EHS professionals aren't just in the safety and health business.
They're in the love business.
During an opening-day keynote address at the 29th Annual National VPPPA Conference in Nashville, motivational speaker Dan Clark wove that theme loosely through a patchwork of proverbs and anecdotes from his personal and professional life – which rivals that of "The Most Interesting Man in the World."
"Safety is not about safety at all," Clark told attendees.
"It's about love. It's about respect.
"It's about doing our jobs to the best of our ability through trust relationships, so that he or she next to us trusts our ability to help them stay safe ... and we return home safely to our families – who love us, who need us, who so badly want us back in one piece."
Right Side of the Brain
Clark, a four-time keynoter at VPPPA's national conference, urged attendees to steer clear of "paralysis by analysis," at all costs. He punctuated his points with frequent displays of emotion.
"We are safe based on the relational, right-side, touchy feely, laughing, crying side of the brain," Clark said. "Not based on the information, rules and regulation side of the brain."
Clark paints himself as a bit of a modern-day renaissance man. He is a storyteller who penned much of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series. He is a songwriter and recording artist. He has an affinity for flying in F-16 fighter jets, and he isn't afraid to cry in public.
A bombastic video introduction showed Clark hobnobbing with celebrities such as Michael Jordan, Jay Leno and Robert Plant, and included a personal message from Larry King.
'Connected to Your Heart'
Throughout his presentation – which had attendees roaring at times – Clark was on the verge of tears.
"You're all connected to your heart, and you all know that showing emotion is not a sign of weakness in VPPPA – it's a sign of love," Clark said.
"And it really helps us define, once and for all, who we really are – not who we pretend to be."
Echoing the thoughts of an earlier keynote speaker – Eastman Chemical Co. CEO James Rogers – Clark said VPPPA members are at their best when they personalize safety and health.
"I would challenge all of us in this room that ... your responsibility is to somehow go where [workers] are physically and emotionally, because only there can you gently encourage them to be safe, to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do."