Safety resources for free? Former OSHA inspector, Dave Weber, explains why he offers the goods. Listen, be inspired, and find safety content at no cost.
Dave says “My father and my uncle were both seriously hurt in on-the-job accidents…I get a lot of satisfaction from sharing information and resources with other folks so that they can help to prevent other people’s fathers and uncles from being hurt on the job.”
Mr. Weber has 40 years of work in the occupational safety and health field. He was appointed assistant professor at South Dakota State University’s College of Engineering. Dave also served as industrial hygienist and safety inspector for OSHA.
Antonio Ferraro interviews Dave in the podcast about his website, SafetyAwakenings.com.
Brandon Nys: Welcome to Safety Experts Talk. Visit our website at CreativeSafetySupply.com/podcast for more info, including links in the transcript of this podcast.
Antonio Ferraro: Hello everybody. This is Antonio Ferraro. On our episode today is our guest Dave Weber. Dave is the founder and owner of Safety Awakenings. He has 40 years of occupational safety and health experience. Dave was appointed assistant professor in the College of Engineering at South Dakota State University. Dave also served as safety inspector and industrial hygienist for OSHA. Dave, thanks for coming on the program with us. How are you doing today?
Dave Weber: Well, I’m doing great, Tony. Thank you.
Antonio: Dave, you have one of the best safety resources I have found, SafetyAwakenings.com. Can you tell us how you got started with Safety Awakenings?
Dave: Well, sure. Great question Tony. Thank you for the compliments. Originally, ah, I thought of writing a book. Being a former college professor, you know, it seemed to be the format to use. The more I thought about it the more I realized “Well, you know, I haven’t purchased a textbook in a long, long time.” And I thought “Well, maybe I’ll form a web site on occupational safety and health and share my 40 years of experiences that way.”
The goal of the website was to help smaller companies. Larger companies, they have their own professional safety and health staff. It’s the smaller companies and the medium-sized companies that really don’t have a professional, qualified in-house safety manager. They also may not have the economic resources to purchase expensive training and compliance programs to minimize accidents and illnesses to their employees.
So, I thought that a good thing to do might be to establish a website that focuses on high quality, prescreened, free safety resources that medium and smaller companies can use.
Antonio: And the great thing is, it’s free!
Dave: The free resources that I provide are basically directories to different free, downloadable safety resources that I if find throughout the world. The United States of America does not have a monopoly on “best safety practices.” Having worked for OSHA, I realized the United States OSHA regulations and standards are, in fact, not always the best when compared to other English-speaking countries like Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
I could divide Safety Awakenings and our resources into four areas. Number one, we have daily articles Monday through Friday. You can sign up and we can email them to you. These are timely articles on new standards, or new, free resources that we found somewhere.
Secondly we have directories. For example, we have one directory that contains links to over 3000 toolbox safety talks. Another one to 600 downloadable safety posters. Another to over 3000 safety signs that you can download and print up yourself. Probably our two most popular directories are to over 1000 free, downloadable safety PowerPoints. Another one to over 1000 free, downloadable video clips.
The third thing that we offer is our weekly features.
Dave: One of our weekly features is, every Wednesday, we publish a new, what we call “Safety Photo Of The Week.” We take photos out in actual industries and then we challenge the viewer to identify unsafe acts.
Antonio: Do you go out and take these photos, or do people send them to you?
Dave: No, all of the photos have been taken by me or my team, and we have quite a backlog of them.
Antonio: That’s pretty neat.
Dave: Our second weekly feature is “Safety App Of The Week.” Every Monday I publish a new Safety App Of The Week for Apple iPhone and Apple iPads and Android. These apps are critically reviewed by our team, then we also rate them from one to five. And it just saves them a lot of time from having to evaluate themselves the hundreds of apps that are out there.
Antonio: That’s excellent.
Dave: Yeah. Originally, when I set up the website we did have an interactive blog on there, but I found that, really, I didn’t get a lot of comments. I shut down that feature, and set up a separate LinkedIn group. There’s a link on our homepage, on the lower right, to our dedicated LinkedIn group. It’s called “Free Safety Resources.” We’ve only had this group about a year and we’re over 2200 members, so feel free to participate there.
Antonio: OK, Great. Now, are there any hidden surprises at the website?
Dave: Well, yeah, I’d say one thing that is underutilized is our “Safety Search Engine.” We provide this search engine that we’ve created—it’s a three-step algorithm—and the third step we actually help people search Masters or PhD dissertations or theses on their particular topic of interest. We tell them how to purchase a copy of that PhD thesis—which is typically a 200-300 page document that is the beginning and end-all on a particular subject—and you can download those. I think it’s like 30 bucks, 40 bucks for any thesis that you find.
Antonio: That’s pretty neat. Now, Dave, can you tell us how workplace safety has made a impact on your personal and professional life?
Dave: Okay. My father and my uncle were both seriously hurt in on-the-job accidents. I guess I get a lot of satisfaction from sharing information and resources with other folks so that they can help to prevent other people’s fathers and uncles from being hurt on the job.
You know, when I first got involved in safety it was before OSHA. I, kind of, grew up with the safety movement. I remember of the early days of safety in the 1970s. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the icons of safety, the pioneers. Folks like Dan Petersen, and D. A. Weaver, and they greatly influenced me.
Over these years I’ve seen the safety profession grow and, and I guess I’ve have the satisfaction of growing up with it, and had the opportunity to get involved in some very original and creative types of activities.
Antonio: That sounds like a great career. What was it like working for OSHA?
Dave: Well, I worked for the OSHA 7C1 program in the state of South Dakota. That’s the OSHA consultation division. We received the same training at the OSHA Training Institute in Des Plaines, Illinois as the enforcement people. We were out there doing inspections, and error testing and noise testing at South Dakota employers. You felt like you were really doing some good because when you’re in a sparsely populated state like I was there in South Dakota, many, many of the employers that I called on had never received a visit from a safety professional before.
You really feel good going out and helping somebody who really wasn’t very familiar with the OSHA standards. They wanted to the right thing, but they really needed a lot of help. Through the OSHA 7C1 program I was able to provide them with free on-site inspections, free, on-site air and noise testing and the whole lot of really good resources from OSHA.gov, the OSHA website.
Antonio: That’s great. A lot of businesses have fear when OSHA comes into their building.
Antonio: They’re really fearful or scared of being tagged and penalized. Did you see that with businesses?
Dave: Not really, because the fines are pretty minuscule that OSHA levies, let’s say, compared to a company’s “Work Comp” premium. The criminal penalties with OSHA are few and far between. For the last number of years across America I don’t think more than two or three executives with companies per year ended up serving any jail time.
Dave: It’s always been my feeling that employers dwell of the punitive side of OSHA too much. If an employer cares about their people, if an employer is genuinely doing their best to try to provide a safe workplace for their people, they really don’t have anything to fear from OSHA.
Antonio: Uh huh. Now, Dave, tell us why safety is so important to a company’s business.
Dave: Well, I think it’s important to a company for three reasons. Number one: economics. Most of the bigger companies that I worked for were self-insured for workers’ compensation insurance. They very easily saw the impact—the financial impact—of accidents and illnesses on their bottom line because they were self-insured.
Also, from an economic standpoint, there’s not only insurance premiums that are directly tied to your loss record, but also, there are these indirect costs. We can spend the whole podcast just talking about the direct and indirect cost of accidents but what I’d like to do today is to refer the viewers to a couple of really neat resources on OSHA.gov. One is an e-tool, an OSHA e-tool, called “Cost Of Accidents,” and the other is a webpage on OSHA.gov called “Safety Pays.” Just type in “cost of accidents” on one search and “safety pays” on the other search and you’ll find some really neat tools there that you can use to calculate the true cost of accidents for any employer.
Dave: Also, another reason I think safety is important to employers is labor relations. A number of the companies I worked for as the Safety And Health Director had unions. I found safety—employee safety—is one of the common grounds that brings together both labor and management. Safety is an area where labor and management can work together, empower employees, get them involved.
It actually goes a long way towards improving the trust and the loyalty that employees have. If you have a strong and effective occupational safety and health program, your employees are going to feel better about working there. You’re going to get a reputation in your community. Folks are going to want to come and work for you, and they’re going to be much more trusting and loyal if you have a good safety and health program.
Antonio: Dave, some companies give awards for a certain number of days of accident-free. Do you think injuries drop when companies give these “safety awards?”
Dave: Well, one company I worked with was formed when two similar companies merged. Each company had about 40 locations. We merged, and then the new company had about 80 locations. One of the companies before the merger had all kind of employee safety and health incentive programs, and contests and the other had absolutely none. We actually had folks with Masters degrees in statistics who did regression analyses of the historical loss data. What we found through this informal study was that safety contests really didn’t make any difference.
Now, having said that, OSHA has a concern. OSHA doesn’t like safety contests because they believe it causes people to underreport injuries. I guess I never found that to be the case. My feeling on safety contests is: I disagree with OSHA. I really don’t think they drive accidents underground. I don’t think they cause under reporting if a contest is set up properly.
But, on the other hand, through statistical analysis of some really large companies with multi-locations, we really found that spending a whole lot of money—and these companies were spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on safety contests—really, you don’t get a payback.
Antonio: Wow, amazing.
Dave: As a safety professional, my recommendation and feeling is: if you’re going to spend $10,000 or $100,000 on a safety incentive program, you’re probably better off investing that money on ventilation, machine guarding, something to actually eliminate the hazards, versus some type of a contest that tries to incentivize workers.
Antonio: Ok, great. Well, Dave, you’ve given us a bunch of great resources, including some free resources. We really appreciate your time, and do you have any final thoughts on workplace safety?
Dave: Yeah, just one thing. I’d like to challenge every one of the viewers to always try to do the right thing. I realize, having worked in industry, there are many different considerations. Many different pressures that are on a safety professional in industry. Politics. Policies. Regulations. Sometimes it becomes a little cloudy as to “What’s the right thing to do? What decisions should I make?” Always try to remember that worker safety trumps everything else. Worker safety trumps policies, politics, regulations.
If the safety professional can always try to do the right thing, try to do the safe thing, that’s probably the best single piece of advice I can leave the viewers with.
Antonio: Dave, that was awesome. Thank you so much.
Dave: Thank you.
Antonio: Dave Weber is the founder of Safety Awakenings and I urge you to check out all the free content at SafetyAwakenings.com. Thanks, Dave!
Dave: Okay, you’re welcome, Tony. Thank you!
Antonio: ’Til next time, I’m Antonio Ferraro.
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Brandon: Thank you for joining us on Safety Experts Talk. If you have suggestions for future podcasts, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more safety experts talking about safety news, OSHA regulations, PPE, lean, 5S, or Continuous Improvement, go to CreativeSafetySupply.com/podcast
hand image compliments of Pixabay/Gerd Altmann