I Am Not Your Mother

By Phil LaDuke

For the last couple of months I have been working with various construction crews. Each crew is run by a different supervisor and/or Union leader. I am responsible for safety on the sites I visit and for the most part these crew members to an individual are professional, courteous, and compliant with the rules, but I have found that with many and most of them that I have to preface my interaction with them, with “I’m not your typical safety guy. I’m not here to protect you, to save your life, or to police your behaviors. My job is to give you the information that you will need to make safer choices, what you do with that information is up to you. I’m not your mother, I’m not your boss, and I’m not some crazy safety super-hero crusader. I’m here to have your back, not ride on it.”

This satisfies most of the workers that I am on their side; that I clearly don’t want to die, want them to die, or for me to go to jail because they did something stupid. I’ve built a rapport with these guys (which, by the way is a general neutral term: look it up) and they now feel comfortable with me as a trusted advisor and partner in making decisions that carry minimal risk. All this got me wondering how the world sees the safety guy and how we see ourselves. When our visions are in sync good things happen, or more accurately bad things don’t happen, but when our visions are misaligned—say when we see ourselves as the safety cop and they see us as people who have no real power or authority to discipline them in any way, never mind fire them.

I have openly criticized the old school safety practitioners, and I meant every word I said. I think a handful of narcissistic opportunists more concerned with selling their snake oil have done irreparable harm to worker safety. They have devalued the safety “brand” we all share and as a result companies openly laugh at OSHA, ask “what happens if we don’t?” when told that the law requires them to do this or that, and generally treat the safety practitioner as the village idiot.

We have created the impression in many industries that it’s safety OR production and that is a tough paradigm to break, but we have to. So let me begin by speaking just for myself, let me just say:
I do not save lives. I have never once saved someone’s life. Have I stopped someone from working on energized equipment because it wasn’t locked out? Numerous times, but that a far cry from running into a burning building and pulling an unconscious worker out of a burning building. If tell people that I save lives that makes me a liar and a delusional blowhard. I have helped workers to make choices that may or may not have saved their lives; I can never know for sure.

I have not prevented a single injury. The closest I have come to preventing an injury is removing the physical hazards I find in the workplace, and talking to people about ways to work more safely. I have designed entire safety systems that have greatly reduced the duration of exposure to hazards, and while there is a strong correlation between my work and strong safety improvement, there is no proof of a cause and effect between what I do and the results that the organizations have seen.

I am not the safety cop. It’s not my job to catch workers violating safety rules and tattle. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that the rules are followed and that there are appropriate consequences when they workers violate the safety rules. I have neither the authority nor the power to fire anyone, and in fact, firing someone often involves a complex chain of events that includes Human Resources, supervisors, and even executives.

I am paid to keep the show going. Beyond all the platitudes and sanctimonious bullshit I get paid by the company, not so much to protect workers from harm because it’s the right thing to do, as I am to keep bad things from happening to the company, its executives, and its shareholders. Worker injuries and their related costs are perhaps the biggest waste and impediment to success in business today, and the reason my job exists is to reduce that waste as much as possible and keep operations humming along efficiently.

I am only as good as the workers’ decisions. I can’t achieve a good safety record for the company unless workers at all levels want it. That means that my performance is only as good as the decisions made by front-line workers, supervisors, middle managers, and executives. I do my best every day to be there for the workers, to have their backs and to help them make safer choices, but if I fail to persuade workers of the importance of the decisions they make or if I fail to give them the tools and skills to make the smart choices the consequences may cripple their body but ultimately they cripple my soul.

There is No Room In Safety For Cowards


By Phil La Duke

Cowardice is impotence worse than violence. The coward desires revenge but being afraid to die, he looks to others maybe to the government of the day, to do the work of defense for him, A coward is less than a man. He does not deserve to be a member of a society of men and women.”—Mahatma Gandhi

Today a watched one of the best produced, engaging and funny safety video, perhaps the best internally produced video I have ever seen; it was used by a major corporation to orient visitors to the dangers endemic to a manufacturing environment. That’s right, I said “used”. The video was killed by an executive, not because it wasn’t effective—quite the contrary, even with a running time of just over nine minutes the viewers were consistently engaged throughout the piece and what’s more they retained far more than is ordinarily the case. In fact, to this day people still talk about the video and its message.

The video wasn’t offensive—far from it—it employed the kinds of sight gags and ridiculous illustrations that Delta uses in its pre-flight safety videos. It )wasn’t offensive, anyway, to anyone who wasn’t deliberately looking to take offense, so why did the executive kill it? Because it was funny (not in poor taste, just funny) and perhaps more importantly because he was an executive and he could.

Forget for a moment the money spent to produce a polished video.   Forget that it was effective and got people talking about safety. Forget that people liked it. The executive, drunk on his or her power, just said “no”.

In another post I have openly promoting Improv Training which offers the same brand entertain to retain philosophy. Gary Alexander the genius (and I don’t banter that term around lightly) behind the traffic safety school that used humor to get the students to tolerate, and in many cases, enjoy something they would otherwise dread. But Improv Training still struggles with sales of its first offering—Making Safer Decisions—and I am at a loss to explain why. I’ve seen every moment of it and admire how he has taken micro lessons to the next level. They can be used as messaging, as a course, or as elements of a course (instructor-led or CBT).

I know as I write this that many of you will cite examples of how you have used examples of humor in your safety training. Some of it will be genius and some of it will be tripe, but those of you who do have one thing in common: courage.

What kind of stupidity and cowardice does it show when one will not do something that is far more effective because someone MIGHT be offended? The essence of humor (or writing for that matter) is risking someone offending someone. And that’s what safety is all about, taking risks.

Safety isn’t for cowards, and avoiding humor because it might offend someone because a flight attendant uses a ridiculous example, Pamela Anderson gives advice on how to make better decision, or because some power drunk executive doesn’t like it is the height of cowardice. We are overstocked with cowards in safety, and before you try to convince yourselves the bad pun you made as using humor in training I say to you that unless you are doing something that truly scares you in the attempt to help people make better, safer decisions you are a stinking coward. I’ve never regretted the times I’ve crossed the line and got my ass chewed out for taking a joke too far, but I still hang my head in shame for the times that I backed down from using humor that I knew would forever prove a point but was too chicken to tell the joke because I saw the reproaching face of someone I knew was looking to take offense. For example, I once got called into the executive’s over my department (when I worked in training) who didn’t like the fact that I had named my policy book “The Training Cookbook” and had a picture on the cover. The new, sub-human puss bag of a CEO who, I later learned was brought in to gut and sell the company, didn’t think it looked professional. This pile of human excrement expressed his disapproval by writing “What’s this ‘gobble gobble shit’?” on a PostIt note and sending it to my exec. My exec apologized and said that the new CEO was a bully and a body part most people don’t want to be called. (My secretary rightly observed that he looked like a fat Hitler (Hitler was a vegetarian and very health conscious,) and he did) Anyway, my executive suggested that it would just be easier to change it. I replaced the cover with a plain grey cover with the company’s name and the title Training Procedures.) I’ve always regretted knuckling under. I was afraid I would lose my job and as it turns out it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway—had I stayed until the sale my company would have cast me away anything. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes to be sure, but being too close to the edge in terms of humor isn’t one of them.

Monty Python legend John Cleese once said that (at the National American Society of Training & Development Annual meeting) “Training Need Not Be Somber” (to be effective)—years later I saw a very tired John Cleese speak at a Training Convention where he phoned in a very important message: that if what you are doing is fresh, and innovative, and important, the establishment will try to shut it down, but if it’s truly important and worth doing, it’s worth standing up and defending.


Luck: The Most Effective Tool In the Safety Pracitioner’s Toolbox

By Phil La Duke

First let me apologize for the late post. I wasn’t lollygagging on Holiday,  I am in the middle of two computer crashes and another that is coughing up blood.  I’m not sure this week’s post is worth the wait but here goes.

On Saturday there was one explosion particularly loud. Despite being the Fourth of July weekend this particular explosion wasn’t a firecracker or skyrocket, rather a natural gas explosion at a DTE (the company founded when Michigan Consolidated Gas and Detroit Edison merged to form DTE Energy) training center. For me it underscores what I have been preaching for the last three weeks: SAFETY ON PURPOSE.

I think most of us would feel pretty safe in a training center of a company of one of the safest companies around, but it underscores the point that things happen and I am not prepared to trace it back to the behavior that may have caused this explosion. My point is a major catastrophe happened (fortunately on a Saturday when the building was vacant) and there is no one to blame, not the workers, not leadership, not even the admiral’s cat, and certainly not the culture. It leaves me wondering what would have been the death toll (the building was a total loss) had this happened during a big training event. The only difference between this being a local inconvenience and a national headline is luck.  No one was harmed (as far as any news report can tell me) and nobody did a damned thing to prevent these injuries.

Zero injuries should be a wakeup call for company that has them, heck, LOW injury rates should alert us that we are doing something either very right or very wrong. On one hand we may truly have done something that has caused us to create a safe work environment, but without knowing what that is we can only sporadically repeat it, on the other hand we may have just been lucky and the results we are achieving are just are workers beating the odds or the works are so full of fear that they don’t report injuries

It’s Not the Crime; It’s the Cover Up

When we think of what I am calling “Safety On Purpose” I’m referring to an active approach to drive safety. Certainly, the idea that companies need to “drive safety” isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t original.  But I wonder how much we really drive safety instead passively waiting for safety (or injuries) to happen.  .  Invariably this kind of talk leads to a discussion of “culture”. I keep hearing people bellyaching about the culture, and the need to create a “safety culture”.  (The worst thing the great James Reason did, is coin the term Safety Culture, one of his steps toward what he described as a “Just Culture”.  Reason believed the key to successful ethical governance was through the creation of a culture of justice where people were only disciplined for truly reckless and criminal acts.  But before one can create a “Just Culture” organizations must create a “safety culture”, in other words, a culture where people feel safe admitting mistakes, can be forth coming with the details of the their mistakes. Reason once said, “Errors plus blame equals criminality”[1]  What Reason was saying, is that by creating a climate of fear—we all make mistakes, in fact one study suggests that the average person makes five mistakes a day[2]—people will not admit mistakes and will actively conceal them. In industries like the healthcare, aviation, or the nuclear energy concealing mistakes can be catastrophic and devastating, but in all other industries unless we create a culture where it is safe to tell the truth without fear or repercussion we will never get perfect—or even good—information on injuries.  So let us not forget that we all participate in the corporate culture and we all have to work to actively create a culture worth having.

One of the characteristics of a culture of fear is the blood in the pocket syndrome. This phenomenon is where workers will conceal their injuries from their employers either out of fear of discipline, or more likely out of the fear of the loss of some incentive, not just for themselves, but for their coworkers as well.  I have never visited a workplace where a culture of fear openly existed where the safety practitioners didn’t deny any possibility of under-reporting.

Creating the Desired Culture Takes Work

Some reading this will immediately point their fingers at leadership, and moan that if the leaders don’t support them then they can never change the culture. Leaders, for their part, wring their hands and scratch their heads and wonder why they can’t seem to change the culture no matter what they do. Workers for their parts wait patiently for the great change to come…but it never does. Culture exists whether we manage it or not; it’s that simple. The only question remains is “is this a culture we want?”

A Bit About Cultures

Cultures are (for those of us who have spent a fair amount time studying them) the shared values, norms, and belief about what is acceptable behaviors (I see this as different than norms, because something can be a norm but people can still see it as unacceptable behavior). Think of cultures of corporate habits.  All organizations of seven people or more have a culture, and those organizations place a relative importance on safety.  Think of a family with two parents and five kids; this family will have a largely unspoken code of behavior. In this family there are shared values (and just like in a larger organization these values lie somewhere on a continuum, with some things being more or less important to one member than to another) but there is a fixed line where all family members agree that should a member cross it, negative consequences must be imposed. Norms make behaviors predictable and predictable behaviors keeps populations from devolving into violence.  Norms are the basis for laws and the policies with which we govern our workplaces.  Unfortunately most norms are unspoken.

Superstitions develop when we have a norm but we no longer understand the “why?” that drives the norm. As cultures evolve the reasons for the rules become murkier and devolve into superstition. Do you know why in many cultures it is considered bad luck to put shoes on a table? Because an unskilled worker’s most valuable possession was his workbooks his friends would typically take the deceased worker’s shoes back to the widow and place them on the table while he gave her the bad news.  Several generations later shoes on a table developed into the superstition of impending death. Eventually the superstition is dismissed altogether and shoes on the table no longer carry with it any stigma.

Taboos are those activities that actively violate our expectations of acceptable behaviors, but we don’t know why; they’re just wrong. Everyone knows their wrong, but no one can exactly say why.

All this is a lot of background that I’m not sure you need, but I give it to you so that when you ask a worker “why did you do this?” and you get the answer “I don’t know” you may be getting more information than you think. Does the worker truly not know or is the worker afraid to tell you why he or she did what he or she did?

I write all of this about culture because so many reading this don’t have a clue what the word means as applied in the context of safety. Stop worrying about culture and start gathering data on why you don’t have more injuries than one could reasonably expect.  Until you do you are just sitting in a training room betting that it won’t explode.

[1] I attribute this to James Reason irresponsibly.  I have seen the quote and searched for the author and people have told me it was said by Reason, but if anyone has a better, and definitive source I would appreciate it.

[2] Another statistic that I picked up in a lecture at a medical safety conference but the author and the study were lost in a flood of my basement, if you know the source, please let me know. I trust its veracity but I don’t expect others to without science behind it.

Talking For the Sake of Making Noise

Safety talk

By Phil La Duke

Safety moments, Toolbox Talks, Safety Talks…whatever you call them they all amount to the same thing: discussions, often arbitrary, about safety. Conventional wisdom holds that raising awareness about safety concerns reduces the likelihood of worker injuries, but does it? And if awareness of safety concerns does indeed prevent injuries to what extent are safety talks effective in raising awareness.

Too often we in safety are Wikipidiots, we assert as fact that what is merely supposition. We accept more tripe as gospel than any other profession with the possible exception alchemists, astrologists, and professional psychics.

Is there anything wrong having a brief conversation about safety once a week? Yes and no. This is a bitter pill to swallow for some safety professionals who love to feel as though they are doing something even if that something is pointless. The major problems I have with safety talks or safety moments is that they are inconsistent, often irrelevant, frequently poorly delivered, lack context and in many cases poorly improvised.


Safety talks range from safety micro lessons to a poorly written haikus about safety that get passed around the group who then sign off on them. This inconsistency isn’t limited to industry to industry or from company to company, rather I have seen inconsistencies in safety messaging from shift to shift and from supervisor to supervisor. With this kind of inconsistent message about safety can we really expect a consistent response to safety? We bear no small amount of culpability for the lack of consistency, after all, what training have we given supervisors not only in the delivery of safety talks, but in the purpose of safety talks. We need safety talks to be micro lessons about a specific safety topic, not a perverse version of children’s story hour.


Relevancy of the safety talk might seem to contradict the need for consistency, but I really don’t think it is. If you are delivering a safety talk in the artic it’s probably appropriate to address the dangers of Polar Bear attacks but these dangers are less valuable in Equatorial Guinea. The topic is too specific and even though we want our messaging to be consistent, we never want to sacrifice relevance for consistency. Rather, we should strive for consistency in delivery while making it a point to ensure that the message is relevant to the population to whom we are talking.

Poor Delivery

The fact that many safety talks are poorly delivered is rarely disputed. Some of the best safety talks that I have seen were little more than a person reading from a sheet of paper and finishing with “any questions?”; either the message is important or it is not; if it is then we should do our utmost to deliver it seriously, deliberately, and articulately; and if it’s not important then don’t deliver it at all.

Lack of Context

Perhaps my biggest bone of contention is a lack of context. I have endured more safety talks on tick bites to last a lifetime. To be sure, tick bites represent a serious threat to many of my colleagues who routinely travel into tick-invested areas in the course of their jobs, but I don’t. Talks about ticks, while important to some, lack any context for me. Now I’m afraid to mow my lawn wearing anything less than a full Haz Mat suit. Does it hurt to warn me about ticks? Well yes and no. Yes, ticks are bad, they are blood-sucking parasites that carry Lyme’s disease, which is serious and hard to diagnose and requires lengthy treatment. (I’ve become something of both a tick expert and a tick neophyte—is there a word for knowing the all there is to know about a very vague topic?) Yet I had to do all my own safety research to work at the world’s largest abandoned factory. (Where I have been schilling safety for the last couple of months). Of course there is no value to have a safety talk to my colleagues (I work alone on this particular assignments) on asbestos, the dangers of packs of while dogs trained to fight to the death and gone feral, falling concrete, hidden tunnels that open up and swallow whole chunks of real estate, but THIS is what I needed. (For the record even ticks don’t live in this toxic wasteland, except for the feral dog and pheasants and garbage trees (poplars and cottonwoods) nothing seems capable of thriving here). So, because the context of my work differs so greatly from the context of my peers there is really no point in trying to find a common denominator between all of us. My experience is perhaps a bad example, since my colleagues and I have such diverse assignments, but what about a construction crew where the safety department compiles (and by “compiles” I mean slaps together from an online source) a serious of safety talks without considering context. Shouldn’t the circumstances of work dictate the content of the safety talk?

Poorly Improvised

Safety practitioners have to give their constituencies something to talk about otherwise production will improvise a safety talk. Meetings will begin with, “does anyone have a safety talk?” and after some awkward moments someone will sputter out something about school buses and the need to pay attention and be on the look out for school kids; not exactly what was intended when the idea of a safety talk was conceived.

I have mentioned in a couple of posts my tenure at a faith-based healthcare system and the values that were so overt that they shaped how everyone behaved, reacted, and to some degree thought. Every meeting was carefully planned and even the shortest meetings began with a reflection on one of the values, and for each meeting the organizer assigned someone to write and share the reflection. I think that companies should apply the same principles to safety. Instead of having a safety talk crammed down someone’s throat, or allow people to freewheel safety talks, why not implement the practice of safety reflections.

Safety Is No Accident


By Phil La Duke

Let me begin by saying that the title is trite, and sounds like a slogan, I have to say I thought of rephrasing it but ultimately decided that however much it made me seem like I was trying to be clever or cute that was not my intent. It pains me to know that it countless workplaces there are probably signs with this slogan.

I don’t mean it as a slogan, I mean it as a call to action. Too many of us think of safety as this passive event.  Nothing happened and therefore we’re safe.  We shift from behaviors to culture to risk to whatever cockamamie idea is slowly percolating in the mind of some PhD who has never done an honest day’s work in his life. I will confess that this post grew out, to some degree, of my post Zero Injuries Are Nothing to Celebrate, where my principle point was that, while it’s great that nobody died, what did you do to prevent it.  What one thing, or multiple things did you do that was the proximate cause that nobody died? Scarce few had answers so they instead focused on my heresy that a celebration of a perfect safety record was soft-headed.

So what can we do to act with purpose to make the workplace safer? I get criticized a lot for only pointing out what’s wrong without offering solutions; to that I say: a) I raise these points because they need to be raised, b) nobody else seems to be raising them, and c) I’m not your paid consultant so I am under no obligation to give you free advice, but that’s just me getting cranky.  The truth is, there isn’t one true path to safety.  Somehow (and I have my characteristically strong opinions as to exactly how, but that is for another article) “Safety” has become a quasi-religion with the cult of behavior, or the cult of Gellar, or the cult of…well you get my point.  I’m not going to get into a debate over whether or not there is one true religion, but I will say that, having worked across many industries that safety means very different things depending on your industry, your location, and your size.

If you work in a high-consequence industry like oil and gas—where a single slip up can have catastrophic results—you tend to have a very different view of what’s safe and therefore a much lower tolerance for risk than say a shoe retailer. So for me, or anyone else, to offer universally applicable suggestions is irresponsible to the extreme. But I will say this: we have to understand how what we do is affecting the risk of a person being hurt by hazards in our workplaces.

Take slips, trips, and falls for example. Not a big concern for a chemical company whose biggest threat to worker and public safety is lethal chemicals shooting a death cloud over the surrounding community, but a huge concern for people working at heights or around sharp materials or bio hazards.  So what YOU think might not be a big deal (and you are correct) could be a huge deal for someone else.

Safety as Superstitious Nonsense

We do so much in safety, from awareness campaigns to Job Safety Analysis (and every day some genius comes up with something else for us to do) that we lose sight of the key components of safety; we can’t separate the nice to haves from the absolute must haves. Let’s take an easy example: A worker ascends a step ladder 15 feet.  We have two probabilities to worry about 1) the probability that he will fall and 2) the probability that if he falls he will be killed (or seriously injured but for our example let’s just say killed) is 98% (I don’t believe in absolute certainties) so let’s now work through how we lower that risk from 98% to as close to 0% (again I don’t believe in absolutes) as is practicable (don’t mistake this for practical). Now bear with me here as I work the problem backwards.  If we have the worker tie off how much does that reduce the risk? To answer that we would have to know the failure rate of all the fall protection components, but for our purposes let’s say it cuts it down to 20% can we live with a 20% chance that the worker might bang his head, have a lanyard break, or have some other unforeseen hazard come into play? Probably not, so we add…a children’s poster contest to remind him not to die? A pizza party if he doesn’t fall?

No in our case we would probable decide that a ladder is the wrong tool for the job and use a man lift. Let’s say this reduces the chances of him falling to his death to 2%. Obviously all my percentages are WAY too high, but the point remains we need to know, at a minimum, if what we are doing is causing safety.

We have to stop concentrating on preventing injuries and focus on causing safety. Let us never forget that everything we do should have a direct consequence of causing safety. Sure awareness campaigns may have some effect on workplace safety, but is this really where you should be spending your time and money? In environments where you have high turnover of workers who tend to have a limited awareness of the dangers around them, then it may well be, but if you are in a factory where people do repetitive jobs that cause their minds to wander or where they are more likely to be injured by a fatigue-induced mistake it probably isn’t.

The most difficult job in safety is that there isn’t a magic formula for getting things right. We have to think.  We have to create solutions that work in OUR environments  and stop thinking that anyone out there has it all figured out and all we need do is to copy their solution and we will be alright.  This is what makes it so difficult for people to move from one industry to another.  What is important in mining may be insignificant in retail.  What’s worse is even within our own industry what works for our completion may not work for us at all.  It’s too bad really, because my experience as a person who helps companies build safety management systems and infrastructures I’ve seen some pretty cool things that are completely unworkable in other industries, geographic regions, or sites.

Unfortunately for most of us, we are barraged by people telling us the opposite; that they have figured out the magic bullet and for the right price they can sell us a solution that works for everyone like magic! I’ve reviled these people as unethical snake-oil salesmen and some of them are indeed thieves.  But more of them believe what they’re saying, which makes them more dangerous.   It’s tempting to buy in to a philosophy that just requires you to turn off your brain and drink the Kool-Aid, especially if our boss has a big vat of it on his or her desk.

It is incumbent on us to make every dollar spent on safety count and if we are spending our time and money foolishly we could get someone killed. So again, before you start a new initiative, or even continue the things you’re doing, ask yourself, “how does this cause safety?”

When the Bright Eyes of A Giant Grow Dim and Fade to Black

Grim reaper

By Phil La Duke

Just a quick postscript to this article: I’m indescribably disappointed with a) the stupidity in the threads of LinkedIn in response to last week’s post and b) the fact that nobody confronted the Crank Coxes who pounced on the post unwittingly proving my point.  Just when you give people credit for a modicum of intelligence you meet a handful that prove that LinkedIn is over crowded with mouth-breathing droolers with nothing to say but exercising there God-given right to scream it to the world.—Phil

Dedicated to Dave Collins for his years of service to the safety function.

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked… for an angry fix”

Recently the LinkedIn community lost yet another thought leader. After years of brilliant contributions to the many discussion threads of the groups to which he belonged one of the most important voices on LinkedIn was silenced. Dave Collins didn’t die, rather he was driven from LinkedIn by trolls who are, by an order of magnitude, his intellectual inferior. Dave, tired of being shouted down for having insightful views of safety and business, took his proverbial ball and went home.

Those of you who didn’t know Dave when he was a LinkedIn member really missed out. Dave is a true innovator who is not afraid to take on the most cherished sacred cows of safety. He does it with Aussie finesse to my crazed barbarian swinging a bag of broken glass but the trolls don’t understand civility. Barbarity is the only language they understand.

Dave is still maintaining his megablog, http://www.safetyrisk.net/ , which is the single most influential safety blog in the world. Sounds like someone we’d like to have in our community. Dave is a loss, but more importantly, Dave is emblematic of the downward spiral of LinkedIn. I have been a member for a decade or so and have seen both the structure of LinkedIn and the quality of the community.

In the words of Allen Ginsberg, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked… for an angry fix” but in my case I saw the best minds of my generation driven from the ideological threads of a once great social landscape. The golden age of LinkedIn wasn’t the wild west of America Online, or the banal photos of the “sick” brunch posted on Facebook; no, LinkedIn was a place where people could ask questions in good faith and get answers from legitimate experts. It was a place where one could talk shop with their peers, get advice and yes make friends. When I joined LinkedIn I did so I could stay in touch with colleagues with whom I had lost touch. I thought, “This is genius! Once I’m linked to my old friends and colleagues I won’t have all those dead emails.” Truth be told a friend and colleague called me at work one day and asked for me email. Exasperated, she asked me why I wasn’t on LinkedIn. “You’ll have 500 contacts by the end of the week.” She was wrong; it took two weeks. I joined groups and like many people stood on the sideline. I read the discussion threads and like most of us watched as two or more intellectual powerhouses slugged it out. I thought LinkedIn was incredible, it was one of the greatest things I had ever experienced—relative to what would later become called “social networks”.

When a troll would light me up for speaking my opinion or dare to question them, some wise LinkedIn veteran would come to my defense, point out the idiots and the crack pots (and yes even the mentally ill). There’s nothing wrong with silencing those who bully and attack, in fact, there maybe nothing more nobler.

Now all that is gone.

We all take some share of the blame from the bloated Crank Coxes  and Sparry Suckers that troll the discussion threads to all of us who say nothing as they destroy the community to those of us who whore our companies shamelessly to the water-headed imbeciles who post Facebook tripe to those who stand mute as it happens. In the words of Edmund Burke:

All it takes for Evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Dave Collins departure isn’t the death knell of LinkedIn; it’s its tombstone. Like all things once great that reach their nadir LinkedIn (recently purchased by the digital leprosy that is Microsoft) has been dead for a while but will continue for a decade as a place where the intellectually walking dead continue to feed on each other. And I will be there, not to bear witness to its painful demise, but because they are easy pickens.


Denial Isn’t Just A River In Egypt—You’re Employees are Probably Under-Reporting

bloody pizza

By Phil La Duke

Whenever I post a topic where I assert something to which some disagree invariably they attack me personally. Some mistakenly believe that I don’t work as a safety practitioner and will cease on the fact that I supposedly don’t work in the “real world”, as if writing a blog and published articles for free somehow pays the bills. Others will pay the card of self-righteous indignation, because I called someone a mouth-breather or described them as softheaded. Still others write me privately with threats of violence or even death (ironic, isn’t it? people who sanctimoniously praise themselves for saving lives and keeping people free from injury threatening me with violence.)  I might worry were it not for the fact that these water heads couldn’t kill a beer let alone me. Others fall into the calling me unprofessional for saying “shit, hell, or damn” or because I don’t worry too much about my punctuation or grammar. My point is, bring it on. If what you read here threatens you and you can’t construct a coherent counterpoint feel free to hone in on these things. Nothing amuses me more than a slack-jawed imbecile making a fool of themselves either here or in on-line threads.

Last week I committed hearsay, I said that zero injuries, without understanding WHY we had zero injuries—which is, let’s face it, zero reported injuries—was a pointless and simple-minded exercise. If that mad you angry, strap in, because this week I mean to take it even further.

I can only speak for myself; from my prospective. I started working when I was 13 as the clean up boy at the local Dairy Queen, violating damned (oooh he said a bad word) near every child-labor law. When I was 18 I was working three jobs simultaneously. I have worked as a day laborer, on the line at General Motors, a research interviewer, a reporter, a clown, an actor, a trainer, a copywriter, and a host of other jobs. I was injured on the job too many times to count and never once reported (until I became a safety professional) the injury. I am of the ardent belief that I am not alone in my situation. So here is why I said nothing:

  1. I didn’t know I was supposed to. This sounds like a cop out, especially to those who live in the insular offices and cubes where a lot of safety practitioner park their ample asses. In fairness to the average safety practitioner, he or she can’t be everywhere, and what’s more it’s not their job to sniff around like a Jack Russell on the trail of a rat soliciting injuries. My supervisor never told me that I needed to tell him or her that I needed to report injuries. I was oblivious to OSHA regs and what was a recordable and what wasn’t.
  2. If I reported an injury it pissed people off. I had seen what happened to my coworkers who reported injuries—they generally got the third degree about what they did that caused the injury and heaven help them if they had been doing something they shouldn’t have been. People got written up and even fired for getting hurt after doing exactly what their boss had told them to do.
  3. Reporting an injury was viewed as most likely a scam. As I said, I saw plenty of people who reported injuries and we would always roll our eyes—it was always the same people and they were so meticulous in documenting every detail that you just KNEW was going to come up in court (one woman in particular sued her own mother because she fell on her icy porch). Both management and hourly alike knew that if you reported an injury you were probably cheating the system in some way.
  4. I would just tough it out. The plant doctor was willing to take the enormous pay cut and work in a factory because (it was rumored, a rumor I believe) that medical malpractice suits made it too expensive for him to continue his practice—he once gave me a medication to which I was allergic to its main ingredient—and I just felt a lot more comfortable with my own doctor.
  5. Nobody cared. When, while working as a fry cook, I three fingers bad enough to require eight stitches I was allowed to leave work (after clocking out) and go to the clinic where I paid for my medical treatment myself. I could give 20 similar examples where I suffered recordable injuries that never saw an OSHA log.
  6. I didn’t think the injury was serious enough to worry about it. I worked sharp metal parts building 1600 seats a day. The company did not require safety shoes, eye protection, or Kevlar sleeves. Not a day went by where I didn’t have a cut, bruise, muscle strain, etc. You didn’t dare ask to go to medical because most of the time supervision couldn’t cover your job so you wouldn’t be relieved so you couldn’t go. The supervisor would never forbid you to go that would bring him or her real trouble, but the boss would always look at you with puppy dog eyes and ask if I could wait until break. In one case I was loaned out to the body shop, where veterans thought it was a real hoot to pull their welding guns (which were suspended on bungee cords) and let them go usually narrowly missing the new guy. I took a direct hit to the back of the head that not only knocked me out cold, but also forward into a three-foot pit. When I came too the foreman had lifted me up by putting his arms under my armpits and was putting the weld gun into my hands and kept saying “you’re okay, you’re okay”. I had a bump literally the size of a goose egg on the back of my head a deep scratch on my face and my arm was bleeding. I used an obscene simile in response to his contention that I was okay and told him I was going to medical. Medical gave me two aspirins and stitched my arm with butterfly bandages.
  7. Because it happened on a Friday afternoon. The plant I worked in had the old, oil-soaked wood-block floors and they were constantly coming loose, sticking up causing people to trip on them, or just plain missing creating a 5 x4 inch hole in the floor. Once on a Friday afternoon about 10 minutes from quitting time I stepped in one of these holes and wrenched my ankle pretty good. I could barely walk, but I managed to hobble to my car excruciating pain, but I wasn’t about to have our quake doctor spend an hour of my weekend trying to treat me in a way that would make sure it wasn’t a recordable.

I have more reasons for not reporting, but I’m already going longer than I like. But the point is when there is a campaign to stop me from doing something that, I can’t control— things that I either don’t want or intend to do; am unaware that I am doing it; taking what I think are harmless and innocent shortcuts; or from interacting with physical hazards that I don’t have the ability to fix on my own the campaign just further distances me from the people preaching it. Once the safety guy has shown me that he or she thinks that I am the problem (the one thing they can’t control) he or she become my enemy, and I lose all respect for the person, and all the pizza and candy bars in the world won’t change that. And if he or she is wrong about all these other things I become convinced that he or she is probably wrong about a lot more.

And yet every company I go into, every executive I ask, and every safety manager I seem to meet puffs up their chest at the merest suggestion that their might be under reporting until I do an analysis and find that 25–50% of the employees I talk to tell me they don’t report at least some of their injuries. In one case, an executive told me that not reporting an injury is considered an ethics violation and the person would be automatically fired. So maybe you have created a Utopian workplace where there are no under reporting of injuries, but isn’t it worth considering that you aren’t performing as well as you think you are?