You can put out standard after standard and write every safety plan in the world, but the truth is that the real work of safety happens in the gray areas. In reality, working in the field is not as black and white as the standards make it seem.

In this episode, we speak with Josh Densberger, Corporate Safety and Training Manager for MSE Group, about how to sort out when to follow the rules to the letter and when it’s better to use common sense.

We discuss:

  • Lessons learned from working in fire services
  • Why it’s important to get out in the field
  • The goal of failing safely
  • Partnering with operations and HR

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:
NIOSH Heat Safety App

Working in the Grey

We’ve all had that moment in our jobs where something that one person told us and a thing we read in a manual are conflicting. Which one is right? Which one do you listen to? Which advice or standard are you supposed to be following?

The reality is that there is black and white, and then there’s a big grey area that most of us live in where what may have been written down by someone far away in an office and what works in the moment are different.

“Working in the field is not as black and white as some of the standards and codes may make it seem.”


Working in the field, or in an operational capacity, enlightens you to the reality that no matter what standards and guidelines you may have, no matter what safety plans you have written, the real work is done in the grey area.

Building the Right Trust

There are things that Josh and his team are instituting as best practices that a lot of other folks aren’t. Things they’ve put into practice that may be different from others in their industry. Starting with operations.

Nobody wants to work with or have a relationship with the “safety person.” When you come across as the “safety person,” you stop getting the full picture. You stop getting the whole truth.

“The biggest thing you can do in this profession is build trust with operations people.”


The biggest thing you can do is build trust with the operations people. To be their resource, not the cop who’s playing “gotcha.” You don’t want to be chasing the game, you want them to come to you.
Fail Safely
No matter how good your safety program is, you’re going to fail. While obviously the goal is zero incidents, zero is a bit of an ideal, but when your worksite is filled with people making decisions and moving about independently, zero isn’t likely.

“Our goal is to fail safely.”


With that in mind, obviously, you don’t want incidents. You don’t want people getting hurt. But when you do fail, you want to fail safely. You may have some bumps and bruises, but as long as you’re still sending people home in one piece, and learning from any of those mistakes, you’re succeeding as a safety program.

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