Episode 30

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Published on:

31st May 2021

Don't Ignore the Signs: How to Create a Safe Workplace in Manufacturing with Carol Cambridge

Contact Carol Cambridge:

Telephone: 623-242-8797

Lisa Ryan: Hey, it's Lisa Ryan from the Manufacturers Network podcast. I am excited to introduce you to Carol Cambridge. Carol Cambridge is CEO of the Stay Safe Project, an international conference speaker, and a workplace violence expert highly profiled for her expertise. She has often sought by the media for comments when tragedies occur. Carol has been interviewed by ABC, NBC, USA Today, CBC, and as far away as News Channel Asia in Singapore. Her career began as a communications specialist in emergency services and disaster preparedness with a Canadian law enforcement agency.

Twenty-seven years later, Carol has taught over a quarter of a million people how to make intelligent, powerful, and life-saving decisions. When Carol is not speaking in training, she is at home in Glendale, Arizona, with the love of her life and three beautiful dogs. Carol, welcome to the show.

Carol Cambridge: Thanks so much for having me.

Lisa Ryan: Well, you have such a fascinating background and what you've been doing. So just share a bit of how you got started and how you ended up where you did.

Carol Cambridge: Well, I came to the States several years ago. I was either overqualified or underqualified for absolutely everything. Not wanting to start working back into shiftwork, I realized a hole in corporate America, specifically manufacturing, the construction industry, and the electrical industry. I thought I have a wealth of information that can help people.

And I think the biggest thing over the years that I've learned is that we don't necessarily have good critical thinking when it comes to emergencies and crises and dealing with people who are angry and disgruntled employees. I was able to translate what I had spent much of my career at that point, learning and translate that into a way that people were interested in. And it was beneficial to people.

Lisa Ryan: It's unfortunate that with all the workplace violence and everything that we see that makes the news that this has become such a big part of your career. But when put in those types of environments, those types of situations, it's really good, especially in manufacturing and everywhere that people know exactly what to do.

Carol Cambridge: That's right. And what happens and when I see a lot is that people think that they know what they're going to do in a crisis until that crisis happens.

When their emotions are involved, they see people they work with or love that are involved in a horrific situation. We go right to that flight, and flight freeze brain. I see many people who think they know; they will swear up and down that they know exactly what to do. But when I do some of the experience training that I do, we find that people are shocked by their own responses, and they just don't react the way they assumed they would have.

Lisa Ryan: So take us through the experience. When it comes to proving to people how they actually react instead of how they think they'll react. How do you bring that to life?

Carol Cambridge: Well, there are a couple of different ways. In the workplace violence piece, I will throw it to the people when I'm doing training. I will say you are now part of this risk assessment team. I give them a little bit in the scenario. Then I'll say when you asked me the right questions in the right order, so to speak, and there's not exact rightness, but often what happens is they will think about protecting. For instance, the one employee instead of, oh, we have an entire plant full of employees.

And you have to think about both of those. And most of us don't have that ability. We go to one specific area, so I'll ask them. They start asking me questions. I'll supply them with a little bit more information. And then we play out the scenario. And many of them are surprised because they'll put steps nine, 10, or 11 in front of maybe the first steps they should have done. For instance, let's say it's a high-risk termination, and this person has been dismissed.

But there is fear, or there has been a threat that this person may come back into the plant, and perhaps this person has a history of owning weapons, and they're very familiar with weapons. And through the risk assessment that this person is becoming more and more dangerous. Suddenly, there are twenty-four hours into this, but they haven't shared any information with the people in the plant. And it's hot, and it's in the summertime. So, all of the doors are open because they don't have air conditioning in the plant.

And all of a sudden, they realize they put all these other steps into place, and they perhaps spent a lot of money. But this person could walk through any one of those doors and start shooting at any time. So that's how we play it now with the active shooter.

Well, it's more highly charged. Let's say we put them into a situation of a mock drill. We give all the proper warnings for people ahead of time, and then we put them in that situation where we dim the lights, and they will hear the sounds of shots fired. I don't use that weaponry. I'm not trying to scare anybody. But just the sounds, the dimming. It's the fact that they're told that there's a shooter and that they need to hide or get out of the room. We can plant people with disabilities, and we just watch what happens and.

People typically will do absolutely everything wrong. They don't know where to hide. They all go up the same exits that they entered. They just do things that we're trained to do. And what we're prepared to do is how to respond in a fire drill that's stand up, walk slowly toward the exits, be kind to everybody.

But in an active shooter who wants to be the tallest person in the room, not me, not you.

And so they go out the doors without looking. I never say where the shooter is. The shooter could be outside. We have someone playing the role of an active shooter, and they'll have a Nerf gun. They can't hurt anybody. Most of the time, somebody who gets hit with it doesn't even realize they're hit with that Nerf bullet. But people come back afterward, and they'll say, oh, my gosh, I never thought to look at what exits we have in this room. I never thought I had an assumption. It challenges their assumptions. It challenges their biases.

It challenges them because they thought they would have perhaps fought or gone after the attacker when in fact, they hit their automatic instinct was to hide. And none of those reactions are wrong. It's just what happens to us in a crisis.

So through the debrief and the follow-up training, we do a second one, and they will see the difference in the room, and you save their lives. But they could also save their coworkers' lives, especially in a manufacturing setting, because you typically have so many, so many objects that could be used as weapons, where if you were in an office building, there wouldn't be quick access to those kinds of weapons.

So people think through and start using those critical thinking skills in a little different way.

Lisa Ryan: Now, the thing that comes to mind to me is as much as we both fly of being on an airplane and you hear that that safety announcement over and over and over again, you can pretty much do it by heart. You know exactly where the exits are. You know exactly what you're going to do. But until that plane is going down, you have no idea. And you think in a plant environment; we never or rarely have that conversation.

So how in the world can you think about what you're even going remotely to come close to, what you're going to do?

Carol Cambridge: So much of this comes in one ear out the other. When you shared that example of being on a plane, I think of my friend Jackie. And it was gosh, it was probably almost 30 years ago she was involved.

She was on air Egypt that was hijacked, and she was shot. There were a lot of people killed on that plane. She was shot in the head. Thankfully, Jackie survived. And without going into her whole story, I remember saying to Jackie afterward, besides the fact that you thought this plane is going down or that you may be shot in the head, what was going through your mind initially when those hijackers first said that? She said, My first thought was that I don't pay attention to what the flight attendants say. I just thought because they were going dropping quickly, the oxygen all came down. She's like, what should I do? And so it was a real honest to the core answer.

And I think what happens is we train situational awareness. And it's one thing that we don't typically train our supervisors or managers and we certainly don't train our employees. And that's why experiential training is so effective. It gets people thinking now. Is it on its total behavior change or a little bit more so than if I were sharing the story and listening to me?

Because we know that they don't remember that, it's an experience that internally causes them some fright or friction. They're aware of that emotional response. They will start paying attention. We also do what we do when we go in and do this training in companies and manufacturers. We supply them with a video series. And this video series is small snip snippets. It's two to five minutes in length. It's something that they can use in their safety meetings to remind them.

And there is a section on situational awareness and all these other things. It's keeping that on the top of their mind and so that it's part of their conversation. Now it goes away. But the next time we hear a media story about an active shooter somewhere, it raises that conversation to the top again. And people will think, gee, what do we do? What doors do we get out? Do we have a system for warning other employees, that kind of thing?

Lisa Ryan: You stated at the beginning of their time together of that summer in the manufacturing plant with all the doors open, and you just released or fired that problem child of an employee. What do you think are the top things that most leaders do wrong when it comes to a termination? And then how do we evaluate the risk that goes along with that?

Carol Cambridge: Great, great question. So the first part of that is that most leaders have a knee-jerk reaction. They have a problem employee, somebody who's made a threat, and they instantly want to terminate immediately.

Manufacturers across the country are notorious for having several different locations. They could have five locations. They could have 40 or 50 locations across the U.S. But their human resource professional is perhaps in a different state. And so they want to do this termination. And so it's an operations manager or a plant manager that's handling the termination. They decide they want to do it right away. They do it without that risk assessment. They may know some information about this person, but they didn't even check with human resources. Had they done that, they would have found a history and a very serious history that would lead them to handle the termination differently.

Leaders tend to react too fast. When they start doing an initial risk assessment, they forget that the situation is fluid so that the risk can change. My suggestion to people is always to send that person home for the day and suspend them if you need to for two or three days. Then the employee thinks, well, OK, I may have. I don't know if I was suspended with pay or without pay, but they're not in that panic situation. We don't know what's going on at home. We don't know what's happening at home is just as important as what's happening at the workplace.

I'll share a story with you, and this company felt that they had done everything right. The manufacturing was a small manufacturer. It was a family business. They shared that this employee had been with us for 17 years. We knew the whole story. He's a good guy, but he'd just become very disgruntled, unhappy, lately, abusive towards other employees. We could handle the behavior anymore. I sent him home while drinking was a part of the problem. And this man had become an alcoholic over the years. And that particular night, he picked up the phone and called several of his friends, and he said, look, do me a favor, whatever you do, do not go to work tomorrow morning. Promise me you won't go.

Now, he called several different people, leaving a message. Some of them he spoke to personally, some of them, he left a message. One or two of these employees contacted the person at home because she was part of this family-owned business. They called her about 11 p.m., and they said, this is what he said. She right away contacted the sheriff's department and made arrangements.

They were only a plant that worked two shifts, day shift, and afternoon shift. They didn't work overnight. The sheriff came with their canine unit. They went through the entire planet looking for things, looking for bombs, any kinds of things that had been stored there. And they swept it clean around 10:00. And they did open up to let the early morning shift in. They hired some off-duty officers.

Around 10:00 that morning, that former employee called and apologized and said, you know, I make these threats. I know what was wrong. I apologize. I shouldn't have done that. And so he backed off. Everyone in the seminar was clapping and giving her kudos, as I did as well because she handled it very well. But then I asked this question: What did you do with the other two or three employees who never called you about the threat?

Lisa Ryan: Oh, wow. Bam, bam.

Carol Cambridge: She said, it never occurred to me. I never thought about it. Wow. And I said, why do you think they didn't report this?

So it woke everybody else up in the room, and they realized everything she did was correct. But here's what happens. We have one or two people making all the decisions around determination, and what I always suggest excuse me.

What I always suggest is that we have a team of people I like to call it a react team. One of the suggestions I always put in place when I work with manufacturers is that you have a react team and what I call it, it's an acronym really - it's a rapid emergency action capabilities team.

So whether it's a threat, a workplace violence incident that has happened. We have situations where people run over other people with a forklift, or there's an assault on the plant floor, or they've used a tool as a weapon to threaten someone. These aren't unusual. A team of people working together to handle a threat is a much better choice and not a large team.

One manufacturer told me that they had a termination team, and I said, OK, that's kind of scary to me. What do you mean by termination team? He said, when we terminate someone, we have seven people on our termination team. Wow. That's such a bad idea because the person you're terminating, and I'm talking high-risk termination, right. Do you think they want to be blindsided by seven of their coworkers or seven of their supervisors terminating them about behavioral problems on the job?

That creates a more hostile environment. When I talk about the REACT team, I'm talking about a team that helps evaluate the risk. The actual termination should have no more than two people in the room at the time because anything more than that seems like they're being ganged upon. The second part of the question, and do I have time to answer? At least I should.

Lisa Ryan: Yeah. It's getting to the end. But it's still it's so fascinating that I know that I want to learn more.

Carol Cambridge: Let me just give a few quick tips about evaluating. What is the reason? Is it narcotics? Is alcohol a part of the problem? Maybe they're not drinking on the job, but their behavior is a result of that alcoholism. Do they have a history of violence? Are they bullying other employees? Are they associated with a hate group that we're seeing much more of across this country right now?

Are they not taking accountability for their behavior? So everything that happens to them, they're blaming on the company. They're accusing the supervisor. They're blaming another team member. If they have that preoccupation with blaming others, if they have this all or nothing kind of mentality, it's all this way, or it's all that way. They can't see any middle ground that's concerning to me, somebody who has an unstable personal life. So if we know they've just divorced or are in the middle of a divorce or a separation, we know there's a financial hardship.

It could be that their child has been diagnosed with cancer just to keep up with all of their co-pays. They have had to foreclose on their house. They're going home, lose their security. All of these things play into the emotions of that person. And as much as we like to think, we leave those emotions at home, and we don't bring them to work.

That's not what happens. So when you're terminating someone like that, we have to make sure that we provide some emotional stability for that person. And we don't want to up the fear because desperate people will do desperate things, and we want to avoid that. So the higher the risk.

If they tend to provoke fear in other employees, for instance, all of those kinds of things we evaluate ahead of time and the more check, so to say that we put beside these things, the higher the risk of this person. And then often we need to bring in some outside help of a protection team. We may have to have law enforcement on-site, many different security protocols that we would then put in place depending.

Lisa Ryan: It is the idea of sending that person home for the day and probably even with pay. As much as you hate to do it, at least something gives them some opportunity to go home and cool down and think about it. Small investment versus, like you said, a seven-person termination team. Holy cow. Yes. Oh, really? And also getting to know your employees, getting to see a few of your employees.

And also, the thing that stuck out in my mind was the people who didn't report it of creating a safe enough culture that the employees feel comfortable enough if they do get one of those dreadful calls like that, that they know the people to get in touch with. They feel safe and comfortable in doing so. And that's certainly not something that's going to happen overnight. But these tips to just start paying attention to now are so critical.

It's so true.

Carol Cambridge: And I want to give you a shout out for the work you do, Lisa, because when you have a more engaged community within your work environment, a caring, engaged community, we see less workplace violence. We see more minor problems. Now, it doesn't mean that it's a bad hire.

You can have a very good hire, or you could have a very engaging employee, a good scenario, and still have a problem because this person begins spiraling. And so you might not see it for seven years, eight years, ten years, 15 years. So as engaging and wonderful as your work environment is, you still need to have these teachers for terminations in place and security protocols that you can go to immediately.

Lisa Ryan: So as we start to wrap it up, what would be your best tip for somebody to get started as far as doing that assessment and evaluating those risks?

Carol Cambridge: My number one is always put a react team together. And I've worked with a few react teams where I've coached them, put that team together and get a variety of people on that team. For instance, a lot of times, they will put at sea level heavy. So we'll have our CEO, CFO, et cetera, et cetera. I want leaders from the floor. I want to play on this team.

I want to see someone who, for instance, is trained if you have a trained paramedic or if you have someone who has retired from the military and has vast experience or retired from law enforcement. You want at least one of those folks on your team. You want your H.R. representative on your team, but you want a different variety of people so that they can assess situations. Then we can train a small team like that, what to look for, how to assess and what security protocols need to be put in place.

But you want to get that heartbeat of what's happening on the plant floor, especially when we're working different shifts and especially a troublemaker who maybe has gone from one change to a different shift.

Lisa Ryan: Carol, how is it that you work with your clients, and what's the best way for them to get a hold of you if they'd like to learn more?

Carol Cambridge: Well, we work in a variety of different ways. We do coaching, consulting, training, speaking, speak a lot of associations, not so much this last year as you're well aware of. We do training, whether in person or via Zoom.

I know people are tired of that, but we do that in the best way is to give us a call. Let us know we make a 30-minute free discovery call. So whether there's a current situation going on, you're not sure what next steps to take. Just give us a shout. Our number is six to three to four to eight seven nine seven.

And we make that discovery call entirely about the situation or the client. It's not about me or selling our services. It's about how we can serve and help that situation.

Lisa Ryan: Well, Carol, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. I mean, I could talk to you all day because it's just so fascinating. So thank you so much for joining me today.

Carol Cambridge: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Lisa. I appreciate you.

Lisa Ryan: I'm Lisa Ryan, and this is the Manufacturers Network podcast. We'll see you next time.

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About your host

Profile picture for Lisa Ryan

Lisa Ryan

As a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), an award-winning speaker and author of ten books, Lisa Ryan, CSP, works with her clients to develop employee and client engagement initiatives and strategies that keep their top talent and best clients from becoming someone else’s.
Lisa’s expertise includes: strengthening workplace culture, improving employee engagement, increasing customer retention, and initiating gratitude strategies (“Grategies”) for personal and professional benefit. Lisa’s participants enjoy her high energy, enthusiastic delivery and quick wit and they leave the session with ideas they are committed to acting on immediately to make positive workplace culture changes.
Lisa costars in two films with other experts including Jack Canfield of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” She is the Past-President of the National Speakers Association, Ohio Chapter and holds an MBA from Cleveland State University.

Relevant Experience

• Keynote, breakout or workshop speaker at more than 100 national and international conferences
• Thirteen years of industrial marketing and sales experience, including seven years in the welding industry – and yes, she does weld
• Host of “Elevate Your Engagement Levels: What You Need to Know” on the Elite Expert Network and the C-Suite Network
• Creator of “The Seven Mistakes Managers Make to Crush Company Culture” video series
• Best-selling author of ten books, including “Manufacturing Engagement: 98 Proven Strategies to Attract and Retain Your Industry’s Top Talent”
• Award-winning speaker