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NSSGA Podcast

Apr 7, 2022

Safety Consultant, speaker, writer, and facilitator Ronn Lehmann joins Libby on the podcast today. A student of the human elements in work, Ronn has worked for over 40 years with  organizations of all sizes in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, helping organizations and individuals acquire the mindsets, skill sets and tool sets necessary to achieve success. He has accumulated a number of stories over his extensive career, and he shares a truly tragic one about safety, along with the lessons learned from it, with listeners here today.

Episode Highlights:

  • Ronn learned about the story he shares here today when he was conducting a cultural audit of an organization, and it has always stuck with him over the years
  • The story takes place during a renovation project for a large power plant where painters were using mobile scaffolding which they repeatedly set up, took down, and moved to a number of different locations
  • After several incidents occurred during this process where painters could have been seriously injured, everyone was required to attend scaffold safety training
  • A little over an hour after the training ended, one of the painters who had attended it died after his scaffold collapsed while he was working
  • The lessons Ronn learned from this incident are that simply providing training isn't enough; it has to be designed and presented well; workers must be able to demonstrate what they learned and that they can work safely; and maybe most importantly, it has to be reinforced by the leaders
  • According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, scaffold related accidents result in roughly 60 deaths and 4500 injuries every year
  • When It comes to scaffold and fall protection, we're still learning

Toolbox Talk Discussion Questions:

  • In this story, a fatal fall happens just an hour after a scaffolding safety training. How can we create and maintain a company culture where safety trainings aren’t a box to check?
  • What you learn in a safety training must be reinforced in the field. What are some examples of this we can see in our daily work?
  • Does anyone have a story about safety culture they’d like to share?


“There were these repeated incidents where painters could have been seriously injured, almost falling off or slipping or any number of close calls. So eventually, they had a general stand down, and everyone had to attend scaffold safety training.”

“He went to a training session, and about an hour later, he was dead.”

“The investigation revealed that the painter wasn't following safety procedures. And, perhaps more importantly, his supervisor allowed that the rigging was supposed to be checked after each move, and it wasn't being checked, there was no fall protection harness.”

“The questions that I had when I heard this story was: Was the training done? Well, what's the problem? The training? And if it was done, well, why didn't it prevent this fatality? Were supervisors part of the training? And did they go back and insist on following what they had just learned?”

“You can't be just using training as checking the attendance box and say, 'Yeah, they attended.'”

“No matter how good the training is, how much I want to follow it. If I go back into the workplace, and it's not reinforced or even mentioned by my leader, I'll tend to go away from it.”

“Safety is personal. It is a decision we make every day from the person doing the work to the supervisors.”

“Everyone needs to make sure that we maintain a great culture and an attitude towards safety.”


National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association website