Putting the “Health” in Health & Safety

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By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

Last week I went to urgent care.  Nothing too serious, I had an infection in my elbow that suddenly started to spread rapidly. I’m on antibiotics and things are improving just as rapidly as they went south. It was an unexpected yet completely predictable medical breakdown.

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for a while, and even though I am fully aware of the need to relax and slow things down I don’t seem able, or more accurately willing to do that. I wrote 100 articles for Authority magazine in just 50 days. During that same period I worked as a production safety consultant for two major motion pictures in 100° heat AND interviewed CEOs and Operations Executives in Europe (getting up at 5:00 a.m.) And my erstwhile wife finally took the plunge and moved in. (We had been maintaining separate residences for reasons that are none of your business) All this over and above maintaining a social life and all the minutiae of day-to-day life.

Many of you reading this may have been under the impression that I do nothing at all, or at least that what I do is easy. I routinely rise at 5:00 a.m. and work until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. Interviewing CEOs seems easy but between schedule changes, no-shows, subject running 30 minutes late for a one-hour interview, and deciphering accents can be incredibly draining. Even more people say, “Oh that sounds like fun!” when I tell them that I am working on a movie set. I do enjoy it immensely, but it is like simultaneous operations every day all the time.  For those of you in the construction or upstream oil and gas business you know how risk rises exponentially when there is SiOps going on. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, simultaneous operations is when multiple operations are going on in the same space or in close proximity to one another. In film you have gaffers and grips erecting lighting or camera stands while electricians are stringing power above or below them, through painters and set decorators into that same mix along with scores of other people all working at an accelerated pace and you have a recipe for potential disasters.  

Not that these aren’t highly skilled individuals, but they are focused on the task at hand and it is difficult to focus on what you are doing and remain situationally aware.  I am there throughout the whole affair to provide them with information so that they can make informed decisions about their safety and the risks they take. 12-hour days are the norm, not counting commute, before and after which I am doing the interviews and grabbing a quick workout. Oh and writing.  119 since July and counting. And, regrettably, the odd (in so many ways) blog article.

I’m fortunate for a lot of reasons. My medical issue started on Thursday when I mistook what turned out to be a cluster of in-grown hairs for a pimple.  On Friday my elbow was red and swollen and I knew it wasn’t an ordinary pimple. I called my doctor, but he was out of the country and wouldn’t be back for two weeks.  I turned to home remedies which mostly worked. On Monday the tell-tale red streak up my arm told me that the infection was spreading. I went to the urgent care (formerly known as the emergency room) got an injection and a bottle of antibiotics, and I’m feeling much better. 

There are many workers who aren’t so lucky.  Admittedly, my illness was not work-related—or was it? After all, what part of my routine caused me to become fatigued because of work and what part was a conscious choice to do something other than decompress? It really doesn’t matter because the law doesn’t recognize fatigue as an industrial illness. But as I say I am lucky because I work for a company that provides adequate paid sick time, excellent medical coverage, and overall, takes pains to ensure the well-being of its workers. I was able to seek medical attention without having to worry about losing my job, depleting my savings, or having to decide between risking my life or paying an exorbitant medical bill. 

In a world where safety zealots feel completely within their rights to preach safety at home, where are the voices for adequate base-line healthcare? I’m not arguing for socialized medicine nor am I arguing against it.  That having been said, no one should have to worry about his or her job because of their health. If the Health and Safety function is really concerned with worker health how does this concern manifest itself?

Recently I did a speech for a VPPPA conference on worker fatigue and in this presentation I outlined the many MANY physical manifestations and illnesses caused by fatigue, and yet we continue working our people LITERALLY to death. Do you, yourself, put in long hours? If so, how is it viewed by your company? Are you viewed as a go-getter and a loyal “company man”, or are you viewed as someone who is potentially putting his or her life at risk? Before you answer, go to your company break-room and look at the food options for sale in the vending machines.  The food is typically poison. It is full of food-like substances that are high in calories, high in fat, and low in nutrients. I have argued that the vending machine operators offer the foods that they do because that’s what people buy. Those of you who love awareness campaigns try this: put a sign on the vending machine that says, “eating this food will lead to morbid obesity and a host of other medical problems.” It is not likely to do any good as long as there are no healthy alternatives. 

Years ago, when the faith-based healthcare system at which I worked was moving its headquarters it conducted a survey of the employees asking what amenities they wanted at the new headquarters.  One of the top items was a place where people could purchase healthy meals. At first the organization worried that they couldn’t afford to provide restaurant that provided healthy meals and wondered openly how many people would actually purchase said health alternatives.  

When the restaurant opened I was delighted to find that I could get healthy meals both prepared on-site but also in the vending machines.  In fact, I soon realized that the restaurant was filled with all kinds of things to promote health nutrition from signs on the walls telling potential buyers of the calorie count and other nutritional information about the food for sale in the vending machines to the placement of the less healthy foods such that people wouldn’t be tempted to impulse purchase poisonous crap because it was “quick”.  Just an aside, but people who are driving themselves to the brink are often the same people looking for something quick to eat at their workstations. The organization didn’t stop there either. There were exercise classes, Weight Watchers meetings, reflection rooms where people could go and pray, meditate, or just enjoy the solitude. Flu vaccines (required by law for anyone actually visiting a hospital) were provided for free. There were mother’s rooms where women could breastfeed (an important feature for an organization whose workforce was 87% women. A walking path through a beautiful natural setting.  Healthcare is a high stress environment and these measures were taken to prevent illness and injuries and it worked.

Actions like these are good business and create a less stressed and more healthy workforce, but it can be a hard-sell to business owners more concerned about profits than people.  It’s our job to fight for these things. We have to be the voice of reason here. Benefits get more and more meager and workers are paid less and have to work longer hours just to survive.  If that isn’t our job, I don’t know what is.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

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When it Comes To Safety There is No Room for Politeness

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By Phil La Duke

I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

It occurs to me that one or two of you might have actually noticed that I haven’t posted to my blog in a couple of weeks. I could claim that I have been busy (being a production safety consultant for two major motion pictures in the last month, speaking at VPPPA, and writing almost 100 articles for Authority magazine) but that would just be bullshit. (Pause a moment for all those uptight assholes who have never heard the word to exit in disgust,) The real reason is that since my books were rejected for inclusion in the American Society of Safety Professionals library, I have come to question everything that is safety.

To be fair, the ASSP has been nothing but good to me, and it is within their rights to not carry my book.  What has me troubled is that YOU, the people who ostensibly work in safety, who supposedly care about safety, are the ones who dictate what they sell. If you don’t buy it they don’t want to offer it anymore than the vending machine operator wants to be stuck with a gross of stale Zagnuts.  

I came from the world of Organizational Development. I am a change agent. But what are YOU? I have heard people bemoan the poor quality of trade organizations but with a couple of exceptions you either never got involved or you doing what I am considering doing…taking your ball and going home.

As Dr. Rob Long is fond of saying, and I’m paraphrasing, “Safety is not a profession”.  He won’t even use the term “safety professional”. For my part I don’t see much professionalism in safety.  Academic pendantics? You bet. Blowhards who talk a good game on discussion threads? We got them in spades. Snake oil salesmen? Too many to count.  We preach innovations and have lofty philosophical discussions about zero-injuries and other gobbledygook that makes us FEEL like we are advancing the function but in the end it’s just ones and zeros on an electronic display and it has about as much impact as one could expect, which is to say none.

We talk about lowering risk, without so much as a basic understanding of probability or statistics or even risks.  We make shit up and float it by an audience and if it finds it palatable it becomes part of the tool kit. We slap a new label on a defunct and debunked methodology and trot it out like  we went out in the rain and discovered wet.

Who are we? What is our role? I have always said my role is to help people from the C-suite to the “see? Sweep” to make informed choices about their safety. I go so far as to correct people who say, “you’re here to keep us safe”. I tell them that the best way they can lower their risk of injuries is to make better choices, and I am here to help guide them in those choices. Of course it depends on the situation, but in general that is my philosophy, Years ago, I had a nasty exchange with one of  the more belligerent workers (he always made a mockery of anything I said) I said, “I ain’t your mama, I ain’t your boss, Hell, I ain’t even your friend. I just met you and if you are harboring some half-baked grade-school grudge against authority take it somewhere else because if you ignore my advice and you end up dead I won’t shed a tear. But I WON”T have you undermining my advice to the other workers.” I stopped dead. I’m a hot head, but I generally don’t treat the people on a client site this way. I resolved to take whatever consequences came my way. He walked away, more embarrassed than angry. I felt bad. I wouldn’t have wanted to be treated that way and I don’t like to treat people the way I don’t like to be treated. The next day he showed up on site with a new lease on life.  He apologized in front of the same construction crew he so often had mocked me. When I started to reciprocate his apology he stopped me cold. “No,” he said, “don’t apologize you were in the right and I was in the wrong. I could have gotten someone killed.” He went on to tell the crew (who had no idea what had transpired between us) that I was a “wealth of information on safety and if they were smart they would listen to me.” I still feel ashamed of how I handled it and told him so. He responded that if I had responded to him in any other way it wouldn’t have had any effect on him whatsoever. That was the birth of my, stand-my ground, safety jerk, in-your-face style of which one or two of you are so fond, but at which so many more of you cluck tongues and shake your heads as you dismiss me because of my tone, or grammar (if you find typos feel free to cut/paste my blog into Gammerly and sit in smug satisfaction.

You people seem to forget that this is academic to me.  Both my grandfathers died from injuries sustained on the job.  They died a decade or more before I was born. Remember YOUR grandpa? Remember all the good times you had? Not me.  That was stolen from me. I have lost friends, a great uncle, neighbors, and coworkers to workplace injuries. How about your dad? Mine died from mesothelioma. Next time you barbecue with your dad think of what I wouldn’t give to have just one more barbecue with mine. Or my brother-in-law, part of my family since I was 8 or 9 who died of silicosis, the most gentle, generous, and goodhearted person I’ve ever known, killed by his job; I wouldn’t mind another conversation with him. So to those of you who think my tone is too harsh, or not academic enough, I ask you: What TONE AM i SUPPOSED TO TAKE?

I guess I’m just thick.  I used to think that people who were outraged by senseless, stupid injuries on the jobs that killed temp workers the first hour of their first day of their first job out numbered the smug asshats who referred to the people working in factories, and on oil rigs, or in mines, as yard monkeys, or factory rats, or whatever pejorative term your industry chooses to throw at them.  I have met some of the smartest (and dumbest) people I know when I was working the line. I WAS WRONG. I still here, “well if the imbecile would have just done the job like he was supposed to…?” Of course no one has the balls to say that to the next of kin. “I’m really sorry Mrs. Wiseman but your son just screwed up. When you think about it’s his own fault for not going going to college.”  

I have no desire to be a safety cop. I have no desire to protect the company by fighting workers’ compensation claims.  I just want to help people make informed decisions about their safety and I’m damned good at it. But as for continuing to spend money (I actually figured out how much it cost me to travel to conferences since my first one in 2006, and it came out to over $70,000 a lot of it subsidized by employers, but even that has its own costs—like them wanting to see sales come out of my appearance (which, given I am not selling gloves doesn’t happen). I am done with speaking for free and pretty fed up with writing for free.  Forget being a thought leader…there’s no money in it (or respect for that matter.).

Okay, it’s time to get off your asses and buy both my books. I have been writing this blog since 2006 and refusing ads (although WordPress my stick its own in) In January, 2019 I announced the release by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.) It’s important that you read it; if you’re not part of the solution than you ARE the problem.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble  Thanks to you who have already purchased it.

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

And if you still haven’t purchased first book, what the Hell are you waiting for? It is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

An Unkind Word Does Not A Bully Make

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Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

A couple of weeks back I witnessed an exchange that has stuck with me. A loudmouth blob of a man who looked to be one Whopper away from a fatal coronary called an equally fit man he obviously knew over to him to come closer under the guise that he had something to show him. When the second man approached the first man attempted to slap him. When the first man saw the reaction he whined “that guy bullied me on the last job!!! He called me names on the radio!!! He bullied me!

He looked at me for support. I looked at him and said “yes and you attempted to physically assault him. Bullying won’t get you put in jail, but assault will.”

I encountered the man several other times and he was always bellyaching about some perceived injustice he had suffered; always in that same whiny tone that made me want to choke him out. I know I shouldn’t admit to that but it’s simple biology his distress calls of a wounded animal triggered my predator instincts. I had the sense to avoid him. 

The whole experience got me wondering about the overreaction to workplace bullying. I am a product of playground politics and it served me well. I’ve been a brawler as long as I can remember, a farm kid with little adult supervision living by the “snitches end up in ditches” code. Whether with words, fists, or teeth I learned to fight back. Make yourself a target live as a target. 

But fighting, teasing, or name-calling isn’t bullying. Those of you were bullied know the difference. Bullying isn’t a single incident, it’s a pattern of behavior. So if someone asks you if they cut men’s hair (if you’re a man) at the place you got your haircut you’re expected to come back with a pithy response that shuts the person up; it shows you’re one of the gang. This isn’t bullying; it’s camaraderie. 

I suppose to some extent bullying is in the eye of the beholder…or is it?  I believe that for something to constitute bullying the same acid test—at least in part—that we use to determine whether or not inappropriate workplace behavior crosses the threshold and becomes sexual harassment. For behavior to be legally considered sexual harassment there are several tests. Quid Pro Quo harassment, where someone promises something in return for sexual favors is always harassment and to apply that to bullying is, in my mind, a stretch. But the other tests remain:

  1. Has the victim made it clear that the behavior is unwanted and unwelcome?
  2. Does the behavior continue after it has been made clear that it is unwanted and unwelcome?
  3. Is it a pattern of behavior?
  4. Has the bullied person done anything to invite the bullying (retaliation, obnoxious behavior directed at the alleged bully,etc.)?
  5. Does the person have a physical advantage or financial power over you that makes it impossible to fight back?

I’m not endorsing inappropriate workplace behavior, but PU-LEEZ can we just get over ourselves? If someone comes up to you and says something insulting you should just tell them that you don’t appreciate being spoken to in that way, and you want the other person to address you respectfully or not at all…and then let it go.  But that’s typically not what happens. When someone acts like a jerk to us, we tend to have a natural tendency to strike back and probably escalate the dysfunction. If two people are engaged in “tit-for-tat” dysfunction neither of the parties can cry “bullying” when by all reasonable measure both parties involved invited the behavior to some extent.

As a child, I was taught to fight back.  My parents would not condone bullying but they equally unsympathetic to a crybaby who didn’t fight back. I was a little guy with a big mouth (not much has changed) and fights weren’t just likely, they were inevitable. The playground is about pecking order, and if you allowed someone to pick on you, you were going to spend your life on the run. Or you could stand and fight back and even if you got your ass handed to you, you were generally left alone after that because the onlookers knew that while they may be able to take you, you were certainly going to get your licks in.

As I grew up I fought less and less physically and words became my weapons.  I learned how to get to the core of what really bothered a bully and would use that to make them feel bad enough so that they would leave me alone. Of course, there was always once or twice where the humiliated bully would charge at me, but by then I already had the upper hand and won the fight easily. It’s hard to win a fight when you are in a heightened emotional state.

But workplace bullying isn’t the playground, and too many people don’t know how to deal with aggressive behavior in an assertive way. Running to HR because a coworker calls you a name (excluding racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation remarks), but you should be assertive and let them know that you don’t like the way they are speaking to you. If they persist, ask them point-blank what is it in their fragile self-image that makes you a threat to them? I’m not saying that you should provoke them, rather, I am suggesting that perhaps moving beyond the hurt feelings of the seven-year-old child inside, you grow up and act like a professional.

It has come to my attention that some of you have not yet purchased a copy of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. What in the living hell are you waiting for? This book is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)

Buy it. If not for you, then for someone you love.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights. The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rainforest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

Is it wrong?

That I give less and less a shit about safety every minute of every day? Persist in your stupidity. It is your right.

I Don’t Even Know Who We Are Anymore

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Phil La Duke

Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

As many of you surely know by know, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) turned down the inclusion of my books in their library; I was disappointed—not just because that would exponentially increase sales, or even that in the case of Lone Gunman there is a real chance that it could save lives—no, what disappointed me the most was the response of ASSP.  I have a lot of respect for ASSP and the rebuff made me reconsider the role of professional societies and their purpose. That cascaded quickly into me questioning whether or not we as a profession (and I have to tell you that some of the thought leaders in Safety have taken me to task for even describing those who work in safety as “professionals”) have a unified view of the role of Safety in an organization, to whit: are we simply the people who enforce regulations and kiss boo-boos or are we people who challenge ourselves to do better? 

The actual rejection read:

“The primary reason was the overall tone. We know that you don’t pull any punches in your blog and presentations. The sometimes colorful language and in-your-face approach are contrary to the more neutral approach we take as a society. The other books we carry may not be as provocative as yours, but they are more traditional and what members expect from publications we publish or sell.” (Emphasis in bold is my addition)

Let me state for the record, ASSP and the National Safety Council can reject any work that they choose and I (and any others who have their work rejected) don’t have a write to complain about it. These organizations have a responsibility to their members and that may extend to politely declining to carry my book. I don’t get to be mad at the rejection and I am not. Truth be told I wasn’t really expecting that they would carry it, but figured it was worth a try. 

None-the-less I was deeply troubled by the response. Lone Gunman deals with the very real problem of workplace violence, which, a) differs completely from mass shootings and b) tends to increase as mass shootings are all over the news. In short, people right now are at risk and the risk is predictable and for the most part preventable.  What is the appropriate tone when talking about women being butchered by their estranged husbands and boyfriends? How can I adopt a more neutral approach to calling out the murder of employers by mentally unhinged homicidal maniacs? 

They also mentioned that the reviewers pointed to a lack of citation for fact-based conclusions. This is my fault completely, because although the citations for each of my facts are clearly labeled (albeit some are embedded in the chart titles and others are at the end of the book (my publisher’s idea, not mine)) they aren’t easy to find and don’t follow a conventional style guide. My only defense is that I am not writing text books and ostensibly that’s not what the organization is selling.  It is a valid reason for not including my books in their catalog, and again, I have no legitimate gripe.

It was the last line of the rejection that hit me like a gut punch: “The other books we carry may not be as provocative as yours, but they are more traditional and what members expect from publications we publish or sell.” WTF? Seriously? So because my book isn’t pablum that tells people in Safety that “all is well and stay the course” it has no place in the discourse in the safety community? The message I took from this is my books rock the boat and the people who buy from their library want upbeat, life affirming, books about all the good things that are Safety. 

This has me wondering whether or not I have a place in Worker Safety or at very least should I continue providing free reading material.  I have always viewed my role as providing workers, managers, and senior leaders with the information they need to make informed decisions about their safety.  I don’t delude myself into thinking that I am a lifeguard or that I am a policeman or that I am following some higher calling, and I will continue to call out in harsh tones and colorful language those who do. I am hated by some for it, but I don’t know these people and they don’t know me so hate away (chances are if I met you I wouldn’t like you much either.)

So again I ask, “WHO ARE WE?” Do we only read materials and listen to speakers who tell us things that reassure us that we are doing a good job? Do we only want to think about saving lives and getting a blue ribbon like a prize pig at the State fair? I spend hours writing blogs, articles, and books all on my own time and my own dime.  My employer doesn’t pay me to write these articles in fact, my employer should never be judged for anything I say or do in these areas because they neither commission my work nor see it before it is published, and most don’t even see it then. I have constructed a hard wall between my personal life and my professional life. I recently put in some long days working as a Production Safety Consultant on a major theatrical release film, and come Tuesday will be back on an equally exciting gig doing the same for another major film; in short, I have a rich and deeply fulfilling job working for a global company that I like and respect and for the most part that likes and respects me.  So why continue doing this? Why keep crashing a party where I am clearly unwelcome and uninvited. I feel like the guy who goes to the same restaurant every day and complains about the food—eventually the owner doesn’t want to hear it any more and will tell me not to come back.

My intent is not to single out ASSP either, after nine presentations in eight years the National Safety Council has decided that I am no longer welcome. The reason is one of the most simple-minded verbal drooling put to paper.  The NSC changed their selection process and began by looking at the evaluations of all the previous speakers. I scored in the top half of the evaluations of all speakers. They then divided the remaining speakers in half. I was in the lower half of this group.  Why? Not my presentation style which was scored as one of the highest, nor my knowledge of the subject, in fact nothing in my presentation style. How then could I score in the lower half of the top half you might be wondering? My topics. Really? I would send as many as 36 abstracts to the NSC and THEY CHOSE THE TOPICS. So I have to believe I am effectively black listed by the NSC for something other than what I have been told. To be fair, the NSC has never commented except to say I am welcome to submit abstracts for future consideration. (as if there was retroactive consideration) I was initially disappointed, but realized that unlike the ASSP who is generally gracious to its speakers the NSC always acted as if it was doing its speakers and vendors a favor by allowing them to participate (speakers are unpaid, pay their own travel expenses, and are given a free entrance to the event).

Yes I provoke. I irritate the establishment. I call ‘em like I see ‘em. But I don’t pick a fight just for shits and giggles. I don’t spend my weekends at my keyboard looking to irritate the more uptight and sanctimonious among our trade. I do it because I thought I made a difference, at least I used to think that. I used to do it because a handful of you would tell me that while you didn’t always agree with me, I always made you think.  Now I do it mostly out of habit.  What we do is too important for us to sit in our offices and argue about academic crap like is zero injuries attainable? I can tell you this, without a doubt we can never attain anything approaching zero injuries as long as we only seek out opinions that support our world view and get off our asses and engage with people.

So I am not angry with ASSP, although they might well black list me too, that’s their right, and if they do, well at least I understand why: because YOU have told them that you don’t want to hear about ugly topics like workplace violence, and YOU have created the impression in them that YOU don’t want to learn, that YOU are more interested in the alphabet after your name than helping people to learn to make better decisions about their safety, that YOU can’t handle a harsh tone or the merest insulation that you might not be doing a perfect job.  Professional organizations have a responsibility to their membership to provide what the members say they need and want, so if you tell them that you want a neutral tone on an ugly and urgent topic they don’t have a choice: they have to provide you with palatable crap that you will buy; that’s the job that YOU have defined for them and demand of them.

Recently I asked an editor who I respect greatly (and who has published 80-some articles I have penned) to tell me the truth about my books, specifically “is my baby ugly” (although both are selling well, so well in fact that Amazon and Barnes & Noble sometimes have trouble keeping up with demand), and here’s what he had to say: “You write like Hunter S. Thompson and people read his work for the love of the language. But while Thompson wrote on broad topics of interest to a large audience (Nixon, Hell’s Angels, Drug Use) you rewrite to technical professionals who are only interested in being told the procedure for doing x.  That’s why it was always so challenging editing your stuff—I was never quite sure if the piece was meant to be instructive or to share your view of the world. You need to decide whether you want to write staid, boring, technical/procedural stuff for an audience of technical people who lack taste or imagination, or share your twisted view of the world for intelligent, enlightened, and curious people who will love taking the journey with you.”

I am a firm believer in the second line of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If “if you can trust yourself while all men doubt you, while still allowing for the doubting too.” I have listened to my friend and editor/publisher and I reject the idea that all safety professionals are humorless drones incapable of taking the journey with me. It’s just a shame that the ones who are seem to be setting the agenda for the discussions around safety.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

 

Mass Shootings Aren’t the Same As Workplace Violence Events

dangerous crime safety security

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

I have been writing magazine articles and blogging for over 13 years and my tone has remained essentially the same: caustic, sarcastic, and angry.  My father died prematurely of mesothelioma. My brother-in-law (an integral part of my family for as long as I can remember) died of silicosis. Both my grandfathers died on the job, as well as a great uncle. My brother suffered a serious head injury which erased much of his memory of his childhood. My other brother’s best friend died after being scalded to death on the job. A childhood acquaintance of mine fell into a vat of acid and took over a week to die. My friend and colleague died after a surgery to correct an injury he had suffered thirty years prior, and I have lost count of how many people I knew who died on the job or from industrial illnesses.  

I have a right to be angry.  I am angry at middle managers who see dying at work as part of the job. I’m angry at the snake oil salesmen who see the death and misery only as a means of making a profit. They pollute the landscape of industry with convoluted theories and obtuse models. I’m angry at safety people who say they are doing the best that they can when what they mean is I am making a good living punching a clock. And I am angry at professional organizations that only want to promote the status quo.

I’m tired of people standing on the sidelines shrugging and asking, “What do you want me to do?” I want people to get in the game. Not just people with “safety” in their titles but the people who run the mills, and mines, and oil rigs, and warehouses. I want people to care about the fact that homicide has jumped from the ninth leading cause of death in the workplace to the sixth leading cause. I could scream at all the people rushing to provide training on how to survive a workplace violence event by telling people things appropriate to mass shootings.  Everyone of these drooling, greedy, slime-balls see mass shootings as a commercial for their snake oil, and giving people bad advice is worse than giving people no advice.

The conventional wisdom of protecting yourself against workplace violence is: run, hide, fight back.  While this might be good advice for a mass shooting it is stupid advice for a workplace shooter. Some smug turd might want to argue with me on this, but mass shootings are largely unpredictable and attacks on soft targets will remain attractive to domestic terrorists.  The mass shooter wants to kill many people and while they may espouse some ideology, the reality is that these people are just murderous scum who want to kill people.

The lone gunman in the workplace (over 80% are committed by men with guns) has a specific target or targets of his rage.  He is typically going to kill either his boss/HR manager or more likely kill his estranged wife or girlfriend. If you aren’t either of these people, and don’t try to intervene chances are you aren’t going to be harmed.  That doesn’t mean you can relax, however. Unlike a mass shooting, workplace violence is predictable and largely preventable, although it remains outside the purview of the typical Safety Function.

Here are some things companies can do to reduce their risk of a workplace shooting: (lifted from my book Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention )

Predict

Preventing workplace violence begins with recruiting, and it is easy enough to weed out those who are likely to lose it and shoot up the place. It is more sensitive, but no less important to identify and protect, potential targets of workplace violence.  These days the best place to figure out who someone REALLY is to go to their social media accounts. If a person posts, or allows his friends to post, hate speech you have to ask yourself if that is someone you want on your team. Another indicators is belligerence, I tend to prod and poke my audience in an effort to get them to think. It’s my job. But if you are considering someone to work in accounting, they probably don’t have to be a provocateur to make the math work.  Similarly, volatile posts where a person flies into a rage when someone disagrees with him or her can indicate someone who has a bad temper and you can extrapolate from there what they will be like when someone eats their tuna sandwich. There are a lot more predictors in my book, but I’ve learned that people today when they can steal, but I would like to give you one more indicator: no social media presence. Erasing your social media page, using a pseudonym (here’s a hint, look for someone’s name spelled backwards or someone using their middle name as his or her last name). In short, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to weed out the hot tempered and the crazies.  Speaking of that, an ex employer of mine has implemented a zero crazy hiring policy. He has all his key staff interview a candidate and if anyone smells crazy the candidate is not hired.

Prevention

Prevention does stop with a perusal of one’s social media, a background check (including a look at the national domestic violence database, sex offender registry, and active criminal tracking systems is important.  These are all free and all it takes is a couple of keystrokes.

The interview process has to change dramatically if you are going to weed out the predators and protect the prey, but if you want to know how, reach your grubby little hand into your wallet and buy the book.

The book contains a lot more—and given that I have written articles on this subject for Professional Safety magazine, ISHN, Entrepreneur, and Thrust Global—I think I have given you enough free advice for one week. I hope you will buy the book, it has become a passion project for me. It wouldn’t kill you to pick up a copy of I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business too, but after giving you free advice for 13 years for no compensation (except for some ice cleats for which I am forever grateful) I can’t honestly see anyone decided to pay for something for which they feel entitled.

I am proud to announce my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. has been released by Marriah Publishing. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.) I’m proud of this book because it really can help you save lives, maybe even your own.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain forest

and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

Resilience Is the Only Way To Combat Fatigue

man in green jacket leaning head on blue case

Photo by Marcelo Chagas on Pexels.com

by Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted and no, I am not off somewhere pouting.  I just spent two weeks on a movie shoot in the capacity of a Production Safety Consultant. A lot of readers don’t really know what I do and assume I am either a full-time author or some academic who pontificates about safety but never gets in the trenches; nothing could be farther than the truth.

The truth is I am a consultant and am primarily focused on making large-scale organizational changes focused on safety, but even this doesn’t really encapsulate what I do. I can be on a movie set one day, in a mine the next, on an upstream oil & gas rig the next week, and in a factory or warehouse after that. I do everything from research to building organizational infrastructures, so that, in a rather large nutshell is what I do to keep my dogs in biscuits. In my free time, I write, tweet, and blog.  (I just published 8 articles in Authority magazine.) And I speak.

Last month I spoke at the ASSP Safety 2019 in New Orleans on Worker Fatigue, and while the reviews were generally positive, I had some people whine that I didn’t magically solve all their problems with a couple of slick bullet points.  What’s worse is they are right, there is scarce little that the safety profession can do about worker fatigue—it is simply outside their power or expertise.

Now I am feeling fatigued.

This isn’t going to be a whiny, “woe-is-me” post about how hard life is. Life IS hard. But, life is a damned-sight harder for most than I have it and to complain about just feels ungrateful and dare I say it? sinful.

I won’t go into the symptoms of fatigue but they are serious and they can cause long-term health issues from obesity to liver failure. All I will say is fatigued is more than being tired; it’s more than being exhausted. Fatigue is that bone-weary feeling accompanied by a vague feeling of hopelessness that you will know when you feel it.

Fatigue is caused by prolonged stress and  as I wrote some time ago, “(t)he link between stress and illness is scientifically well-established. Recent research into fatigue and sleep deprivation has found strong links between worker fatigue and injuries, impaired judgment, and at-risk behavior.  In a study 2007 conducted by Vegso et al researchers found an 88% increased risk of an incident for individuals working more than 64 hours a week. As employers try to do more work with fewer workers, workers are often forced to work while sleep-deprived. As workers tire they make more mistakes and riskier choices, are less likely to comply with rules, and may become combative.”

Resiliency Is the Answer

In layman’s terms resiliency is a person’s ability to bounce back from a traumatic event. Some of you may be thinking that describing one’s job as a “traumatic event” is just the melodramatic complaining of a malcontent, but that is precisely what many jobs are.  Despite all the research and findings that fatigue is a killer companies continue to literally work the employees to death.

More and more companies are implementing resiliency programs but it is too soon to see how effective these programs actually are.  To scientifically judge the effectiveness of a resilience program you would need a control group and most would agree that doing nothing to battle chronic fatigue would be immoral. So what can we say to our executive suites, how can we justify a resiliency program with no empirical evidence that such an approach would work.

At the risk of sounding soft in the head, we really need to take hard look at how we view workers and work.  When we put profit before people any money spent on the health and well-being of the people is considered waste as it consumes resources and does not add intrinsic value to the products or services delivered.

I am quick to criticize people for simple-minded solutions, so let me turn that lens on my self for just a moment and analyze what I wrote on the subject for OH Professional in 2018:

“Tips for building resilience:

  • Maintain an optimistic outlook.  No matter what the stress one is under the optimist can always see the silver lining.  Train yourself to avoid falling into the trap where you try to shield yourself from disappointment by focusing on the good in the situation.  Years ago I was a chronic complainer. I would gripe about poor service i restaurants and complain about long lines, and well…just about anything you can imagine. One day I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired so I made a commitment to myself: from that point forward I would compliment three times more frequently than I complained (and I still complain a lot) it was hard at first (especially because I decided that I wanted to compliment with as much ferocity as I did when I complained.  Soon I found myself getting better service and people treated me better. I approached situations expecting the best and when I did I generally got the best. When I complimented I started getting everything from a free drink to an upgrade on my hotel room or seat on an airplane. And most of all it allowed me to bounce back from a bad mood.” How much different is this than for the safety person to tell people just to cheer up?  This is great advice for safety professionals who are feeling fatigued, but for someone who is already fatigued it’s like saying, “look on the bright side…” or “it could be worse…” in my worst moments I never felt better after someone said these things to me. In fact, I resented it. I resented it a lot.
  • “Get in shape. Yes, I know I sound like your nagging doctor but it’s true. Eat right and maintain a healthy weight.  You need not run marathons or spend hours working out at the gymnasium to build physical resilience but a relaxing stroll in the evening air or the leisure activity of your choosing (provided that it provides at least some physical benefit). And don’t think of exercise as a punishment—think of it as an investment in your ability to avoid illnesses and injuries and to recover more quickly in those cases where you were unable to avoid the illness or injury.”  Did you ever try to lose weight when the stress in life was unbearable? Forget avoiding comfort food, there are physiological responses to stress that cause it to become more difficult to lose weight.  Simply telling people that they need to get into shape is like telling someone they need to be taller. Few people ENJOY being out of shape but what can we as safety guys do to get people in shape? If they won’t listen to their healthcare providers, and caring family members, 
  • “Build healthy and close relationships. Paula Davis-Laack J.D., M.A.P.P., in her article Seven Things Resilient Employees Do Differently: The important ways developing resilience helps you work better in Psychology Today, (October 2004)” One big building block of resilience is a connection, but not just any old connection. High-quality relationships are critical to resilience. According to business and psychology professor, Dr. Jane Dutton, there are four distinct pathways for building high-quality connections at work. The first is respectfully engaging others by communicating sportively and being an effective listener. Second, facilitate another person’s success with guidance, recognition, and support. Third, build trust, which can be done by relying on another person to follow through on projects and other commitments. Finally, have moments of play. Play evokes positive emotions and is often associated with creativity and innovation (Dutton & Spreitzer, 2014). Work can be a serious place, but so many workplaces take the world far too seriously.”” So you have me working 12 hour days, 7 days a week and I have a 90 minute commute  that leaves me 11 hours and I am tired, physically drained, and cranky. You also tell me to get a good 8 hours sleep, and assuming 30 minutes to shower and otherwise prepare to go to sleep, and add another hour for breakfast and dinner that leaves around an hour to get in shape and build healthy and close relationship. I don’t even have time to take a decent bathroom break and you want me to make new friends? Not likely.
  • “Stay away from mental “junk food’.  Instead of spending hours with your nose in your phone reading the latest trash talk on an anti-social network seek out quotes or stories that inspire you.  When you feel good mentally you tend to feel better physically.” This one is easy, if you have time to linger on social media you probably aren’t fatigued.
  • “Forgive someone.  Life is too short to carry around bitterness and hatred, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. So if you want to be truly resilient find a grudge that you have been carrying and let it go.  Remember sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.” Here again, we aren’t likely to be in the state of mind where forgiveness comes easily.  We are living in an id state, ready to snap at the first provocation.

So what’s the answer?
The time for building resilience is BEFORE you have a problem and that is a hard sell for many of us.  Everyone seems to believe they are one lottery ticket away from becoming a millionaire, and leaders of organizations are no different.  COOs don’t respond to “what ifs?” most are more of the “if it aint broke don’t fix it” school of thought. Unfortunately, once we’ve broken the worker, we can’t easily fix him or her.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Buy this book it may save your life or the life of a loved one. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.) It was recently turned down for inclusion by a major safety trade organization’s catalog because I didn’t take enough of a neutral tone. So apparently I should have tried harder to represent the pro-gun violence in the workplace point of view. Sorry I won’t do that.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.