5 Facts You Need To Know About Legal Cannabis And Employment

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By Phil La Duke
Author, Influencer, Global Business Consultant
Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business
Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

While many 46 US States have legalized marijuana for medical and even recreational use, there are many misconceptions among cannabis users about their rights and their employers’ right to put restrictions on the use—both on an off the job—drug. Here are some things that you should know before consuming  the drug:

    1. It’s still against the law.  While the States may legalize the drug the Federal Government still classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug—the same category it places heroin and cocaine. Schedule 1 classification is reserved for drugs that are the most dangerous and are not generally viewed as having any medicinal purpose. You may disagree with this, but you still can be prosecuted under federal statutes. As unlikely as that may seem something as simple as crossing state lines with a Schedule 1 drug can be a BIG Federal offense even if cannabis is legal in both states. If you are convicted of a criminal offense you will likely get fired. You may also get fired if your company does business with the government, defense contractors, or customers that forbid its vendors from employing drug users (and there are likely more companies that do than you may realize).

 

  • There’s a lot more in pot than (THC). According to Missy Wilkenson the author of the article What Are the Chemicals In Weed And What They Do  published in Thrillist magazine there are 500 chemicals in cannabis, but what she fails to mention is that the rest of these chemicals haven’t been widely studied or and the long term effects of regular ingestion of these chemicals isn’t known. Companies can ban the use of cannabis for safety reasons and if they DO fire you, your legal remedy (assuming you claim discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) falls under Federal jurisdiction and is likely to fail for obvious reasons.
  • If you grow it the money you make is taxable.  A fair amount of people know that when the government couldn’t nail Al Capone for his daily criminal acts they went after him for tax evasion.  Many people believe Al Capone was an idiot for not paying his taxes, but up until his conviction the general consensus among tax attorneys was that illegal income isn’t taxable; it turns out it is and if you don’t declare your cannabis income on your Federal tax filings you could end up like Al Capone. This may not seem to be directly linked to your workplace, but while many companies have work from home provisions scarce few have “work from a federal penitentiary” program.  
  • Your employer or your customers may still prohibit you from having pot in your system. Even if you have a prescription there are some industries that can and do ban marijuana use even when off work.  Certainly, the Federal Government takes a dim view of illicit drug use (remember as far as Federal Law goes you might as well be smoking crack cocaine) but there are other industries that still ban the drug including Oil & Gas companies, some mining companies, and most defense contractors.  If you are required to submit to random drug tests you likely are not allowed to use cannabis without risking your job. I have heard many people squawk about their employers impinging on their rights but if your company can tell you what to wear, they can most certainly tell you that you can’t get high and since THC remains in your system long after the high subsides you don’t have much hope of beating the drug tests.
  • Driving while under the influence is still illegal. Whether your municipality calls it driving while impaired or driving under the influence of a narcotic if you are stoned (or even buzzed) you could find yourself facing criminal charges.  If you are convicted and your job requires you to drive in the course of your duties, you can be legally and justly fired for such an infraction. And, depending on the circumstances, if you are unfortunate enough to be driving and involved in a fatal car crash when driving while high you could be found criminally negligent or guilty of depraved indifference and may even go to prison. But even if driving while high on cannabis was legal, it slows your reaction time, impairs your judgment, and in general makes you a safety risk and a menace to the people with whom you share the road.

 

Okay, the new book, Lone Gunman Rewriting Workplace Prevention has been out since January, and it’s time to pick up a copy.  I haven’t been pushing it all that hard because owing to a printer’s error it was full of typos that, for once, weren’t mine. Since then every half-wit and snake oil salesmen have pulled together dangerously poor presentations on how to survive workplace violence.  I have attended too many professional development sessions on surviving workplace violence presented by dolts who sound like they are doing a C– fourth-grade book report. If you are a woman, love a woman, were born of a woman, or have wives, sisters, daughters, or mothers who work you should read this book. Or if you are a boss who managed unstable workers you need this book.  Buy an extra copy for your boss. You’ll thank me.

And guess what? My original (in all senses of that word) book I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Business: An Iconclast’s View of Worker Safety   continues to sell well, buy one or better yet two. It is directly related to your job duties so expense them both and give one to your boss.  It will him/her good to hear some unvarnished truth. And at $15 bucks you can’t beat the price. I wanted to do something special, as it is quickly on it’s way to officially being a best seller, so in cooperation with Amazon, I am launching a promotion.  See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: I Know My Shoes Are Untied: Mind Your Own Business!. https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/23bf5d1017cdead1 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Apr 17, 2019 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.

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If you haven’t already picked up a copy of a know my shoes are untied here’s your chance to win one for free

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: I Know My Shoes Are Untied.: Mind Your Own Business!. https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/23bf5d1017cdead1 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Apr 17, 2019 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.

You Can’t Solve Dynamic Problems Using Static Solutions

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

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Have you ever wondered why so many safety people have a bug (or if you prefer a wild hair) up the collective ass of the profession? Okay, that should get the self-righteous puke bags to stop reading.  You can look forward to self-righteous posts of “I couldn’t make it past the first sentence” on LinkedIn. Good. The blog has never been meant for the stuffy, self-aggrandizing dog fornicators who assume that because they only had nine fatalities last year their hands are free of blood.

I just finished a 2900-word article on foot protection, a topic where, in the entire lexicon of the English language there are only 1500 odd words that are interesting on said subject, so my mood is mean and my disposition foul.

Safety is frustrating because it’s like trying to kill a hydra.   Just when you think you have the problem solved, six more rear their ugly heads to take its place. I won’t prattle on about treating the symptoms, although that is certainly often the case, rather I want to talk about the intrinsic frustration of solving a problem only to have some other problems take its place. Certainly, safety isn’t alone in this situation, lots of professions spend their entire career trying to hit a moving target, and at the risk of rankling the zealots, since the environment is always changing—racing to meet the demands and expectations of the stakeholders, our job is never done. So for those of you who have achieved zero injuries and think you have reached the pinnacle of your career, bad news, sustaining it is even harder than achieving it.

The problem is that in any workplace we want to get assignments that end.  Most people hate finishing up a piece of really good work only to find out that the boss, company, or customer is going in a different direction. We like static solutions. We like to build a birdhouse and be done with it (although I gotta tell ya, birds have been building their own houses for years and most couldn’t give a rat’s ass that you’ve made this cute little colonial miniature for them, birds, for the most part, are incredibly ungrateful creatures. If the task can’t end, then we would hope that the experience of performing that task will at least equip us for the next one, but in a dynamic world the rules keep changing so we have to change with it, or ideally a step ahead of it or we will be stuck in the familiar miasma of having someone seriously injured and our mouth-breathing boss looking at us disapprovingly as if—despite him not seeing it coming—we should have anticipated the problem and fixed it before anyone knew it was a problem.  And it’s people like him who won’t spend the money it takes to prevent a horribly gruesome fatality because “we don’t know that is going to happen.”

We get frustrated and glom on to solutions that promise to solve all our problems, unfortunately, the problems we will face in a decade are often completely unpredictable. Asbestos was once an ingredient in children’s pajamas, silica was just thought of sand, and while we can speculate on the harmless substance that will kill us tomorrow, (my money is on bleach, by the way, nothing that destroys DNA can be safe).  

In safety, we are on the front line of change, and change sucks. It’s as if you are in a math class and once things finally start to click they change the Pythagorean Theorem and suddenly nothing makes sense anymore. I’m not crying victim here or giving license for others to either, but for the love of all that is holy, is it too much to expect the Universe to cut us a break once in a while?

Until it does we all just have to suck it up an know no matter how good a job we think we are doing unless we can adapt and joyfully accept the next challenge, we are sunk into a world where we sit around whining, crying, and blaming. And nobody likes a crybaby.

Okay, the new book, Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention has been out since January, and it’s time to pick up a copy.  I haven’t been pushing it all that hard because owing to a printer’s error it was full of typos that for once weren’t mine. Since then every half-wit and snake oil salesmen have pulled together dangerously poor presentations on how to survive workplace violence.  I have attended too many professional development sessions on surviving workplace violence presented by dolts who sound like they are doing a C minus fourth-grade book report. If you are a woman, love a woman, were born of a woman, or have wives, sisters, daughters or mothers who work you should read this book.  Buy an extra copy for your boss. You’ll thank me.

And guess what, my original (in all senses of that word) book I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Business: An Iconoclast’s View of Worker Safety continues to sell well, buy one or better yet two. It is directly related to your job duties so expense them both and give one to your boss.  It will him/her good to hear some unvarnished truth. And at $15 bucks you can’t beat the price.

  #Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Prevention, #IKnowmyshoesareuntiedmindyourownbusiness. 

 

The Duration Defense Can Be Deadly

shutterstock_256422460.jpgBy Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business
Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

Were you to ask, as I have, a person who is operating in the line of fire without taking the necessary safety precautions why they were doing so, you probably have heard “I am only going to be in there for a moment”.  And while it’s certainly true that when we think of safety in terms of risk that duration certainly plays a role, defending a reckless choice to put oneself in harm’s way because of the relatively short duration just doesn’t hold up to closer scrutiny.

Take Control Of Hazardous Energy (formerly Lock/Out Tag/Out) for example. How long does it take to get crushed by a falling robot arm, or electrocuted or cooked alive by arc flash? In a lot of the fatal accidents where I have been party to the investigation, a good share of the fatalities happened immediately—it wasn’t because someone was working at heights for hours without proper height protection, (although I have seen those cases as well) it was someone literally stepping off a roof at the beginning of a shift..

Of course there is no ethical way to test this theory (we would have to watch someone working in jeopardy of dying from the moment of the inception of the job until the person died) and too often the reports of workplace fatalities often can’t tell us precisely when in the operation a person made the fatal move, but it is reasonable to surmise that the longer you take risks or the more frequently you take these risk the more likely you are to have a catastrophic outcome.  If you don’t believe me, play Russian Roulette (be sure to use a revolver). For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Russian Roulette are fairly simple. You place one bullet in a chamber and leave the other five empty. You spin the revolving cylinder so that nobody knows exactly which chamber holds the bullet, and you put the gun to your head and pull the trigger. The odds are definitely in your favor—you have five chances of not getting shot in the head and only one chance of propelling hot lead through the lobes of your brain.  I’m not suggesting anyone try this, but as life-threatening decisions go it’s a pretty tame bet.

So let’s make things a little more interesting and say that we put bullets in three chambers and repeat this process.  Now there are even odds (assuming the gun doesn’t malfunction) you have a 50:50 chance of spraying your brains over the wallpaper. By doing so we have greatly elevated the risk, it’s not a clean analogy, because workers often introduce a catalyst that inadvertently raises the risk of death, but it’s clean enough to demonstrate whether deliberately or accidentally we can relatively easily increase the risk level. Now let’s make it interesting and start the game, but instead of rotating between players we just have one guy hogging the gun (he never learned to share and hates taking turns and he has a gun so you kinda want to keep him calm). So this spoilsport spins the cylinder and pulls the trigger the odds of him putting a pill in his temple are 50:50; just like flipping a coin.  The trigger clicks and we breathe a sigh of relief. But what are the odds that, after giving the cylinder another spin, he will survive the second round? The odds don’t change, he still has a 50:50 chance of survival. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many times the selfish, doesn’t-play-well-with-others, bastard takes another turn the odds will remain 50:50. Theoretically, he could do this an infinite amount of times and never once shoot himself.

Intuitively that sounds wrong.  Even the most thick-headed baffoon wouldn’t argue that despite the even odds sooner or later the gun will fire. But who would take a potentially lethal chance if there was surety of death? Granted there are mentally ill people who take reckless chances on a fairly regular basis, but assuming that the person in question is of sound mind chances are they won’t make reckless choices.

I’ve Been Doing This Job This Way for 42 years

People will refute the necessity for safety precautions by saying that “I’ve been doing this job this way for x years and I’ve never even had a close call”. I once made a speech at a safety conference and a person argued against my statement that the absence of injuries does not denote the presence of safety.  He said that “the absence of injuries is the very definition of safety.” I countered by congratulating him and pressed my point a bit further. I told him that using his logic he could never die in a car crash since he has never died in one yet. “Hell,” I told him, “you might just be immortal, seeing as how you haven’t ever died.” He wanted to talk some more, but I was disgusted by his stupidity and just wanted to slap him.  Finally, I asked him if he had kids and he said he did. I told him that I would take his kids to a rough part of Detroit and leave them unattended in an unlocked car overnight. I then asked him that if I returned his kids to him unharmed would he feel that the activity was safe? After all, nothing bad happened to them. He agreed that this situation was not safe because of the risk of what could have happened but didn’t. Unfortunately, he went on to say that my example wasn’t the same. I just said, “you said, the lack of injury is the definition of safe. If your kids aren’t hurt, under your definition, they were completely safe.”

We use past performance as a predictor of future outcomes all of the time, not just in safety but in life. In a very real way, every time we do something unsafe we teach ourselves that the activity IS safe since we didn’t get hurt  But, as is so often the case, I’ve wandered off point. For all of you reading this who think you have been doing the same job for 40+ years my response is, “no you haven’t”.

It seems like each year some aspect of our jobs change—people retire and inexperienced people take their places, jobs are eliminated by automation or exported overseas, and not the least of which the facility gets a little older, the equipment a bit harder to maintain, heck if I thought about it long enough I could probably come up with dozens and dozens of variables that change in any given job over a decade, never mind four decades.  But we THINK the job hasn’t changed, and in most cases, we act as if nothing has changed. When I started in the adult workplace copy machines were treated like firearms—you needed a code just to use one. Typewriters became word processors which became personal computers which became laptops. The point being, doing a job poorly, or incorrectly for 40+ years doesn’t necessarily mean you are any better or safer doing it than the average cocker spaniel. Learning is like a bell-shaped curve your experience teaches you competency only for so long before behavioral drift, memory lapse, or lack of updated training causes you to lose competency. We can never be sure, but I am going to postulate that everyone who died in the workplace was pretty sure that they were going to point the pistol at their foreheads and pull the proverbial trigger to the sweet relief of a harmless click, but died instead.

I am proud to announce that Marriah Publishing has published my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  We had some publishing SNAFUs that resulted in an inordinate amount of typos (more than usual even for me). This has been corrected and if you bought it and noticed them, think of it as an activity book where you try to find as many typos as possible.  As I said, these have been corrected, but to be on the safe side wait a week or two before buying it in hardcover (it takes a bit of time to get the hardcovers corrected by the printer).

In preparing this book, I painstakingly researched ways to predict, prevent, and survive workplace violence.  I would encourage you to buy a copy and read it before attending the next workplace violence prevention technical session or speech because a lot of these yahoos are giving out dangerously bad advice.

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 & Nobel

Of course, my first book is still for sale and if you haven’t picked up a copy what are you waiting for? Buy a couple of copies and expense it. Give a copy to your boss, because if you liked this post 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. Or maybe you hated this post, maybe it  offended you deeply, if so 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 just so it LOOKS like you are burning a lot of copies of my book.

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 third and fourth book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material) based on the strength of the sale of the first book.

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free (without sponsors or advertising) clearly damned near zero moral support from people who could and do benefit from my notoriety for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy a damned book.

 

Well, That’s News To Me

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By Phil La Duke

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

“I was aware of breast cancer and I got it anyway”—an anonymous reader

I have railed against awareness campaigns for over a decade, but one thing I’ve learned about a good many safety practitioners is that you can’t get them to stop doing something they like. Whether it’s eating “used food” out of the trash or launching another imbecilic awareness campaign you can talk until your blue in the face and in the end they will continue unswayed and may even start an awareness campaign about blue-face.  

But, as one of my readers pointed out, many awareness campaigns work and he not only backed up his claims with examples and research.  It was a refreshing change from the typical frothy, infantile ranting from people with dubious anatomical knowledge. It set me to pondering why some awareness campaigns work and others are a costly and stupid waste of time.

An effective awareness campaign:

Addresses a heretofore unknown risk.  A sign that says “Think Safety” doesn’t raise awareness, it raises collective banality, It’s also a patronizing and presumptuous statement. It’s patronizing because it assumes that without the sage advice of the safety department the average worker would act with complete and reckless abandon without the slightest regard for safety. It is presumptuous because it assumes that the workers don’t have the wherewithal or wisdom to consider safety without the “divine” intervention of the safety group. A road sign that says “Caution” doesn’t differentiate between a bridge being out ahead or a platoon of snipers picking off motorists; it merely tells us that we had ought be careful; gee thanks, I’ve been told that my whole life and I’m sick of hearing it,

  • Specifically addresses the risk.  A sign that says, “radioactive. Keep out” will generally keep me from entering an area, whereas a sign that says “authorized personnel only” won’t. Why? Because they don’t list the criteria for being authorized and for all I know I am authorized by divine right, because I am an author,  by self-evident rights, or the Magna Carta, or some combination of these. The fact is, “authorized personnel only” just makes me want to enter the area all the more.
  • Raises awareness of something I can take action to control or avoid.  I was driving from San Francisco to Reno when, right around Donner’s Pass, I saw a sign warning that the pavement might be icy.  It was, it ALWAYS is. So yes, I could slow down to a crawl, but given that traffic was zipping around me going over 70 mph slowing to a safe speed down the hidden side of the mountain seemed even riskier.  Bad example. I could have done something but chose the lesser of two evils, but an awareness campaign that points out that prolonged sitting is as detrimental to your body as eating cheeseburgers (imagine what you are doing to your body if you are sitting eating cheeseburgers!) and that you should stand up for at least five minutes every hour is a lot more helpful than the sign at Donner’s Pass that says “death awaits, next 12 miles. Make your peace with God”
  • Doesn’t cause worker distraction.  Awareness campaigns are often boring as your neighbor’s funeral, but some can be really provocative and distracting. I think a lot of us have seen that interesting or funny billboard that encourages us to take our eyes off the road in the name of safety. Distraction is far riskier than forgetting that your kid loves you and doesn’t want you to die at work. And by the way, how sure are we on that count.  Your kid may hate, or at least actively dislike you. Your kid may have the insurance money already spent, and your spouse probably has someone in mind to take our place if you do shuffle this mortal coil. So don’t avoid being injured for them, your dog will likely miss you longer than your family. In fact, for many of you, your family forgets you exist 15 minutes after you leave for work.
  • Doesn’t Overwhelm you. Take for example the workplace festooned with awareness campaigns reminding us of everything from unprotected sex with bears to peanut allergies. I have seen workplaces with so many warning signs designed to warn me of something that I unconsciously tuned them all out. So now I don’t know what I have to be aware of except bears with peanut allergies or something.
  • Are current. I have visited so many workplaces with signs that are old and damaged that it’s difficult to tell if the sign is current.  I’ve seen signs reading “bridge out” when the bridge is clearly present and being used by traffic, and “danger high voltage” on equipment that has long since been decommissioned.

The danger of inane or inappropriate awareness campaigns is that they diminish our credibility.  Say one or two stupid things in the name of awareness and suddenly people are aware that we are simpletons and they getter better safety advice from fortune cookies than from us.

I am proud to announce that Marriah Publishing has published my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. And I can now say that it is finally safe to order it (we have corrected the quality control issues and expect to have it out this week). 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 & Nobel

Of course, my first book is still for sale (and if you haven’t picked up a copy you are missing out)…

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 third and fourth 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 (without sponsors or advertising) clearly damned near zero moral support from people who could and do benefit from my notoriety for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy a damned book.

Sick and Tired Of Safety

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

For  many safety practitioners the cure-all for worker safety is if the “idiots would just pay attention and do what they are told, we wouldn’t have injuries.” I have heard these very words and variations thereof, scores of time. The typical reactionary response from many and more in our industry is to launch another awareness campaign, which presumes two things: people weren’t aware of the dangers and people unknowingly put them self at risk.  I have been injured on the job and off the job and in most cases, I knew or should have known the risks I was taking so a sign telling me to be careful would not have helped. That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and a place where awareness campaigns aren’t helpful—but only when they are warning of a new, heretofore unknown hazard (think: “Bridge Out Ahead”)

On the other hand, I have been injured, made poor choices, and took risks that I ordinarily wouldn’t have, because of fatigue. Fatigue is more than just being tired; it’s being exhausted and it can manifest in illness, increased probability of poor decision making and increased risk-taking.  It is no accident that casinos have no clocks, and bright lights and enticements to keep you at the tables or slot machines. In Las Vegas, you are encouraged to stay up all night and a good casino has everything you need to keep you up and at the casino. Why? Because casinos make their money by people making foolish choices and taking unreasonable risks.

According to an article by Polly Campbell in Psychology Today The more mentally tired we become, the less capable we are of keeping up with the demands of the day. It becomes harder to make healthy decisions, stay focused on tasks, and remain calm. It can also become difficult to regulate our emotions. Over time, mental exhaustion can lead to full-blown burnout, physical issues, and stress-related illness. But, as soon as you realize why you are feeling so tired, you can take steps to restore and feel better fast.”

In many cases, our very efforts to keep people safe by heaping more and more information on to them actually increases mental fatigue and instead of making things safer we actually increase the likelihood of injuries.

I’ve worked an assembly line, nine hours of back-breaking mind-numbing work five days a week one week and six days a week the next, alternating but sometimes doubling up on the Saturdays (our Union contract prohibited more than two Saturdays in a row). The work was literally exhausting—sometimes it was all I could do to make the drive home. As arduous as this work was, it is nothing compared to many modern workplaces who work 12-hour shifts seven days a week, and to that, a modest 30-minute commute and you have a recipe for disaster. Studies have shown that a sufficiently fatigued individual is as impaired as someone who is legally drunk.

According to WebMD, “Fatigue can be described as the lack of energy and motivation (both physical and mental). This is different than drowsiness, a term that describes the need to sleep…Also, fatigue can be a normal response to physical and mental activity; in most normal individuals it is quickly relieved (usually in hours to about a day, depending on the intensity of the activity) by reducing the activity.” That’s great, but a growing number of worker are becoming fatigued and less resilient because of prolonged overwork, heightened stress both at work and outside work, or existing medical conditions from diabetes to mental health issues and corporate and individual greed (front-line and middle-managers who are desperate to make their production Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)) are pushing people too hard.

There is a major disconnect between the medical establishment and corporate America.  The cure for fatigue? Rest. How likely is it that a company facing a labor shortage and a steady demand are going to cut back on the speed and hour of production? Not very.

What’s more, the time and physical demands of work aren’t the only cause of fatigue. Prolonged concentration is also a major factor in causing mental fatigue, so awareness campaigns if they are working (they probably aren’t) can actually exacerbate the situation by forcing people to concentrate excessively.

Another way that “attention fatigue” is caused is through shorter cycles and takt times. Cycle time is the time it takes to complete one job. When I was building seats by cycle time was 55 seconds, which meant that for me to make production I had to completely assemble two seats (right and left side) in 55 seconds. Takt time is the number of units a customer demands in a given period of time (typically each day but it ould be each week or some other period.) Takt time was the determinant of whether our shift was 8 hour or 9 hours and whether or not we had to work Saturdays. The longer the cycle time the more steps a worker has to remember and the higher the takt time the more times a worker has to do this task.  I worked at a manufacturer that had a 20 minute cycle time for most jobs and had a takt time of 240 units a week. This meant that if everything went precisely to plan we had to work 5 ten hour shifts, and if anything disrupted production we had to work over time. This was 20 years ago, but we wondered why we had so many injuries at this particular plant, especially expensive ergonomic injuries. Absenteeism was high and illness was rampant. Workers were irritable and tense and tempers frequently flared. Our turnover rate was high and the time it took to bring workers up to speed was substantial. Looking back our workers were fatigued, but that wasn’t something we knew or thought about back then. We focused on the work and we were working our employees to death without a clue as to what to do about it.

At the time we were the most productive manufacturing plant in North America, but the work wasn’t just physically hard, it was mentally taxing and trying to perform 50 separate tasks to perfection in 20 minutes soon wore on people.  The project finished long before we figured things out, but it’s a lesson I never forgot.

High cycle time and takt times aren’t limited to manufacturing, they’re just better and more clearly defined in manufacturing. Call centers are expected to process calls in x time and must process x calls a shift or the call center operator is not “making shift”.  This leads to prioritizing production over the customer and in many jobs over safety. Even jobs where a mistake will not lead to an injury, the boiler room pressure it creates causes mental and physical fatigue that becomes a vicious circle.

Fatigue is a possibility in every workplace. I literally had to take a nap after beginning this piece yesterday. I work anywhere from 40 to 60 hours a week and write 5,000-10,000 words a week on my off time. The pressure to sell and remain billable in the world of global consulting is extreme, to say the least, and my job is no exception. You’re only as good as your last sale and like any other top company, management is always keeping a watchful job on the lowest performers.  Fortunately, my company emphasizes coaching over cuts, but just like your job the pressure is always there.

So what can be done?

 

  • Take “micro” breaks. Taking shorter breaks more frequently is a good way to reset your brain.  Longer breaks tend to make it tougher to go back to work, but a quick 5-minute break can refresh and rejuvenate you.
  • Exercise. Bleeck right? Who wants to exercise when they are physically exhausted? Experts have found that mild exercise will help relieve both physical and mental fatigue. I personally start my day at 4:30 a.m. with a 20 minute work out on the elliptical and another 20 minutes at lunch, and finally, at 3:00 p.m. When I can barely keep my eyes open I force myself to do another 20-minute workout.  In the morning it wakes me up, at lunch, it clears my head of all the clutter that people have caused, and at 3:00 it rejuvenates me (and since it is well before my bedtime I am able to sleep well at night.
  • Meditate. Praying, meditating, or just conjuring up pleasant memories of that great vacation you took are a great way to fight fatigue. Building your spiritual core is a great way to build resilience and fight fatigue.
  • Stay Optimistic.  Sometimes the only thing that got me through my work week was thinking how great my weekend was going to be.  Looking at the bright side of life is more than just a Monty Python song, it’s critical advice for building your resilience.
  • Eat Right. Junk food is filled with empty calories which make it tougher for your body to summon the energy needed to fight fatigue.
  • Look out the window. Taking a look out the window (or better yet taking a quick walk outside) can be surprisingly restorative. When I worked in a factory, I purchased and brought my own cleaning supplies to work so that I could wash the two windows (caked with 100 years of grime) so that I could tell what kind of weather we were having.  People said I was crazy but it made me feel a little bit better, and that’s how you beat fatigue and burn out, a little bit at a time.

     

I am proud to announce that Marriah Publishing has published my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. And I can now say that it is finally safe to order it (we have corrected the quality control issues and expect to have it out this week). 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 & Nobel

Of course, my first book is still for sale…

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 (without sponsors or advertising) clearly damned near zero moral support from people who could and do benefit from my notoriety for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy a damned book.

 

Making Fun Of Safety: The Killing Joke

shutterstock_17060035

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

Monty Python has a joke, the premise of which is that either the Allies or the Germans (I’m sorry but I don’t remember which) created a joke so funny that whoever heard or read it would laugh themselves to death.  I thought it was a fitting title for this week’s blog because I am literally just returning from the American Society Of Safety Professional Bay Area Technical Symposium where I spoke on Contractor Safety (it was a great time with great people and a really exceptionally well-run day of safety presentations.  It was great meeting people who I literally only know from LinkedIn or the blog.)

I honestly went into the presentation wondering how much humor I should interject into the subject matter which, of course, is a serious problem, not just in construction, but in all industries.  I’ve mentioned before that one particular blog post You Know What They Say About People Who Can’t Take A Joke is consistently one of the top-read blog posts And it stumps me. Not because it’s not a good article, I think anyone trying to teach, coach, or persuade anyone should understand that humor, joy and playfulness play key roles in how we learn.

I start my career in Organizational Development and my degree was in andragogy so I have spent more than my fair share emersed in how adults learn.

If you’ve ever had a puppy, you can probably understand that most of their learning is through play, or if you’ve never had a puppy but you’ve watched nature programs you will quickly notice that young creatures learn through play.

Speaking of Monty Python, I saw John Cleese speak at a conference on learning—if you want to see some money dumped into conferences, go to one on Adult Learning. (By the way, as much as the Safety function has an identity crisis the Learning industry is equally confused and self-loathing, changing the name of what it does every five years or so.) Anyway, John Cleese spoke on the subject: “Training need not be somber to be effective.  Cleese made a series of great and funny tapes on supervision and management, including Meetings Bloody Meetings, and almost 100 others (one, in particular, was my favorite but I’m darned if I can remember the name), and it occurs to me that so many of us have become humorless drones when it comes to safety.

If training can be fun, why then can’t Safety be equally fun.  I’m not talking about frivolous and juvenile crap but just light-hearted and upbeat. I’m not talking about children’s safety contests, for example where I honestly believe that the potential for psychological damage to a child who now has to worry that mommy or daddy might die at work, and I have been critical of Safety BINGOs not because I hate playing BINGO but because they tend to award under-reporting. But A) If you enjoy BINGO and B) you reward people for proactive safety suggestions and initiatives instead of an absence of injuries, knock yourself out. (Although I have to say if you think BINGO is fun, I think there’s a strong chance that you are doing “fun” wrong.)

There’s no good reason that safety can’t be fun, but too many of us worry that fun=frivilous=unimportant and what we do is so very, VERY important that we don’t dare cheapen it by injecting a little levity into the function.

There’s Humor and Then There’s Humor

The danger of using humor is there is always a chance that you will take it too far, cross a line and if you are to avoid this you should remember:

  • Avoid Gallows Humor.   Gallows Humor is “humor that makes fun of a life-threatening, disastrous, or terrifying situation”  There is a line between making a joke about an experience you may have had with trenches and joking about three people killed in a trench that collapsed.  The situation you had can be funny in retrospect (and even highly instructive—you tell a funny story about something that almost happened to you, you explain what you learned from that, and then you make a funny commentary,  In effect, you sandwich the important illustrative point between two sources of humor which in turn, increases the retention. I often talk about a man who was struck by lightning and suffered no ill effects, but as I learned, he devoted considerable time researching how people are struck by lightning.  So I explain it this way, “I met a man who was struck by lightning, and if you survive, one of the side effects is that when you survive a lightning strike you become an expert in never getting struck by lightning, He told me, and I looked it up, that the longest recorded lightning strike was from over a mile away! So if you see lightning, take cover because it’s possible that you could be struck by it.  With all the things I say that people warn me that God will strike me down with a lightning bolt, I listened carefully to, and closely adhere to, his advice. Some could argue that by the purest definition I not only use gallows humor but use it often. I would counter that the points about which I am joking are not tragedies because the worker escaped unharmed, and I don’t go into graphic detail about the terrifying situations.  The idea is to get the people to remember an important point, not to laugh at the misfortunes of others.

 

  • The Only Acceptable Butt Of A Joke Is Yourself.  If I am presenting a training program or technical session at a conference, I often make jokes, but they are at MY expense.  One should never make a joke about someone in the audience or even a third party who isn’t present. It’s more than just tacky, it’s rude, and bullying.  When one is facilitating or speaking they are in a power position and poking fun of someone—even in “good fun”—is unfair, they don’t control the room and can’t “fight back” without looking belligerent”.   The speaker has an unfair advantage and therefore can do nothing but turn the rest of the audience off.
  • Some Topics Are Always Off-Limits.  Jokes of a sexual, racial, religious, or otherwise hostile nature can never be told in a training class or even casually one-on-one. Apart from being harassing, they truly do diminish people’s trust in the safety function.

 

So have a little fun with safety, people will enjoy it more and whether it be in a training session or applied at the job site people are far more likely to apply it.  I know that there are some hard-ass safety professionals who want to crack heads in the name of safety who will ardently disagree with me. Let the hate mail begin.

I am proud to announce that Marriah Publishing has published my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. But like I said, I would advise you to wait a week or two.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon (US and Canada) or Barnes & Nobel Of course, my first book is still for sale…

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 (without sponsors or advertising) clearly damned near zero moral support from people who could and do benefit from my notoriety for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy a damned book.