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SLC 2020 Q&A: It’s Not What You Say

Oct. 23, 2020
Your message, tone and delivery affect how your communication is perceived, so it’s important to consider how you broach safety conversations.

Safety managers straddle the line between executives and frontline workers. What they say to one group won’t resonate with the other, even though safety is a priority for everyone. Therefore, safety managers need to tailor their message to stress priorities, needs and necessary changes that can create a safer workplace.

Bryce Griffler, CSP, ASP, M.Eng., EHS professional and thought leader, will speak at the at the 2020 Safety Leadership Conference, which takes place Nov. 10-12 virtually. He will share how he got C-suite executives to challenge long-held beliefs, earned workers’ trust and overcame roadblocks.

Griffler previews his session, “It’s Not What You Say” in a Q&A with EHS Today.

EHS Today: Can you offer us a short description of your presentation and describe how it relates to safety leadership?

How do you overcome [the mentality of] “That’s how we’ve always done it here,” or “It’s compliant with OSHA, so it’s done”? Fostering a strong safety culture at an operation with a strong legacy is challenging in our evolving competitive business environment. This presentation will help attendees understand how to set the tone and facilitate the best likelihood of affecting change. What you say — and how you say it — matters.

Why is the topic of your presentation of interest to you and why is it important to SLC attendees?

Working at a union shop with a strong legacy can have its challenges around safety, but it can also be leveraged to seek out those safety blind spots and mitigate risk before an injury [occurs].

What are the takeaways you hope to leave with attendees?
1. Leverage your company policies.

2. Leverage the union contract (if you have one).

3. Leverage ongoing dialogue with your labor representative(s).

4. You can truly effect change.

Please share an example of a personal or professional experience you’ve had related to safety leadership or the topic of your presentation.

Interacting and facing criticism from the union safety chair on a nearly daily basis within my first two months as the EHS manager was growing tiresome. I was simply exhausted from spinning my wheels.

One day, I changed the conversation. First, I suggested to the employee that he was only permitted into my office to offer criticism if he had one positive success to share for every criticism. This changed the tone of the conversation. Then, after sharing criticisms, I turned back to the employee with 40-plus years [of] experience and asked for his suggestions and input. He had several ideas and requested to address them on his own and report back to me. It was the most ideal outcome I could've asked for.

What do you think are some of the most pressing EHS and risk management issues facing corporate leaders and safety professionals in 2020 and beyond?

The most pressing EHS and risk management issue right now relates to COVID-19 and keeping safe work practices front of mind. How do you find that happy medium? How do you hear out employees as they share their fears around the pandemic or even as they grow combative due to the ways the company is fighting the spread of the virus?

Editor’s Note: For more information on the 2020 Safety Leadership Conference, including registration, click here.

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