Faces of EHS, Safety Culture, Training

Faces of EHS: Jason Lucas on Being a Safety Coach

Jason Lucas has been involved in safety for the past 20+ years, but he didn’t start there. He started as a hydro blaster, blasting the inside of oil tanks. He worked his way up to project manager level before getting his start as a safety pro.

As Jason’s career progressed, he started a safety podcast and LLC called the Safety Justice League with some partners who had the same mindset toward safety that he did. Eventually he wrote a book called, “8 Habits of an Impactful Safety Pro” that kickstarted his campaign to focus more on relationship safety. Today, he is still a partner of Safety Justice League, LLC, along with two partners.

For our latest Faces of EHS profile, we sat down to discuss Jason’s start in the industry, his biggest safety influences, and how he learned to shift from safety cop to safety coach.

Q: How did you get your start in the field?

When I was a project manager for a large company, I saw a friend fall from a structure. He was very lucky that he was wearing a harness that prevented him from falling from that height, but it impacted me in a major way. When I asked myself the question, “What if he wasn’t wearing a harness?” I couldn’t get past it mentally.

I approached the owner of the company and asked for an opportunity to transfer into safety because I felt I could bring about positive changes, and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity and I haven’t looked back since.

Q: Who has been your biggest influence in the industry?

There are so many influences that I’ve had in the industry that I would need to list them by the specific things they were a great influence on me specifically. Rick Pittman influenced me about the overall way a safety pro should show care and concern for the workers. Nina Leblanc influenced me in the way you need to be organized and document things in safety. Abby Ferri influenced me about how to be a safety influencer and create content in a manner that teaches and entertains.

Jason Maldonado influenced me in writing and avoiding legalese when it comes to programs and procedures. Tim Page-Bottorff influenced me to be a speaker and share stories that are funny and relevant. Regina McMichael influenced me in the best ways to do training and hint, it isn’t PowerPoint. Eldeen Pozniak influenced me in being a connector of people.

Q: What’s your best mistake and what did you learn from it?

My biggest and best mistake was being a safety cop in the beginning of my safety career. I was trying to perform my safety duties in the same vein as I ran my projects, and it was never meant to be that way. Over time I learned how to be more of a safety coach than a cop and it helped me to develop the following mottos that have followed me throughout my career:   

  1. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
  2. Coach, don’t cop.
  3. Be nice until nice doesn’t work.

I learned so much about the way to not do safety or handle people that it has changed my career for the better since then.

Q: What’s your favorite and least favorite part about working in the industry? Would you change anything? 

My favorite part of the industry is providing ways for workers to think about safety in a different way. My least favorite part about safety is when companies focus on the numbers more than the actual people. I would change that immediately because when companies focus so hard on the numbers that is exactly what their employees become, numbers.

Q: What are your thoughts on safety culture? How can company leaders make safety a value within their organization?

I think safety culture is hard to focus on because it can’t really be defined. I prefer companies to focus on “safety community” because that is more definable and easier to focus on.

Q: What safety concerns or issues do you think need more prioritization in EHS programs?

I think more companies need to simplify their written programs and policies to sound more realistic and less “OSHA-like” with more time spent getting advice from the workers who actually perform the work. They are the true subject matter experts.

Q: How will new safety technologies influence the work being done by EHS professionals?

Once companies get on board with the new stuff it will influence the safety profession greatly. I can see great strides being taken in VR training and voice-activated job safety analyses (JSAs). It is this stuff that will allow for data collection to be improved as well.

Q: What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the impact I’ve been able to have in the industry through building relationships with amazing people in every company I’ve worked for and it has never been more enjoyable or noticeable than it is now with the Safety Justice League.

Q: Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Remember that it is about the people. People over everything. If you don’t care about the people, then do not get into safety. Save that spot for someone who does.

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