Phil La Duke's Blog

Fresh perspectives on safety and Performance Improvement

Who Writes This Rag


What do Pol Pot, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and certain LinkedIn group managers have in common? a love of censorship.  This week I got an LinkedIn message from Kathleen Hurley, manager of the Environmental, Health & Safety Compliance Network 10,000 +, telling me that in response to my having posted four items in a single day that hence forth all my comments and posts would be moderated and that I would be limited to two links a week.

Anyone who is a LinkedIn contact of mine knows that I am very active; to an irritating degree.  I post daily, and between press releases, blog posts, tweets, and articles the home page of my poor contacts will almost certainly have my face emblazoned across it. I feel your pain, and I know a little of me goes a long, long way.  I am also active in answering questions and in the discussion portion of the 50 (49 after dumping Environmental, Health & Safety Compliance Network 10,000 +).  So I can understand why many of you may be thinking, well I can sympathize with poor, poor Kathleen. I won’t apologize for my shameless self-promotion.  After all, it has resulted in my writing being published in about a dozen or so places, me speaking at numerous international venues, being published in respected scientific and academic journals, and being named to the ISHN Power 101 (a list of the powerful and influential people in worker safety) a fact that I seem to manage to work into every conversation.

For the record, I believe that if one starts a blog, LinkedIn group, or social club it is their inalienable right to restrict or prohibit whoever and whatever they want. But as Director, Corporate Communications at Actio Corporation, whose president is listed as the group’s owner I am, I admit, a bit alarmed.  I find it disquieting that a group founded and moderated by a safety vendor is not forth coming about the fact that they aren’t exactly without ulterior motive (or at least could be perceived as having said motive) or bias when it comes to the topics discussed in the group.  Even this isn’t a problem if one isn’t actively tampering with the discussions—after all, aren’t the founders of any organizations likely to shout down opposing points of view?

But hapless Ms. Hurley didn’t oppose a point of view, she decided that she had ought have a look at the dangerous, dangerous posts of this dangerous, dangerous man. She never got the chance. I took my ball and went home shared her email with the 300 or so contacts who were also group members. She didn’t want to read my stuff and I didn’t want her deciding whether or not it would post; so I voted with my feet.

Let me say that I am pretty thick skinned about my writing.  It’s not for everyone.  I the majority of the feedback is positive, but I always get a stream of simpletons who post hate mail on my work.  I publish any comment I get and I try to answer each and every response to my work.  I am more puzzled by the responses than anything.  I’ve always believed that if you didn’t like what I wrote you were under no obligation to read it. I have never understood the imbecile who posts rambling, borderline psychotic frothy rants about something I said.  The first time I was censored was an article I wrote for the college newspaper where I was a reporter and columnist.  The paper wasn’t very good, even by college standards (it was riddled with typos and grammatical errors, sloppy journalism, and hastily produced and sophomoric articles) and I wrote a piece, “Who Writes This Rag?” The article was a tongue-in-cheek look at how the staff (mainly me and my friend and fellow goof off editor) did the bare minimum was sloppy writers and editors who seldom bothered to proofread. My fellow staff members, including the faculty adviser, all enjoyed the article immensely and we all had a good laugh at ourselves.  The mirth was short lived however.  When the article was sent off to be typesetter who refused to typeset it.  He apparently thought the article was directed at him and took offense to it.  (If he is reading this I sincerely hope he is roasting in Hell.)  The faculty adviser tried to talk reason but eventually acquiesced and apologized so that the paper could be produced.

I learned many important lessons from that experience.  First, I learned that one closed-minded, power-crazed anus of a person can censor even the most innocuous work. This censorship, or that of a certain group manager are not the work of an international conspiracy, this isn’t the work of a cadre of master criminals; this is the work of a few (usually one) twisted little people driven mad with the sad little power given to them.

Next, I learned that there are people in this world who see their own frailties in every bit of written work.  People who decry as fraud that which is critical of a population are usually the guiltiest or secretly think they might be.  These people are bigots and bullies who should never EVER be left in a position where they can censor the ideas of others. Small minds don’t leave much room for new ideas. This may smack of hypocrisy given my penchant for publicly telling people to shut up.  But telling people to shut up is a far cry from silencing them; ii’s small distinction, but an important one.

I also learned that there are a fair amount of people who go through life waiting to take offense.  These are neither the glass is half empty nor half full people, these are “the who the hell drank half of my drink?” people.  These people are deeply dysfunctional people who can only find happiness in misery.  They can’t read the paper, listen to the news, or see a movie without taking everything as a personal affront.  I provide them a service.  If you can’t be offended reading something I wrote you probably don’t have very good reading comprehension skills.

Finally, I learned that words are power and unpopular words are the most powerful.  Words and ideas outside our comfort zone force us to question whether or not our most deeply held beliefs.  When someone says something that upsets us, the courageous among us reflect and grow, sometimes this causes us to change our minds while other times it strengthens and deepens our beliefs. In either case, we continue to evolve as intellectuals.  But the cowards among us try to silence criticism and mute debate.  Somewhere deep inside them they know how fragile their bigotry is and they are afraid that if they look within themselves they may have to hold themselves accountable. What’s worse, is their fear that others may also be convinced and that will further isolate them.

Pol Pot, Hitler, and Stalin all knew that the unfettered flow of ideas and words was the cornerstone of freedom and democracy; they would make poor LinkedIn group owners and managers. (For one they are all dead, and for another I doubt they have the computer skills.) So to all you group managers, and bloggers, and angry dissocials pining to take offense know that censorship is on the same continuum as rape; it is you asserting your sick power over another just because you can.  And power is addictive and censorship is habit forming, if you aren’t careful you may find yourself the intellectual equivalent of a serial killer.

Filed under: Phil La Duke, Safety, Uncategorized, , ,

In Harm’s Way: How Safety Professionals Brought Down the Safety Profession


Image courtesy of TheGuardian.com

“My pledge to you this year is to kill off for good the excessive culture of safety and health that is dragging down business like a heavy wooden yoke.”— David Cameron, United Kingdom Prime Minister.

In a recent article in ISHN magazine editor, Dave Johnson does an excellent job of covering comments that David Cameron, UK Prime Minister recently made about the onus that safety puts on businesses and of his party’s intention to “crush” the culture of safety. http://www.ishn.com/blogs/16-random-sampling/post/politicians-just-dont-get-safety At this point most of you are expecting me to launch into another one of my pithy rants about how safety is being attached on all fronts and people of good faith should rise up in righteous indignation. You will be disappointed. I have been writing and blogging about safety for over 5 years, speaking on the subject for close to ten, and working in the field consulting and providing safety training for nearly thirty years. I have plenty to say on this subject and most of you aren’t going to like it.

Most recently I have pumped out some pretty aggressive messages that puts the blame for the decline in respect for the safety profession squarely on the shoulders of the safety professionals. I have been fairly clear in my message: Safety professionals have to reposition themselves as key resources for making the workplace more efficient, more cost effective, and more productive. Instead we continue to propagate the image of the safety professional as a bleeding heart social worker that wants to coddle workers and impeded progress. I have said, in no uncertain terms, that if Safety is going to regain a position of respect it will have to stop doing such stupid things.

“safety cultures (are) a too often farcical, marginal monster that must be crushed and killed.”— David Cameron, United Kingdom Prime Minister

When “Protect Your Dignity” was published in ISHN a couple of months back, I got a visceral response from a bunch of old-school safety half-wits who squawked and bawled because I asked what kind of sociopath introduces the possibility of a parent dying at work to eight-year olds in the guise of a children’s safety poster contest.

When I wrote an article that criticized the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) for sponsoring an expensive boondoggle to Brazil in the worst economy in a lifetime, no fewer than three safety publications refused to run it. And when I publicly criticized the organization for their actions—well…let’s just say if you are wondering why I am no longer speaking at their conference you have your answer.

When I made blog posts decrying Behaviour Based Safety as amateurishly shilled snake oil, one greasy, bloated, pig-eyed brute rallied the fanatics and the zealots who sent me a steady stream of venom, and made clear their intention to protect and preserve the Behavior Based Safety Bureaucracies at all costs. I’ve been called every thing but a child of God, simply for calling into question the status quo.

Well guess what? It turns out WE ARE under attack, and not by some third world despot or human trafficker but by the leaders of the free world.

‘Cameron, meanwhile, says, “I am hereby declaring war… on the safety and health monster.’ .”— David Cameron, United Kingdom Prime Minister. ”(ISHN)

As Dave Johnson points out, politicians don’t get safety, but politicians do “get” what messages people want to hear, as people the average politician is a thick-witted brute without basic skills to pour piss out of a boot when the instructions are written on the bottom. Except on extremely rarified occasions, politicians aren’t all that extraordinary, there are no heroes here and few villains either. The politicos are, like every other organism designed to survive and politicians can only do this by sensing public sentiment and regurgitating it back to voters.

The story here isn’t that David Cameron, the leader of one of the most industrialized and powerful countries in the world thinks its okay to kill workers, rather the story is that David Cameron thinks that voters will be sympathetic to those sentiments. What matters here is not that a single politician believes workers should be seen as expendables, and chattel to be used up and thrown away.

“Safety culture is nothing more than a straitjacket on personal initiative and responsibility. We must crush these cultures before any more damage is done.”— David Cameron, United Kingdom Prime Minister.

This Is a War That We Are Losing.

Public sentiment is turning against worker safety. Politicians equate safe workplaces with job loss and hyper-sensitivity for paper cuts and bruises. Less and less people are taking us seriously and human life hangs in the balance. “safety cultures (are) a too often farcical, marginal monster that must be crushed and killed.”— David Cameron, United Kingdom Prime Minister Is safety farcical, marginal monster (“farcical” means “absurd” or “ridiculous” for those of you who have been directed to this page by one of my many detractors who are reading this for the sole purpose of getting pissed off)? Well when you hear things like the case a friend of mine shared with me it makes it pretty tough to see safety as anything but the rightful object of ridicule. In this case, my friend’s safety manager slipped and fell but did not report the incident and instead sought treatment from her personal doctor so that she would not “ruin” the safety BINGO. When the writers of The Simpsons wanted give the hapless, drunken, and perpetual screw up main character Homer a job, they ultimately chose head of safety as the most ludicrous job (Homer has had jobs ranging from body guard to astronaut, but he always comes back to safety). And when you see some of the safety bureaucracies that try to manipulate people’s behaviours like so many lab rats the “monster” appellation seems pretty spot-on.

Where is This Coming From?

Lord knows I’m full of answers, but this one has got me stumped. Where is the big, unifying event that convinced the public that we have taken worker safety too far? As far as I can recall there has been no major fines lobbed at corporations for infractions that a reasonable person would see as frivolous. There have been no high profile cases of companies forced out of business because protecting the workers became to onerous. Why then, has the public turned on us? Fighting Back What can we do to turn this around? Because let’s face it, we have got to stop fiddling as Rome burns, and we aren’t going to win this fight without first winning the hearts and minds of greater society. • Advertise the cost of Injuries. In the world of corporate Learning we like to say, that “if you think Learning is expensive, try stupidity”. We have to make the average person understand how much productivity and efficiency is lost when a worker is injured, even when that injury was minor. And when we talk to people about worker safety we have got to stop filling the air with jargon that we think makes us sound smarter but in actuality makes us sound like pretentious dung heaps. • Seek Out and Eliminate Safety Gimmicks. End safety BINGO, scrap the gift card programs for doing something a reasonable person would do without being asked. If it’s cute give it the boot. Incentive programs MUST return a quantifiable return on investment and must DIRECTLY link to safety improvements. • Proactively Seek Out Ways to Lower Costs. Find ways to lower the operating cost of the safety function BEFORE Operations suggests it. If you are able to demonstrate a willingness to share in the responsibility for process improvement and waste reductions Operations leadership will begin to see you as a partner instead of a policeman. • Talk Dollars, Make Sense. Express the costs and savings in ways that make sense to Operations; if products sold is a hot button talk about the increase in sales that the company will have to make to pay for the injuries incurred. Or better yet, talk about how much more efficient the Operation is because of a decrease in injuries. We have to run the safety function like a business and we have to speak the same business language as Operations. • Lay Off the Platitudes. “Safety is everyone’s job” —oh yeah? Then why do we need you? “Safety is our number one priority”—no, making money and staying in business is our number one priority, and if you don’t believe that go somewhere else to work, safety supports this, but let’s not be stupid. “Safety Is the Right Thing To Do”—So is making money, so is being globally competitive, so is producing high quality, so is…there are a lot of “right things to do”. • Vote. Get out and make your voice known. Talk to your neighbors about this dangerous trend and how it should affect the way they vote. Refute the misconceptions about worker safety. Tell war stories, but most of all vote and make sure the candidates know that their positions on worker safety matter to you. A Parting Shot I have worked with companies that spend more money keeping worker’s safe from cuts and bruises than they will ever recoup in savings and I am often asked when I consult with new clients if I am going to turn their company into one of those paranoid companies that have 7 safety people watching a guy loading a truck. I always respond to those concerns the same way. The safest companies on Earth are those whose doors are shuddered because they went out of business. The job of safety is to keep companies in business by eliminating waste and boosting productivity.

Filed under: Behavior Based Safety, Loss Prevention, Phil La Duke, Regulations, Safety, Safety Culture, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stop Me Before I Blog Again (2011 in review)


WordPress provides a pretty slick report that summarizes a blogger’s activity for the year, and I just figured out how to publish it.  I found it pretty interesting and thought I would share it.  But I also wanted to take a moment and acknowledge each of you and your role in my success (I won’t mention those of you who impede my success and are generally an anchor around the neck of my career; you know who you are.  All I will say is keep it up and see what that buys you.

Beyond the Blog

2011 began with me starting a major, long-term engagement with one of the world’s largest healthcare systems AND  kicking off  a project where, through Rockford Greene International, I ran the safety department for a small and struggling Tier-One automobile parts supplier. While I mentioned neither in my blogs (Rockford Greene International closely guards its client list to abet the guilty) both greatly shaped the content of my blogs, articles, and deranged emails to sundry politicos.  I also was engaged by a European luxury automobile manufacturing to do some executive coaching and process redesign, also through a Rockford Greene customer.

The bulk of my time,  however, was spent writing.  I had around 15 or 16 peer-reviewed articles published, wrote weekly (and sometimes weakly) posts to both http://www.philladuke.wordpress.com and http://www.rockfordgreeneinternational.wordpress.com all and all I produced somewhere in the neighborhood of 125,000 words in print last year; much of it right here.

This blog (and the Rockford Greene blog) continues to be shared by the ESHQ Elite managers once a quarter which drew many of you to the site.  For those of you who aren’t members of the LinkedIn group I would recommend you consider joining it; it is a terrific community. By mid summer, the blog had really taken off and now draws a steady audience (so much so that I sweat the Sunday deadline).

I spoke at the Michigan Safety Conference in Lansing, MI, in April and at the National Safety Council in October.  I submitted 2 abstracts for the ASSE show in June (which I covered as a reporter for Facility Safety Management magazine) but had both turned down.  That really irritated me, because two members of the selection committee specifically asked me to submit those.  After that experience and getting both abstracts rejected for this year, I have decided that ASSE doesn’t deserve me as a speaker, and I will not be speaking there again anytime in the foreseeable future. Unless they pay.  Most of other speeches I made to private companies who pay me to address their national or international safety meetings.  I am in the process of filling out speaking abstracts for conferences in Europe and at the National Safety Council, so if you are interested in hearing me speak, watch these pages.

I completed my certification in Just Culture, which amuses me since I have 5 works on the subject already published, but it was something a client required and what am I if not a sport.

In October, ISHN leaked a list of the Power 101, its list of the most powerful and influential people working in Safety today.  They quickly realized their error and pulled the list.  (It has since been republished and yes I am still on it.) I was interviewed by S+H Magazine, but that didn’t see print until 2012 so I don’t know if it is worth mentioning.

This year I am hoping to publish my first book, Selling Safety In Tough Times.  I have a proposal, but haven’t started looking for a publisher.  If anyone out there knows of a good literary agent, send them my way. I also have a submission (a late one—didn’t see the call for papers until the day it was due) for an OSHA journal.

I am hoping to get more speaking engagements and, of course, consulting gigs.  Will work for money.

But anyway, again thank you for your readership, your rancor, your interest and your community.

Phil

 

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Filed under: Behavior Based Safety, Loss Prevention, Loss Prevention, Phil La Duke, Safety, Uncategorized, Worker Safety, , , , , , , ,

Who Needs A Safety Guy?


Last Week I Covered the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and as is always the case I ran into more than a couple of earnest looking safety professionals who, with a straight face, claimed that they were trying hard to work themselves out of a job.  It’s a lovely sentiment but it’s also hogwash.  Safety professionals love to propagate this steaming pile of propaganda; it’s the kind of gooey, sappy sentimentalism that we use to promote our sacred mission of saving lives. No offense to those among us who legitimately feel that our jobs our more a calling than a career, but I think for many of us, it’s just something we say.  It doesn’t require a lot of thought and it doesn’t carry a lot of weight.

I’ve been giving this statement a lot of thought in the last week or so and it occurs to me that maybe safety shouldn’t be its own discipline.  Maybe instead of merely giving “working ourselves out of a job” lip service we should take steps to make things happen.  Can we as safety professionals be brave enough to envision a world without us? What would happen if we eliminated the position of safety professional? If that idea scares you, you’re not alone.

The initial response I get when I ask a safety professional to picture a world without safety professionals is shock: how could I even suggest such a thing.  But given that so many safety professionals collect paychecks without really changing things year after year I fail to see how industry would suffer any great tragedy if the profession ceased to exist.

The next response is to argue that if there were no safety professionals that Operations leaders would run amuck, violating rules and breaking laws.  My response to this argument is based on the belief that safety professionals are supposed to be the safety cops and without them people would be victimized.  If this is the case, the safety professionals have failed to make a compelling argument for safety as efficiency and have failed miserably.  Industry is well rid of these professionals.

Some argue that safety professionals are integral to ensuring governmental compliance and maintaining records.  To these professionals I say that they can be replaced by an administrative assistant of average ability.

But what if the safety, quality, lean and continuous improvement functions were combined, would that be so bad? One of the first things taught in Lean principles training is the first rule of process change is to make the process safer. And certainly since injuries cost money, any serious effort  to make the workplace safer would constitute a continuous improvement project,  Finally, the goals of Quality are parallel and overlaid  with each other—both look for the root causes of a process inefficiency that results in waste.

If we were truly interested in working ourselves out of a job we would be looking for ways to consolidate our departments with other departments and to leverage the work of others in the organization to save money and make the workplace not only a safer place to work, but a more efficient and profitable organization.

If you enjoyed this blog, check out the Rockford Greene International blog http://www.rockfordgreeneinternational.wordpress.com

 

Filed under: Behavior Based Safety, Loss Prevention, Phil La Duke, Regulations, Safety, Safety Culture, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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