EHS Career Trends/Certification

Professional Development for 21st-Century EHS Careers!

Did you miss our EHS on Tap podcast episode with Jill James, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems and host of The Accidental Safety Pro? If so, catch up by reading the transcript of our conversation! Jill had some great ideas on how you can proactively learn and develop your professional knowledge, not just for the benefit of your own environment, health, and safety (EHS) career, but also for the benefit of your organization as well.

Safety professionals

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This episode was originally released on May 30, 2019, and you can listen to the full audio here.

Justin Scace: Hello everyone, and welcome to EHS on Tap. I’m your host, Justin Scace, Senior Editor of the EHS Daily Advisor and Safety Decisions magazine. Now, professional development is essential to advancing a career in any occupation, and of course, the environment health and safety field is no exception. There are many opportunities for development out there for the 21st-century safety professional, ranging from traditional certifications to supplemental training to brand new educational programs supported by digital delivery methods.

With so many options and in many cases so little time, EHS pros may wonder what’s the best course of action for continuous career development. While every individual’s path will vary, our guest today has some great ideas on how you can proactively learn and develop your professional knowledge not just to the benefit of your own career, but also to the benefit of your organization as well.

Joining us today for our EHS professional development discussion is Jill James, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems, an HSI company. Jill has been a workplace safety professional for 24 years, with 14 years of experience as a Senior OSHA Safety Investigator with the state of Minnesota, and nearly a decade in the private sector as a safety program manager. She has a Master of Industrial Safety degree and a bachelor’s degree in community health education, and has worked in settings ranging from medical clinics to education to bio and life sciences in support of the poultry industry.

Jill has been at Vivid for the past five years, and she has a passion for supporting her fellow safety professionals, whether she’s keynoting a conference, appearing in the Vivid Supervisor Safety Tip video series, blogging about workplace safety issues, or hosting her podcast, The Accidental Safety Pro. So Jill, thanks so much for taking the time to be with us here at EHS on Tap!

Jill James: You’re welcome, Justin. Thank you so much for having me.

Justin Scace: You’re welcome. Now, let’s get started off by talking about some of the more traditional avenues of professional development, such as certifications like certified safety professional (CSP) and certified industrial hygienist (CIH). What sorts of credentials and certifications should be getting the attention of EHS pros today? What kind of impact can they make on their careers?

Jill James: Justin, I guess as far as what should be getting attention, and credentials, and certifications, I’m going to leave that to the academics to answer. There’s over 900 safety degree programs in the United States, at college campuses all over the place. There’s various certifications from organizations like the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (as you’ve indicated) that people can pursue and go after. I think it would be interesting to talk with the academics about what they are seeing for trends. What are they seeing as advantages? What is the best leverage for people at various life stages in their career path, as it were?

What I would like to talk about is what is the impact that education can have, I guess for me personally, since I can’t talk as an authority for everyone who has various levels of education in safety and health, but I can talk about my own experience and what it did for me. I think you had indicated that I have a master’s degree in industrial safety.

Justin Scace: Right.

Jill James: First of all, that was a really obscure thing I had never heard of back when I began pursuing it. When I was finishing my bachelor’s degree, it just stumbled upon me through an internship opportunity in safety. I thought, “Well gosh, what is that? No one talked about workplace safety.” By way of impact, I think that that’s still something that can be discussed today with people who are thinking of pursuing careers, particularly when they’re looking at college, like does anyone talk about safety?

I think it’s on all sides of the profession to be continually educating the next generation that this is a really viable place to pursue a career. What did a formal education give me by way of impact? I look back at what I learned, and what I’ve leaned into the most in the workplace settings where I’ve been, one of the strengths that I continually go back to, is how to read and interpret regulatory text, and to take it even further to really look at my sources when I’m doing research in my field.

Anyone who’s listening to this who has done the work of workplace safety knows that there isn’t just one place to go for everything. There’s lots of consensus building, standard organizations who are doing research. When we’re in our practice, doing our work, every day is a new adventure where something may come our way that we’ve never heard of before, or maybe we’ve heard a little bit about. We need to immediately pivot and start teaching ourselves and finding those resources.

I think the background that my academics gave me in terms of reading and interpreting regulatory text, and really looking for sources that are credible, is what I do almost every day when I’m looking things up. I always go to the OSHA website first as my place to look. However, as anybody knows who’s ever read regulations, it’s kind of, “Oh man, you got to really slug through it.”

Justin Scace: Oh yeah.

Jill James: If I’m just going to use a search engine to search the topic, then the first thing I do when I start reading articles is try to figure out the source, and the sourcing. If I can bring that back to a consensus building organization, someone with credibility, I’m really looking at what are those citations, what are they referencing before I’m going to use that as something to educate myself or educate someone else with.

I would say that the impact my education had on me like that is the biggest thing, in addition to (of course) a lot of traditional safety practices that are teaching me hazard recognition skills and the hierarchy of controls, things like that, and very specific things about life safety or whatever it is. If I’m going to look at the impact of that education as a whole, and the thing that I use most often, it’s really that knowing your resources, knowing your sources, and knowing how to interpret and search for the information that you need.

Justin Scace: Great. So, to talk a little bit more about formal education, it seems like it’s playing a little bit of a stronger role today. When I talk to some EHS professionals who had been on the job for a while (you mentioned that your master’s programs was a relatively rare thing), a lot of these EHS pros that I talked to that had been on the job for a long time, when I asked them how they got started, quite a few of them say they just fell into the safety position, because they were experts in that particular industry, or some of them came over from human resources, or someplace like that.

Whereas now, some of the more recently graduated safety professionals, they’re coming out of college with degrees specifically for safety or environmental compliance fields, or risk management. So, do you think this specialized formal education will become more of a career necessity in the coming years?

Jill James: Maybe. I think we are definitely at a point where we’re seeing a shift, but to back up what you were talking about before about older safety professionals, when I started in this field, you mentioned 24 years ago, I looked at my mentors, and how did my mentors come into the practice. What did that look like back then? They were, first, all male, and all of them were former military. None of them had formal educations in safety, but they all had different aspects where safety had touched their careers, particularly in the military, and one of my mentors was in the labor movement. He had been tapped by the governor at the time to become an investigator with OSHA because of his work in labor in the automotive industry. The roots of who started as a safety professionals in the way back machine when OSHA was first adapted had many of those attributes of former military, or out of the labor movement, that kind of thing. Then as our field has progressed, it’s a little bit ambiguous, our field. In that, there isn’t a direct path, “you have to have X, Y, and Z credentials,” to be able to practice as a safety professional.

It’s not like, let’s say, the nursing practice or profession where you can start out as a certified nursing assistant, move into a licensed practical nurse, and then into an RN as a registered nurse. Safety doesn’t have that expectation in order for you to do the work. I think that we’ll likely always continue to see people who are learning at their workplace. They fell into the job, as you said, and they have to figure it out.

Then there will be those of us who have the formal backgrounds in education. I think we are going to continue seeing both, because we don’t have that defined, “you must have this” in order to do the work, if that makes sense. I think that, as you indicated, people fall into the profession, that’s exactly what my podcast, The Accidental Safety Pro, pun really intended by way of how you accidentally came into the practice. Every single person that I talk to has this winding road of how they came into it.

Some of them are traditionally educated in safety and health practices. Some have degrees in psychology. I’ve talked to people who have a degree in journalism, or biology, or no degrees at all and who have worked in a profession and taught themselves, or were mentored to learn their particular craft in the way that they did. It’s really fun to listen to all their stories. I guess what I’m seeing as our demographics are shifting now, and we’re seeing really large next generations with our millennial generation, and our Generation Z really dominating the workplace, particularly coming up in the next year where they’re outpacing by size, by size as a cohort. They’re bigger than everybody.

What seems to be more in common with them is a formal education is something, is some kind of background. Now, whether when it comes to practicing safety, that’s going to be safety degrees, I think that’s an interesting thing to be paying attention to, but the more and more younger people that I’m talking with and interacting with, they have some formal education. It just might not be in safety. As a professional practice, and by way of many of us, many people listening here and being mentors themselves, I think it’s really on us to start talking about safety as a STEM discipline.

We hear about STEM practices and STEM education everywhere. Like it’s something that we need more of in our country, and particularly helping young women see that they have a place in STEM jobs. Safety really is that. Safety really hits on that science and technology, and engineering, and math depending on what your workplace is, and where you go into. You might be dabbling in a little bit of all of that, or really refining some of your work in a particular area with maybe in science, or maybe in technology.

I think that we can all do a service to our practice, our professional practice, by really talking about safety and health as a STEM profession. It’s part of it.

Justin Scace: Interesting. Now, to shift gears just slightly, a big topic lately in the safety world is that EHS managers need to gain more of a voice with their company leadership, find that seat at the C-suite table. Now in order to accomplish this, they need to do more than just hone their technical and their subject-specific skills. They need to brush up on their business or financial acumen, and also work on soft skills as well, things like how to network effectively and be a persuasive advocate for safety. Any advice on how safety professionals can pursue this particular kind of professional development?

Jill James: Right. So, this is a question that I get asked quite often and is also a question, or a topic rather, that comes up whether you’re reading it in a blog post or attending a conference. It’s like, how do you get the ear of, how do you tap into the leadership as a safety professional? I guess one of those things to start with is assume that your leadership doesn’t understand your job. Don’t assume that they get it and they know it. I’ve had CEOs who have come to me and said, “Jill, I don’t understand what that safety role is. We have it in our company, but how do I measure it? How do I look at it? What do they do? What do I need to be asking from my role to ensure the work is getting done, because I don’t even know what it is?”

That’s not to say that leadership is disengaged. It’s just that they wouldn’t know the intricacies of everybody’s jobs otherwise. Safety professionals can’t assume that their leadership understands their work. So, it’s for us to educate them, but I would caution anyone from taking a deep-dive education and like, “They need to understand everything I know about safety as well,” but really pick and choose what it is that you share, and how it is that you share it.

Anecdotal story: When I came into private sector after being with OSHA for a very long time, my work with OSHA was to investigate, write reports and documents, things that pleased the Attorney General’s office. I was great at documentation, great at writing, great at making an argument for something that was ironclad. Then I come into private practice, and the first thing that I ask for from the administrator of the place that I was working, I shored up my case just like I would as a regulator, as a safety cop, literally.

Justin Scace: Sure.

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Jill James: The response that I got via email from that administrator was, “Two to three bullet points. I can’t even read all of this. I don’t even know what this is.” I so overeducated, and I was like, “Oh my gosh.” Like a hard-stop failure, I am not working for the government anymore. I have to change the way that I approach, and also figure out what makes your leadership tick. What sort of things do they want to know about? What kind of questions are they asking? How do you find that out if you don’t necessarily have a seat at the table?

Maybe you start by talking with others who do have cursory seats at the table. Maybe you’re talking in your organization with people who have to report to your leadership team often and find out what sort of metrics do they look at. What kind of questions do they ask, and find out what kind of language do they speak so that you can craft your information that you’re going to share with them, or they’ll request that you make in a way that they like to consume information.

For example, in the company that I was with prior to being with Vivid, the leadership team that I had the opportunity to report to, I learned how they consumed information. One of the CEOs of the company liked everything broken down by cost per employee. That’s how he wanted to view things, the questions that he asked. When I was putting together information on worker’s compensation costs by injury, or if I was putting information together on what it was going to cost to do an initiative like implement a training system, he would want to know, “What does that cost per employee?” I knew that every single time I could anticipate the question. He would parse things out that way. It’s how he wanted to consume information.

Then the president of the company who was president in an administrative role that then worked with other companies within the organization, he always wanted to know information by which of the 11 companies that we as an administrative function support are utilizing this information. What are my outliers? If we are implementing a training system, or an SDS management system by way of example, which of the companies are actually utilizing what we’re paying for? Where are my outliers? So that he could pick up a phone and say, “Hey, you’re wasting our money, because you only have a 30% adoption rate for this thing that Jill is trying to do.” So, he wanted to consume information in that way.

I knew that when I was putting things together for them, I needed to speak the language that they wanted and present things, and anticipate the questions that they’d be asking. I think that talking with people within your organization is really important to find out how do they want to consume things. Then if you’re maybe not even in that position yet, so how can you build your business sense, if you will? Maybe talk with other people who are in types of jobs that are different from yours. Maybe people who have leadership roles, maybe if you’re just getting started and you’re new in the safety profession, maybe talking to other people like accountants, or talking to operations managers in your sphere of influence, whether that’s in your family, or your friend network, and having them help educate you in it, or going to sources within your organization.

It would be really wise—let’s say you’re working in education, and education classically uses fund accounting practices versus cost accounting practices. Going to an accountant in your organization, or to the CFO in the organization and say, “Teach me how you do the basic 30,000-foot view of accounting in this organization, so that I know when I’m asking for money, or I’m trying to establish a budget, tell me how you do that.” Because with fund accounting, which are (I’m going to really simplify this, and I’m not an accountant), I picture buckets of money, right?

Justin Scace: Uh-huh.

Jill James: Buckets of money, and each bucket has a certain assignment, and you can’t ever dump one bucket into another. So, that would be different than cost accounting. So, having someone in your organization explain that would help you know how to make presentations and ask questions, so that if you get shut down, you would understand why. Like, “Oh, I asked for it wrong. I can’t do that in this organization, because it’s just not how they function from a method perspective.” I guess as far as pursuing any professional development, if I’m asked that question personally, what I would love at this stage in my career if I could go back to school, I’d get an MBA. That’d be my thing.

Justin Scace: Do you think that a safety manager should have in their back pocket, like, an “elevator pitch” should they ever bump into a chief executive, just basically I can tell him or her the basics of what I do, and just in a minute or two?

Jill James: Yeah, right. So, it might be a question [from the executive] like, “How’s it going? What are you up to these days?” Maybe have those two or three things that are top of mind that you can rattle off.

Justin Scace: Great.

Jill James: Yeah.

Justin Scace: So, getting more into the nitty-gritty of what’s out there right now, there’s a wide array of development and education opportunities out there for each as professionals. You mentioned something like there’s 900 programs out there, but there’s also everything from conferences to webcasts to trade association memberships to podcasts. So, what opportunities are really standing out right now as far as providing value? Are there any development opportunities that you feel might be being a little bit overlooked by today’s safety professionals?

Jill James: Right, good question. I think it depends on what phase of your career you’re in. Maybe if you’re just getting started, it’s like drinking from the water hose, right? You want to try to get as much information as you can, but also you don’t want to feel overwhelmed. How do you specifically choose? If I’m just getting started, I’d be looking at things that I would be thinking were establishing my baseline. What would baseline be for me? I’d be pursuing opportunities. It could be at a conference. It could be at a podcast. It could be reading blogs to help me establish my baseline if I don’t understand how to find great sources when I’m doing my research in safety, I’d be looking for that.

If I’m in a particular field of practice, what do I need to know about that particular practice? If I’m working in, let’s say, the medical field, what does my baseline knowledge need to look like about what our safe work practices right now are to prevent sharps injuries? What do I need to know about exposures my employees might have in chemotherapy work areas and places where drugs are mixed? That’d be my baseline. I’d want to look into my industry in that regard. Or if I’m in a warehouse or a shipping place, what do I need to know about ergonomics? That would be my baseline where I’d be trying to educate myself in that regard.

Then, as your career continues, and you look at conferences, and you look at the titles of things, it’s like, I’ve been doing this a long time. Yes, I’ve seen all that stuff. Those aren’t necessarily always appealing to me, but maybe what’s new that could enhance the career that I’m in right now. So, where do people go to consume their information? I think it also depends on your generation, and I think it also depends on the budget that you may have or don’t have.

I do feel really strongly that—you asked the question, was there anything that’s being overlooked—work your network. Safety and health professionals are often referred to as a little family, because we are a little family. There aren’t lots of us, and what else is unique about us is we are often solo operators wherever we are. I think that’s where we get that little family piece, because when we find one another, it’s like, “Oh, I got this brother. Oh, I got this sister. I got this cousin in this different place.” We stick together as a practicing cohort, if you will.

I know that LinkedIn in particular seems to be a supportive place for safety professionals to be able to collaborate and get together. In our little tiny family, we’re very willing, because our work isn’t proprietary, to share with one another. I know that I have my specific safety professional friends and colleagues that I go to for specific requests, or if I’m going to run something by someone, and they know the same about me. It’s also remembering, don’t be the person who’s always asking, but be the person who’s offering them information as well, and continue to build that network over your career. That will also be that place where you can do literally your own professional development custom to where you’re at in your career, and the topics that you’re working on in your job at a given time.

That’s not to say that trade associations and conferences, and places like ASSP or the National Safety Council or the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, they’re all absolutely wonderful sources to go. I think that they’re the common default places to go. Don’t forget about just working your own network, and finding those favorite bloggers, or your favorite podcast like we’re doing now where you could do an education for yourself.

Justin Scace: So, on the flip side of all these opportunities, are there any opportunities to be wary of? Are there any instances of educational “opportunities” that are maybe perhaps predatory, like promising credentials, certifications, or other career boost claims that aren’t really recognized in the field or provide actual value?

Jill James: Right. The easy one that comes to mind right away are people who are offering OSHA 10 and 30 courses who are not authorized trainers. Apparently, it’s a big enough deal that OSHA actually has published a watch list of people that you should be wary of and don’t take a course from them, because they’re not authorized to give that certification, and they’d put it on their website. I always find that interesting like, “Wow, has that really happened?” Apparently, it does. It’s a big enough deal that they publish a list, but otherwise when you’re looking at what should you be wary of, I think I’d go back to what I had said at the beginning of really look at your source.

When you’re reading something before you’re going to take it as truth, really look at the source. Is what you’re reading in an article, in a blog, was it written by an actual safety professional who’s citing good sources? Is it someone who was writing to get information into the ether to be able to draw people to a company? It could be a professional writer who’s just loading some text with the words that you want to search for when you’re searching something in Google.

I’d be wary of that. I’d scroll to the bottom, find out who’s the source, what are they using as sources before you start gobbling up the information and wasting your time only to find out, “Oh man, this was not credible.” Then as far as vendors go, I think it can be both. I think vendors can be great resources. They can be people who become your trusted advisor … and they cannot. I think it’s doing a gut check, and again asking about credibility. I know that I’ve gotten some great education. When I was first trying to teach myself about arc flash, and in particular about fire-rated clothing, I went to a vendor, and the vendor that I took free education from happened to have people who were topical experts, and they talked about why it was they were an expert, and where they got their credentials from. I learned so much from them. Same is true with an electrical safety company that I recently partnered with on something, and they hang their shingle out as electrical safety experts. Okay, well what makes you an expert? Tell me more about that.

I think it’s very fair for us as a safety and health professionals when we’re meeting vendors who are maybe offering free webcasts, or a free education seminars that you could go to, to really ask those questions before you say yes to those opportunities. “Tell me more about your expertise. Tell me more about why you’re an expert in this field.” So that you are not wasting your time.

I think that’s just a healthy question to ask in so many aspects of life. You’re right, are there things to be leery of? Yes. Are there wonderful vendors and providers who can become your trusted advisor and actually are topical experts? Absolutely. I think you need to really ask those questions and figure that out.

Justin Scace: Absolutely. What other obstacles might an EHS professional face when pursuing his or her professional development? I imagine that this can vary quite a bit depending on the size of your company, or how much management invests in or buys into this opportunity. What are the big problems and the obstacles that need to be considered? How can they be overcome?

Jill James: Right, and so I think figuring out early on in your career that professional development is really necessary in this field, necessary by way of you can’t know it all, and none of us do, and it’s a constant learning curve, and also setting that expectation early with your employer. Some employers are going to have professional development baked into an employee’s career path, and that’s fantastic. Some are not.

Justin Scace: Yeah, right.

Jill James: I know that my first job with the government with OSHA, they had a specific percentage of time each month that they wanted you to be spending on professional development, and you had to log that on a report as to what you were doing. There was a certain allocation. Well, that hasn’t happened in my career since. So, it’s I think determining and defining with whomever your manager is early on, and asking that question, “What does professional development look like here?” If the response is, “I don’t know,” or it’s quiet, well then you need to work on that together.

Talk about that. What do you think would be an acceptable amount of time to spend on professional development? Is there any budget for that? What might that look like? Then bring a solution to them when you’re working on that. Think about, is there a conference that I want to go to, might be one thing. Is there some really specific topical course that I need to take on something specific to my work? Maybe you just started a job, and process safety management is a giant piece, and you don’t really know anything about that, and you want to take a week course somewhere and learn about that, then how can you get the funds for that, and how can you ask for that?

I think by way of professional development, I don’t think it always needs to be about going to a conference either when you’re trying to ask, “What can ongoing professional development look like?” I think it would also probably be wise to ask and give maybe examples, like I’ve researched some stuff with our insurance broker, or with our worker’s compensation carrier. They offer these kind of courses, whether it’s a webcast, or whether it’s something that’s in person, and maybe you need to travel for, but it’s free, so you’d ask, “Could I take the time to do that? Could I be reimbursed for the mileage? It’s free, but could I do that?”

I think there’s lots of ways you can build your own professional development portfolio that you can put to your manager, whoever that is, and say, “This is what I’m going to need this year. Can we continue having these conversations year over year? Because growing in my profession is important to me and is going to be important for me to be successful in this organization. Here’s what that looks like.”

Justin Scace: That’s great. As EHS is expanding as a field, safety culture is becoming more widely viewed as an integral part of organizational culture and learning and development culture. So, what do you think this will mean for professional development? Do you think EHS education will spread maybe even beyond its function and become just as important to other professionals in the workforce as a whole?

Jill James: Yeah. I think that—

Justin Scace: That’s what we hope, right?

Jill James: Right. I think that safety professionals, maybe we’ve got the corner on that culture thing already just as individual people in our practice. Safety professionals by and large, if I’m going to generalize the profession, are people who are a culture of caring. That’s usually why we got into it, is that we genuinely care about human beings. Of course, we’re going to have exceptions to that like we do in any practice, but I think as a whole, we are people who generally care about sending people home whole and healthy, and we invest all of our energy into that. We know that in order for us to be successful in what we’re doing, we’re building relationships with people.

We’re not going to be successful if we’re being the safety cop who everybody is afraid of. We’re not going to be effective being timid either, but we are going to be effective when we’re building relationships with people, and our employees know that we genuinely care. Does that transfer across the company into lots of other avenues of a healthy corporate culture? It absolutely does. Safety is just an element of a healthy corporate culture. So, I think that we as safety professionals can hold our hand up when our companies are working on corporate culture and really talk about what we do in our practice day to day, and how we build those healthy relationships in the work that we’re already doing.

When I think about my own company, and the culture that we have, and the culture that we have that we say is a healthy one, how do we do that? It’s the same as we would with safety. It’s looking at our employees and how can we be supportive and caring and transparent in what we’re sharing with them. How are we meeting them where they are? We had recently what we call an “all hands” meeting, which many companies practice all hands. We’d get everybody together, and the president of my company had specific information that he wanted to be transparent about and update our employees on, and talk about where we’re going in the next quarter, and in the next year.

Then he invited two other people to share information with the company. I happened to be one of them, and one of my coworkers happened to be another one. The three of us got together, and we really talked about how are we going to craft this message? Not craft as in to be manipulative, but craft as in how can we ensure that our employees are able to consume what we’re sharing with them in a manner that they readily take in information?

My president said, “Jill, you’re good at talking to people and meeting them at their heart,” which this is my safety background. My other coworker, “You’re really pragmatic. So, people who need to see things that are sketched out and pragmatic, you’re going to be good at that.” Then he said, “What am I missing? What are we missing here?” I said, “Well, maybe you need a bead on the culture of the company right now as in how are employees feeling about their day to day work right now.”

He’s like, “That’s right. Okay, so how do we do that?” Well, we got together with what we call our culture connection teams, which is really an actual thing that we have in our company where employees are working cross-functionally across all departments. Getting to know one another, and talking about their work. We met with that cohort of people. He was able to ask that question like, “Give me a bead on our employees right now. How are people feeling? Are they excited? Are there any struggles anywhere? What are they talking about when you’re getting together? So that I can weave that into the message that we’re putting out at this all hands meeting.”

Safety operations meeting

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So, he was a listener, and incorporated all of that into an all hands. All hands became not only an update about where we’re going and where we are and what we can look forward to, but it was also the genuine care of our employees and addressing things that matter to them. The feedback that we got afterward from employees was amazing. It was exactly what we had hoped for. It was like, “Oh, and I really loved when so and so said this, because I totally understood what he was saying when he put out a bullet point of list and showed us path and progression, and I love that.” And other people who are like, “Oh my eyes glazed over when he started to do that stuff, but man, Jill, I loved what you said because it’s so true what you said about X, Y, and Z about our you know.” The president’s got the, “Oh, I really trust that guy, because he knows us, and he listened to us.” That’s what builds healthy culture, but it’s also paying attention to how do you craft that message. How do you say things in a way that hits all of your employees where they are by way of what kind of learners they are? How do they take information? Can safety have a seat at that table? Absolutely.

I think in fact that we can leave that, because it’s what we do every single day in genuinely caring for people and listening to them. I absolutely think we can leave that initiative.

Justin Scace: Definitely. Any final words of advice for our audience of EHS professionals, on just what you think is a key factor in helping them pursue their professional development?

Jill James: By way of final thoughts and what should employees be thinking about for their professional development, maybe it’s especially if you’re starting out is to acknowledge that the work of safety and health isn’t a transactional one. It’s more about, yes, you have to know the ins and outs of the practice of the place that you’re working of course, but a successful safety professional needs to continue focusing on people just as much as they’re focusing on the practice itself, and the day to day things of keeping people safe. It’s this balancing act.

I think the success is doing both and finding your niche in that, and asking for help, and also working your network, and finding your mentors no matter how long you’ve been at it.

Justin Scace: That’s great. Yeah, those are some really good ideas for environment health and safety professionals who are looking to further their professional development. Thank you again, Jill, for joining us today on EHS on Tap!

Jill James: You’re welcome, Justin. Thank you for having me.

Justin Scace: You’re very welcome. To our listeners, 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.

Jill JamesJill James has been a workplace safety professional for 24 years, with 14 years of experience as a Senior OSHA Safety Investigator with the State of Minnesota and nearly a decade in the private sector as a safety program manager. She has co-written a safety law applicable to the construction trades, and has worked in settings ranging from medical clinics to education to bio and life sciences in support of the poultry industry. Jill has been at Vivid Learning Systems for the past 5 years, and she has a passion for supporting her fellow safety professionals whether she’s keynoting a conference, appearing in Vivid’s Supervisor Safety Tip video series, blogging about workplace safety issues, or hosting her podcast The Accidental Safety Pro.


EHS on Tap is an environmental, health, and safety podcast by BLR’s EHS Daily Advisor. On each episode of EHS on Tap, our host will discuss emerging legal, regulatory, and policy issues with industry experts and the impacts to everyday safety and environmental professionals. EHS on Tap topics run the gamut of contemporary issues facing EHS managers and professionals today.

Download the podcasts on iTunes here, and also be sure to visit our SoundCloud page for a full listing of all of our episodes!

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