No Accident

Keith Robinson | It’s the Personal Touch That Makes the Difference

Episode Summary

Keith Robinson’s 30-year career in safety started with a direct command from his captain in the Navy. “When I was a young officer in the Navy, the captain I served under came to me and said, ‘We need you to be the assistant safety officer on this nuclear-powered aircraft carrier,’” Keith says. “The Navy puts you where they need you versus where you want to be. I had no experience with it, but I spent my final two years in the Navy and on my ship as the assistant safety officer, got a lot of experience, and discovered a passion for the job.” On this episode of the No Accident podcast, presented by TRUCE, Keith discusses his salesman approach to safety and the importance of making safety a priority so your employees follow suit. He also shares how to speak the C-suite’s language — that is, talk in terms of metrics that executives care about, such as productivity and profitability.

Episode Notes

Keith Robinson’s 30-year career in safety started with a direct command from his captain in the Navy.

“When I was a young officer in the Navy, the captain I served under came to me and said, ‘We need you to be the assistant safety officer on this nuclear-powered aircraft carrier,’” Keith says. “The Navy puts you where they need you versus where you want to be. I had no experience with it, but I spent my final two years in the Navy and on my ship as the assistant safety officer, got a lot of experience, and discovered a passion for the job.”

Once he was done serving, that passion didn’t go away. Keith took safety job after safety job, starting at Four Seasons Environmental Services. He bounced around for the next couple of decades until six years ago, when he left Stantec for his current job as Vice President of Safety at Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.

On this episode of the No Accident podcast, presented by TRUCE, Keith discusses how making a personal connection with the employee, providing the personal touch, is ultimately what helps to motivate safe behavior, because ultimately it’s up to the individual to make the right decisions.. He also shares how to speak the C-suite’s language — that is, talk in terms of metrics that they care about, such as productivity and profitability.

Keith also discusses how and why an injury negatively affects business, noting that it “impacts the company's ability to produce whatever product it is or whatever service it is in the long run.”

He points out that when somebody gets injured, it’s important to remember that “they didn't do it on purpose. They may have been careless about it, but they did not intend to get hurt. That's not the result that they wanted. So we need to really make sure that as leaders, we are approaching people with that same perspective.”

Featured Guest

👉 Name: Keith Robinson

👉 What he does: As Vice President of Safety at Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc., Keith interfaces with both those he oversees and the C-suite to ensure he’s cultivating an interest in (and dedication to) safety across the board. 

👉 Company: Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.

👉 Key quote: “To me, even if my job is considered technical by some, I'm a salesman. My job is to sell people on the concept of working safe.”

👉 Where to find him: LinkedIn 

Safe Takes

⚠️ Think of your job from a sales perspective. Your goal as a safety leader is to sell people on why they should work safely based on what’s important to them — not to force or guilt people into following safety rules. 

⚠️ Take an interest in your work and that of your employees. Taking an active interest — specifically in an unforced and unscripted way — in the safety elements associated with your subordinates’ work will help them realize the importance of safety because it’s what’s important to their boss. 

⚠️ Make a personal connection. Engage your employees and make a personal connection so you can better understand what motivates them. It’s all about that personal touch and explaining why you want everyone to work safely. As Keith says, you could be the smartest, most technically based safety person, but unless you can make a personal connection to people, you may not get the results that you want.

⚠️ Explain safety in a way the C-suite will understand. Speak the language of executives to communicate more effectively with them. For example, raise topics by focusing on metrics such as productivity and profitability.

Resources

⛑️ Typical Naval ship organization — This Federation of American Scientists module explains ranks on naval ships and what each department — including safety, the one Keith was in charge of — do.

Top quotes from the episode:

“For us to be safe, we have to balance the challenge of making sure that everybody has the training, has the equipment, has the experience, has the knowledge — as well as having the time to provide those services to the clients.”

“If they don't know what they don't know, and they don't take the time to find out, an employee could get hurt. And employees — even more so in the smaller companies — are their greatest natural resource, and so if you have an employee that's hurt, that means that they may not be able to provide the service or do the work that they're supposed to do.”

“Really take an interest in it. Ask questions. ‘You guys have all the safety equipment you need on the job out there?’ ‘Do we need to provide more training?’ … Doing those types of things on an ongoing regular basis is going to demonstrate to those employees that work for them that ‘Wow, this is something that's important to that supervisor, that boss, so I'm going to take a more active role in making sure I can answer those questions the right way.’”