Regina McMichael is the president of The Learning Factory and founder of Peace, Love & Safety, a leadership and training catalyst elevating organizations’ SH&E programs. After losing her husband to a work accident in 1986, Regina felt the need to prevent as many future accidents as possible. Now, her humanistic approach to safety is also being used in HR and other departments across a wide range of industries. In this episode of No Accident, Regina explains why her approach to safety is unique: she recognizes everyone is human. There will be days when employees won’t follow the rules. But if you take the time to understand why they’re breaking protocol (e.g., they’re behind schedule, they’re picking up the slack for someone homesick) and what might motivate them to follow it (e.g., explaining all the potential hazards of using shortcuts), you can help employees find their own motivation to remain compliant. “If I acknowledge that there might be external factors that help you make a decision [that’s] opposite of what I would want, what can I give you to help you make the best possible decision as frequently as possible?” Regina says.
Regina McMichael didn’t enter the safety world for fun. The force that brought her into the industry was a tragedy.
“I started in the safety industry at exactly 1:20 in the afternoon on Feb. 6, 1986. That was when my first husband fell from a roof and died. And that was the moment I was thrust into the safety world — as much as it existed in 1986 — and the roofing industry and started my journey,” Regina says in this episode of No Accident.
Instead of letting grief or anger consume her, Regina thought logically. Fueled by a new passion to help prevent future loved ones from experiencing the same tragedy, she used the worker's comp settlement to pay for a college degree in safety and started working in the industry as a safety engineer. She climbed the ranks of several organizations such as the Associated General Contractors of America and the National Association of Home Builders until she decided to form her own organization, The Learning Factory, in 2011.
Now, Regina is a successful safety speaker, consultant and author (of the book “The Safety Training Ninja”) whose approach to safety is unique for one reason: she recognizes everyone is human. Regina knows there will be days when employees won’t follow the rules. But if you take the time to understand why they’re breaking protocol (e.g., they’re behind schedule, they’re picking up the slack for someone homesick) and what might motivate them to follow it (e.g. explaining all the potential hazards of using shortcuts), she believes you can help employees find their own motivation to remain compliant.
In this episode, Regina discusses how safety isn’t just a black and white concept and why it’s important for safety professionals to work with the C-suite. She also gives helpful tips on how to get employees more engaged and willing to follow a safety program. Regina likens the challenges of enforcing safety protocols to driving over the speed limit: everyone does it, and it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to always follow the limit. However, to reduce the likelihood of accidents, you can teach and encourage people to make better risk assessments and choices.
“I could teach you the information about what could happen in a car accident. I could talk to you about the impact it would have on your family and your friends on your ability to do your job … I would try to hit all of the different ways I could potentially connect with you.”
👉 Name: Regina McMichael
👉 What she does: As a motivational safety speaker and president of safety education and training company The Learning Factory, Regina educates and mentors safety professionals about treating safety as a human priority rather than another point on a checklist.
👉 Company: The Learning Factory
👉 Key quote: “I think my issue is the black and white of things. Compliant or noncompliant — it's just not that simple.”
👉 Where to find her: Website | LinkedIn | Twitter
⚠️ Good safety professionals give employees an incentive to be safe. Safety training is often seen as a necessary evil, but if you show your team the incredible hazards out there, you give them the desire to practice safety above all else.
⚠️ Historically, safety professionals haven’t had a place in the C-suite. Change that. Executives need to be part of the safety planning process or you won’t be successful. Get to know things like the company’s growth plan so you can have educated conversations with higher-ups about why your plan/program matters.
⚠️ Be a problem-solver, not just someone who points out problems. Safety professionals don’t exist only to report whether employees are complying with safety practices. They should also strive to find solutions so that there are fewer problems.
⛑️ The Learning Factory — This is the company Regina founded in 2011.
⛑️ “The Safety Training Ninja” — This is Regina’s book, which came out in 2019.
⛑️ Speaker Spotlight — This is an article Regina wrote for Safety+Health magazine.
“Walking up to someone and saying ‘you need to be safe because a law says so’ — that's no incentive. That's no reason for me to have a behavioral shift. I need something more as a human being. And great training can lead to that connection. Great communication leads to that connection.”
“It will lead to failure and it'll lead to a disconnect with your workforce if you're expecting them to always be perfect on everything safety.”
“How can you get a seat at the C-suite if you don't know what's going on in the C-suite? You've got to look for it. You've got to search it out. You've got to find mentors. If you don't understand some of the concepts of business and growth and things like that, find someone who can, or go take a class so that you understand it better.”
“I think that one of the biggest issues that we have to struggle with is how do we get those two groups of people — the safety professionals and the executive level — talking the same way and understanding what they're talking about correctly.”
“The biggest safety myth is that we kill profit. We kill production because we stop stuff. If we can get in on the solution before the problem actually is created, we won't be a problem anymore — we'll be part of the profit.”