The Psychology of Safety & Everyday Protection

Elevating Safety: A Conversation with Cassie Alexander

We recently had an informative conversation with Cassie Alexander, the founder of Xendros Unlimited. Cassie has a Master's degree in Chemistry and has worked toward cultivating safer environments throughout her career. She has made it her mission to help individuals and teams transform their relationships with the world around them through safety. 

Our discussion went beyond workplace safety, diving into the broader safety landscape in our everyday lives. Cassie's insights sparked a new perspective on safety, focusing on mindset over mere rule-following.

Our conversation highlighted how understanding the consequences of disregarding safety measures can prompt significant behavioral changes. It emphasized the need for ongoing discussions to instill a collective responsibility for safety, extending its relevance well beyond the workplace, even into our immediate environments.

Cassie's approach aligns seamlessly with our ethos at Insect Shield— to help spread knowledge about insect-borne diseases and to provide protective gear that is simple to use and effective.

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Transcript of the Interview

Mary: Hi, it's Mary from Insect Shield, and I'm really excited today to be here with Cassie Alexander.

She is the founder of Xendros Unlimited. We're going to talk safety, the psychology of safety, and it's all really fascinating. I met her at a safety show talking about work safety and things a lot of folks that are looking at, slips and falls and other types of things, and she came along and started talking.

I just thought it's so interesting someone coming from kind of a very different way of thinking about safety, talking about safety, and how it applies to our everyday life, so welcome, and can you just give us an introduction and really tell us what you do, what your company does, and about safety and that, and we'll then get into some more of the really psychology of safety and how we can change ourselves and make our lives more safe.

Cassie Alexander: Yeah. Thanks so much, Mary. I'm really happy to be here. I appreciate you building this connection and giving me the opportunity to chat with you about this. So yeah, Xendrose Unlimited, we were founded in 2020 2022. We've been around for about a year and our primary focus is on, experiential safety training that really focuses on raising awareness around safety and helping people understand safety as a collective responsibility and an individual responsibility as opposed to somebody else's problem. In our kind of focus in the way that we do things, we very much want to help empower people to take safety and hazard recognition and awareness.

And implementing those daily actions to keep themselves safe. Those are the kinds of things that we're working to help people shift their mindset around on the daily. And then as far as my background, I started out in chemistry a bunch of years ago and winded my way around things until I ended up in safety and ended up in this role.

And just, I'm really excited about the opportunity to help bring brands that are. Safety minded and are out there really trying to help make the world a safer place and help people be safer and, bridging those connections to the general public people that maybe don't think about safety as a top of mind kind of thing and help them shift that a little bit.

Mary: Okay, so yeah, it's so interesting because the world of, I think when people just think safety, they're really thinking they forget it just like it's every day in life. I think they think, okay, workplace safety slips and falls. We work with a lot of say, utility companies that are sending people outside

Thinking about, do I have fire retardant on, to make sure there's those dangers there's I'm working in a chemical plant.

Okay, everyone has to follow safety today, like making sure you're wearing, whatever equipment you have that type of thing. And. I think when people like don't think of like just safety in their everyday life, just in at the home going and, then coming back and we'll talk about like insects later but really, just what you know getting in your car putting on your seatbelt just all of those things.

It's like I work in safety people only think you're working in safety for, business, where it all needs to transfer to. Your everyday life as well because if you're just safe at work, but you're not safe at home. That's not doing you any good.

Cassie Alexander: Absolutely. I find myself, consistently in that conversation around safety? What do you mean? OSHA? And, know well, yes. Yes, OSHA is a piece of it. It's only one aspect, right? And workplace safety, while it is an industry and there is, some structure and scaffolding around what it's supposed to look like, there isn't a lot of conversation that happens outside of what the safety coordinator is doing.

And, the sort of behind the scenes from somebody that has been in that position is. That person doesn't have the bandwidth to make sure every single person is safe. Every point at every point in the day, right? They're doing things to help set the system up to be safer, but ultimately it falls on each and every person that's involved to truly make a safe environment.

And to me, speaking about safety from a, talk at you, teach you what the problems are, what the potential hazards are is doing you a disservice because it's letting you start to think that I'm going to be there to show you every possible problem. And in my experience and my perspective, it very much is.

It’s a deeper conversation than that, and it really takes internalizing it on a deeper level to protect yourself in all of the different environments. I've, I was hurt a lot more extensively at home because of a safety problem that hadn't been addressed at home than I've ever been hurt in a workplace, and this is over a lot of years in the workplace, right?

Yeah it's an under thought about an under focused on area for sure.

Mary: You and I guess the thing too in a workplace, it can be mandated, and you can be, and you can be in trouble if you don't, and you know how to the person that is working again say, with chemicals and at the workplace, they know they have to wear a certain gloves and certain eye protection and certain maybe, breathing protection, they are going, just in the yard or they're doing some staining of wood or something with some chemical and they're like, there's no one looking over their shoulder.

But so people thinking I have to do it. At work, but then how do you like then making sure then you carry that forward. It's not like a requirement that we're not saying do that. It's to benefit the person where, you know, and so it's like at work. It's work tells me I got to do it. So I got to do it.

But at home, I could do whatever the heck you I want. It's maybe they want you to do it because it's actually protecting you from something. that is also going to happen at home. It doesn't just happen at work.

Cassie Alexander: And that's a really great point and to the point of bringing psychology into the conversation around how we make a change or make something different happen produce a different outcome than. Doing it when we're at work, but ignoring it when we get home is really about helping people understand the motivation behind it.

We really need them to understand the pain points around if they don't. Right? So finding the access to recognizing how much control we have over physical safety can often help shift somebody's mindset around. What they can do to be involved in taking care of their physical safety, so much of the conversation is external is outside of you and is talking about what to do in these specific situations because of your job, because of whatever, and instead of it being a, more of a well rounded.

Okay. The reason that these types of things exist is because of a B. C. D. E. These are the possible things that can happen. And I recognize to that, in. In companies, sometimes it's hard to, justify telling people the bad stuff, the bad thing that might happen if they don't use it.

And it's more of a just do it because I said, so instead of really giving a full explanation of what's going on. And in my perspective, in my experience it goes so much further in it and it hits somewhere deeper when you're able to help them understand the pain of. Not having done whatever it was, right?

So helping them to see the potential negative outcome, as opposed to this, my, my sweet puppies making noise there for us they're here with us to talk about safety. But yeah, it very much makes a difference. If the. Individual is able to really internalize that for themselves and see why it is valuable to them.

And not just making it about. Something external, something outside of themselves.

Mary: Right. Yeah, that's where we so coming in our world, so insects and in the U. S. ticks end up becoming our number 1 conversation.

I Don't know, last week, the CDC just came out with more news. There's, a tick borne disease called alpha gal, which creates a meat allergy.

And there was a big report last week, they're saying actually looks like a lot more people have it, which kind of all the people in the alpha gal community knew, because they're like, all these people, it just, it's hard to diagnose and so many doctors don't know about it. And there's more and more in the news, just my Google News alert now on tick borne disease every day. It used to not even come every day. Now it comes three times a day and there's just, reams of, how many articles and news. Which is great for people because protecting yourself, that thing, protect yourself from tick bites is pretty darn easy.

We are one part of, we, InsectShield is a great Thing for that. There's other solutions to so that's where our conversation just about protecting yourself. So why is it that we know there's easy ways to protect ourselves and there's easy, and it's not expensive. And, I can buy my spray and spray my shoes. I can wear my treated socks. I can. Easily follow these things. Why do I not come to Insect Shield until I had a tick bite? It's that the reactive instead of being proactive. What are tips people can so even in the household say one person in the house got Lyme disease and maybe, hopefully, didn't get it bad and was able to recover.

And maybe they're, even in that situation Maybe they're like, okay, I got to protect myself, but the other people in the house are you got I'm not going to get, how do all, and I know this is my God, if you were, smoking, drinking, there's all these different things, that, but, thinking of just about okay, I need to make, it's so easy to protect myself against ticks and ticks are carrying a lot of really scary, potentially, life changing diseases.

How can I like, just say to my husband I don't want to be annoying and be like, make sure you're wearing your treated socks and your treated shoes. Like, how do you empower someone to him to go Oh, I'm going out. I better make sure I have that. As opposed to me, and him wanting to know.

Cassie Alexander: Yeah I absolutely do. And I think the answer, unfortunately, isn't super simple. It really comes down to helping people hold on to helping your husband hold on to what the painful outcome could be otherwise. It's not so much so holding on to it in a way that runs their whole life, just so much so that it triggers something inside their brains when they're in the situation.

For example, I I've been in a industry where safety glasses were important for, oh gosh we're, a very long time. I think we're close to Maybe 15 years or something, since I started doing things in the chemistry lab and being exposed to that kind of stuff and learning about safety glasses.

And that was something that was challenging for me. I'm sure at 1 point, I've had a couple of things get into my eyes, which has helped reinforce the reason why they're so important and. The thing that now happens to me and this is really the mission that I'm on for everybody related to, taking care of themselves when they walk outside or anything else is I get it.

I get myself into a position. I'm working on, cleaning up some grout in my bathroom and I'm playing with the tool a little bit. I say playing because I was really just getting a test for what it was going to be and. I did about two scrapes, and I felt some dust come up, and I immediately set the tool down.

It's I don't have safety glasses on. One, I'm not really trying to do this right now anyway, so I haven't really thought through it very well. And two, my eyes aren't protected. I'm walking away from this. And that, I think that really is the place that we need to get people to, is the internal... Ooh, there's something there, just like with a seatbelt, right?

When you get in your car, there is something inside of us because of the really powerful campaigns that have happened throughout the United States, at least, or at the very least, that's, where my perspective comes from. We have a different association with seatbelts now than people did 50 years ago.

Mary: Oh, when I grew up, Oh God. Until my sister turned like 16 and she was going to drive us, then we had to start wearing our seat. We didn't even, no one even wore them. No one like. eVen if it, it just wasn't even part of your thinking. And now you get, I'm like, whoa, now you feel naked without it.

Cassie Alexander: Yeah and that came down to a public safety campaign, right? A public safety awareness campaign and so much of it. Along with some click it or ticket responses as well. Where we're also punitive. We're going to punish you if you don't which, that has a way.

I think there's a lot more value in positive, but that's a different perspective. Or kind of conversation. But yeah the awareness and the conversations within the circles that started to champion for seatbelts and for that kind of use is what really helped shift the conversation. And so to your point about the tick-borne illnesses.

Becoming more and more prevalent. It's not just that they're becoming more prevalent in one area, but because of the temperatures, things are becoming more prevalent all over the United States, right? We're seeing those same issues translate to extra places, which means that people that haven't been thinking about this before now need to start thinking about this when they walk outside and Helping people to just start to understand what the downsides are and what impact they can have, for themselves, there are tons of different ways.

You can do this. And the benefit of something like insect shield is all you have to do is remember to put the right set of clothing on the right pair of shoes on right? As long as they've been as long as they've been treated by you guys, then they are walking out into a world where they're more protected from those things and, there are extra layers of protection that can then go there, go with that.

But to your point, helping people get to the place where. It's the first thing just like we check for our wallet, keys and phone before we walk out of the door. It's the same kind of conversation, especially if you're getting ready to be working in long brush for a period of the day, even around your home.

It doesn't necessarily be at work. But again, having those conversations and helping people understand, where am I likely to run into these things? Because that could be part of the missing education too. I think that's where we have the most opportunity is to find the places where we can be better educating folks on how they can protect themselves.

And I think also starting young, helping get, young people educated around this stuff helps them to get through to their parents that may have been a little bit more set in their ways around handling a certain, a certain type of hazard.

Mary: Yeah, and I think it's interesting because I think, I do think things are changing. There's, I'm not exactly sure, I can't recall exactly what it was, but there's a law now, I think in Pennsylvania, or it's passing something to do with if a tick is found on a child in school, like the parents have to be notified or something of that nature, like they're realizing, some, I can't remember the, but it's something about.

Kids and ticks in Pennsylvania and make the awareness of, what you need to do. So the education of, I think it's so different now with so many diseases with insects, because. They've always been annoying and there's a lot of them are annoying. They're all annoying. Flies, there's biting flies and there's ants and there's a lot of, but we're very lucky in the United States that they've never, they've, they haven't been, dangerous to us.

Malaria in its history is like the number one killer of people in like the world. There's some fascinating history of malaria. It's changed the scope of the world. There's a, it's because it's been around and it just decimated there's a whole story about how like Scotland actually became part of the United Kingdom because all these Scottish people got malaria because they were down in Panama Canal.

Malaria's been around and, It's just really, it's changed. There's they have stats of the changes like the gross national, output of some of the countries that are stricken with malaria. And there's lots of good things happening. And there's some other potential vaccines and things, but in the US, we've been lucky because insects annoy us.

And some people have maybe have some small, there's bees and some other allergies. But it hasn't been like the danger. If we've been growing up in like an Africa, in a situation where malaria, like you get bit by mosquito, potentially you get super sick. We'd all be living a very different way. We would be doing that already.

So we're in this really weird, we're in this place in the U S we're like, okay, we have to change your behavior. And it's easy. The thing is it's so easy to protect yourself from. And that's where we're like, it's just so easy to do. And it's, it's not even during, it's not like wearing a mask where people are like, I don't want to wear a mask. It's uncomfortable. And then no one thinks the mask is comfortable. No one yay, let's a mask, but it's I can just wear some of my own, my, my regular thing. So it is just like the psychology of like, how we all like, how we take our personal safety and what we can do and what will be happening in 20 years.

How we, I mean we don't want more and more people getting sick. And in 20 years, just going to become standard? Like wearing sunscreen or putting on your seatbelt and that type of thing?

Cassie Alexander: Yeah and with the kind of the rise of the different diseases not just ticks, but I'm in Texas. And so we don't necessarily. Worry about ticks at the same level they're around, but it's not what you guys are dealing up dealing with up there, but mosquitoes are something that is super prevalent down here and the mosquito borne diseases.

I've also been reading about some of the increases related to those because of the tropical weather temperatures and the climate becoming more conducive to them up further and further. And that to me is another, raises the bar again on how we start to have this conversation and why it's so important to be starting to.

Think about the shifts that we can make so that we can be better protected and be prepared for the world. That is to come right? We know that things are going to continue to change and we don't know all the details of what that's going to look like. We know that the weather is more severe. We know that the bug populations are able to linger and last in different kinds of ways longer and those kinds of things.

And so it really is going to become something that. We can't walk outside of our houses without thinking about our safety. If we want to, live long, healthy, productive lives, we're going to have to start thinking about what we're putting on our bodies in greater, greater degrees of attention as the.

Sort of situations around us continue to shift and so having the conversation about what the possibilities are right and not even necessarily getting into the nitty gritty of what the problems that occur from getting whatever the disease is, but helping people to understand that. Yeah, it's not just a nuisance, right?

It is a nuisance. Don't get me wrong. It's not just that, like the stuff that's inside of them, just like with rabies, right? We watch out for the critters that move around in our environments, getting into our trash the possums and the raccoons and things, because we know to be wary of the possibility of getting rabies.

If we can shift that and get folks to think about the possibility of getting, fill in the blank with whatever the insect borne disease, we have that much better likelihood of helping people to see the value in taking those really inexpensive, really effective baby steps towards taking care of themselves in a better way.

Mary: And it's, yeah, no, and I think it's, again, it's it's not like that conversation in the family. You don't want not to be like the nag make sure you have that. But I think it's interesting because the alpha gal, the allergy to red meat. I think it's all like that's the one that gets or it's not even just red meat.

It's all it's all mammal products and can even be gelatin and things that. So it's not because actually, when they first discovered it, it was there was a study happening and it was the, it's a lot of medication uses gelatin and people were having an issue, like having those distress in an area where there's lone star ticks and someone made the connection that.

That there was an allergy to actually the gelatin, which was the mammal based product. So it's not, it's the it makes it easy to say red meat. Cause that's the scariest to a lot of people. But there's lot of other things and it's really crazy because there's even some people like the fumes of meat cooking can cause a reaction so it can really debilitating.

But because that one I think is so shocking to hear that you could get that allergy I mean it's not that common and it's not everyone that gets bit by a Lone Star tick would get it etc. But it probably does more. to have people be protected because that's something they really don't want to give up.

Like they're like, I do not want to be someone that I love my burger. I love, and as opposed to Oh, Lyme disease. Yeah. Maybe like people get it, but I'll be okay. Maybe it's like things like that, that are like, I really don't want to be out allergic to red meat.

Cassie Alexander: It's that tangible, it's that tangible pain, right? The tangible pain promotes the person into making a change, right? That, that is, and that's the catalyst, and it's the catalyst across the board, and there are lots of different ways to get into that psyche, but I love that you found that by talking about this, Debilitating thing that can happen as a result of an insect bite, and this is just 1 of the ones we know about.

And I think, that's another really powerful point too. Is that the science around this stuff isn't set in stone. We don't know every single thing that's possible from these insects. And, we've seen with covid that things can. Show up and become a really big problem very quickly. And the way that the way that things evolve and change over time related to diseases is really fascinating, but also pretty terrifying.

And being aware and making the connection to things that people can see in their real day, real everyday life versus you could be in the hospital. You could be dealing with this. Those are hard things to. To really understand the impact of unless you've been there. And so not being able to eat your favorite meal, not being able to have that filet mignon at the end of the night.

That is going to get somebody's attention because that is a very real immediate consequence and that's what I've seen to be the most effective. Between the very real immediate. Impact of something and then the, the support and the conversation and what. What other people are doing to champion the same stuff around you.

Again, it comes down to awareness, right? The more aware somebody is, the more likely they are to bring it up in conversation. The more likely it is to just be part of existing around that person. And when I think about a company, your leadership is really important. As it relates to how somebody chooses to show up at work, right?

If your leadership isn't putting on their insect shield socks before they go out into the field, then that's going to mean that the employees that work for that person are going to be less likely to do so because they're not going to see the value. They're going to see it as a time suck. They're going to, whatever the blanks are really Damages the opportunity to get somebody to make a behavior change if you don't have the support. So again, thinking, not just in companies. That's 1 example, but families too.

Mary: Yeah, no, I was going if I, exactly, if I'm telling everyone to wear their Insect Shield socks and I go out not with mine, then it's hey, what's that story? So

Cassie Alexander: How could you possibly? and, thinking about your husband and your conversations with him, it's not it becomes less of a hark when you just become the person that is assassociated with the thing, which what has happened to me over the years.

I've become lovingly and sarcastically known as the safety lady around my house and in former workplaces because. That's just the way my brain thinks, like I'm seeing the safety things and I'm pointing them out and I'll talk about them and there's something about that about being around somebody that is willing to talk about it.

And I think you being willing to talk with your family about. The things that you know because of the work you do and because of the levels of protection you're working to provide for the rest of the community, you're in a really great place to help advocate to them to find new ways to, think about the possible downside of not wearing whatever it is, right?

That's a, that's one of those things that, each and every one of us can do is just be more intentional about the way that we talk about the things that are important to us. And especially when it comes to safety.

Mary: Right. Perfect. So we basically, it's just, we keep, we all just got to keep, spreading the word and educating and just hoping that as, as we discussed, we get to the point where it is just in every day. But I guess the more, yeah, and then our point, the more and more we talk about it, the more and more gets out there, the more and more like, just,it's that people are thinking too of insects. Like it's a safety thing. It's not just like an annoying thing. And if you can get that shift to that may help as well. Cause that's what I think with seatbelts it's because they're saying how many more people have are severely injured and you're like, Oh, if I just wear my seatbelt, my, my reduction, my chance of getting seriously injured or car crash go down a lot.

And car crashes. I, we cannot control car crashes ourselves because often, so maybe it is my fault. Maybe it's not. Yeah. And it's interesting. We were just looking at a past study that someone did with insect shield. They found someone had sprayed shoes and treated socks. There were 74% chance less to get a tick attachment, so I think, yeah, the more.

And yeah, just, it's good to hear. It's just because we're all like, oh, we're always like talking about it. But for me, as a safety expert, just say that's what you got to do. You just got to keep talking about and about it and not being annoying about it, but just keep talking and just saying it's that easy.

And, and citing that there, there's diseases that really can just, change your life. Dramatically. And, Lyme and now Alpha Gal and the many others really can be debilitating. That's our whole goal here with our, our Tick Encounter Resource Center is just, education. That's where all learn. 

Cassie Alexander: Yeah and the work you're doing here to have this conversation and to have conversations like it are, again, the exact right combination of things. And as it starts to catch fire, there's the opportunity for some of those public safety conversations that get brought up bigger, right?

Helping, helping government officials really understand what the power is in the education space related to these kinds of things really is going to be the thing that helps shift the broader public, although I will be doing my, my my darndest to get it to everybody that I can, the awareness and this kinds of kind of conversation, because it isn't about knowing what every hazard is ahead of time.

It's about being able to. Evaluate your environment and just be prepared, right? Just having that head on a swivel and, in the case of going outside, one of the, one of the things we have to be prepared for are the insects we're going to encounter. You've got to be protected.

Mary: Exactly. I love it. Thank you so much. It was really interesting to talk to you and just think about the mindset around safety and protecting ourselves from the many hazards that we we all run into every day, but hopefully we get through the day all okay and we continue forth.

So thank you. Really appreciate your time.

Cassie Alexander: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much, Mary. Look forward to talking again.