January 12

Episode 105: A Strong Safety Culture Is a Critical Component of a Strong Growth Strategy


As President and CEO of Safety Consultants USA, Kate Badey leads a team of safety professionals to help clients achieve their safety goals.

Kate Badey’s Biography

Kate collaborates with Safety Consultants USA’s team of senior advisors to manage the needs of each client. She aligns each client’s unique safety goals with expert advice to provide a plan that addresses each of their safety challenges. When a safety-related crisis presents itself, such as an OSHA inspection, accident, or emergency, Kate makes sure clients have a knowledgeable and responsive team to guide them.

Kate has been a part of Safety Consultants USA’s success since its founding in 2008 and has served in the role of President & CEO since 2020. She is active in several associations that serve the verticals that Safety Consultants USA provides services for.

Kate will be a 2023-2024 Board Member for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Georgia.

Questions in This Episode

  • What are the elements for an organization to have a strong safety culture?
  • Can you give us some examples of what a leading indicator is?
  • What might be the common barriers you see that companies struggle with when they try to start something like a safety committee?
  • You stress the importance of safety. The importance of involving all levels with organization and safety processes, safety committees. How does that tie back into a strong growth strategy? Where’s the link?

Links & Resources Mentioned…

Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the Get Unstuck and On-Target podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and as a coach I work with owners and leaders that are trying to grow their business, but they're struggling with people, process, or planning problems. Joining me today is Kate Badey. Kate is the president and CEO of Safety Consultants USA. In that role, Kate's focus is on client satisfaction and best in industry expertise because that allows their clients to focus on their operational goals and drive revenue. Welcome Kate. 

Kate Badey: Thank you, Mike. I appreciate that. 

Mike O'Neill: Kate, your website um, has kind of a staggering statistics and I think that's probably important place to start and it reads, lost productivity from injury and illness. Cost [00:01:00] Companies 60 billion, billion with a B each year. That is a staggering number.

Kate Badey: It is a staggering number, but unfortunately that is the reality and most companies are not doing all the things that they can in order to prevent those injuries from happening. And those costs are often hidden, so it can be really hard for them to determine what the true cost of an injury. 

Mike O'Neill: Kate, you and I had an opportunity to have a conversation and I found how substantive that conversation was because all too often when we think about safety and related cost, we think about how that can impact the bottom line. But something you pointed out to me, and this will be the topic of our conversation today, and that is how does a strong safety. [00:02:00] complement a strong growth strategy. 

Kate Badey: So that's a really great question. And the. , there are a lot of components that are kind of baked into that concept. But the main thing that I see initially with companies that are trying to grow is that, number one, they sometimes have not planned for their safety program to grow with the company.

And they have not planned for their safety program to meet the more stringent requirements. of either a general contractor that they're going to work with that is a little bit more sophisticated than what they're used to, or if there is a customer that they have that has certain requirements related to safety. So we don't just see this in the construction side, we see this in manufacturing in general, industry distribution. Your more sophisticated customers are going [00:03:00] to have more requirements related to safety, and many people have not planned for that. They want the work and the revenue that's associated with it, but they haven't planned for that. And sometimes that can be a real stumbling block for them when they get to that point in their organizational growth that they can't win the. because they haven't planned for the safety component of it. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, that's interesting. It reminds me of something that was pointed out to me early in my career. The company I was working for was a manufacturer and they were courting Walmart. Okay? And if they had secured that business, it would've been a great boost. But in securing that business, it also meant that you had to operate. Walmart's standards and those standards were in fact much more stringent than they were already doing. So this dovetails kind of perfectly in our experience. We did it.[00:04:00] We found Walmart to be a great company to do business for, very demanding. But when we rose to the occasion, it also meant that we had capacity now that would enable us to service. Clients that might not have been quite so demanding. I see a parallel between that and what you just said from a safety standpoint.

Kate Badey: Absolutely. And those are a lot of the things that we see. So companies that endeavor to work with larger organizations that have more sophisticated programs, that could be on a variety of different levels. But what we tend to see is, yes, we're ready. We have the capacity, we have the financial means to do the work. We've got the right people in the right places. But our safety record historically, so our, one of our lagging indicators means that they don't want us to bid the work. or sometimes what we'll see in addition to that is maybe a [00:05:00] company has an employer modification rating that's above average and for their worker's comp insurance. Well, certain companies won't allow you to work for them if that number's over one. So that means that you're doing worse than someone else who's providing that same service. So when we see that, you now have to explain to them, well, why did that happen? So there may be an opportunity to explain. Sometimes there's not. But when there is an opportunity to explain, now you're having to do extra work. You're spending extra man hours to get that work, and in a lot of cases, they're asking you to go above and beyond to manage your safety program. So now they're asking you to invest additional dollars that you would've not. Had to invest if you had done a really good job of managing that program in the past. So it, it can be a real stumbling block for people. We see it in real life all the time, and it can be a real source of frustration because you see that work, it's out there, you wanna get it, but [00:06:00] there are a lot of hurdles to getting there.

And so sometimes that first attempt. They kind of fall down. And it's really unfortunate cuz there are some really good companies that want to do business and then they get to that point where they're ready and they have to wait and pull back and, and prepare better from a safety standpoint. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, we said that the topic for this episode is going to be how a strong safety culture is a critical component of a strong growth strategy. And I wanna put the growth strategy aside just for a moment and let's go back to a strong safety. Okay. You know, people might have different views on what that might means. As you're thinking about what does it take, what are the elements for an organization to have a strong safety culture? What's that look like?

Kate Badey: Absolutely. So the biggest thing that I would say is that they are planning in advance for safety Planning is a key component of. a good growth [00:07:00] strategy for any organization, but they're thinking ahead, what are the things that my employees are going to encounter that we can eliminate from their job? What are the things that they're going to encounter that we're not able to eliminate? We can't put an engineering control in place, but we have to be careful about how they handle themselves and make sure that they have appropriate p p e, but also how are we educating people? Are we talking about safety? Is it part of our everyday language that we use in our business? And you, you'll start to see that come out with certain organizations that they talk safety all day long. It's completely woven into the fabric of who they are, what they do, the language that they use to describe process and product and people and everything. and I think that the, the better you are at planning, the more that you see that evidenced in just the day-to-day operations. There are a lot of ways that we can measure safety and [00:08:00] I think that it's important to do so, but a lot of the measures that we're given unfortunately look backward instead of looking forward.

So we try to focus on what are. Forward looking things that we can do, the leading indicators that say we're gonna have a good safety program, instead of just looking in the rear view mirror and saying, well, we did okay, and maybe we need to make some changes, or, we did well, but we're not sure why. And so planning will help to overcome some of those things and guarantee your future success.

Mike O'Neill: So why don't we go there? We're comparing, contrasting lagging indicators from leading indicators, and you're stressing that companies that plan well are keyed in on those type of indicators. Can you give us some examples of what a leading indicator is? 

Kate Badey: Certainly. So a great example of a leading indicator is how much time you spend [00:09:00] training your employees. So if we're investing a lot of time in training them on their jobs and how to do their jobs safely, making sure that they understand how to recognize hazards, we tend to do a good job at some other things. Another great example would be having a safety committee for your organiz. And involving people at all different levels of the organization in that committee. So you're not just getting the top level management view of someone who can look around and say, oh, things look pretty good. I'm watching. I see that this or that is happening. You're getting that employee who is boots on the ground and can tell you the small things that they encounter in their day-to-day activities that might be a hazard that no one else is Notice. Or they can tell you where employees are using a workaround to bypass some sort of safety measure that you've put in place. So those are some really great indicators or leading indicators for a good safety [00:10:00] program. Certainly many other things including taking the pulse of your organization. Some companies like to use the safety culture survey or something similar to. But really understanding how do the employees feel about the culture of the company? Do they think that you spend enough time on training? Do they think that they have the resources they need? Do they think that their manager backs them up when they encounter a hazard and they bring it to them? Is that being resolved quickly? What does that look like? Are we looking at things like near misses and talking about them in detail and how to prevent that near miss from becoming a true accident or incident? So many things that can be done, but those are some of the more simple things that we can invest our time. 

Mike O'Neill: Well, that really resonates with me and us here at Bench Builders because you mentioned one leading indicator literally is how much time are you spending training employees [00:11:00] on, on how to do their job safely? Training them how to look for safety hazards, training them is that there's a direct correlation between the amount of time training and their sense of, oh, they really. want to provide a safe work environment. As you know, we do, training as well, particularly emphasis on the people skills side, and it seems as if organizations that get that, are well on their way to building a strong culture, and in this case a strong culture to emphasize safety as a vital important. Can we go to the, the second thing you mentioned as a leading indicator, and that is involving employees, not just set up a safety committee, but involving them so that they feel they're part of extra set of eyes and ears as y'all are working with clients and they. We want to do a better job on a leading [00:12:00] indicator and we want to set up a good safety committee process. What might be the common barriers you see that companies struggle with when they try to start something like a safety committee? 

Kate Badey: That's a great question. I think that one of the most common barriers that people encounter is they want to put all of their managers on the safety committee. They come in and it's safety manager, safety director.

HR manager, floor manager, production manager, people at a high level because they feel like there's value in their insight and there is, but a good safety committee is going to take everyone from the receptionist. Who answers the phone and greets your guests as they come into your office all the way through your production folks, so people on the floor of your manufacturing facility, people in the field that are, you know, producing work on a [00:13:00] construction site, regardless of what type of activity it is, all the way up through management. And then quite frankly, getting the president and c e o of the company involved depending on the size of the organization, you know, buy-in from management is a key indicator as to whether or not you have a healthy safety program and probably whether or not you have a healthy company, generally, if you have management that is bought in to the idea that safety is. A key requirement for everyone that's going to work in the company and that we're going to track safety and verify that we're hitting our goals, that we are acting in a safe manner in every single instance. Then other people will follow. But if you have a leader that does not take that seriously, everyone else in the organization will feel it, and you'll never get a hundred percent buy-in. It's simply not possible. 

Mike O'Neill: Now you raised an [00:14:00] interesting point, and that is you want the organization to look at buy-in from the top. But if your safety committee is only comprised of people from the top, that could be very intimidating for an employee to go into a room, to have all that brass sitting around. So it's interesting. You gotta strike that balance. You want to make sure that you signal full support, but don't stack it such that it, it might mute people's voices. 

Kate Badey: I think one of the things that can be an important takeaway for a president or CEO of an organization is that you want to know what's going on at every level of your organization. It really is important, whether it be from an operations standpoint or a safety standpoint, you want and need to know what those hurdles are because those little hurdles can turn into big problems really [00:15:00] quickly. So someone who understands that and is bought in and is spending the time and energy to listen to those people. Who are encountering the work, doing the actual work day-to-day will, I think, consistently have better outcomes than those that are not. And it's, it's really interesting to see how that happens. But a safety committee is a really great way to facilitate some of those conversations and to provide an open forum. Where everyone knows there, there are no repercussions. You're coming here to share information because we all want continuous improvement in terms of our safety program, and I'm here to provide the support as the president and c e o, and you are here to help inform me and help find solutions as the employee in the whatever role that you are in.

Mike O'Neill: You know, Kate, we spent a little bit of time on the front end of this episode talking about having a growth strategy. [00:16:00] and why having a strong safety program is good because it enables that growth. Why don't we just kind of complete that train of thought, and that is, you've shared with us some examples of things that leaders should be considering in their organizations focusing on planning, paying particular attention to leading indicators. You stress the importance of safety. , the importance of involving all levels with organization and safety processes, safety committees. How does that tie back into a strong growth strategy? Where's the link? 

Kate Badey: So like we talked about a little bit earlier, when you want to grow your. In order to do that, you're typically going to need to work with other larger businesses that are more sophisticated and to meet [00:17:00] their requirements. You need to be sure that all of your employees are bought in, and a great way to do that is to prevent injury and illness to the employees that you have. , they're going to look a lot of times at the lagging indicators, unfortunately. So things like your E M R. , looking at your OSHA logs, trying to determine if you have a lot of lost days from your employees. Are there small injuries that are happening that might be an indicator that something bigger is coming? Looking at, OSHA citations. You know, this is a big one that we encounter quite frequently, that companies have OSHA come and they complete an inspection and they think, oh, we got off easy. They, we only have one citation. And the, the amount of the fine is very, , but what they don't realize is that one citation is on their record and easily accessible to anyone that needs to use it, including your insurance carrier.[00:18:00] And they will look at those things underwriters are checking, but that the companies that you're gonna work for in the future, maybe not today, maybe today, that's not part of your pre-qualification process that you've had to deal with, but in the future, That could be a real sticking point for some companies that you're a hundred percent not allowed to bid.

And especially in industries where safety is pivotal in every step of everything that you do, on every job, every activity that you encounter, there is a process in which safety has been integrated and really thought through very well those types of c. You will never be able to work with them if you can't get your safety program right. So knowing what things you need to take care of today and building a culture around those things to prevent them from happening. So focusing on the leading indicators, focusing on the positive things that we can do to improve the culture will [00:19:00] help to. , the company where you want it to be will help with the growth and will help in the future. When you do become ready to bid for that work or to, you know, qualify for a new contract, you'll have all those components in place already, and that's where we see people fall down frequently. 

Mike O'Neill: Hmm. I know that your company provides a number of services. One of those would be, you know, training on. OSHA standards, you provide consulting services. When they're there, they show up unannounced. But you've made it real clear if you wait until OSHA shows up, you've waited too long. Yes. If you have done the things that you have shared up front, you really don't have to be worried about. showing up because there's no incidents that would trigger their visit. And if they do come visit on a just a random basis, these processes that have been put into [00:20:00] place, they're gonna go through with their clipboard and check mark, check mark, check mark. They see that not only do the numbers support that there's a commitment, but the processes, the behaviors, the attitude of who they talk to, it's clear that this is part of their.

Kate Badey: Absolutely. That is absolutely correct. And the thing that we find is that companies that do plan for this, they sit down. Not only do they have a good safety culture and a good safety program, everybody's bought in, but they've sat down and had a conversation about what happens if OSHA shows up at their door. So they've planned everything from the receptionist, knows who to talk to within the facility, who are the key people that are gonna be involved, and those key people understand how they're going to talk with the compliance officer. Where they're gonna go in the facility based on the reason for the visit, how they're going to deliver [00:21:00] paperwork and documentation of things like training. So there's an entire process, and it does not have to be complicated, but everyone needs to be trained on what's going to happen, how you're going to handle it, and they will be able to see that you have. Smooth process, everything flows, and it will make it very easy and stress free, which I think is probably one of the more critical components here for the people in the facility. When OSHA shows up at your doorstep, pretty much everything that you've learned flies out the window because it's a stressful situation. People want to get it right, for a variety of different reasons. . But I think that when you sit down and you pre-plan for that, and they have something that they can reference and know what, what we're gonna do and who's gonna do what, who's playing, what role, it makes it so much easier for everyone involved. And that process can be quite painless actually. 

Mike O'Neill: There's a recurring theme, the word [00:22:00] planning keeps coming up, . It's, it's very clear that that is something that you, believe as an organization that. companies kind of embrace. I know that y'all work in a variety of industries. Can you think of an example by which a client perhaps got stuck? And when that happened, what did you do to help them get unstuck? 

Kate Badey: So, couple years ago, probably five or six now, we had a client that came to us because they were having trouble getting insurance. Their carrier had dropped them. They were having a lot of losses and they really needed help to get back on track. They weren't sure what they were gonna do or how they were gonna do it, but they knew they needed help with safety in some way. So we went in and did an evaluation of the culture. Helped them to eliminate a bunch of hazards, put in engineering [00:23:00] controls, but we also helped them to sit down and take a good hard look at what are we doing proactively to help these employees understand what the requirements are and to bring new employees into this culture of safety. So in this particular instance, we helped this company to establish an incentive program. Sometimes people don't love those, but in this case, we were essentially asking the employees to do the things that they should be already doing. You know, incorporating training into their job every day. Incorporating walkaround inspections of their work site every day. So we helped them to incorporate these components into this incentive program and really brought the employees along for the ride with us. So we were all in it together and they knew that there was a problem that needed to be solved. And at the end of the day, they saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on their workers' comp insurance, which was a huge relief for them. [00:24:00] But not only that, going forward, they've been able to reduce their E M R significantly such that they pay far less than what their competitors are paying. That gives them a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace because sometimes those profit margins we're talking. Points per, you know, portions of a percent. And in that case, they're able then to be more competitive in the marketplace. Their profits look better, they look better to investors. There's a lot of positives that come out of it, and the employees are really happy to be able to go to work and not fear that they're gonna be injured at the end of the.

Mike O'Neill: No, that's a great example. Thank you. I appreciate you sharing that. Katie, as you kind of reflect on our conversation, we've covered a wide variety of of things, but what do you want our viewers and listeners to have as takeaways? 

Kate Badey: I think it's really important to sit down and take a look at the information that you have available to you today regarding your safety [00:25:00] program. So most people are gonna have the lagging indicators, but notate. Figure out where you are. Do an assessment. Look ahead at those leading indicators. Do you have some of the things we talked about? What does your training program look like? How many hours are you training each employee that's coming into your organization, either at onboarding or ongoing?

You know, periodic training is important. Do you have a safety committee? So look at all of those things. Document that. , then take a look at your culture of your company. Talk to your employees individually. Take their temperature and understand what is it that you think that we're doing right and what do you think we're doing wrong? Do you have our support or do you need more? And evaluate those three components. And it may not be meaningful today, and that's okay, but continue to look at those things ongoing so you can track and trend. We're getting better because you [00:26:00] do need to look in the rear view mirror a little bit to understand where you were, and then you need to look ahead to see where you're going. And if you can do those three things, I think it will help people to really get on target with where they wanna be in terms of safety and going forward. They'll have a way to measure that they are making some. 

Mike O'Neill: Well, wonderful recap. You know, Kate, I'm confident as people have been listening to you and they wanna learn more, what's the best way for them to connect with you?

Kate Badey: Certainly. So if someone wanted to, they could reach out through our website, which is www.safetyconsultantsusa.com, or they can also find me on LinkedIn. I'm pretty active on there. Share a lot of information about what we're doing as a company and things that you can do as an organization to improve your safety as well.

Mike O'Neill: We will include those links in the show notes. Matter of fact, it was a LinkedIn that brought [00:27:00] you and me together. I read one of your posts and I was impressed with it and I figured she might be a, a good podcast guest. Well, you were a great podcast guest. Thank you.

Kate Badey: Thank you, Mike. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Mike O'Neill: I also wanna thank our listeners for joining. Today, we upload the latest episode every Thursday to all the platforms, including Apple and Spotify. So if you've enjoyed this episode with Kate, which I'm sure you have, please subscribe. So as we wrap up, I've got a question for our listeners. Are you trying to grow your business? And you'll want to make sure that you've got the right people process and planning systems in place so that you can grow smoothly and. . If yes, let's talk head to bench builders.com to schedule a call. We're gonna talk about your growth goals and explore practical steps that you can take now to make sure that that growth happens. So I wanna thank you for joining [00:28:00] us, and I hope you have picked up on some tips from Kate that will help you get unstuck and on target. Until next.

This Quiz is Going to Assess you in 3 main Areas...



People is about making sure that you have the right people in the right positions in your company, and that you have a plan for how to retain and train your top talent.


Planning is all about knowing where you're going and having exact steps that you can take for how you're going to get from here to there.


Process is about having efficient systems in place to help you get ahead of your competitors faster and with fewer mistakes.

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