Best practices get a bad rap. 

It seems like a lot of the conversations today are centered around “why you should move beyond best practices,” or “why best practices aren’t enough.”

And there is for sure some truth to those statements. But best practices are there for a reason, and a lot of times companies either brush them aside, or are so determined to move beyond best practices that they end up getting themselves in trouble. 

On this episode of The Safety Management Show, James Desmond, the Safety Director at Blu Site Solutions, talks all about: 

  • Why a college degree isn’t always necessary for a career in safety
  • Why you should treat your safety department as an essential part of your organization.
  • How safety departments can go from being reactive to proactive
  • Why adherence to best practices may just save someone’s life

College. Is it Necessary? 

There are a lot of commonly held beliefs in the safety industry. And one of the ones that James passionately disagrees with is the need for a degree. 

Experience or Education

So many organizations are requiring their applicants to have degrees, and have attended certain institutions and have certain levels of education. Education isn’t bad, but according to James, college is NOT the only way to get the experience needed. 

Take his own story. 

James spent years as a long-haul truck driver right out of high school, allowing him to gain an immense amount of on-the-ground knowledge and experience that he never would’ve attained had he gone to college and then headed into a job as a safety director. 

“If we’re safety people, what we want to do is make an investment in people. We want to give them the knowledge to use day to day.”


Too many organizations are using college degrees as a screening tool, and as such are missing out on top-level talent. 

In James’ words, “hire character, and teach skills.” 

No Person is an Island

One of the biggest challenges facing the safety industry today is that a lot of people at a lot of organizations see the safety team as a burden. Or something that gets in the way and makes the work harder for everyone else. 

But the truth is that every organization has a safety culture.

It’s just a matter of whether it’s a good or bad safety culture. 

Say you work in the trucking industry. You’re getting ready to depart the yard at night, and have marker lights and a headlight out. It would be really easy for the other drivers in the yard to write that off and say, “well it’s not my truck.”

But when you get pulled over and cited for those lights, it could be an indication of something bigger. 

Instead, what would it say about the company’s safety culture if those other drivers stopped you and said, “You’re going to make us all look bad. Get back to the shop and get those lights fixed before you hit the road.” And with lights out, it’s more likely that other parts of the pre-driving checklist were skipped. 

If we’re doing our job correctly on the safety side, we render ourselves obsolete.” 


That’s when a company’s safety culture goes from bad to good, when everybody takes ownership and recognizes that safety starts with them. 

Don’t Ignore the Little Things

The best practices are best practices for a reason. Those little things that everybody has to do, and those little changes that are made are there for everybody’s benefit. 

James tells a story about working for a company that mandated safety goggles for all forklift drivers due to debris getting in drivers’ eyes. It seemed like a small thing, just requiring that they put the goggles on. 

“Now matter how minor your best practices may seem, you never know who’s life they may save.”


But one day, there was a catastrophic accident that resulted in a forklift being engulfed in flames, burning a driver over 90% of his body. The one place he didn’t have burns?

Where the goggles were sitting. 

In this case, a best practice, something that seemed so small and minuscule, saved this man’s vision, allowing him to make a full recovery. 

If not for that small change, he likely would have lost his sight. 

Hear more stories from safety professionals by subscribing to The Safety Management Show in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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