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By: Thomas Carson

You Can’t Manage Safety From Behind a Desk

Jason Trancho of Cintas gave me the excellent title for this article. I recently talked with him for the Sospes storytellers podcast, and he said:

You can’t manage safety from behind the desk. You have to go out to wherever [the workers are]. If it’s a warehouse floor, if so production floor, if it’s driving, you have to go out with the employees. And you have to talk to me.

Jason is the Regional Safety and Health Manager at Cintas, which provides a range of products and services to businesses including uniforms, cleaning supplies, first aid and safety products, fire extinguishers, and safety courses.

In our chat, he made an important distinction that I unfortunately think some safety professionals overlook. About going out into the field with workers, Jason said:

Don’t right off the bat start pointing out what they’re doing wrong. [If you do that, then a] wall goes up and you’re done. They’re just going to think you’re a finger pointer. You have to show genuine care for whoever you’re with.

Jason’s on the right track. We have to understand why people follow—or don’t follow—safety procedures before we try to convince them that safety procedures are in their own best interest. And we can only do that if we invest quality time talking with them. Not analyzing them. Not berating them. Not testing them. Just getting to know them and their stories.

After we get to know workers personally, only then we can start exploring thorny issues with them, such as:

  • Why they sometimes avoid attending required attend safety training sessions
  • Why they sometimes disobey safety rules.
  • Why they sometimes don’t agree with management about how to prioritize safety.

In my chat Jason for the Sospes safety podcast, he also said:

It’s our role as safety professionals to ensure the working environment is as safe as possible for all workers. And that includes those who sometimes think that safety rules don’t apply to them, and those who think that a safety incident will never happen to them.

Be sure to check out my full chat with Jason Trancho!

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