Don’t Call Me “Robot”

Robot.jpgBy Phil La Duke

Sorry for the delay in this post.  I was working feverishly to get my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention, which went to my publisher last night. Expect coercive pressure to come.  But as I was writing about a cold-blooded killer going through the workplace I got to thinking about all the many approaches to safety and all the models (both well-meaning and half-witted) and I saw in all (or most) of this thinking a fatal flaw: they all tend to see “safety” as a static state. “If people would just do…we could have safety”.

Unfortunately, life gets in the way.  In the US workplace safety accounts for the slimmest of fractions of preventable death—before you cluck that tongue, consider…hold on now stop shaking your head in vehement denial and just consider heart disease, cancer, automobile accidents, any one of which kills more people each year than workplace fatalities. Even the most reckless doctor would never—even after proclaiming you to be in perfect health—tell you that you will never die of heart disease. Why? Because we live in a complicated system and what is true today may not (in fact, I will go so far as to say WILL not) be the same tomorrow. I’ve known too many people who have, after getting a clean bill of health, treat themselves to 6 months of unhealthy living.

So my question is this: Why do so many of us persist in our quest for that mythical lost city safety? Where machinery never wears out, and processes are perfectly designed, and all the people mindlessly follow every safety procedure and protocol like drones.  

Not many people know this, but even robots (which is a pejorative term it means “slave”, you insensitive louts! I know you are thinking that “robots don’t have feelings” and your right, for NOW, but when they do develop sentience and want to be called “enhanced humans” you still will call them robots behind their back. This is what will lead to the machine uprising! Just kidding folks I don’t care what you call robots and as for the machine uprising I will worry about that when Siri (who buy the way I insist call me Mr. La Duke, because it’s an appliance not a friend) can get my doctor on the phone when I say, “Call Dr. Ford” instead of saying, “I’m sorry Mr. La Duke, but I can’t find a ‘Ivan Robertonski in your contacts.” I have left many people wondering because I have left them screaming voicemails of “cancel, cancel, cancel! You (expletive) piece of (expletive).” I’ve done it so often that I think I may have inadvertently shut down sleeper cells.) make mistakes? It’s true.  But hell I’ve wandered off the rails again.

Safety is never a permanent state and all these lagging and leading indicators are so often misinterpreted, or not analyzed at all remind me of the organizational equivalent of a snipe hunt. I would like to see us slow down in safety. Speed kills, or at least that’s what anti-drug public service announcements  told me in the 1960’s. Seriously though, let’s just take a moment to clean out our attics when it comes to safety. So many of us hoard ideas and heap another piece intellectual excrement on the growing pile of thought dung. So many of us do the right things wrong and the wrong things because we’re afraid to tell our CEO who heard about a dumb idea on a plane from some drunk sitting next to him who read a book about it, that the idea is stupid!

If all we do is fill requests without truly informing the organization what it will REALLY cost (not just to hire the consultant, but how much labor, and materials, and administrivia will result) and the opportunity costs than we are nothing more than overpaid errand boys.

We need to get back to basics. Let’s face it we know what is hurting our people (and eventually our robots…no! I will stay focused.) We generally know how it’s happening. We know which jobs are more dangerous. And if we don’t know these things we need to get off our asses and get out to where the work is done.  When someone does something stupid we need to ask them to help us understand WHY they thought that was the best option? We need to understand the people and they need to understand us. So no more jargon, no more half-witted safety BINGOs, no mor`4 sociopathic children’s coloring contest. (Nobody ever died on the job because they hated their kid). We need to just STOP and ask ourselves how everything we do lowers the risk of employee injuries, and if our answer is “I dunno” then we need to stop doing it.

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com. Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).

Remember the holidays are coming up and this book makes the perfect gift for the person for which you feel obligate to get something for but don’t really like.

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy the damned book.

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What’s Left To Say When Nobody’s Listening?

person wearing hearing aid

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

By Phil La Duke

Last week I wrote a post about my disdain for “predictive analytics” and a reader disagreed with it and told me I should read Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die  By Eric Siegel, So I did. The book isn’t about safety per se, but a fair amount of companies are dumping millions into the attempt to predict how people will act in the context of safety.  Don’t get me wrong, Predictive analytics, that is, the clues that tell us how a person is likely to behave in a given situation, has been around for a good long time. Market research is a great example, millions are spent on analyzing buying trends to determine whether people prefer Fruit Loops over Cheerios, or whether showing idiots amazed at the obvious will sell cars.  But can this theory be applied to worker safety, and if it can be so what?

There is a couple of real big problems with predictions and human behavior is that people don’t usually act the way they do because of a predictable and rational reason. They tend to act this way because they are emotional.  Brain researchers have determined that we make our decisions based, not on logic and careful analysis, but on emotion.  I know that some of you are resisting this idea, and frankly so did I at first.  But, the researchers also found is that people tend to make their decisions in the part of the brain that controls emotions, and then justify what they already want to do by seeking out only that information that supports it.

So if you read a book to which you have formed an emotional attachment that book becomes sacrosanct and nothing I can say, write, or do will convince you otherwise.  So if someone says we can change the world using predictive analytics, I say “prove it” oh, but I won’t be spending millions letting you prove it.

Irrespective of the book and books like it, I still say bunk, and here’s why:

  1. Prediction is easier the closer it is to the predicted outcome.  For example, if you see a person fall off a 30 story building you can probably predict his demise with amazing accuracy, but if you  see a man sitting in a diner drinking coffee your prediction that he will die at 12:34 p.m. a month later.  Now the advocates of predictive analytics would argue that given enough information,  how often does he approach the edge of the building, how frequently is he on top of that building, how much expertise does he have, how much stress is he under, how much training has he had, how frustrated is he on the job, how much time has it been since his last bowel movement etc. they would be able to predict  that he would fall and when it would happen, hell they could send flowers to the widow before he hit the ground! What a time saver!

There are companies who successfully use predictive analytics to determine which of their employees are most likely to leave the company. Okay, great. These companies then intervene and prevent the people from leaving, “at a great rate of success”.  But how do they KNOW this is working? I guess one could say that the proof is in the pudding but I am dubious.  First, I’d like to know how many would have left if they hadn’t intervened.  I have worked at jobs I absolutely hated, but found it difficult to actively look for another job because recruiters tend to be lazy gits who only want to interview during the work week, which would cause me to take a day off and likely tip off my current employer. So while one could predict that I would be looking for another job, or would accept an offer, one could NOT predict my emotional state and therefore my ultimate decision.  A 90% success rate is better than a 10% success rate to be sure, but in that 90% success rate is there the element of luck at play? I enjoy shooting craps.  I know that certain bets are just foolhardy, but I make them anyway.  Casinos, know that free drinks, bright lights, sleep deprivation,  and other factors make it more likely that people will bet more foolishly and they put all those factors into play.  They also know that if I am having a good time—win or lose—I will stay at the table longer and statistics predict that I will ultimately start losing.  But there are many times that I will walk away from a table with a big score.  I can assure you it wasn’t because I am a highly skilled gambler, but because I got lucky and won enough to satisfy me. Casinos might be able to predict that I will lose and how much time it will take me to lose, but there is chance that I will win, and their predictions will be wrong.

2. Why do we accept predictive analytics but reject forecasts? Many of us disregard the weather forecasts despite the fact that meteorologists using powerful computers have analyzed thousands of bits of data to create a fairly reliable same- or next-day forecast but when the weather forecast is five days out, it is darn near impossible to predict. We accept that long-range forecasts are little more than guesses, yet we have not compunction against dismissing these forecasts as not-so-educated guests.

3.The problem with prognostication. Whether we call it trend analysis, forecasts, or predictive analysis or whatever, is they base the prediction on a snapshot or a trend and ignore the fact that all the moving parts are going to keep moving and shifting and the more we try to master our ability to predict the future the bigger fools we become.

 

Predictive Indicators Are Hogwash

lightning during nighttime

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

By Phil La Duke

I didn’t get my blog written until late last night, because a) I wasn’t feeling well, b)had started a topic that was way too long to post, and c) I was very busy, But something gnawing at me for awhile: this whole emerging infatuation with the idea of “predictive indicators” as it pertains to safety.  Let me begin by saying there are a lot more companies relying solely on lagging indicators than using a holistic approach that compares leading and lagging indicators to accurately gauge the companies’ current performance (never mind trends and likely future performance). Even within organizations with the organizations who meticulously gather lagging indicators too many do nothing to interpret the data and turn it into something that is meaningful, useful, and actionable to and for Operations.

Let me dispel the myth of safety “predictive indicators”. The term “predictive indicators” was borrowed from the world of finance and was originally applied to the ability of stock analysts to use an algorithm to predict market fluctuations, as anyone who has stock (or a retirement fund that has stocks) these predictive indicators aren’t very accurate and some believe are no better than throwing a dart at a board.  So while stock analysts still look at these predictive indicators, few of them are staking their entire fortunes on them and fewer still are betting the lives of others on them. In any case, in most cases that I have seen, when safety pundits are using term Predictive Indicators, they are either misusing the term to describe a leading indicator, or have developed a model that is impressive in its complexity but as reliable as a degenerate gambler’s system for picking the winning horse.

So what is a predictive indicator anyway? Probably the most familiar forecast using predictive indicators are weather forecasts.  It’s an apt analogy to both the stock market and performance of Safety within an organization. I tried to research exactly how reliable weather forecasts were and it was like trying to get a politician to go on the record.  As one article, put it “We know that weather forecasts are inherently uncertain. (We’re predicting the future, after all!)” What I learned is that the closer you are to the event the more accurate the prediction will be, but as you move out 5 days there is an exponential drop off in accuracy and when you get to a 14-day forecast you basically have a SWAG (silly, wild-assed, guess).  So while this lack of accuracy might prompt you to grab an umbrella on your way out the door, it’s hardly the same when it comes to dealing with financial decisions and the life and death of workers.

We need to nip this in the bud because there are non-safety executives now co opting this term and wondering why we in safety can’t use the information at hand to scry the future, and once we know what’s going to happen, can come to the rescue just in time.

I know I am once again rattling the cages of academics and con men who have spent years developing an algorithm or pretty, complex, and useless model which they want to sell to you for an incredibly low price.  The problem is we can’t predict the future outcomes of a complex system and the stock market, the weather, and safety and even a guess can be dangerous. Again, think of the weather forecast. If the forecast calls for a 70% chance of rain, that means that there is a 30% it won’t rain, and even if it DOES rain, it doesn’t mean that it will rain where you are, so most people figure, “it’s probably gonna rain” and dress appropriately.  Except me, I don’t believe in umbrellas—you still get wet and you have the inconvenience of having one hand encumbered—and forget rain hats and raincoats (what am I a cod fisherman?)

Playing the odds

I can’t tell you how many people, when I warn them of a hazard, look at me with a “gimme a break” look on their face and ask “yeah, but what are the odds that’s gonna happen?” I’m honest with them, I will tell them that the odds are low but the stakes are high.  It’s like a reverse lottery ticket. I know plenty of people who will not swim in the ocean for fear of sharks, despite the astronomical odds against being attacked. They aren’t playing the odds because the potential outcome is death and the reward (swimming) isn’t sufficient for them to chance it.  Why then do people in the workplace engage in high-risk, high-consequence activities? What’s the reward for failing to control the energy while performing tasks that require it? You save a couple of minutes? What is the probability that something could go wrong? (I’m not going to waste the time and effort to calculate the odds, but suffice to say, the odds are considerably higher of dying in a LOTO accident than it is being attacked by a shark, and swimming in the ocean is a far better reward than finishing a job 5 minutes quicker.

Duration of Exposure

While it may be impossible to predict with any sort of frequence how and when someone will get hurt we can look at leading indicators that correlate to injuries. The duration of exposure is a decent indicator of the risk associated with a given activity.  All other things being equal, a worker who spends 5 minutes in a confined space is at significantly lower risk of being harmed than a worker who spends 12 hours in a confined space. It stands to reason that, minus any other risk factors, the worker who is in a confined space is 144 times more likely to be harmed than the worker who is in a confined space than the worker who spends 5 minutes in a confined space (5 minutes x 12 =1 hour, and 1 hour x 12=144 five minute increments).  But even this is of limited value, because there is no guarantee that either worker will not be harmed in the first 5 minutes, which is why I qualified it by saying, “minus any other risk factors”. This should not be seen as an encouragement of rushing to get a job done, rather it should serve as a warning to the people who take risks because they are “only going to be in there for a minute.” Statistically, people tend to underestimate how long a task will take to complete and that means that people consistently underestimate the duration of their exposure and subsequently the risk of being killed or injured.

So let’s erase “predictive indicators” from our lexicon and focus instead on doing a better job of using appropriate lagging and leading indicators to calculate or risks.

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com. Note: If you are outside North America, you will want to order for the Amazon site in your country.  Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).

Remember the holidays are coming up and this book makes the perfect gift for the person for which you feel obligated to get something for but don’t really like.

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy the damned book.

Persuasive Leadership: Or How You Are Likely Wasting Time And Money On Safety Today

The Godfather

Photo courtesy of IMDB

by Phil La Duke

There’s a piece of trivia about one of my favorite movies, The Godfather.  It’s probably apocryphal (I spent way more time looking online for confirmation, than I should of) but legend has it that when casting the role of Don Vito Corleone, director Frances Ford Copolla, insisted that the role go to either Marlon Brando or Sir Lawrence Olivier  because the Godfather appears only 13 minutes on film but his imposing presence is felt throughout the film. If you’ve seen the film you understand that Vito Corleone’s presence is felt in every frame of the movie, and if you haven’t seen the film, stop reading this and watch it. No excuses. Just shut up and watch it. 

As with so much that I have to say, this next bit will upset a fair amount of you.  Safety has far less to do with the success or failure of safety in an organization, than they think or for which they claim credit.  In fact, in my experience—both actual work experience in safety and in organizational development—and research, it is the leader of the organization, typically the COO who has the most influence over whether or not a culture that values safety develops or not.  As someone once said to me, “what the Admiral finds interesting we all find fascinating” meaning if the top brass pays attention to something the rest of the organization finds a way to make it happen. Paul O’Neil, understood this when he used Safety to push his organizational changes at Alcoa, and Tom Lasorda pulled a page from that playbook to transform Chrysler from a safety laggard to a leader.  But even though O’Neil and Lasorda couldn’t be everywhere at once their leadership was felt. These two personalities were so strong, and they were so insistent on a change that would improve safety, that like Don Vito Corleone, you could feel their leadership even when they were miles away.

Developing Persuasive Leadership

Developing a leadership style that is palpable even when you aren’t physically present isn’t an aspect of the leader’s personality.  Persuasive leadership is a product of several things:

  • Visibility.  A Persuasive leader is someone who spends a great deal of time in the workplace. The workers know who he or she is and that his or her being there is expensive and therefore purposeful.  Nobody believes that the COO has nothing better to do than walk around a construction site, factory floor, or oil rig.
  • Caring.  Leaders who parade through the workplace looking stern and judgmental are viewed as just another blowhard with more ego than brains, who is indifferent to their day-to-day struggles. We’ve all seen the elephants on parade go through our workplaces and worry our supervisors and site leaders.  Persuasive leaders engage with workers, they ask good questions and they genuinely care about the person to whom they are listening. A lot of leaders try to fake this but you can’t; workers can smell a disingenuous performance like dog crap on your shoes when you come in from mowing the lawn, and the smell of it makes things worse not better.
  • Respect. A lot of executives patronize the workers by saying, “You are the real heroes, I’m here to support you, blah blah blah.” If that were the case the first person to get laid off in tough times would be the COO. Obviously, he or she failed to support the workers in some way. But that’s not the case, is it? If a company needs to cut payroll by a million dollars it is far more likely to cut 20 jobs that pay $50K than two positions that pay $500K.  When the COO respects the fortitude and resilience it takes to hump the line for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, that respect shows and the workers feel valued.
  • Integrity. There are three ways in which a leader’s integrity manifests itself: Honesty, Follow-Up, and Behavior.  Nobody will respect a liar, especially a liar who tries to ingratiate him or herself by telling them what they want to hear.  Workers are far less thin-skinned than leaders think. Workers at all levels know that if a leader with integrity tells them something he or she believes it to be true at the time.  No worker is so dim that he or she believes that the circumstances might change, or that the leader may not have the latest information, but most people can sense when they are being lied to and resent it. Secondly, integrity means doing what you say you are going to do, and in many cases, executives delegate the things that they say they will take care of to useless puss-bags who make the executive out to be a liar. Persuasive leaders, follow-up. When they delegate something they make sure that it is done and done quickly and most importantly they trust but verify so that nobody can claim to do something he or she hasn’t. Finally, the best way to win the hearts and minds of the organization is to set a good example.  The executive that pulls up to a work site, walks to the the trunk of the car and pulls out and dons his or her OWN personal protective equipment (or better yet has it on when he or she gets out of the car) is a ton more credible than the COO who shows up and expects the site to provide all the required PPE like he or she is visiting royalty.

So as disappointing as this to so many of you, you have far less influence and control over safety and you are likely focusing on the wrong population to make the workplace safer.  A small amount of effort from your executive suite—and you should remind them that Paul O’Neil and Tom Lasorda didn’t have any less time than they do—will likely have a much greater effect on safety than reminding people to use the handrail or tie their shoelaces.

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com. Note: If you are outside North America, you will want to order for the Amazon site in your country.  Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).

Remember the holidays are coming up and this book makes the perfect gift for the person for which you feel obligated to get something for but don’t really like.

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy the damned book.

 

Safety Differently: The Next Bandwagon On Which To Jump

By Phil La Duke

a man riding a carriage

Photo by Adrian Jozefowicz on Pexels.com

As a big Sidney Dekker fan, I was intrigued by the buzz over his latest offering Safety Differently, so I checked it out, and I have to confess that I was disappointed.  Why? Well, it wasn’t because his work wasn’t spot on, but for a couple of reasons. First of all, Safety Differently is dangerously close to Apple’s slogan of “Think Different”.  The uninformed pedantic lumps of fetid flesh— of which there are many (in my experience)—we’re quick to point out that the slogan is grammatically incorrect. A good point, to be sure, except that it isn’t.  Jobs wasn’t telling people to change the way they were thinking (“Think differently”) rather, he wanted them to think “different”, in other words, gravitate towards things that are different than anything ever seen before. Jobs didn’t want his team to merely create derivations of existing products but to push ever harder to innovate.

Dekker’s “Safety Differently”, may roll off the tongue in a more grammatically pleasing manner, but I’m sorry, I don’t see it as all that different than the way safety should have been done for decades. How long have we known that recognized that companies have been rewarding workers not for making things safer, with less risk, but for not reporting injuries? How long have we known that “the absence of injuries does not denote the presence of safety?” How long have we known that safety has become a bloated bureaucracy?  How long have we (at least most of us) known that blaming the people for injuries was wrong-headed and we should be looking at the system defects that cause the injuries instead? How long have we known that engaging workers in finding solutions for lowering the risk of injuries is a key to finding a safer way to do things?

I recognize for a third of you this is heresy; how dare I question the great and powerful Dekker? Another third of you are still clinging to the Behavior Based Swindle that pays your rent and gets you speaking gigs and even sells your books. But just maybe a third, probably a lot less, will recognize that Safety Differently isn’t all that different, and furthermore it doesn’t go far enough.  In one of the many YouTube videos, Dr. Dekker talks about how safety has become a numbers game; that safety practitioners have become slaves to Key Performance Indicators that are poor indicators of performance. He says that Safety is an ethical responsibility. No kidding? How long did it take his Think Tank to come up with that? I’ve literally been saying this for decades, but it’s more than just an ethical concern, it’s a business concern.  We have to stop killing people in the workplace; no one should have to be told that this is wrong. But more importantly, we have to stop lying and cheating and manipulating the data so that an injured worker isn’t reclassified as a non-recordable/reportable injury.

We need lagging indicators to be linked to leading indicators.  Leading indicators should be telling us what our strategy needs to be while lagging indicators should tell us how much progress we are making toward successfully achieving our strategic goals.  

Yes, we need to engage workers in reducing risk, but I am not sure that the team that thunk up Safety Differently is the same team that knows how to create that engagement or even what that engagement should look like.

The danger, however, doesn’t lie in what Sidney Dekker is proposing, the danger lies is that the fact that as I write this there are purveyors of Culture Transformations, who 5 years ago were purveyors of Behavior-Based Swindles, who 5 years before that were cashiers at Kmart, who are now scrambling to get on the bandwagon and repackage and rebrand the swill they’ve been serving to safety practitioners who greedily slurp it up, as Safety Differently.

I don’t disagree with Dekker.  Heck, any of you who have read my book (and let’s face it you are so much smarter than those who haven’t) or have been a long time reader of my blog know that I have been saying all of these things and more since 2006.  In fact, I hope Safety Differently spurs some action so that in so much as we can, (OSHA and its counterparts around the world aren’t going to suddenly let us stop counting bodies) we can start causing safety instead of preventing injuries.  Dekker has a less crass, less offensive, less provocative way of getting his message out there than I do so maybe the half-wits who are planning the safety BINGO will listen to him where they wouldn’t listen to me.

Meanwhile, watch out for snake oil salesmen, pitching the same tired crap with a Safety Different label on it because you can BET its coming.  The safety conglomerates and the safety mom and pops alike will jump on this bandwagon and continue the Behavior-Based Swindle, but a turd by any other name is still a turd.

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com. Note: If you are outside North America, you will want to order for the Amazon site in your country.  Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).

Remember the holidays are coming up and this book makes the perfect gift for the person for which you feel obligated to get something for but don’t really like.

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy the damned book.

Screw Warnings. Find It and Fix It

By Phil La Duke

Too often we are content to slap a sign or label or sticker on a known hazard and call it good. It isn’t. The day is coming when knowing a hazard exists but doing nothing more than putting up “death awaits” sign will be seen as criminally negligent.

I am loathed to compare workers to children, and my intent is not to infantilize adults, but “well gee, I warned him” is not an excuse; it’s an admission of one’s own stupidity.

I don’t know when it’s coming but it’s not soon enough. What prompted this particular rant is something I witnessed in the Miami airport. I saw no fewer than six maintenance employees feverishly dry mopping a floor. There was a “wet floor” sign but nonetheless, they worked and in minutes the floor was dry. They removed the sign and left.

Our default response has got to stop being, “hey buddy watch out for that trip hazard” and start fixing things.

If you insist on having “behavioral observations” then the observers should be fired if the person observed ever gets hurt. Implement this policy and you will have less “be careful and more fixing the issue”.

Years ago I went to an incompetent doctor after my regular doctor sold the practice. The boob who bought the practice looked like a Dr. Seuss character and had the brains of a yam. Each time I visited he would begin by asking me “do you smoke”. I have never smoked a complete cigarette in my life. “No” I would impatiently answer. One day enough was enough. When he asked I said “actually doc that’s why I am here. I want to start smoking.” He warned me of the dangers of smoking. I acknowledged his warning but pointed out that at my age the probability of getting those horrible conditions was remote. He stood dumbfounded “I want to start with two packs a day”. He finally found his words “I would never endorse such an irresponsible act”. To which I responded “I’m not going to start smoking you (expletive) idiot. You ask me that every (expletive) time I come in here. WRITE THIS SHIT DOWN!!

On my next visit, he greeted me and said: “do you…(glancing up nervously from my chart)…still not smoke?” He retired about a month later.

The point is what do we hope to accomplish raising awareness of the already aware. As one reader once said in response to my anti awareness rants said: “I was aware of breast cancer and got it anyway”. Awareness without useful countermeasures is basically just fear mongering.

So if we know there’s a problem fix it. Don’t just tell me to watch out for it and be careful

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com. Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).

Remember the holidays are coming up and this book makes the perfect gift for the person for which you feel obligate to get something for but don’t really like.

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy the damned book.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Safety Stupidity

Because Alan Langston wanted to see me do a graphic

By Phil La Duke

When I talk to many safety practitioners invariable the incredible stupidity of the injured worker rears its ugly head.  Well, I’m here to tell you that when it comes to safety there is plenty of stupid to go around. At the forefront of my mind is the absolute and unquestionable stupidity of how safety practitioners increasingly seek to solve safety issues by using solutions from the lowest levels of the Hierarchy of Controls.  Just this morning I saw orange cones places around: a generator that was blocking a full lane of traffic, a mound of dirt, and a trench. What’s more, I just returned from California where I saw startling examples of the stupidity of safety. Please understand that this has nothing to do with California and everything to do with me walking in unfamiliar places.

First, the button to push to activate the walk sign was disabled, and at this particular stop light, it meant that the “Walk” sign would never illuminate.  Here in Michigan you can push that button all day long and it has no effect since the WALK signal timed to the traffic light but people push it anyway. Since the button was working on the adjacent street we crossed and then crossed again, and then crossed a third time.  It was hardly expedient, and people have an innate drive toward expediency. The next day, not only were both buttons inactive (they were actually removed and the cases dangled like cats tortured and hung there by budding serial killers) but a large trench was there where the sidewalk was 24 hours prior.  Our choices were (at least how we saw them) to either walk two blocks to reach our destination that was less than 100 feet away, or wait for the light to change and cross despite having a don’t walk sign. We walked across the grass and when no traffic was coming AND the light in which we were walking was green we walked across the street.

My point is that the brain trust who put the safety measures in place just told us what we couldn’t do, without offering any alternatives.  Seriously, what did they expect people would do, or better yet, what would THEY have done in that situation?

Now some of you are shaking your heads and saying “We didn’t do this,” and I’ll grant you that.  I doubt anyone even remotely interested in safety had anything to do with these controls I’ve mentioned, but WHY WASN’T a safety person involved? Why were these mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging brutes allowed to begin work with no safety over-site or guidance?  My guess is because the people responsible knew that the safety guy would tell them that they couldn’t do it that way, but that past experience had taught them that wouldn’t have given them a better solution. Even people who work in safety have run into the safety dunderhead that just says “thou shalt not…” without giving a viable alternative. We’ve all met the thick-witted, rules-worshiping safety guy that does give two craps as to whether or not the job gets done, and many people in the work word honestly and yet too often erroneously figure that the hazard will only be there a day or so, the risk is minor, and the odds of anyone getting seriously are minuscule.

Safety, as a function, must enable Operations and must help those in Operations to make informed decisions about risk.  This is going to be an uphill battle because so many in safety have used the “ignore it” or “figure it out for yourself” approach for too long, or they just say know.

If we want Operations to own safety, and we should want this, then we have to teach them how to make better, safer choices when assessing risk.  We can’t just dump safety on them and wash our hands and go back to playing Mine Sweeper at our desks. The people we are so quick to deride as stupid are actually just ignorant.  Many people don’t think of the immediate consequences of their decisions and we expect them—without any guidance—to think about the consequence of their decisions four or five steps removed from the immediate consequences.  This IS stupid, but when it comes to stupidity it’s never in short supply. Before we start passing judgment on how stupid the injured workers are maybe it’s time to ask ourselves what WE have done to educate them.

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com. Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy the damned book.