I Don’t Even Know Who We Are Anymore

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Phil La Duke

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

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

The actual rejection read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Mass Shootings Aren’t the Same As Workplace Violence Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predict

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

Prevention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resilience Is the Only Way To Combat Fatigue

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

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

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

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

Now I am feeling fatigued.

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

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

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

Resiliency Is the Answer

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

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

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

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

“Tips for building resilience:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Okay sorry I haven’t posted

I’ve been working long hours working production safety on a major motion picture and have a book signing Saturday.

Until then

My second in a series on Women CEOs. Read it. Love it. Share it. I am a needy, needy, little man. https://medium.com/authority-magazine/5-things-i-wish-someone-told-me-before-i-became-a-ceo-with-elizabeth-gerbel-of-eag-services-e67bbb061b41?source=friends_link&sk=24db096700186038be97297d9414babc

We Aren’t Gods; We Can’t Control Everything

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

Several weeks back I spoke at ASSP’s Safety 2019 on the topic of Worker Fatigue and Well-Being and today I got my reviews. They were mixed, but I am used to that—I have a polarizing effect on people and you either love me or hate me. But two things I found troubling: 1) While I listed the subject as advanced many found it too basic and 2) several found it lacking when it comes to takeaways.

Now I’ve always believed that there are two types of people who come to my sessions: forward-thinking professionals prepared to have their world view challenged and idiots who wandered into the wrong room, but in this case, some of the criticisms were right on the money. It was basic (mainly because the issue of fatigue is pretty basic: stop working your workers to death and then blaming them for dying) and I didn’t offer any quick fixes (because even if there were any Safety doesn’t have the power, influence, or respect, to implement them.)

I would like to address these here and a larger issue that is becoming a major impediment to working in the Safety Function. First, I rated this as “expert” because, realistically, what can a person with 1-5 years experience do to tackle a system issue—whatever it is? No, in my opinion, something that must be tackled by the C-suite is an expert level presentation, you may disagree, but you would be wrong. Secondly, when it comes to simple takeaways and practical solutions to worker fatigue there just aren’t any. (Again, you can disagree and also be wrong.)

Let’s get the fatigue issue out of the way and then get out of the weeds and look at the bigger problem. “Fatigue is a common problem involving a physical and mental state of being extremely tired. Physical and mental fatigue are different, but they often occur together. Long-term physical exhaustion can also lead to mental fatigue.”—Source Fatigue: Why am I so tired and what can I do about it? Medical News Today. It’s more than being merely being tired which until recent studies most people thought fatigued was synonymous with tired, and it’s cumulative which means that it will continue to build until something gives (usually the health and or safety of the worker). It may sound too basic to say that it is “a central cause of many injuries” but how many of you can honestly say that worker fatigue has shown up as a central cause or contributor in your incident investigations? Put your hands down, we both know you’re full of shit.

Of course, fatigue causes poor decision making, loss of manual dexterity, increased risk-taking, and many more underlying causes of traditional injuries, but we don’t call it fatigue, now do we? We say workers are complacent, or distracted, or even stupid or lazy, but if we say the workers are fatigued what solution do we have? There is a chasm separating fatigued workers and complacent, frustrated, or lazy workers. If we say the workers are any of these things be can blame the workers and we’re off the hook. WE didn’t hire them. WE don’t manage them. So how can anyone expect US to do anything about it? But if we say that the worker is fatigued, our bosses will want a solution, and there is no solution we can implement or even try to implement without looking like simpletons.

It gets worse. Fatigue has been shown to cause:

  • Acute liver failure
  • Anemia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Cancer
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic infection or inflammation
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Concussion
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) COPD
  • Depression (major depressive disorder)
  • Diabetes
  • Emphysema
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Medications and treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, pain drugs,
  • heart drugs, and antidepressants
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Obesity
  • Pain that’s persistent
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress
  • Traumatic brain injury

I’m the first to admit that my research turned up a fairly lengthy and perhaps alarmist (it would appear that fatigue plays a role in everything this side of impotence in sea urchins) but if it really plays a role in one-third of these things shouldn’t we address it?

Except we can’t. At least not at the safety level. A lot of fatigue is caused by things that people do OFF the job. Things like:

  • Sleeping to long
  • Not sleeping long enough
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Eat like a goat with the munchies
  • Live a sedentary lifestyle

What easy takeaway is there to remedy dangerous and potentially stupid things people do on their own accord? I guess a case could be made for awareness, but many of these people aren’t lacking in the knowledge that this type of behavior is bad for them.

A lot of you dough heads seem to think that organizations see safety as a sacred calling…well it aint. If it was there wouldn’t be so many empty suits running companies or safety directors asking, “what are you doing to make people care?” (By the way, if your boss asks you that answer, “ I push people down the stairs and scream ‘hanging on the handrail doesn’t seem so stupid now does it m@#$%!# f@#$%! now does it?’ and then I laugh maniacally”.)

So to those of you who bitched that my presentation wasn’t a panacea for “curing” fatigue let me just say this. There isn’t one. All we can do is sound the alarm, and that isn’t a very satisfying answer—not for me and not for you. That segues nicely into the bigger problem: we can’t control the bigger, uglier, and most dangerous problems we face in workplace safety. We can’t control workplace violence, high-stress environments, compensation systems that pit worker-against-worker at all levels. These are problems that the executives need to tackle and more importantly fund.  Companies make record profits while their workers jump out the windows.

You want takeaways for dealing with fatigue? listen up screw heads:

  1. Stop shift work. Studies have shown that shift work is a major cause of fatigue and literally takes years off people’s lives. Okay, so what are you going to do about it? Jack and shit. We don’t run the companies and trying to get Operations to refill the first aid kit takes an act of congress so what makes you think we can make a change that is so enormous and so costly? Seriously if you got an answer I’m all ears.
  2. Stop 12-hour shifts. Even a half-hour commute means that an employee is working 13 hours, add to that the time it takes to shower, shave and…pack a lunch and you barely have time to yell at your kid to turn down the music let alone decompress. Fatigue keeps ticking down like a time-bomb.
  3. Restore the five-day workweek. People need work-life balance and without it, they get fatigued and die horribly and prematurely, but before they do they get injured. I believe it’s a defense mechanism. If you drive the machine too hard it breaks down.
  4. Restore the 8 hour day. The pursuit of money has made us diabolical criminals. We are prepared to work people to death LITERALLY so that we can buy…what exactly? The managers blame the executives, the executives blame the stockholders. What happened to morality and decency? Companies make enough money to not only reduce the amount of time a person works but pay the workers MORE. Check your 401K’s before you react in self-righteous indignation you greedy bastards.

This isn’t the only systemic issue that we (and I am not excluding myself here) face in health and safety that we cannot control. But lack of control is no excuse for lack of trying to influence. Every day, nay—every word I write—I risk some impotent mouth breather complaining that I’ve finally gone too far. But at some point, someone out there will finally realize that THEY have to act, that THEY have to think, and THEY will have to screw down their courage and ACT. You can’t just read a book, or post online, or go to a conference you have to get off your lazy asses and DO something. I may not have all the answers, in fact, I DON’T have all the answers but at least I have the courage to ask the questions. This is real life. You can’t sit on the sidelines and cluck your tongues.

John Lennon, in the song, Girl said, “ Did she understand it when they said, that a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure? Will she still believe it when he’s dead?” Well we are facing this now and we have a bunch of lazy boobs looking for a quick fix, well there isn’t one and the Health and Safety function is becoming that in name only.

Alan Ginsberg said, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,” Well I’ve seen the most feeble minds of my generation rise to prominence in the field of worker safety selling snake-oil, while the greatest minds were chased from the field by close-headed, psychotic, drooling, clinical imbeciles who talk big from anonymous walls of the digital fog but shrivel when confronted in person.

We may not be able to change things with fiats, but we can fight the good fight and try to convince our leaders that working our people to death is wrong, and bad for business. Boss Tweed said, “you can always hire half the poor to kill the other half”, but we can prove him wrong, and I spit on all of you who are too cowardly to even try. Oh, and the hat stays on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Building A Business Case for Safety

shutterstock_1008058504By Phil La Duke

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

A LinkedIn contact asked me if I could provide some guidance on how to build a business case for safety to, as she put it, shut up some water heads.  I am going to warn you right now I am going to use some words that will make some of you squirm—words like “profit” and “return on investment”. I know for some of you the thought that money spent on safety is simply the right thing to do and talking in terms of costs and money are coarse and dirty. Well, you can stuff that hippy crap and stop reading right now.  The purpose of all organizations is to survive and to survive they have to make money. So if you think that what you spend on safety doesn’t have to show a return you are deluded and don’t have a firm grasp on business or reality.

It’s hard to quantify the cost of safety—I mean you are essentially trying to quantify the absence of all risk—but the Quality Function figured out a solution and came up with the concept of the Cost of Quality (COQ) and have successfully embedded that into the collective business lexicon. COQ is essentially the same thing as the Cost Of Safety (COS) in that we aren’t really putting a price tag on safety, we are putting it on the lack of safety.

shutterstock_145644631Building a business case is easy. First, you calculate the cost of the problem (in the case of safety injuries) and you compare it to the cost of the solution. Next, you calculate how long before the solution solves the problem and stops the cash bleed. So essentially you answer three questions: 1) How much does it cost to continue to do nothing, 2) how much will it cost to fix it, and 3) How long will the cash be encumbered (here’s a tip, a LOT of executives expect a return on investment in three months or less.  

Never mistake a reluctance to invest with indifference. I once had an outraged plant manager scream at the safety professional “when have you ever come to me with a business case for safety and have me turn you down? When you act like a businessman you will get treated like one, but I don’t give out blank checks!” He was right and I liked him from that moment on.

So let’s take a look at the costs of injuries. And to talk about costs I like to use the tired old, clichéd metaphor of an iceberg.  The portion above the water line are the direct costs, and these are easy to see and calculate, while the portion below the water line are indirect costs which are harder to see and even harder to calculate. Another cost above the waterline is a fixed cost, which we will get to in a moment.

Fixed Costs

Fixed costs are the expenditures on things for which you are going to make irrespective of injuries, they include:

  • Safety employee salaries & benefits
  • Medical supplies and floor space
  • MSDS/SDS Sheets
  • Overhead
  • Supplies

These costs are fixed because it really doesn’t matter if you have an excellent record or an abysmal record you have to shell out money for these things.

So you start with the fixed costs, why? Because your executive looks at you with a dollar sign on your face and is always looking for a way to reduce costs. If you bring it up before your executive you gain credibility and diffuse a potentially explosive conversation.

Direct Costs

Never use a multiplier from the National Safety Council or average cost for your industry,  Doing so creates a defensive “that’s not true here” argument. So we avoid all the arguments by calculating the cost of injuries:

  • Cost of incident response
    • Injured worker wage x the time he or she is unproductive (this is a hard figure and difficult to dispute)
    • First responder wage x the time he or she is dealing with the injury
    • Escort’s (the person who will be taking the injured worker to the medical department or clinic) wage x the time it took to travel to the clinic (there and back) 
    • Supervisor wage x time to return to normal
    • Replacement worker wage x the time on the job
    • Cost of lost production
  • Cost of Incident Investigation
    • Injured Worker Wage x hours of investigation (assuming he/she is able to participate
    • Witnesses wages x hours of participation
    • Safety personnel wages x hours of investigation
    • Other participant wages x hours of investigation
  • Cost of reporting
    • Safety wages x time to report
  • Workers’ Compensation claims
    • Cost of claims settled
    • Cost of case management
    • Cost of litigation
  • Fines.

Indirect Costs

 

  • Turnover.  Workers who have witnessed or simply heard about an injury often decide to find employment elsewhere.  You can’t know how much of your turnover is related to safety, however.
  • Morale. Worker injuries sap morale.
  • Loss of Business. An increasing number of companies will not source business to companies with poor safety records.
  • Damage to corporate reputation. Companies spend tens of thousands of dollars paying marketing to increase their reputations, but one high profile injury can destroy any gains made in this area.
  • Higher insurance premiums.  Insurance claims for injuries equal higher premiums or encumbered cash for Workers’ Compensation.
  • Training of replacement workers. In cases where the injured party is off work a prolonged period of time, another worker must be trained to fill in.
  • Loss of productivity.  Nearly all well-run businesses calculate their efficiency and can assign a cost to it.

 

Even these indirect costs can be calculated, although it can be a bit more difficult to do so. What’s more, even if you do manage to calculate the cost of injuries you should be prepared for the dimwits who don’t care.  I had one executive tell me that even at a million dollars injury costs were a drop in the bucket. No, calculating the costs isn’t enough, you need to also translate the cost of injuries into whatever the company cares the most about. So if your company is obsessed with sales you have to say, “to cover the cost of injuries we would have to increase our sales x% just to maintain the status quo,” or if it is production “we would have to build x more tractors just to pay for our injuries.”

By equating it to something that they most care about, you get them to care about the financial impact of injuries and you have taken the philosophic and made it tangible and real.

If you enjoyed this post you probably would enjoy my books.  My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)

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

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

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

Free Book Giveaway Ends Today

The #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Lone Gunman: Rewriting The Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/6e63564c0d5f92bb NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends today 11:59 PM PDT, if you are a US resident (Amazon‘s requirement not mine) and 18 years of age enter soon and enter often.