All About You Podcasts

All About You: You make a difference: Looking beyond the numbers

All About You by Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

A close friend of mine was involved in a car crash in January 2016. He was paralyzed from the chest down. At first, he lost use of his arms and hands, but now he can use his hands and has started to get back some movement in his legs.

His situation gave me the inspiration for last month’s column on simple pleasures. That’s because, during our weekly chess game, we discussed how he misses many simple tasks he took for granted before the crash – being able to drive, for example. The conversation reaffirmed how vital our work is as safety and health professionals.

It also brought to mind something I’ve considered on many occasions throughout my career – how we in our field can lose our zeal because we can’t pinpoint a particular person who didn’t get injured or a specific incident we helped prevent. It usually comes down to “recordable numbers,” which aren’t very inspiring. Only twice in my career has someone come up to me and said my influence prevented them from getting hurt. Both times it made me feel good, of course, but that certainly isn’t a lot considering my many years in the profession.

I recommend you increase your efforts in areas such as health and well-being, because those are areas where you can measure and get feedback about positive results in a specific way. You can’t prove that you’ve not gotten hurt because you wore a hard hat, but you can measure the pounds you lost.

That said, we also need to spend time contemplating how we make a difference beyond the numbers.

Bring up the details

A serious incident affects a wide range of people. My friend clued me into the large number of people – including family, co-workers and friends – who were impacted by his car crash. I’m among them: The two of us used to play billiards three or four times a week. As safety and health professionals, it’s our job to prevent this kind of negative impact. I know this type of realization gives me inspiration.

I’ve spent most of my career helping safety and health pros “make safety fun!” Sometimes it may seem a bit trivial, but when I think about the fact that I (and you) may have protected even one person from the devastating effects of a serious incident, I’m inspired to continue. Although you may never know who hasn’t gotten hurt because of your efforts, for sure your work has helped someone avoid major pain and anguish.

Ask for testimonials

Ask employees to share near misses or other incidents in which they avoided injury as a result of their safe behavior. This is a great way to increase everyone’s awareness of how training has helped them stay safe.

One of the two people I influenced showed me a set of protective glasses that had a nail stuck in one of the lenses. He told me he was wearing the glasses because of a demonstration I had done using an egg and a nail during a personal protective equipment safety meeting. Personal stories are the most powerful tool we safety and health pros have to inspire others.

Remind yourself of your mission

It’s possible to get discouraged if you can’t prove you’ve made a difference. All of us in the safety field want and need to believe we improve people’s lives. That’s why we should remind ourselves of what we’re preventing and what we’re encouraging.

Although I wish my friend’s experience hadn’t happened, our recent discussions have helped both of us better appreciate how important it is to work and live safely. It has also renewed my appreciation of the importance of safety and health pros, and our influence on the workplace. We make a difference.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps safety professionals become better leaders through his keynotes, workshops, articles and books so they can create vibrant safety cultures. His popular “Dangerous Daze” keynote teaches employees how to focus better and improve their situational awareness, a key skill to preventing incidents. To contact Richard, visit

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