December 26 2021
By: Shawn M. Galloway
A few years after successfully standing up an employee-led safety committee and helping them execute on goals over a year, I returned to the plant to lead Leadership Safety Coaching workshops for all the people leaders. The chairperson of the committee wanted to speak with me.
During this last engagement, one maintenance employee continually demonstrated considerable interest in safety and innate leadership skills when working with this team. The team voted, and Anthony became the chairperson. They chose well. So dedicated to the pursuit of safety excellence, he spent a lot of his free time reading the safety magazines he subscribed to at his home, searching for new ideas. Yes, you read that correctly, an hourly employee subscribing to safety magazines. Wouldn't it be great if more employees had such passion? He heard I was returning, and he asked for some time with me. Unknowingly, I arrived Monday morning, Anthony greeting me at security.
Happy to see my friend, he began. I have a story for you. He shared some of his recent accomplishments, and also how he was going to be departing the safety committee. Proud of his leadership, I was supportive of his decision when he then shared why. Alan and Jennifer, his teenagers, were close to leaving for college. Considering he spent many evenings and weekends on better safety practice searches, he wanted to spend more discretionary time with his kids, and time was running out. He said on Friday; he was "prepared to share this with me until this weekend happened."
On Saturday, it took some nudging to get his son Alan off the couch to mow the lawn. Back in his garage, working on something, he hears the mower turn on, then off. As Alan walked back into the garage, Anthony inquires, "Everything ok?" Alan replied, "Oh yes, I just forgot my PPE." On Sunday, Jennifer, not yet of driver's license age, asked if her friends could pick her up and go shopping. Later that morning, Jennifer left with the group. Fifteen minutes later, she walks back through the front door. In typical daddy-joke style, Anthony quips, "Back so soon?" Jennifer replied with a bit of disdain, "I'm not going anywhere with those idiots. None of them will wear their seatbelts." Anthony concluded his time request with me, "It wasn't until I was going to get off the safety committee, I finally realized the value it has provided my family. I'm not going anywhere." While he did step down from the leadership position, he remains a constant contributor. Great story, or a missed opportunity? It is both as far as I'm concerned.
I was pleased Anthony discovered this, while also upset that I didn't help him connect these dots when working with him over our time together. What people learn in safety helps them regardless of the environment, work or at home. Help them see this before it is too late.
"I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value." - Hermann Hesse
"It is just human nature to take time to connect the dots, I know that. But I also know that there can be a day of reckoning when you wish you had connected the dots more quickly." - Al Gore
Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 650 podcasts, 200 articles and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow and Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers.