Get Black Belt Insights from the Safety Training Ninja! (Part 2 of 2)

For those who prefer to read rather than to listen, here is a continuation of the transcript of our recent EHS on Tap podcast episode with Regina McMichael, president of the Learning Factory and the Safety Training Ninja. Read on for more insightful safety training engagement tips from Regina, plus be sure to catch her upcoming keynote at Safety Summit 2019—register today!

Safety ninja kick

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Read part 1 of the podcast transcript here, or you can listen to the full audio of this podcast episode here.

Special Offer from the EHS on Tap podcast! Enter code SAFETY10 at checkout when you register for Safety Summit 2019 to take 10% off!

Justin Scace: In your experience, is there a common thread of successful safety training, and this common thread will remain relevant and important no matter what sort of new innovations or techniques might disrupt the training space?

Regina McMichael: It is the ADDIE model. The mantra is ADDIE. There’s other models out there, and I’m not saying don’t use the other ones. I’m saying ADDIE is that base that we build from, and if you want to start to explore what the other models are after you’ve got that baseline down, absolutely go for it. Some of them are more rapid development and things like that, but I’m a big believer that we need to know our base. You need to get good at the baseline, and then we can start to get a little bit more creative. But that common thread is understanding your audience, designing and developing a program that works for them (specifically for them), and then delivering it in a manner so that the training will stick with them and then looking back at ourselves and saying what worked and what didn’t.

And it doesn’t matter if it’s online training, if it’s e-learning, if it’s a video, if it’s classroom based, if it’s in the field next door to a trench, all of those things still need to get considered. It could be a five-minute toolbox talk, but you’ve still got to know who your audience is. You don’t want to just read the piece of paper to them, you engage them and involve them. So the ADDIE model, it doesn’t matter if it’s a short application of training or if it’s an all-day program or if it’s a week-long program, that common thread flows no matter what you’re trying to do, it’s just a matter of the depth in which you go into it.

Justin Scace: That’s great. So you mentioned just a little while ago, looking back and seeing how you did, so how can safety managers measure the effectiveness of their training, compliance, and cultural programs? What data should they really be focused on?

Regina McMichael: Oh, well that’s where the fun really starts.

Justin Scace: Well that’s great.

Regina McMichael: Historically … I know, right? Historically, in the profession, in the safety profession, we look at those lagging indicators. Let’s say we go out and we do some training on ladders inside of a factory or something like that. And then a year goes by, and all of our ladder incidents have dropped. Oh gosh, we’re awesome with ladders now. What’s funny is, is that the training people, they’re going to say “That was us!” And the supervisors are going to say, “No, it was us!” And purchasing is going to say, “No, we got new ladders, it was us!” Because everybody’s going to want a piece of that success.

So it can be very challenging to prove training fixed the problem. But what you can do is you can look for validation that training has stuck, that it’s being used, that the change in behavior, attitude, whatever that you were looking for, you can validate that that’s happening and that is certainly better to lay claim to than a reduction in losses, because everybody’s going to want a piece of that.

A couple examples would be, you’ve conducted a training class on, we’ll use ladders again, on ladders. And what you do is, you can develop a tool for your supervisors that would help them evaluate whether the workers are utilizing their new skills or knowledge that you train them on. So you would put together a document, or if you’re an electronic-based company, or maybe it’s a quick little checklist on an iPad, whatever it is, but you, the trainer, would develop this for the supervisors so that they could do an evaluation saying “Hey, yeah, he’s using his three point connection, and he’s making sure that he doesn’t use a stepladder as an extension ladder, and he’s doing all of the things that we’ve wanted him to do.” You give them that evaluation tool, but you got to make it really easy for the supervisors to do it and you need to make sure that it doesn’t turn into an audit. Don’t go out there and say, “All right guys, let me see you use a ladder so I can confirm all this stuff.” Just watch, just informal, just watch your team doing their job, and compare it against the list of what you expect from them posttraining and then make it really easy for the supervisors to give you that information. If you’re a paper-based company, that’s not so easy, it’s not so fun. If you’ve got a system and you’ve got people on staff that can help you combine all that data and that evaluation so that you know it’s sticking.

Even if you don’t have any of those things, even anecdotal evaluations where you’re going, “Yeah. Yeah. These men and women are doing their jobs better and safer as a result of the training they went to last week, last month, six months ago, whatever,” whatever system you want to evaluate with.

But that’s one of the ways that you can look back and see your effectiveness. The lagging indicators are great, but they have their limitations because they may not have a relationship to the training. It could be luck! “Hey, we’re safer this year than last year.” It may have nothing to do with the training. Just because, just like, it’s like, “Hey, how did we have so many accidents? We trained them all.” Well, there might not be a relationship to those if we’re not doing some active measurement.

But the idea of, we gave them a test before and we gave them a test after, well that test afterwards, it only measures what they know at that point in time. It is pretty limiting. What you really want to know is, are you getting that change in knowledge or behavior gap that you’ve thought about during the analysis stage? And then how do you confirm that that change not only happened, but then it stayed happening, that it sticks afterwards.

Justin Scace: Let’s take a quick step back, and we’ll take a broader view here about just safety in general. Is there anything that worries you or frustrates you about what you’re seeing today when it comes to the state of safety at organizations, or on the flip side, is there anything you’re seeing today in safety that gives you great optimism?

Regina McMichael: Well let’s start with the optimism, because that’s always where we should go first, right?

Justin Scace: Yeah, absolutely. Sure.

Regina McMichael: What I’m seeing is, as I speak to larger and larger audiences at a greater frequency, is the number of safety professionals even part-time or folks who don’t even have safety in their title but have safety responsibilities, these folks are coming to me and they’re looking for something other than checklists and “the law says so, so you gotta do this” kind of thing. They’re craving this, because, let’s be honest, if compliance worked, if yelling at people and pointing to regulations worked, there wouldn’t be jobs for us anymore because they wouldn’t need us. Again, a simple example here, do you drive the speed limit because you’ve just passed a police officer on the side of the road, or because you think driving the speed limit is what you really want to do? The idea that if we just say the law a little bit louder, it’s somehow going to make it more effective or something.

So, so many people come to me and they’re like, “What are the alternatives?” And the alternative is, is to behave in a world where humanity comes first. When we speak to people, how do we talk to them? How do we communicate with them in a way that they know that it’s not about the law, it’s about making sure they go home alive and well and they see whoever it is, whether it’s a dog or their spouse or their children, or whatever it is that they want to go home safe for. And that they have to feel that connection to the people that they work with.

We’re kind of in a disconnected society right now. And it doesn’t feel like it’s going to get a lot better. What I feel my position is, is that we’ve got to reestablish that human and humane connection to the people that we work with. And I work with some clients that are so forward in their thinking about caring for their people. And I can see real results because they’re like, “No, we actually want them to be home alive, and we want to make sure that they know that.” And we take time every day, the safety people who get in the field, who get out of their seats and head to the shop floor or out onto the construction site or into the cab of a truck or whatever it may be.

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Those folks who connect with the humans, I see more of people looking for that because they’re going, “You know what, the way I was taught, and the way I was mentored, it’s not working.” And so that’s the beauty of, I think the message that people are looking to hear, both workers and as safety people is that we have to make that human connection and we’ve got to take a little bit of an emotional risk about being authentic and about being open and honest so that the people around us can trust us when we say, “I don’t want you to do that, and I don’t really care that the law says it or doesn’t say it, I care because I want you to be safe. We want you to do this. It’s much more than the law requires. We want you to do it, because we think it’s the right way to keep you safe and sound so you can get home alive tonight.” And having that compassionate conversation, as opposed to “Where does it say that in the book?” It doesn’t take you very long to realize, one way just doesn’t feel good—it doesn’t feel good to deliver that as a safety person. You have to have that humanity side. And I have noticed that every time I speak, every next audience that I have an opportunity to connect with, more and more people come up and they go, “I want to learn more about this, and I want to be open to the idea that maybe I wasn’t behaving the very best way. I wasn’t being the best me I could be to take care of my people.”

So my optimism is quite high because I continue to see people reach for those ideals. And I get a lot of connections afterwards where people are like, “I went out and I just said, ‘Hey,’ I just started talking to them and it wasn’t about safety and I developed that relationship, and now I’m going to build from there.”

I had a gentleman who said they’d had a serious accident. OSHA came in, they developed all of these policies, they had to do all of this stuff. It was what was required legally. And it was necessary to put those policies and procedures in place. But he said, “I’m concerned because I’m worried that everyone’s going to think this is all that drives us.” And I said to him, “What you gotta do is you’ve got to do something equally as proactive from the humanity side. Yeah, you have policies, yeah OSHA showed up. That all happened. You can’t change that, but what are you going to do tomorrow so that your people know that that’s not what’s driving your safety initiative?”

And so I gave him some suggestions on things that he could do just to reconnect with the human side of his workforce. And I was like, “Just try to make that, get back in there and make that the memory they have more than the experience of the accident and of the OSHA inspection and your reaction to it,” which was a whole bunch of policies and procedures. So it’s that idea that we can change the perspective, but the safety people, the professionals, we have to be the ones who lead them. We can’t expect the workforce to just ask us, “Do you care about us, and give us more love.” We have to make that first step ourselves.

Justin Scace: Yes, definitely. So before we sign off, do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to share with our audience of EHS professionals?

Regina McMichael: I think it’s just the idea that as professionals, we need to step back and take a look at ourselves. And I’ve taught this in a lot of classes and had a lot of conversations with people about it. We have to be ready to acknowledge that we may be part of the problem. Now, we also are part of the solution, but we have to be ready to acknowledge that if you’ve got a history with an individual, and you and that individual are battling out over safety, how much of it do you own?

Are you going to be ready to say, “You know what, I don’t like that guy that much. And I bet he probably knows that. And that might have an impact on how I can get him to be safe.” And so, you’ve gotta be ready to humble yourself and go, “You know what? We need to bury the history, because I really don’t want you to get hurt.”

It’s interesting, because I’ve posed this to a lot of professionals, and the looks on their face when they’re like, “Oh yeah, that might be me.” And it’s really tough, and it’s not a fun moment, but you’ve got to look at whether or not our behaviors are actually helping to dictate any sort of negative relationships with safety, with the people that we’re trying to protect. And if you’re ready to make that difference, you’ve got to be honest and authentic about it. And I’ve had people in classrooms and they’re going “Oh my gosh, I’m that guy everybody hates. I just realized it.” Before he walked in the door, he thought he was awesome. And he’s like, “Oh my gosh, I’m kind of a jerk out there. I didn’t even think about it.”

And I don’t think everybody’s like that, but I think we all have opportunities to improve what we do and how we interact with people. And I think that’s what’s really gonna be critical is we just have to reflect and go, “Am I being the best advocate for the people that I work with?” And yeah, they gotta consider, “I’m busy, and my boss wants me to get this done, and I’ve got these deadlines and these silly reports for the government…” whatever it may be, those aren’t going to change. But what you can change is how you can be the best human, the best leader so that the people who are trying to protect and save are going to respond to you because you’re showing that empathy and that humanity and they believe you.

Justin Scace: That’s great. That’s really good advice. Well, we’re really looking forward to your talks at Safety Summit 2019. Thank you again, Regina, for joining us today on EHS on Tap.!

Regina McMichael: Absolutely. I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you for your time.

Justin Scace: Oh, you’re very welcome. Now we also want to thank our listeners for tuning in today. If you want to learn more from Regina and other renowned experts in the safety field, be sure that you register for the 2019 Safety Summit taking place next month, April 8th through 10th, in Austin, Texas. You’ll want to save your seat as soon as possible, so for more details, visit, or you can click on the links and banners for the event that appear on this episode’s EHS Daily Advisor web page.

Now, as always, be sure to keep an eye out for new episodes of EHS on Tap and keep reading the EHS Daily Advisor to stay on top of your safety and environmental compliance obligations, get the latest in best practices, and keep your finger on the pulse of all things related to the EHS industry. Until next time, this is Justin Scace for EHS on Tap.

Special Offer from the EHS on Tap podcast! Enter code SAFETY10 at checkout when you register for Safety Summit 2019 to take 10% off!

Regina McMichaelRegina McMichael’s safety career began at the age of 20 when she found herself planning a funeral for her husband after he died falling off a roof while working on a job site. Following her husband’s untimely death, Ms. McMichael dedicated her time to investigating the incident and took part in writing the OSHA fall protection guidelines that could have saved her husband. Today, she’s a world-renowned inspirational safety speaker and trainer whose energy, humor, and engaging style helps motivate others find their passion for safety. Her trainings and keynote speeches drive home the point that when we create a vibrant safety culture, we are creating a happier, healthier, and more profitable organization.

Regina will be presenting a preconference session, “How to be a Safety Training Ninja,” as well as the opening keynote, “The Wife Left Behind: The Making of a Safety Professional,” at BLR’s upcoming 2019 Safety Summit, taking place April 8 through 10 in Austin, Texas. Register Now!


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