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NSSGA Podcast

Jan 12, 2023

Justin Ganschow, Business Development Manager for Caterpillar Safety Services joins Libby for today’s episode. Justin has been in the industry for almost 20 years, and, as a result, has a wealth of stories and presentations to offer. In this episode, he shares a story about the human side of safety and about being an intentional safety leader. 


Episode Highlights:

  • Several years ago, Justin was working with a company that, after suffering a pretty traumatic injury involving six of their employees, embarked on a safety culture improvement journey with him
  • Part of the journey was developing cross functional teams to build meaningful safety activities that govern how everybody worked in the field, shop, and office
  • Many of the field workers were not excited about taking part in these
  • RJ was one field worker who had grown up in the industry, and who began sharing his ideas about safety, gaining the attention and support of his colleagues and leaders alike.
  • Eventually, RJ decided to go back to school and get a degree in safety because he was now in a culture that supported him and his peers, and really empowered them to make the changes needed to take ownership of safety
  • RJ’s best friend and longtime colleague, Josh, didn’t really support RJ’s decision to do this
  • Years later, though, Justin was pleasantly surprised to see that Josh paid his own way  to support RJ as he presented at an executive safety leadership summit in a different city - Josh now saw RJ as his ally and advocate within the company 
  • The lesson that Justin feels can be learned from this is that, while safety is often viewed as something that needs to be enforced by ‘safety cops’,  it doesn't have to be that way. It can be a lot more effective when we have courageous safety leaders. 
  • RJ cared so deeply that he changed his life to have the backs of the men and women that worked around him - a lesson that we can all take to heart 


Toolbox Talk Discussion Questions:


  • In this episode Justin shares about RJ who was initially reluctant to participate in the meetings, but later became really involved in safety trainings. How can we reach those who are initially resistant to participate?
  • How can this story encourage us to engage in cross-department safety discussions?
  • Does anyone have a story about how their safety mindset has changed over their career?


“I've had the distinct privilege of working with a lot of companies and different industries over the years to improve safety, culture and leadership abilities.”

“After suffering a pretty traumatic injury that injured six of their employees, this organization embarked on a safety culture improvement journey with us.”

“RJ… had seen safety programs come and go in the past, but he decided he would try it. And throughout the week, he kept leaning in and leaning in and speaking up, giving us his ideas about how to develop this new safety process for safety training.”

“I saw him come alive and realize that his voice mattered. And his ideas were then adopted by his peers. They were cheered on by leadership.”

“It was about a year later that I got a phone call from RJ. And he shared with me that he decided he was going to go back to school and get a degree in safety.”

“That was amazing to me that someone who had spent their whole career in the trades, was going to, midlife, go back to school to support the people that they work with every day.”

“So many times safety is viewed as something that needs to be enforced… it can be a lot more effective when we have courageous safety leaders.”

“This is somebody he now saw as his ally, as his advocate, within the company.”

“I hope that's a lesson that all of us can take to heart when we show up on the job site. Are you there for policies and procedures? Are you there for your people?”

“At the end of the day, safety is about people, it's about the 24/7. Are we living it? Are we really owning it?”

“Safety leadership is about doing, it's about being proactive, and it's about people. It's about caring.”


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