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September 27, 2023 | 30 Mins Read

Creating a Culture of Safety in Field Service

September 27, 2023 | 30 Mins Read

Creating a Culture of Safety in Field Service


Sarah welcomes Franklin Maxson, VP Field Services, North America at Socomec for an important conversation on safety. Franklin touches on what works well in terms of policy and leadership but also why a top-down safety approach will never be enough.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be talking about what it takes to create a culture of safety in field service. I'm excited to welcome to the podcast today Franklin Maxson, who is the Vice President of Field Services for North America at Socomec. Franklin, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Franklin Maxson: Hi, Sarah. Great to be here. I appreciate the opportunity to spend some time with you on this topic today.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I'm thrilled to have you here. Franklin and I had the opportunity to be together in person. What was it? Well, it was last month still. It seems like longer ago, at Field Service Hilton Head. Franklin was part of a panel discussion that I moderated, and so we caught up after the event and chatted about different topics that are top of mind. And safety is one that you are particularly passionate about, so I'm excited to have that conversation today. Before we get into the topic at hand, just tell everyone a little bit more about yourself, your role, and what Socomec does.

Franklin Maxson: Yeah, Sarah, so my background is I'm one of those weird ones that decided to go get a management degree. So have been in the management now for pretty close to 10 years. But really, I have been in field services for the last 20 years. So, I started out my career in telecom and then made a switch to field services with GE Healthcare. Spent almost 11 years with them in a progression of roles from a field service engineer, all the way up through a program manager.

And then I decided to change focus and get out of the healthcare environment, and go work with the critical power. So the last nine, 10 years of my career have been in critical power, primarily focused around data centers, and that type of an environment. So it's been a really interesting 20 years of learning how to operate in a remote environment, long before Covid forced everyone to operate remotely.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that's great. And so when we caught up after the event, we were chatting about what we might do a podcast on, and you said that safety is a topic that is near and dear to you. So as I explained to you when we were chatting, I always like to ask people first, "What is it that you would like to talk about? What's important to you? What's top of mind? What are you passionate about?" Because to me, those are always the best conversations to have. So can you share a bit with me and with everyone, why is safety a topic that is important you?

Franklin Maxson: Yeah Sarah, and I think safety should be one of those things that all of us are constantly thinking about. For me, it really goes back to growing up with my father.

So growing up with my father, I always knew he was a little bit different, and I remember from an early childhood thinking about it, because his left hand had actually been amputated. His fingers I should say, of his left hand had been amputated. And so he had the majority of his thumb and his pinky, but most of the other fingers had been amputated in an industrial accident.

And so I grew up with that. And it's always very interesting, especially as a young child, seeing some of the reactions from some of your friends of how that happens.

Then later on as I started working, I actually had a close call with a conveyor. I had a tool that was sitting on a conveyor belt, and I was a teenager working on some electronics, probably 18 or 19 at the time. And I had a tool sitting on a conveyor. The conveyor turned on, and I quickly without thinking, reached onto the conveyor to try and grab the tool. And my arm got pulled, got jammed up. And thankfully I was able to jam it up against a piece of metal that didn't cut me, but allowed me to have the leverage to pull my arm out. I had a friction burn and abrasions on my arm, probably about a six-inch by two-inch nasty little spot. That was a really close call for me.

Then along the way, I became a private pilot, and safety is huge in aviation. Whether you're a private pilot, or even more so in the commercial world, but safety is huge, and there is a very strong emphasis and a mindset around safety, around checklists, around how do you remain safe in that environment.

Then as I transitioned and later on went into the leadership roles, we had a couple of close calls with employees that quite honestly could have ended in fatalities, and we were lucky they did not.

So over the years, I've had a long exposure to the results of what happens when things don't go well from a safety perspective. And it has become very much something that I'm very passionate about and that we discuss on a regular basis, almost daily basis with my team.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, wow. I didn't realize that it stemmed all the way back to the accident that happened to your father. And it's interesting because when we were speaking about doing an episode on this topic, it's one of those topics that it's not the flashiest, like at the event you and I were at last month. Everyone's talking about AI. I didn't notice any sessions on safety.

But what we spoke about is while historically I think in certain industries, it's been more of a conversation. You have certain industries, take mining for example, that just by nature warrants very regular, very serious conversations about safety.

What we were chatting about is in the world we're living in today, whether we're talking about navigating Covid and other things like that, or just societal things, etc. I mean, no matter what industry we're talking about in field service, there can and probably will be situations where employees will be at risk in some way. And so it is a very important conversation to have, yeah.

So let's talk a little bit about in the different experiences you've had, and in your perspective, when it comes to the company stance on safety, the official policies, procedures, communication, the top-down aspect, what's your take on what works well? What's important to consider? Let's talk about that aspect of things.

Franklin Maxson: Sarah, I think that's a very important piece of it. Because as we talk, there's different aspects to safety, and right now we're talking about the top down approach for safety. And I think that is very important, because from an executive perspective, we've got to drive the focus, emphasis, and attention that safety deserves.

You're right, it's not sexy. It's not nearly as much fun as talking about AI, or some of the other very cool stuff that's happening out there right now. However, at the core of what we do, especially from a service organization and a service perspective, service is about people, whether it's our clients, or our most valuable resource, which is our employees. So we have to maintain safety in top of mind.

And it was interesting talking a little bit aside with Roy Dockery when we were at the event, and he has a completely different set of safety parameters than I look at, but we're both still very focused on how do we keep the employees safe. I don't necessarily have to worry about some driver not paying attention running into my employees, he does.

But we could take a look across multiple industries and see that this is very much a requirement. And when we're talking about how does management encourage this, and even more importantly within a service perspective, how do we encourage and empower people when we're talking about employees that are often working alone? We are in a distributed environment. We're not seeing them every single day. We have reduced control of our environment, because we're often operating at a client's site. So we don't know necessarily what the safety policies are or how well they're implemented.

And so when you take all of that into consideration, and we take a step back from an executive level, and look at what is it that we're actually trying to accomplish with our safety policies, we have to make sure that it is embedded within our culture, within our vision, and our mission, and that it remains an active part of every conversation so that we can maintain that focus. Safety is one of those things that if you don't focus on it, you become complacent about it.

And so that is one of the key factors to setting the stage for being able to have a really good safety culture within the organization. I think it comes down to that, right? It's the policies, the procedures. The law doesn't really drive safety as much as the culture does.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So that being said, I think it's a really good point that the role it does play is in keeping the conversation top of mind. Because like you said, it's not a sexy topic. Therefore, it is one that if you aren't intentional about it over time, you can take for granted. Just assume that people understand what the rules are or how they should react in certain scenarios, etc. So it is important from a top-down perspective to make sure you're reflecting on how often and in what ways are we reinforcing the importance of this. That makes sense.

Now, that being said, as you said, the official policy, or rule book, guidelines that the company develops and that top-down focus are not going to be enough. So can you talk about why that is?

Franklin Maxson: Because at the end of the day, we're all humans, and we have to remember that our employees are humans as well. And I don't know about you, Sarah, but I know that when I have to read T's and C's for a long time, yeah, I'm going to want to take a nap. And if we think about our safety manuals and our safety policies, it's just another set of T's and C's that we're all supposed to be out there reading and understanding.

So this is where you have to take advantage of psychology, peer pressure, and a cultural norm around safety. Because if you normalize safety, and that is actually the culture that the organization has, then that peer pressure, all of your teammates in your leadership are all focused around it, and thinking about it, and driving that. And it becomes much more of a grassroots effort.

The other thing that is critically important with this though, is you have to have that open door policy, and you have to be able to listen to the employees without judging. Because the whole judgment part can backfire on you very, very easily in a safety scenario.

And so as you think about a grassroots organization that's going to focus on safety, that is going to be able to do it, we think about, what are the safest organizations out there? And I'll go back to my roots in aviation.

If we stop for a moment and we think about how many people right this minute are actually sitting in an aircraft seven miles up in the sky, it's probably somewhere close to a million people right now, at any given moment around the earth. And if you think about the total number of travelers worldwide, and the fact that the accent rate is so tiny, we don't think about it. We jump on an airplane and we go, right?

But why does that happen? That happens because the entire culture that has been built around that. As a pilot, if you self-report an infraction, you realize, "Man, I just screwed up," and you self-report that, you're actually protected from punishment. Now, you may get some recommended remedial training that you may have to take, but you're protected from punishment.

And if we take some of those aspects, and we take some of these punitive aspects that have generally been found within the companies and say, "You know what? We're not going to focus on that. We're going to try and focus on what is our systemic approach, and how do we identify the systemic breakdowns that led to a safety incident." Then we can start to change that culture and that mindset, and develop that basically bottom up.

The other thing that I think is really important is at a grassroots level, you have to identify the people that are passionate about this. Oftentimes, unfortunately, as people that have either suffered injury or had loved ones suffer injuries. But if you can identify them and identify the folks that have that passion, and you can begin to create those little teams, and to borrow from General McChrystal's book, is eventually create some teams of teams that are focused around safety. They're not necessarily aligned within a normal organizational structure, but you just let that develop so that there's a lot of cross-pollination, a lot of discussion back and forth around what's happening with safety.

Field technicians working next to the factory team members and talking about safety, the factory team members understanding more about what the team in the field does, and the field team providing an outsider's perspective to what's happening inside of the plant. Those things can open up a lot of interesting perspectives that are not necessarily seen. And so when I think about, how do we develop all of this, it's a combination of all of this and creating this holistic approach towards safety.

Sarah Nicastro: I really like the point about withholding judgment, right? Because we know that there's so many aspects that we talk about today in service, where we're creating strategy up here, we're talking about innovation up here, but the reality is happening on the front lines.

And so the same way you would say... Let's say we're talking about technology. Have you gotten input from your frontline workers? What do they need? What are their challenges, etc. We know how valuable that insight is. But in this scenario, if they're fearful of being honest about what the issues are, then they're not going to share that insight, and they're going to keep it to themselves. And that's when you have problems that can arise. So making sure that they're comfortable sharing that.

The aviation example is such a good one. I get so frustrated when... Yes, I mean, everyone gets frustrated when flights are delayed and canceled, etc., right? You get on a flight, you might even be taxiing. "Oh wait, there's a light on. We're going to take you back. You're going to get off."

But there's people literally throwing temper tantrums, and it's like, would you prefer they take off? I mean, I don't know. There's nothing more important than the safety aspect of it. So yeah, it's an interesting industry to think about this topic through that lens.

So I think the idea is, how do you create this openness, this really transparent conversation? And I think you had shared with me when we were chatting, the example of where there are safety policies and procedures. I think we were talking about someone completing an inspection.

Do people around them know what's going on and why, and why it's important? Do people understand some of the situations that field technicians might find themselves in, and some of the risks, so that throughout the organization, that importance is understood?

Franklin Maxson: It's funny, because it becomes such a check the box exercise. And there's a couple of different scenarios that you can think about it. So in a factory setting, regardless of what kind of industry you're in, there are many times the monthly safety walks. And what are those generally comprised of? "Oh, well, let's go check that the aisles are clear. Let's go check that the fire extinguishers are still where they're supposed to be, and that they're within the certificate date of them, that the exits are clear," etc. And some of the things that I have found throughout my career is you go through and you're checking that box. You're doing all of that. For a field service organization. If you look at an NFPA 70E, it requires that you do a annual audit of lockout/tagout. And all of us that work in electrical, know lockout/tagout. We practice it, we can recite it in our sleep.

And so we go through and we start talking about the lockout/tagout, and we're going to do that check. And it can very easily become a check to box exercise. Across the board, that happens. And one of the things... I remember talking to Bob Baker who was my safety partner back at ABB, and one of the things that he really focused and helped to drive was, how do we change that conversation? How do we take it from a check the box exercise to a, "Hey, let's talk about lockout/tagout. What have you been doing with lockout/tagout? What are the challenges to actually implement lockout/tagout?"

And if you think about a field service organization that may be going to many different sites, for me it's electrical. But others may have mechanical, or hydraulic, or other things that have to be locked out, right? Well, there's a variety of breakers, variety of valves, variety of different things that you have to manage and control the energy around. And do we have the right kit to be able to do this? Do we have the right tools and equipment? Are employees having to use their ingenuity to figure this out, instead of actually having a really good engineered process to do this? And actually changing the focus to having that conversation.

Same thing if you're in a factory. If you are walking the factory floor, maybe instead of necessarily just going through as quickly as you can to check the boxes, take the time to actually go spend some quality time with those employees in that area and ask them about safety. How are things going? Not just check the aisles, and make sure that the fire extinguishers are good, and that the exits are clear. But really get to know what they're doing, how they're doing it, and get that feedback. And ideally, get that feedback in a systemized format that can be acted upon.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I think even asking field technicians, "Is there a time in the last 12 months you've felt unsafe? And if so, why? And what did you do about it?" Not with the idea of, again, from a judgmental or a punitive standpoint, but just to really understand. You brought up the psychology of it. Do they feel safe?

And if yes, great. If not, what are the things that are coming up? So rather than this blanket or generic policy, you can look for the real challenges and make some changes. Yeah, go ahead.

Franklin Maxson: Yeah, I think within that perspective, is how do we empower people to have some quick little checklists of things to look out for, that will put you in an elevated state of mind around safety?

One of the things that I always talk to my team about is when something changes, you're prepared for a certain scope of work when you get to a site. And I'm sure many of your other guests have always told you that you get to the site, and your scope of work is supposed to be A through C. And suddenly we got D, E, and F added to it, right?

Well, when that situation happens, it's making sure that the team is empowered and really focused on, "Let's stop. Let's review our safety procedures. Do I have enough PPE? Do I have the right tools? Do I have the right processes in place to be able to cover the revised scope of work? Not just what I came here for, but the things that have been added to it." Because now there's a change.

And typically, what we find when we do the incident investigations, is something changed. Something went outside of the expected norm, and we weren't prepared for it. So how do we take that moment and say, "You know what? Let's take 10 minutes. Let's review our hazard analysis. Are we actually ready to proceed to do this, or do we have to take a step back?"

And if we have to take a step back, then it comes back to the leadership. We have to be able to support our field team members, because that customer may be upset at us. They may be upset about, "Hey, now we need another visit." On the flip side is, yes, we may need another visit. But going back to your earlier example around the aircraft, that light went on in the airplane as you're taxiing, and you really don't want to take off.

It's the same scenario with our clients. We have an alert, something we're not prepared to do, or we don't have the right PPE. We do not want to cause an incident on your site, or possibly put someone, whether it's our employee or one of your employees at risk, and possibly damage the equipment along the way. So it's being able to have those conversations to support the field team, while they do those types of reviews.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. And I think that was actually the next thing I was going to ask you, because I think empowerment is important in many ways today. But as we're thinking about safety, I think it's a term that gets thrown around a lot. And I would guess that it's a lot easier to empower employees around safety when it's something taking place in your own environment. If it's on a factory floor and they see something, "Speak up, say something, we'll fix it."

When you're talking about a field technician going to a customer site, and for whatever reason, feeling uncomfortable, feeling at risk, feeling unsafe, empowering them to say, "We're going to have to come back. I'm going to have to do this another time." It's a different conversation, and it's one that I think companies and leaders need to be really thinking about and talking through.

Because, I think that culture you want to create comes from how you react in those moments, not the ones that are easy to address. Do you know what I mean? When you're risking customer frustration, when you're risking increasing costs to serve, and you're still choosing safety over those things, that's what tells your employees, "I'm important to the company. This is important to the company."

So I think there's shades of empowerment, right? Because there's situations where empowerment is very easy, and then there's situations where it's a lot trickier, and there has to be consideration for that.

Franklin Maxson: You are absolutely right. I mean, this is a huge important piece of it. And when you said that the culture of greed's created in those tough moments. I couldn't have said that better myself. That is the absolute essence of what we're trying to drive.

So I'll give you an example. I have to protect some names, so we'll go with some generic names here. But a few years ago, we had some employees at a hyperscale data center. And it was in the middle of a construction job. Everybody on that construction job has liquidated damages for delays, etc. Okay? We did. So did the rest of the contractors. Again, this was one of those instances that makes me just to this day, the hair on my arm just stands up thinking about what could have happened.

But I had two employees at the site at that particular data center, in the middle of this project that was going on. One of them realized they had not grabbed a piece of test equipment that they were going to need. So while the preparations were still ongoing for that test by the second employee, the first employee left to go to their vehicle to grab that piece of test gear. On their way back in, they were walking by a lockout gang box.

So in lockout, you might sometimes have these large boxes for multiple teams working at the same time. And so typically, the way that this works is you have a single point of contact that maintains control of the entire lock box, and then you put your individual keys for your locks inside of that lock box.

So as my employee was walking back, he saw another contractor reaching into the box, prying the box open, literally prying it open to reach in there and grab his key. He tried to stop him. The employee was very rude and walked away.

He ran and got his partner out of the building, called his manager. I got a call within probably a minute to two minutes after this happened from their manager saying, "Hey, this is a situation. We really need to report this. But all of the LD's and everything, I don't care. Now people are at risk. I don't care."

I instructed the team members to go to the owner's trailer and find the safety manager there. Meanwhile, I placed some phone calls to some of my contacts. Within 30 minutes, Sarah, we had shut down construction on tens of millions of dollars data center, and the entire place went into a safety standout that lasted almost a week. I can't even tell you how much money that cost. It was probably in the millions by the time it was all said and done.

But at the end of the day, my team was commended by the general contractor and the owner, because they had the willingness to report this. And if we had not reported this, somebody could have died very easily in the scenario. There was a whole lot of retraining that had to happen across the board.

But it's those situations and it's those scenarios when you know what, I could have very easily taken a step back and said, "Well, maybe it's okay. Go find the supervisor," whatever. But if I did that, then what is my culture to my team? I preach safety every day to my team members. And if I can't back them up, then that culture doesn't continue to develop.

And I think that those are the key elements, is we have to support them. And when you said, "We don't control our environment in the field." When you're working in a factory and you have a supervisor right there that you can go to, you're right, that is a much easier discussion. But to empower the team members to possibly have a very upset project manager, a very upset general contractor, to basically put a job and completely stop it from proceeding, it is a different level of empowerment, and you're absolutely right about that. And it is something that quite honestly, takes courage on their part, on our field conditions part to be able to do that. And if they don't feel that they have the support from the executive leadership, they won't do it.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And this is where it takes top down buy-in as well, right? Because ultimately, you need to have multiple layers of support to be able to do something like that. Right? So yeah, that's a really good example. We also spoke Franklin, about challenging assumptions. So we talked about the rules are the rules based on what you know, what you've encountered, what you've seen. But what about when something outside of that happens, or what about when something at odds with the rules happen?

So this is tied to empowerment, but I'm just wondering if you have any examples of employees feeling comfortable speaking out, challenging assumptions, so that you have more of this working relationship to continue to evolve those procedures, and not just let them get stale or become these checkbox exercises.

Franklin Maxson: So, I think that this is where that open door policy and listen without judgment really comes into play, because we can set up policies across the board to try and cover as many scenarios as we can think of. But you're right, things happen that don't fit a neat little box that we created. And I think it's having the employees be able to bring this up.

I'll give you an example. To this day, I go back and forth and we have open discussions with the employees. So for example, in our line of work oftentimes, we're working inside of a battery cabinet. And you cannot turn off a battery, right? It has stored energy. It's going to be there.

And so when you're having to, for example, check a bolt, or more importantly, put in a new bolt on a battery terminal, and you're having to wear your liners, your gloves, your insulated gloves, the rubber insulated gloves. And then you have your leather protectors over the top of it, you don't have any dexterity left.

And that's always been a tension point that we've had in the field as to how the heck do we do this, and how do we meet the guidelines? Because if you do a strict reading of NFPA 70E, you have to be in the PPE. There isn't a choice. But yet, if we're wearing the PPE, then now we're putting ourselves at risk by dropping the proverbial screw that may cross to ground, or create a ground short, and create a situation there.

So I went back to the employees and I said, "I hear you. Give me options." I'm like, "I don't know what the options are." Bob Baker actually, referring back to him, he and I were working on this together, and we were looking at different ways to do it. And so some of the employees said, "Well, we can lower the working voltage by separating the different trays." So they're built in a cabinet that has multiple trays. "So if we separate and isolate the tray, we can drop the working voltage. Then maybe we can go to a lower hazard standard."

So we looked at that and understood some perspectives. And then another employee said, "Hey, by the way, I found these cut resistant arc rated gloves." And we were like, "Well, okay. In this particular scenario, under these particular circumstances, if we reduce the working voltage, that makes sense." Because now we're still providing the cut resistance, but we're actually able to reach inside the cabinet.

The thing is though, everything has consequences. So now we opened a little bit of a door that we have to trust the employees, that that's the only time that we're going to use those gloves. Because to be honest, it opens up a bit of doubt from my perspective, from the safety leadership perspective of we've given them something else that if it's misused, it could end up in a big hazard. Because that arc resistant glove is great, because if it shorts, if something shorts, your hand will be protected from a burn. But it does not protect you from electrical shock. So you always have that dynamic tension, right?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. But I think what's interesting to me about that is, totally makes sense. And of course, there's always going to be risk with trying something different. But I think the other thing though is when you really focus on increasing empowerment, I think you also increase trust. Do you know what I mean?

And that's the thing is you've listened. You've allowed the employee to be not only heard, but part of the solution. And you have met their need, and you're trusting them to use it appropriately. You know what I mean?

And I think that because they were heard and they were part of the solution, the likelihood of them respecting that trust and using it the way they should is a lot higher. There's no guarantees, right? So I understand the concern. But I think we do have to understand that the more we can be collaborative and we can empower our employees, there is that mutual trust that grows as a result of that.

Franklin Maxson: And honestly, there's a lot more creativity that you can tap into. Right? So if you're looking for a solution to a weird problem, you've got to find sources of creativity.

So at that time, I had something like 70 field technicians that were trying to figure this out. That's a whole lot more brainpower than just having myself, and the safety manager, and maybe a couple of other people looking at this. It's that collective creativity, and getting them to look at different options, and try and understand how we could possibly get to a workable solution that opens up a whole lot of possibilities.

And again, it goes back to that grassroots team of teams approach of, "Hey, you know what? Let's try and understand. Let's work with different people. Can we come up with better tools?" And I think that there's always opportunities to engineer a better tool.

And some folks were working on that. We never came up with something that was satisfactory to all of us. Some folks were working more about, how do we reduce the specific risk in these situations?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. I also think it's indicative of a good leader, that they came to you with a problem, you listened. But you didn't know the answer. So you just said, "I hear you. I don't know what the solution is, so let's figure it out together."

There's this, I think really outdated mentality of, "As a leader, I need to have all of the answers." And that just really stifles that creativity, many times over.

So that was a really good example of one of the things I wanted to ask is, so we talked about the top down, and we talked about the grassroots. So you want to have the top down in terms of having formal policies of course, but also keeping the topic itself front and center, top of mind. But then you want to create this culture, and the culture really happens within the ranks. Right? How do you make sure those two are ultimately meshing? How do we make sure that we're all moving in one direction together, and not at odds with one another somehow?

Franklin Maxson: Yeah, that's a great question. And I call it the dynamic tension. It's a dynamic tension that we always have to watch for. And I think that there's a couple of different things. From a top down perspective, we've got to set goals, expectations. And how do we measure that? Are we actually moving towards the outcome that we want to have? Are we still going in the right direction? So we have to be able to measure that.

From a grassroots perspective, I like to always implement a mechanism where we document what is being found out in the field. And as we document those, you should call them hazard reports, or safety observations, whatever you want to call them. But we record those and we bring those in, and it's actually trying to get to what I call a close rate on those, where we're reviewing them all.

We may not be able to implement all of them. To be perfectly honest, some of them may not actually be something that makes sense. And we have to be able to have that candid feedback to the employees, and explain why it does not make sense, and what it was that they missed. And it gives you some opportunities for some really good discussions and some training from that perspective.

There are some that we have to close out immediately. These are obviously a big hazard. It is an immediate risk, and we have to put immediate focus and effort on it, and get it taken care of.

There are some that we're going to say, "You know what? We're going to put a project team around that and we're going to close that out." And there are some that we literally have to say, "You know what? We're going to watch this, figure out where it's going, what do we have to do with it?" And so there is several different buckets and categories.

But I think the important thing is being able to share back with a line team that we're looking at all of them, and here's where some of these ended up. Some of these we may not be able to do anything about because of X, Y, and Z. Some of these, we have a project going on, and it's going to take anywhere from six months to a year to close out. Some of these, we're working right now. And some of these others, we went back and had feedback directly with the employee and we're able to close them out. Don't have to say anything more than that, right?

But if you can create that feedback mechanism... And it really is being completely transparent, it's hard work for the leadership team. Because from the team leader, to the regional manager, all the way up to myself, we all have to remain engaged and focus on these things, and making sure that they don't languish, because it's too easy to let them just sit, because it's not revenue generating. So because it's not revenue generating, maybe we don't have the bandwidth to add to it. But if we don't have that bandwidth, then what I find is the culture begins to rapidly slide back. And I think I mentioned in our earlier conversation, that safety is one of those things that requires constant attention. Because otherwise, we slide back very easily.

Sarah Nicastro: And it's a very, I think important and honest comment, that because it isn't revenue generating, it would be really easy to push it. Because that is the pressure and the balancing act that service leaders are faced with all the time. Right?

But it is important. And I think doing that hard work of making sure that that feedback loop exists is the only way that those employees will continue to engage, challenge assumptions, give input, and be bought into that culture. Because you are showing you care by doing the work, which makes them engaged and care as well.

The minute you guys say, "Okay, well yes, this is important. But it's not as important as the money we're making, so we can't prioritize the time to do this." Not that you would say that, but they know that. And then it just sort of erodes. I mean, to your point, right? So yeah.

Franklin Maxson: Definitely. And I think one of the things... This is something that I was talking to my core leadership team about was, we know that there isn't revenue associated with safety. But if you think about the cost-

Sarah Nicastro: Associated with ignoring it.

Franklin Maxson: There is a huge cost right there. So one of the challenges that I've had, to both my team as well as the finance team, is how could we quantify this a little bit better? If we had an accident rate of whatever, what does that equate to from lost time, from insurance possibly, premiums that have to go up, from a health coverage that has to increase, etc.? And how do we actually quantify some of that?

I'll be honest, I don't have the answers to those yet. And hopefully, there are some out there that listen to this that actually have those answers. We'd love to hear from them how they've done that.

But I think from a leadership perspective, we really got to think about it from it's not revenue generating, but it is avoiding cost. And there is a huge implication. And the worst case scenario would be a fatality, and there's all sorts of things that come along with that.

But even if it's not a fatality, if we lose an employee because of a safety incident, and we have to bring someone new and train them up, in my industry, we're talking basically 18 months and probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 to get a new employee up to speed. That's a significant amount of cost.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think, again, this is another point you're making that could be translated to a variety of different topics in field service. But this idea that we've historically perceived investments of time, money, whatever, based on making money in a quantifiable way, return on investment. But there is these different areas where there's this cost of doing nothing that is real, and significant, and presents significant risk, that we have to get better at talking about, prioritizing. Because it's relevant, like I said, to a number of different topics. So yeah, that's another really good point. Okay, Franklin. So what would you say is your biggest personal lesson learned related to today's topic?

Franklin Maxson: Do I have to limit it to one?

Sarah Nicastro: No.

Franklin Maxson: So, there's actually two big things that I think over the years, just have solidified in my mind. If you stop paying attention to safety, safety will erode. There is no doubt about it. I have seen it. Unfortunately, I have made that mistake, and have seen the results, and have had to come back from that organizationally. Just quick look away, and the next thing you know, there are things that are changing and that are not going the right way, because we stopped focusing on it. And it didn't take long, just a couple of months, and it started to erode.

And I think the other thing, and I'll credit Bob Baker, who I've mentioned earlier to this, is he once told me this. He said, "For all that we complain about the laws, and the rules, and the guidelines, we have to remember that every safety guideline, every safety law, every rule that is out there was written in the blood of those injured or killed at work." That is a stark reality that we have to understand across the board. It's something that I have shared with my team members.

Because at the end of the day, the question that I asked the team is, "How much are you willing to give for you at this company?" My dad gave his fingers. I think that my sweat and tears are enough. I don't want to shed any blood.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Yeah, no, that's a really good point. Yeah, very good insight. And I think this has been a really helpful conversation around a topic that doesn't get enough attention. So I'm really glad we chose to talk about it, and appreciate you coming and sharing your personal experiences, and your lessons learned as a leader, and your thoughts on how to create that culture and keep it top of mind. So thank you.

Franklin Maxson: You're welcome, Sarah. It's definitely been a pleasure.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. We'll do it again sometime. But thank you so much, Franklin. I appreciate it.

Franklin Maxson: You're welcome.

Sarah Nicastro: You can learn more by visiting us at While you're there, be sure to sign up for the Future of Field Service INSIDER, so that you get the latest content delivered to your email every other week. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.