Bilingual Work Safety Specialist, Speaker, and Trainer

With a Scowl on his Face


“Oh, you are the guy that is going to tell us all what we are doing wrong on our construction site.” It is the first thing Hank says after I introduce myself as the safety manager. With a scowl on his face, Hank would not shake my hand. Hank joined our company with 24 other workers from a company that went bankrupt and shut its doors.

You probably know a worker like that. How do you deal with such a negative person? More importantly, how can you get them to see the value of working safely on the job.

Over the next few weeks, I visit Hank’s job site several times to conduct a safety visit. I am a friendly man, but it was all I could do to keep a positive attitude despite the frown on his face. There are numerous safety hazards and poor safety practices. I ask Hank to stop the work and bring the crew together so I can talk to them.

I ask, “Do you and your crew have all the equipment you need?”

With a sneer, he turns to his crew members, “Frank, you need eye protection. Joey, didn’t you say you need another pair of leather gloves.”

I go to my truck and bring back glasses and gloves. Each time I visit, I make a short report. I point out several safety issues, and I help them fix them right away. I describe why it is crucial for their safety so no one gets hurt.

On another visit on a hot day, Hank tells me, “The ice in the cooler has melted.” I slip off to a corner store and bring back two bags of ice. Hank cocks his head and says, “You know, you are a different kind of safety man. You fix problems and provide supplies. Other safety managers would get on my case for not being prepared with the items my crew needs.”

The next day Hank starts the day by looking in the eyes of his team members and saying, “Next time he visits, I think we can have everything done right, no safety write-ups. What do you guys think?”

Joey agrees, “I think we can do it.”

Frank is hesitant, “I don’t know, every time we get write-ups. Can we have everything perfect on our site?”

“I think we can do it.” Hank responds, “Let’s make sure we don’t have any repeats of the things he has already talked to us about.

Several days later, the head of the department, Tim, and I make an unannounced visit to their construction site. As we walk around, we notice the team is watching us closely and let out a groan when we point out two safety issues. Tim commends the team, “Wow! I like how you have your job site organized. It is a significant improvement; we only have two write-ups this time.

I surprise the crew about two weeks later as I show up on the site. The team is happy to have me there and escorts me around the construction site. They take pride in that everything was safe and done right.

The following day at the all-employees meeting, Hank and his crew are called up to the front. The company president announces, “Hank and his crew are the team of the month for their safety record and their score of 100% on the surprise safety inspection.” Hank and his crew had changed. The employees can tell when a leader is genuinely concerned for the safety of the workers. Leaders made safety stick with Hank and his crew with three elements patience, a smile, and words of encouragement. May you learn the value of these three crucial elements as you interact with others.

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