January 19, 2023 / Abby Roberts

Influencing Health and Safety Solutions

This blog post is based on a presentation given by Jason Kunz, Justin Hoover, and Perry Logan at AIHce EXP 2022. An expanded version was published in AIHA's 2022 ebook, The Essentials of OEHS Communication.

If you’re an OEHS professional with ideas to improve health and safety for a particular workforce, you know that your ideas are technically sound and backed up by science. But persuading everyone else to adopt your ideas might leave you feeling as if you’re trying to sell something to them.

Staff OEHS professionals and OEHS consultants may not think of their positions as belonging to their companies’ sales or marketing divisions. In fact, OEHS professionals are “selling” their health and safety ideas and influencing others to adopt them all day, every single day. “From the moment you woke up this morning, you were all influencing,” Jason Kunz, CIH, CSP, told the audience at his 2022 AIHce EXP session. “The question is,” he added, “who and what are you influencing, and how is that influence creating your current reality?” According to Kunz, OEHS professionals may influence others toward better health and safety outcomes just as much as they may influence others against unwanted or less-than-ideal outcomes.

Understanding the GROW Model

Kunz, a speaker and member of 3M Company’s global safety and health team, presented his educational session “IHs Are the Greatest Salespeople in the World” with Justin Hoover, MS, CSP, a senior environmental engineer at New Millennium Building Systems, and Perry Logan, PhD, CIH, 3M’s vice president of corporate safety and health. This session introduced the GROW model—GROW stands for goal, reality, options, and way forward—as a method of bringing people outside of the OEHS profession on board with OEHS solutions.

According to Kunz, the GROW model is an effective communication format “because the GROW model isn’t so much about telling people and giving advice.” Telling people how to solve their problems is not as effective as communication that encourages them to use introspection to come up with solutions themselves, Kunz explained. No one will argue with their own ideas, but many people feel resistant to ideas proposed by others. But the GROW model helps people produce ideas they feel ownership of and sets them on a path to make those ideas reality.

Under Kunz’ instruction, the session’s audience split into pairs. One member of each pair shared a professional or personal goal. After identifying the goal, the other member asked questions progressing through the steps identified in each letter of the GROW acronym. That is, questions aimed at uncovering the current reality experienced by their partners, including what progress they had already made and any challenges in the way; illuminating options that their partners could take to bring themselves closer to their goals; and suggesting deadlines that expressed the way forward to reaching their goals.

Kunz and Hoover modeled this activity for the audience. Hoover said that his goal was to retire at age 55, but he’d not done enough to put himself on track to meet this goal. So far, he had started saving money and contributing to a 401(k). Through Kunz’s open-ended questions, the two presenters came up with three options. First, Hoover could meet with a financial advisor, who’d be able to tell him if he was on track and what he was doing right. Second, Hoover could use his skills as an auctioneer—which he demonstrated for the audience’s amusement—to make additional income that he could save. Third, Hoover could set a budget for his family and put a specific amount of money into savings every month. Finally, Hoover decided to make progress toward his goal by meeting with a financial advisor by July 15, taking Kunz’ advice to set a specific deadline that was slightly challenging while still feasible. Kunz added that he would check back with Hoover on July 14 to make sure Hoover was on track.

In advice given to the audience, Kunz suggested that coaching partners ask goal-sharing partners why their goal was important to them and how they and others in their lives would be affected if they achieved it. Kunz also emphasized that coaching partners should be selfless and intentional in asking questions. This activity gave attendees a chance to listen, engage, and fully commit to other people and their journeys—in other words, to practice skills that are key to being an effective salesperson or influencer.

Using the GROW Model to Sell OEHS

The audience had plenty of time to practice using the GROW model among themselves. When they finished, Hoover and Logan demonstrated how the model could be used to “sell” controls to prevent hearing loss, with Hoover portraying an OEHS professional and Logan portraying a skeptical CEO.

Hoover opened by saying that it was necessary to eliminate hazardous noise at one of the company’s facilities by installing engineering controls, but he needed Logan’s help with this. By eliminating the hazardous noise, Hoover explained, the company could eliminate hearing loss claims and send all employees home healthy. Then Hoover asked Logan about his ideas for solving the problem.

Logan responded that he didn’t understand the goal. Concerned that implementing controls would cost the company money, Logan asked if workers were really suffering from hearing loss. Hoover explained that, in fact, six workers had shown signs of hearing loss that year. There are controls that could prevent this from affecting additional workers, Hoover continued, but, again, he needed Logan’s support to implement them.

At this point, you might notice Hoover restating the goal and repeatedly asking for Logan’s help and input. Kunz explained this was significant because restating the goal kept Logan oriented toward it. Most people agree that a health effect such as hearing loss should be eliminated, even if they’re not completely committed to pursuing the solution. Tying the solution (the controls) back to the goal (eliminating hearing loss) made it more difficult for Logan to disagree—because he too wished to meet the goal.

Breaking character, Logan added that returning to the goal reframed the discussion, in the CEO’s mind, from concern over the amount of money that controls would cost to how they would eliminate hearing loss. CEOs, senior leaders, supervisors, and managers may not understand controls, but they do understand the negative consequence of hearing loss. Clarifying and consistently returning to your goal is a way of doubling back when you don’t convince someone the first time.

The demonstration scenario continued with Logan saying that he thought he could help Hoover but needed to know what specifically was being asked of him. Hoover answered that he had a quote from an engineering firm that his team had already vetted, but they needed Logan to review, approve, and sign the form in order to implement the controls and eliminate hearing loss at the plant. Logan asked if this was the only option or if there were others; Hoover said that there were, but only this option would eliminate hearing loss, so it was the best.

At last, Logan agreed to look at Hoover’s quote. Following Kunz’s recommendations for setting deadlines, Hoover said he would drop off the form the next day. but he needed it and any feedback from Logan by Friday of the following week. Furthermore, he’d check with Logan again during the week to answer any questions he might have.

The method demonstrated here, Kunz said, could be used with workers just as easily as with CEOs. If you’re selling controls to a worker, let them know that your goal is to make sure everyone is safe during the workday and that the work is as productive and straightforward as possible. It’s particularly important to ask workers what their ideas are for overcoming health and safety challenges. “The people actually doing the work have the best ideas,” Kunz said, and added that they will often come up with too many options to implement. Then, the challenge is to prioritize the most critical options and set a deadline that makes clear what actions will be done by when.

In other words, you can “sell” people on health and safety controls using the GROW model by introducing a goal that will protect workers’ health and safety and coming up with options for meeting this goal together.

Audience Members’ Responses

Several times throughout the session, the presenters gave attendees options to share their thoughts about the method they practiced. In many cases, Kunz gave some feedback on their experiences. There are probably as many responses to the GROW model as there are people who have used it, but here is a snapshot of the AIHce EXP session comments:

One attendee and his partner for the activity realized that the goal they discussed together was too broad in scope. The pair agreed with Kunz that narrowing the goal made it feel more attainable to them.

Another attendee said that the first time he completed the activity with his partner, they discussed the goal, reality, options, and way forward (deadline) in the order indicated by the GROW acronym. Finding this approach too rigid, they switched to discussing the goal and then the options for fulfilling it during the activity’s second round.

Kunz admired this team’s flexibility in his feedback. “That’s sales, and that’s influence,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to do risk assessment, and a lot of ways to use the GROW model, and you found one that worked in the moment.”

According to a third attendee, her goal had felt daunting, but it helped her to hear from another person who had accomplished it. Kunz agreed that people want to feel seen, heard, and understood, and added that asking effective, open-ended questions, combined with empathetic listening, could help accomplish this.

Other attendees commented that the GROW model led them to reconsider the urge to offer advice to “fix” their partners’ problems; gave them clarity on how to reach their goals; and helped them resolve personal doubt, align their options with their goals, and examine why their goals were important to them.

Toward the end of the session, another attendee asked a particularly challenging question: how could he support his CEO, supervisor, or manager to propose solutions to health and safety issues when they weren’t OEHS professionals? The GROW model supports collaborative solutions for reaching shared goals, but without training and background, organizational leadership may have difficulty participating in OEHS solutions.

To this, Kunz suggested that OEHS professionals should come prepared with three options and ensure their senior leaders are aware of these options but encourage them to share their own ideas first. That is, prior to inserting their own ideas, OEHS professionals should ask organizational leaders for their thoughts on how to reach the goal.

Logan added that OEHS professionals can refine their prepared options with the senior leaders. This gives the participants feelings of shared ownership toward the solutions, instead of portraying them as belonging to the OEHS professional. Seeking leaders’ input puts them and OEHS professionals on the same team.


Kunz, Jason; Hoover, Justin; and Logan, Perry. “IHs Are the Greatest Salespeople in the World.” AIHce EXP, AIHA, 23 May 2022, virtual. Conference Presentation.

Abby Roberts

Abby Roberts is the editorial assistant at The Synergist.


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