At Ledgestone we firmly believe that healthy organizations have a culture that drives safety. That belief was what drove us to create ExergyPro, a safety consulting company that serves our clients. We have been thrilled watching the team put together custom safety programs and drive a measurable change for many of our clients. It is a vital component of our dedication to bringing solutions to businesses that will set them up for long term success. This week we sat down with Kyle Ricely, one of the safety managers on the Exergy Pro Team to get insight into how he got here, what his experience has been like, and his thoughts on creating a healthy safety culture.
When did your interest in health and safety start?
K: Well it was kind of an accident! I had always worked on the construction side of things over summers in high school and early college, and after my first year majoring in Biology, with the hopes of becoming a physical therapist, I realized I didn’t see that being my future. I talked to some teammates on the soccer team and they just recommended I give Health and Safety a shot. So I did. I changed my major to Occupational Health and Safety with an emphasis on construction and ergonomics and then I stuck with it!”
What was your experience like as a college athlete, balancing school and working in safety with basically a full-time job as an athlete?
K: It was extremely challenging. I had two jobs - working the equipment room as well as bouncing at a bar. Between that and the 14 credit hours we were allowed to take it was really hard to balance everything. But I really feel like it was a growing experience for me - learning to both work hard and prioritize what was important. Those skills and the leadership skills that went with it have been something I have been able to take with me into my career and life in general.
What was your first gig in the industry?
K: I had an internship over the summers with Commonwealth Edison (the electrical utility contractor in Chicago) and then I worked for Interstate Electric for a while as a traveling safety engineer. That was pretty crazy. I hit 13 states I think over the course of 6 months. I was living out of hotel rooms and my truck at times!
Sounds like a wild ride. From there you transitioned to a major safety consulting company - What was your experience like as a safety consultant there?
K: It was actually a great experience because I had an awesome team. It was a huge opportunity to just soak up information and learn as much as I could. I owe a lot to my mentor there, Tim Walsh, who taught me so much about the field. Without him I really wouldn’t be where I am today. I really enjoyed what I did as well - I was on a new job site almost every day just getting to know some awesome people and the challenges they were dealing with. The variety was awesome and really gave me a breadth of experience. Unfortunately there were some issues in management that led to the team falling apart over time, but I am grateful for the time there and what I learned.
I know this is hard to do - but what was one major takeaway from that role that you bring with you every day as you help clients with safety?
K: I’m not going to lie - everything.
K: But really there is so much I took away from that job. From the technical knowledge of safety and regulations to the tactical implementation of that knowledge with the actual workers on job sites, the people who are getting their hands dirty every day. Understanding their perspectives and the stake they have in safety really helps me every time I go into a new company and try to change their safety culture.
Awesome. When you mention the actual stakeholders in a safety project, I get the sense you get some resistance when you try to educate on safety. Is that true?
K: Absolutely. What people have to understand is that most of these people's experiences with safety consultants are pretty rough. They come in with a bunch of rules and penalties and don’t really understand the work that the company and its workers are doing. The nature of some of this work is dangerous - you can’t always make it 100% safe. Understanding that sometimes you have to pick the safest way to do something, even though it is something I learned during the time spent with these teams on the job. Usually some of the pushback ends once I am able to establish a relationship with the team.
Let’s talk a bit about Ledgestone and ExergyPro. The team you guys have is probably very different from a large corporate structure that you were a part of. What has that change been like?
K: I mean, they are worlds apart. Part of the reason that I left the big company I was at is that I felt like I was kind of just the boots on the ground, going from job to job doing no stop service work. I wanted some real responsibility and the opportunity to lead. My role at ExergyPro has put me right in the middle of everything. Not only do I have more responsibility but I get tons of opportunities to lead.
What does that look like?
K: One example I could give is the ability to train people. Not too long ago, I was in their shoes, and being able to lead and teach them about safety has been an awesome part of my role.
Awesome. Are there any other ways you feel like your role at Ledgestone is different from your previous experience?
K: I feel like one of the biggest things is our approach to safety. It feels so much more holistic. We really can be the one-stop shop for improving safety and managing risk. In my previous jobs, it felt like most of the time our consulting ended with us referring the client to someone else. At Exergy, I love that we are able to do it all. We can serve in safety, IH (get definition from Kyle), benefits, organizational health, property and casualty, I don’t know, you name it. Cutting out the third party also means that we get to spend more time getting to know the client and working with them to change their company.
What is your favorite part about your new role. Anything that makes it really fulfilling for you?
K: I mean it all comes down to the ability to be a leader for me. I have always wanted to lead and do my best to help others and train them. From being a captain on the soccer team to this role now, that’s what really gets me excited. I enjoy getting to be a point person with clients and not just do the behind the scenes work. I get to sit in the strategy meetings with clients and really walk them through what we are going to do to create a culture of safety for them, and then go out and implement it.
So your role is very different, do you feel like there is a cultural difference as well between the Ledgestone family and roles you have previously worked?
K: Definitely. People come first here. From teammates to management, there is just a clear priority to value individuals. That is something I feel like gets lost in a lot of organizations. The other thing I would say is that it feels much more connected. It’s like everyone is pulling together to achieve a common goal. That really shows in the work too. Everyone has a common respect, and the insurance producers will pull us in on a client that they feel could benefit from a stronger safety culture. That way together we can provide the client with what they are really looking for: a way to deal with their risk and solve the problems they face. That cooperation is something I hadn’t really experienced before.
Let’s hone in on that a little bit more: This organization is all about driving real change for our clients and solving the problems that they face whether its risk, culture, safety, etc. How is the team at ExergyPro innovating and bringing those solutions to clients in the realm of health and safety?
K: There’s so much. I’ll be honest with you, health and safety can be a bit of an outdated field at times. In my previous roles there wasn’t much in the way of tech development or taking advantage of machine learning. I can only share so much, but the software and technology we are developing both for our team and even for our clients is really going to change the dynamic of safety consulting. It will make our analysis more accurate and the delivery of solutions in the field more efficient. I can’t spill all the beans because we are still in the development stage with some of this stuff, but I just really think that the tech we are working on will really change the way our clients operate and ultimately make them safer and more profitable.
We are excited about it too! Ok, so tell me a little bit more about how you see safety really driving change for the companies you work with. In other words, why should companies stop sleeping on safety.
K: I mean at the end of the day, safety is so much more than less people getting hurt. Of course that’s important, but focusing on safety does so much more than that. A culture of safety drives morale and employee retention, and makes people really want to come to work. Over time it even reduces their insurance premiums and obviously workers comp claims. What we see time and time again is that these companies are becoming leaders in their industry, attracting both new business and new employees.
Really cool stuff man. Well we appreciate you taking a little time to talk to us about what makes Kyle tick and the exciting work you guys are doing over at ExergyPro!