Risk Summit 2015: Meet Keynote Speaker Kevin Burns


In November, TargetSolutions will hold its first Risk Summit, which will provide platform managers with a comprehensive overview on how to operate TargetSolutions’ online training management system. The Risk Summit is a three-day training workshop featuring engaging speakers, platform training sessions, and a live presentation.

In addition to TargetSolutions in-person training, attendees will have the opportunity to join several training sessions focused on safety in the workplace, including a special keynote by Kevin Burns.

Burns is president and CEO of ZeroSpeak Corporation, a safety communications and management consulting company. An eight-time author, Burns is focused on teaching organizations to effectively communicate safety and how to instill a greater safety culture.

Burns recently participated in a question-and-answer interview with TargetSolutions. Here is the transcript:


Safety is your mission in life. Tell us a little bit about why it’s so important to you?

To understand why safety is important to me, it is necessary to understand a background story. My wife and I first met in Grade 4 when we were 9 years old. We went to the same schools, hung out with the same friends, went to the same church and had the same teachers. I even took her on a date when I was 15, but never asked for a second date because I thought she just said yes to be nice (and I knew I was dating way over my head).

At age 18, we went our separate ways; her to university and me into broadcasting 2,000 miles away in western Canada. We never heard from each other again – until the 30th Anniversary High School reunion. She looked like she’d aged a week. I still had a mad crush. She thought I cleaned up pretty well too. We were married a short time later as we were both single then.

She said to me one day, ‘Y’know, it’s taken over 30 years for us to find each other. I want you around a long, long time.’

I had lost my dad at age 62 due to cancer from a lifetime of alcohol abuse. I had lost a dear uncle at age 48 from lung cancer working in a treated lumber factory. I had lost at least a half-dozen friends from car accidents and poor personal choices. Maybe they didn’t have that one special person in their lives who ever said that one thing, ‘I want you around a long, long time.’

I don’t look at safety as most do. I see safety as a series of life choices; each with results or consequences. There are short-term decisions like the ones we make daily on the job. There are long-term choices we make like over-eating, smoking and alcohol or drug abuse. So, if every person wanted to be around a long time, they would simply have to ensure that the decision they make in the moment lined up with their end-goal in mind. To me, it seems simple: safety is the one thing that can deliver us a long, healthy life. That’s why safety, and good choices, are important to me.

You will be doing the keynote and delivering a training session during the 2015 Risk Summit. You plan to cover the importance of creating a safer work culture. Why is this so important and whose responsibility is it to create this culture?

Culture is the result of the safety program. Culture is not the thing you change. The culture is the result of how well employees buy-in to the safety program. Now, understand that front-line managers and supervisors can get in the way of a solid safety culture by choosing to enforce authoritarian rules instead of coaching employees to better performance. I’ve never seen a professional sports team win a championship because they were afraid to lose. No one wins by default.

It takes a full team to win a championship. There are no unimportant players on a championship team. Everyone matters. Every contribution matters. That’s why it is everyone’s responsibility to be a part of the winning team.


Simply put, the best place to work is always the safest place to work. Never is the best place to work an unsafe place to work. The best places to work usually have long lines of qualified candidates lining up to work there. The poor safety performers choose from the leftovers. Safety is not only a legal requirement but it is a recruitment, attraction and retention strategy. People will stay where they feel safe. That means turnover rates drop. When that happens, employees stay longer. When employees work together longer, they become more cohesive – more of a team. Good teams don’t make mistakes – especially when they are coached well. A good coach will get players to buy-in to the plan. Players will buy-in to the coach. They trust each other.

Safety excellence is a continuous improvement strategy. When people buy-in to safety, you don’t waste time trying to get them to comply with rules. You have more time to fine-tune their performance and be ever-improving.

Tell us a little more about what you are going to discuss at the 2015 Risk Summit. What are you hoping people will take away after your keynote and training session?

First, there are 10 things that safety leaders know that safety managers don’t know. That’s what we are going to discuss first. There’s a difference between being a safety leader and a safety manager. You don’t have to be in management to be a leader. Titles and tenure don’t sell employees on buying-in to safety. Caring about their contribution and finding ways for employees to take pride in their work is what makes safety a logical choice. The relationship between supervisor and employee determines the level of safety buy-in from the employee.

Second, we are going to talk about ways of communicating the message of safety. If you’re only concerned with enforcing rules, then this program is going to annoy you. We are going to discuss practical ways of framing the safety message so that it leads to excellence in the safety program. Most workplaces target Zero as their goal in safety – but that’s backwards thinking. You start each day at Zero – and at some point during the day, someone on your crew will put that Zero in jeopardy. So, stop communicating that incidents are a certainty. They are not. Zero is the certainty. What is uncertain is the choices that employees make during the day. We are going to discuss ways to re-frame your safety message so that safety is the expectation rather than the exception.

About Kevin Burns
Kevin Burns is President and CEO of ZeroSpeak Corporation. He is an eight-time author, including, “The Perfect Safety Meeting” and his forthcoming, “Running With Scissors – 10 Solid Reasons To Invest In Safety In Slow Times.” Burns has worked in management, consulting and corporate safety for almost 30 years. He has built his reputation on a very simple premise: it’s not THAT you talk to your people in safety, it’s HOW you talk to your people. For more information about Kevin Burns, please check online at http://www.kevburns.com/.

About the 2015 Risk Summit
The 2015 Risk Summit is a training experience you don’t want to miss. The special event will be held Nov. 2-4 in Poway, Calif. This in-person training is the ultimate training workshop on how to operate TargetSolutions’ online training management system. The three-day event will feature engaging speakers, platform training sessions, and a live presentation of the TS Academy. For more information, please e-mail us at [email protected]. To register, please click here.

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