Greetings and salutations!
Over the last 25 years, I have found that safety is a profession that is not necessarily inspired by the lure of large monetary gains. Although it can be an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding profession, the job description is unique due to the concept of making a living by proving that one must possess an ability to make “bad things not happen”. Safety is like any sport—it is all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
There are numerous parallels between sports and safety. Sports and safety require teamwork, the ability to work together, leadership by example, and development of talent. Another common denominator required in safety is the ability to coach, train, and develop talent to their full potential while doing it safely. That person-in-training often relies on a mentor… Most every safety professional that I know did not start out by wanting to be in safety. Usually, someone influences another to pursue that career path. I am one of those. The first 20 years in the oil and gas industry, I was in operations. The last 25 have been in safety! I’ve been blessed by knowing numerous fellow safety professionals that were mentors to me. I will come back to this later.
One of the mentors that I had in the early going was someone who established, right off the bat, that if you do not have a sense of humor, laced with sarcasm and a penchant for irony, you might not be a good fit. Safety people who are not willing to laugh at themselves are candidates for mediocrity. No one likes a safety person who is always too serious. I am not saying you have to be friends with everyone. Respect for the people is a key component to encourage teamwork and knowledge.
There was a fellow safety person that I worked with named Bob. I changed the name to protect the innocent. We teamed up to give a safety class regarding H2S training. In the training we had to demonstrate how to properly “don and doff” an SCBA, (self contained breathing apparatus). We were double teaming the class to “keep it fresh and interesting”! We got to the part where my partner was actually doing the demonstration. He proceeded to open the case and pick it up. He tried to sling it into position. In his nervousness, he hoisted the SCBA up to put the shoulder straps on. Even though he had practiced the exercise numerous times prior to the meeting, he realized, when he hoisted the tank up and got the waist straps over his shoulders, that he had an immediate problem. He had the tank upside down. The mask was between his legs.. He immediately realized the mistake. He bent over for the mask between his legs and the tank slid down his back, thus striking him in the head. To make matters worse, he also sliced his finger on the frame when he picked it up. It was only a few stitches. I tried to keep a straight face, to no avail. It was the first record-able for a safety guy in years. The class was rolling on the floor laughing while I was trying to render first aid to my buddy. I laugh now. Well… actually I laughed then too. It was a learning experience for all. How do you have a smooth safety meeting? Practice, practice practice.
It is a given that everyone will make mistakes. Humor is a prerequisite for a safety professional. Safety is a serious profession. The importance of having a qualified mentor to help is extremely important. We call it “training the trainer.” Knowing all the rules and regs is important. Achieving “buy in” from the employees is an art. Schooling, certifications, and knowledge of the business are also important. A caring and knowledgeable mentor is critical.
I have been blessed by some knowledgeable, caring gentlemen in my career who have helped me develop my skill set. Everyone has a different slant on what the ideal safety person is. I’ve had some unbelievable success in my career and I also have had some of the “agony of defeat’ moments. Having certifications and degrees—credentials—is becoming standard fare. The path to great success is a path with great mentors along the way! Those that I’m indebted to are: Mike M, James S., Andy C., plus numerous others.
Most recently, one of my mentors passed away. That person is Paul Wyman, the consummate professional Safety Man and friend. He cared. I will miss you my friend.
As I always say, “It’s not how many hits you have in baseball—it is how many times you reach home safely.” Or: Be safe! Watch out for snakes, the 2-legged kind and the ones that slither.
If you have any feedback, I can be reached at email@example.com. —Dusty
Dusty Roach is a safety professional based in Midland. He is also a public speaker on subjects of leadership and safety, and he maintains a personal website at dustyroach.com.