a paper trail for it. You would treat it the same way you would if you're having missing work or people showing up later for work. The same kind of policies can be applied to safety and rules that aren't being followed to protect everyone in your workplace.

So the laws around the written safety programs and the training are written with wording with "shall" or "should" or "best practice." So you'll see in the laws that some of them say shall train on. So if the word shall is in there or shall have a written program, that means you must do it as the employer. If there's a should, that means it's not enforceable; it's a good idea. So what does that look like? How would you know that? I've created this list of 45 different training subjects. I think Barrett will probably send this out to you post-event as well, where I've broken that down. So the first three columns that you see on this slide are all of the topics that have shall requirements associated and the laws with them for training. I've broken them down by ... The first column is the training topics that are for most employers, meaning it would apply to most of you who are listening today, and then many employers, not so many, but many of you would have these needs, and then really broken down by certain types of industries.

The last column are things that are driven by best practices, so this would be the should. Or maybe you have in your state a law that says you shall do training on that, but it's not in the federal regulations that way. So believe it or not, one of the things on that list is about ladder safety. You think, gosh, there's a lot of ladder accidents. I personally have investigated four ladder fatalities, but yet there's no law that says shall do training on it. It's a should or a best practice. Oftentimes, best practices come out of injury rates that have happened, things that are driving employers' injury rates, whether it's your personal place where you work or your type of industry in general. Again, it could be very state-specific. For example, cold stress in my home state of Minnesota is a shall train subject, but it's not a shall train subject across the entire country.

If you're looking on what's required and what's a best practice, this is a list that you could keep for yourself that would be handy for your use later. Then if you're trying to decide, well, gosh, that book is really big. Those 1910 regulations are huge. The 1926 regulations are huge. Do I have to read the whole thing to figure out where all those shalls and shoulds are and then which subjects really actually pertain to where I work? Do I have to train on everything in that book? How do I figure that out? The answer is, no, you don't have to train on everything, unless all of the laws apply to you, but you only need to train employees on that which they have a hazard they're exposed to.

Jill James: So I've made a little tool for you on how to figure that out. Again, you can go to our homepage,, and right on the homepage, you'll find a button that says, "Find out what training you need." It's like taking one of those Facebook quizzes, find out what your spirit animal is. It's going to take you about 8 to 10 minutes, and it's going to ask you a series of questions. You don't have to be a safety professional to take it. The questions were written in a manner that invites people to think about the type of work exposure they have, and they'll answer yes or no. Then there's a comment section to make comments to yourself as reminders for later, like, oh, right, I need to ask about this, because I can't remember if we actually have this kind of thing in our workplace.

Jill James: When you're finished with that quiz, essentially, it gives you a report. That report is going to tell you which training subjects you shall be doing training on and which ones are should or best practice. It will also give you a reference to the regulation associated with that need, and then also the frequency with which you need to do training, because all the laws are written differently on that as well. You'll get a custom report that collects all of your information, all of your responses and notes that you wrote to yourself while you're taking that. So if you're trying to figure that out or it's been a while since you've done a gap analysis in your workplace, go ahead and take that quiz. It's a free asset that's out there on our homepage.

So if you're trying to figure out how to address workplace safety and you're new to it or every day a new fire is coming into your door, which often happens, and happened to me as a practicing safety professional, I would go back to those four pillars. When things were getting a little blurry and fires were happening every day, oh, my gosh, where do I need to focus? Where do I need to focus? I'm focusing on those four pillars. These are the minimal things I need to get done for sure before I can do anything else that's new and creative and different in safety. So I invite you to join the pillars as well when you're having a tough day or maybe when you're just trying to start out and figure out what you want to do or how you're going to approach your job.

There's resources for you, as people who are practicing safety or someone who's maybe managing safety. One of the questions is, why would I want to use an online safety training provider like Vivid? Well, it's because, instead of having to read through all of those regulations and figure out what you need to be doing training on, all of that legal red tape has been cut for you, because the subject matter experts that develop content would have all of that included. So if you're looking at us or you're looking at other vendors or you're looking at other resources with consultants, those are the questions you want to be asking. If you're going to develop your own PowerPoint, again, if you choose a different resource, then you're not having to read that all the time or refresh your PowerPoint so people aren't bored. Using an online resource means there's multiple ways that employees can use it, whether it's in individual settings with one-on-one computer or maybe on a mobile device or maybe in a group setting. It saves you as trainers from having to be deployed to do training over and over again and maybe in different geographic areas as well, meaning it can be used by anyone, anywhere, with any manager, at any time, and it also records that training so that you have the proof that you need that your employees got the training they needed at the frequency that they needed it.

Online training itself, if you're looking at it or thinking about it, you want to make sure that you're selecting a resource that's designed and based on adult learning theory. That would include teaching methods that are used to achieve knowledge transfer using things like threaded storytelling and reading and listening activities and interactive learning and exercises with final assessments. So be mindful in thinking about that as you're looking for help with what can be an overwhelming task with training and written programs and identifying hazards and enforcing safe work behaviors in your work environment.

So I'm interested to know what you found useful today or any questions that you might have. I'll turn it back over to Barrett to push out some questions from the Q&A. Thank you so much for your attention. I really appreciate it.


Thanks, Jill. So, folks, it's time for the live Q&A portion of the webcast, as Jill just mentioned a second ago. Here's how this works. Ask questions. We've got a few great questions now to get us started. There's time to send anything in, using the Q&A icon. I'm going to put them up on the slides and turn it over to Jill, and she will work through them one by one. We may not get to all of them today, and that's perfectly fine. We will do our very best to follow up with you post-event, personally, to get your questions answered.

So our first question is ... Bear with me one moment. It's a good one. Our first question is, "How do you feel about MOAB training?" MOAB is an acronym for manage of aggressive behavior. I believe this is particular to health care settings, but, Jill, I'm not really sure. Do you want to take a stab at it?

Jill James:

Sure. I've actually not heard that acronym before, and so that's something I'll need to be googling myself. However, when it comes to aggressive behaviors in the workplace, this is something that's near and dear to my heart and something I've been blogging about, actually, in the last month. So you might want to follow my blog. The question that I pose in the blog is does workplace violence ... Aggressive behaviors would be part of that. Does workplace violence have a seat at the safety table? If it does, where does it sit? What does it include?

So it's something I've been talking about at conferences lately, when I've been traveling the country and also blogging about. So my argument is it does have a seat at the safety table, and it fits in a couple of different places. Aggressive behaviors, leading up to an event, maybe like an active shooting or something else that's happening into your workplace, it has a seat there. It is something that's enforceable.

So where does it sit? In terms of how you respond to a violent incident at your workplace, it would be part of your emergency action planning, just like you would for preparing for a fire emergency or earthquake or a tornado drill. It would be in that area, in terms of response. In terms of prevention, that would be in general safety programs. In some states across the country, there's actually laws on the books that say employers have to be training on these subjects, and aggressive behaviors is one of them. I call that, essentially, a gateway to a violent event occurring, whether it's fear and intimidation in the workplace, whether it's workplace bullying, leading up to something that could go wrong. So some states actually have a law that mandates training on that, and other states are using what's called the general duty clause, meaning employers must address unsafe work conditions for their employees, recognize ones, and do some training and education and prevention around that.

When I worked for OSHA, one of the areas specifically we were targeting at the time to do workplace inspections was long-term care facilities and health care organizations. We targeted that industry because of their high rates of musculoskeletal injuries from transferring patients. One of the things that we turned over when we were reviewing OSHA 300 logs was the high rate of injuries that were occurring because of workplace violence in health care settings. You can imagine some employee getting grabbed by their hair by a patient or maybe someone who is violent by nature pushed an employee against the wall, maybe someone who is having difficulty in their life. When I worked in health care, it was the billing office. The billing office was often the target of workplace violence, with people being angry and yelling about their bills and insurance and how it was being covered. We had to address it, and we addressed it, and we issue citations on workplace violence using the general duty clause at that time.

So if employers are thinking there's no specific law, there's no vertical law written in my state anyway about it, maybe we don't have to be addressing it, maybe it's not a workplace safety issue; it really is. It sits very neatly, if nowhere else, under the general duty law. I hope I answered your question.


I think you did. Thank you, Jill. Next question, and that question is, "Is the decrease in deaths and injuries due to real improvement in conditions, working conditions, or a shift in the type of workplace?" Jill?

Jill James:

Right, meaning are we all getting soft and we're all sitting in more offices, therefore we have less high-risk jobs. Gosh, I wouldn't want to think so. I think we've made some real improvements since the '70s. Those of you who have been in the workplace and saw maybe what it was like before and after, maybe you could chat about that in the group chat window as well.

If we looked at just simply the statistics on trench cave-ins, we still kill a lot of people in this country every year in trench collapses, so trench meaning big hold in the ground or not so big hole in the ground and earth caving in around people. That's still a national emphasis program. It's been a high fatality area forever. It's going down, and it's going down every year. Our initiatives that we're making and things that employers are doing to keep their employees safe from cave-ins, is it really happening? Yes, it is. Are people still digging holes? Well, yes, they are. We have construction activity. If you look around your local community, you'd probably see a trench or an excavation that's open right now, with someone repairing a water line or digging in even communication wires or working on a construction site. I don't have empirical data on that, but I would say that we're improving things because we really are. We're working on it. Those of us who are just together today have been working on it, and so we hope that the efforts that we're making are for good.


Thanks, Jill.

I've got a technical question here from the audience. The question is, "Are respirator medical exams required annually?"

Jill James:

So it depends. One of the things that it depends on is whether or not that respirator is required to be worn, meaning you actually have a hazard you're trying to protect employees from and you have documentation to show that you have a recognized hazard, or if the respirator is being used for a nuisance dust, let's say, and there isn't really a hazard, but it keeps employees comfortable. Without me cracking open my book to read the nuance of the law, there is an annual requirement for medical exams with respirators, but it depends on how the respirator is being used. I will say that sometimes people get confused on what's required for that medical exam. The minimum requirements for that medical exam are to go into the OSHA regulation within the law in 1910 under respirators, and there is an appendix, which is a medical questionnaire.

That questionnaire need to be filled out by the wearer of the respirator, and then a medical practitioner ... And there's a definition of what a medical practitioner is ... has to review the answers to that and then say yes or no they can wear a respirator, or I'm not sure. This person needs more testing, because they answered questions in a certain manner or they're taking certain medications. If that were to occur and they say, no, they need a medical appointment, then they'd have to be seen by a medical practitioner to do some further testing, which might involve spirometry testing or what people like to call PFTs, pulmonary function tests, but it's really spirometry tests.

You don't have to send your employees to the doctor. They can fill out that questionnaire and then privately, without you looking at the answers because they're disclosing a lot of private medical information, need to have a way to get it to a medical provider for review. Then that provider would respond to the employer with, yes, they pass and can wear that type of respirator or they need to have further testing, or, no, they definitely cannot. Hopefully, that helps a little bit there.


Thanks, Jill. I've got a popular question for you, and it's on a subject or topic that I know you're passionate about and have devoted a lot of thought to. So here it goes. The question is, "How do you sell safety to upper management?" You've heard this one before, right?

Jill James:

Right. This is the, oh, my gosh, if we all had this answer, wouldn't it be fabulous? I have to say, I’ve been in the field of safety for 20 years, and I have had one fabulous cheerleader ... well, two, my current boss. But when I was practicing as a full-time safety person, I had a fabulous cheerleader in my last job. How did that happen? I didn't do anything to him. He just happened to come that way, and I was lucky enough to work for him.

But how do we sell it? Well, that's a good question. The ways that I have talked about this ... And, again, I've blogged about this particular subject as well. It's really kind of meet them where they're at, when it comes to upper management. Find out what drives them. A safe place to start is often with data. I prefer to use data, whether it's injury data or dollars data. I would use that, but I would shy away from anything that has to do with ambiguous numbers. If we have one injury, it could cost us this much. There's lots you can read about that, and that might offend someone I just said that to. But, really, that's ambiguous. It hasn’t happened yet. We all know that we live in this immediacy age, where if it hasn't happened or the clichés that go along with safety ... Yeah, but we've been doing it this way for 30 years, and nothing's happened. You say, but if we lift wrong, we could have a $50,000 claim on our hands. That might not mean anything to anyone.

But if you can show what you're spending now in workers' compensation claims, whether it's through your premium or whether it's through your self-insured programs and what your real costs are, or whether or not if you are insured and you're experienced modification rate is higher than the national average and that they're leaving money on the [inaudible 00:51:12] experienced modification is a 1.9 and everybody else in industry has a 1 and you're paying more or it's a 2 and you're paying twice as much as everyone else, those dollars mean things to operations managers, and to managers that, if you were going to shift and make a change, look what we could save if we did this initiative.

Or really slicing out data. Slice out what are our most frequent types of injuries and what are our most expensive types of injuries that we're currently having. Then do an analysis on where do we want to spend our efforts. We have a lot of eye injuries, but they're not costing us a lot, and they haven't been that severe. However, we have these five things that have happened with back injuries, and it's resulted in surgical interventions, and it's cost us this much. If we're going to make an effort in safety, if we're going to make an investment in safety, then let's do ergonomic improvements in this particular department, this particular area, and see if we can mitigate that loss.

I know that sounds kind of crazy, like why wouldn't we want to help everybody? But, really, focus on triage. Triage like you would with anything else in life, and go worst first. Speak that kind of language to your managers. That's what I've done in my practice. Stay away from those ambiguous kinds of numbers that aren't hard and fast and concrete. Then try not to be a safety cop, and I say that as someone who actually carried a badge. Don't do that in your job. Nobody likes the safety cop.

Everything I gray. Everything in life is gray. We have laws that say shall, and we have laws that say should, but you can't treat everything like a shall every day because you're going to turn people off. Find your gray areas, but I invite you to find your line in the sand as well. Find the things that you absolutely will not have happen on your watch, based on your knowledge of what could happen. Don't cross that line. But enter into, well, how can we negotiate this? What's a best practice for us in our industry when it come to safety? That might not be a popular answer, but people will see you as a human and someone who's willing to work with them, if you present yourself in that manner.


Thank you, Jill, and thank you, audience, for all the great questions. Here is another one, a little bit technical in nature, but it is a common question that is asked frequently on these webcasts. Jill, I know you'll have something to say about this topic for sure. The question is, "In construction, a competent person is a key attribute that seems to take years of experience to achieve, achieving competency, that is. Can someone achieve this certification through online training? Will OSHA accept this cert?"

Jill James:

That's a little bit of a misnomer. So a competent person, as it's defined in the law, is someone, by virtue of knowledge and experience, who understands the hazards with their job. So it doesn't say that they hold a degree, that they have a specific certification. It says that they have knowledge and experience in understanding what the hazards are associated with the work that they're doing, and they know how to correct them. That isn't associated with a particular certification. You can read more about the definitions of competent person on the federal OSHA webpage. You can go to, and in the search box in the upper right-hand corner, type in competent person. You can see some letters of interpretation that have been written about that and what that might mean.

It's different for different types of work activities as well. For example, you do have to be certified in a particular manner if you're building a certain type of scaffold at a certain type of height. The law gets really specific in a couple of areas, same thing with trenching and excavating. But in terms of can you go and get a certificate that says you're now competent, the answer is no. You're right, Jessica. A competent person and a qualified person are two different definitions. You can look both of those up.


Thanks, Jill. Now here's an uncommon question, but a great one, someone aspirational in nature. I'd really like to see what the group chat responses look like here. The question is, "What is some good training or possibly even a degree to become an EHS professional?" Don't get that one every day.

Jill James:

Yeah, right? It's actually a question that our coworkers ask us pretty often, which is how do you become a safety person. Where do you go to school? How does that happen? Oh, man, if everyone decided to right in on where they came from and what their background is, we're going to get a lot of different answers. As for me personally, I have a master's degree in industrial safety. My bachelor's background is in community health education. Some people that are listening might have certified safety professional level expertise. They have a certification, a test that they took. We may have others who, by virtue of experience, have learned safety, particularly for their industry. Some people have their OSHA 10 or OSHA 30-hour cards. Some people may have a two-year degree. Some people may have a four-year degree in safety. It's pretty hard to find on college campuses. There aren't very many programs around that. There's one in my home state. I think there's two in the state of Wisconsin, my neighboring state. So it's not something that's found everywhere.

I was talking with someone who got the job of safety a couple of weeks ago, and he's a history teacher by degree, and spent most of his time in elementary schools, and then got out of teaching and started working in a steel company. They said, hey, you know what, you're really good at teaching. You should do safety. So he's really trying to teach himself what safety is and what it means. It doesn't make him a bad safety professional in any regard. It's all about how you inform yourself and the training and background that you get. I'm seeing that people are weighing in on that, and that's great. Yes, there I a degree. Not everyone has one.


Thanks, Jill. I've got another question here from the audience. The question is, "What's a best method for reinforcing safe behaviors? Is there a place to go to get ideas or ways to promote safe behaviors and attitudes?" My head goes to behavior-based safety as an obvious choice. Take it away, Jill.

Jill James:

Well, one of the things that you wouldn't want to do is ... And the thing that OSHA really doesn't like at all are programs where people are getting rewarded for not getting hurt. It's like we've gone so many days without a workplace injury, and now everybody's going to get a pizza party or a jacket or whatever it is. The problem that they have with that is that they think that it gets people thinking about not reporting things that happen to them, because they don't want to let the rest of their coworkers down. So they're just going to not report an injury that happened to them. That's something that's not wanting to be done.

So how do you enforce good things? Some companies do that by having employees be part of contests or initiatives where they're bringing safety improvement ideas to the table. If something gets instituted that they brought up, they get rewarded for it. Some places are dividing employee groups into teams to come up with safety initiatives. I was at a place probably a year ago where they were handing out tickets. This sounds really funny, tickets for safe behaviors. If an employee witnessed someone doing something in the right manner or a manager did, they would issue them a ticket, like you did it right. Then they would collect all of those, and then people would be put in a pool for some kind of drawing. There are lots of ideas out there.

If you're part of LinkedIn, LinkedIn has a lot of safety groups. Join one of the safety groups and post a question like that, and you will get lots of answers and lots of creative things that might fit for your organization. Yes, Jessica, posting that same kind of question to your safety committee, on what could you do in a positive light, rather than something that's punitive in nature would be a great thing for your safety committees to noodle on as well.


All right, Jill. Thanks to you for sharing your expertise today. I love the live Q&A. It's always fun. I think the audience gets a lot of great stuff to go home with and think about for the rest of their day. Unfortunately, guys, we're out of time. But before we close, just thank you all for sticking with us throughout the webcast. Again, you will receive a link to a recording so you can watch it on demand or share a link with your workforce. If we don't get to your questions today, we'll get to work on answering them individually right away and do our best to get back with you possibly after a little research, with a reasonable timeframe.

If you're looking for some great free safety resources to work with now, you can go to and visit our safety toolbox, a lot of no-cost, high-value resources there for you to find. We will also be sending you, post-event, Jill's four pillars. There are a lot of helpful supporting information there that was covered today, but some links and downloads there in that document. You'll be getting that over the course of, I don't know, I think the next 24 hours, so check your inboxes.

Again, everybody, thank you so much, great session, a lot of thoughtful questions. I really appreciate it. Have a terrific day. Stay safe out there. Take care.

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