Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

blood on my hands

Photo by it’s me neosiam on Pexels.com

As some of you know, I am in the process of putting the finishing touches on my second book. It is an expansion of my blog post Forget BBS There Is A Better Way   I have been rightfully criticized for doing too much attacking and not enough constructive criticism. In fairness to me, apart from a handful of devoted readers my blog posts only go viral when I call people out on the stupid crap that they are doing in the name of worker safety.  I honestly can’t wrap my brain around the kind of person who reads something just to puff out their chest and yell “foul!” in sanctimonious outrage.

I decided to call my second book, “Blood In My Pocket”  and it will be much the same format as my first book, (i.e. a mixture of cleaned up blog posts, published magazine articles, and new material, but will be structured around the points made in Forget BBS, There’s A Better Way) (shameless plug,  We plan to have it available for sale November 1st, 2018).

As I told people, even safety people recoiled in horror.  They had never heard what I assumed was a widely known phrase in safety.  The Blood In the Pocket Effect refers to the practice by injured workers, of seeking medical attention from their own physicians rather than the company medical department and therefore ruining the company’s perfect safety record.

The term itself describes a worker who cuts his hand, wraps it in a dirty shop rag and puts it in his pocket so that his supervisor can’t see the injury.  In some companies concealing an injury is a fireable offense, but in most cases, no one goes looking too deeply for under-reporting. In fact, ask 15 safety guys if there is under-reporting at their facilities and at least 12 will swear that there are absolutely no underreporting.

Years ago, before joining my current employer, I went on a sales call and toured a facility where the ebullient kept telling me to watch my step, and to use the handrail (that was so rickety that I was sure if I put any weight against it I would fall to my death) and generally mother-hen me through the tour.  I proudly told me about the children’s poster problem (I’ve asked it before and I will ask it again, what kind of sociopath introduces the idea that mommy and daddy could die at work to a six-year-old?) and boast in pride about all the useless and pointless activity the company did in the name of safety.

As we walked, he pointed to a woman who was doing a highly physically demanding job.  She looked miserable and when she took her break she sat alone looking downtrodden. “She’s one of our frequent flyers,” my tour guide told me.  “Frequent flyers?” I asked in genuine confusion. “Yeah, she’s been injured like six times, she had to have back surgery twice, and since the workers, all get a $250 bonus each quarter when she gets hurt it cost every other worker at least  $250. One year it cost them all $1,000. The people here hate her and just wish she would quit.” I was aghast but said nothing. Like the death camp guard who knows right from wrong, I still thought I had a shot at a sale and wasn’t about to open my mouth.  I carry that burden with me even today, almost two decades later.

I’ve heard numerous tales of companies who either use incentives inappropriately or push zero-injuries with such force that workers will openly tell workers headed to medical that they better not “screw up my bonus” or council new workers that if they get hurt they get better care from their own doctors than from the company doctors.

People were outraged when they heard about the child molestation scandals of the Catholic Church, and rightfully so.  For the record, I am a practicing Catholic (you have to practice if you aren’t any good at something) and am neither a defender of the faith nor an anti-Catholic bigot. (Before any other faiths start congratulating themselves and assuring themselves that it can’t happen to them, take a look at your youth group leaders. and bible camp counselors and you won’t find many stones to throw.) The crime was bad enough, but the cover-up was even more heinous.  How is this different than deceiving the government, the shareholders, the workers, and the people about the number of injuries there truly are at your company? If you turn a blind eye toward underreporting of injuries you are just as despicable as the bishops who quietly settle the case and move the pedophile to a different parish.

By now some of you are in a froth.  You are grumbling aloud that not doing anything to stop underreporting is nowhere near as bad as allowing pedophiles access to children. Well, consider this: underreporting conceals risks. These risks tend to grow and compound until they manifest in an injury that can no longer be concealed—amputations, crippling injuries, and fatalities.

Blood in the pocket is blood on your hands.

Did you like this post? (I don’t really care if you LIKED as much as if it made you think) If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business  (save yourself some money and order it from the Amazon.com in your country or at least on your continent)  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).

 

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Book Signing In A Detroit Institution

This is not this week’s post.

I just wanted to let people know that I will be co-hosting a book signing of I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business! at the historic new location of Henry The Hatters’  the oldest Hat Store in the US, on October the 14th, 2018 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Those of you who have read my Entrepreneur contributions might recall the travails of Henry the Hatter from my article He Owns the Oldest Hat Store In America and Knows How Tough Entrepreneurship Really Is Paul Wasserman’s Henry the Hatter has thrived for generations in Detroit. He knows everything there is to know about ups and downs. or Detroit: The 21st Century Boomtown The Motor City has epitomized both America’s past industrial dominance and the despair of economic decline. It now is the epitome of urban resurgence.

At any rate, Paul and Joe are opening up special on a Sunday for me to sign copies of   I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business! or select body parts.  I will have a limited number of books on hand for sale, but they go pretty quick so Amazon or Barnes and Noble is still your best bet.  Don’t care about my stupid book? Come and check out the new store (the last was a piece of history, the new store is a work of art, and maybe buy a hat (or four). Anyway, that’s where I’ll be and hopefully, you will be too.

LinkedIn and Facebook are making…

LinkedIn and Facebook are making it increasingly difficult for me to post from this site to theirs. So what USED to take me 2-3 hours on a Saturday (for free) now takes 5 times that (for free) and I am not sure how long I am going to keep doing this. So if this site and my work is of ANY value to you, you need to do the following:

• Follow me on Twitter. It’s easy and it will keep you up to date with additions to this site, or subscribe to the site, or both
• Post these in just one of the discussion groups on LinkedIN, just one, that’s all I’m asking one.
• Share this post with someone, post it (bu copying the URL) on Facebook or by sending it via email.
• Buy my book. I have written over 950 blog posts, and over 300 magazine articles. The book is a selection (mostly from reader suggestions) of popular blog posts and magazine articles. Plus in all but one chapter I added new material. Think of the book as compensation for 18 years of stirring the pot.
• Do nothing, which I know is what most of you will do and that’s fine too, but every week this gets to be a bigger pain in the ass and if you don’t care about it, I have to question why I should go to all this effort.

Is Safety A Right Or A Responsibility

By Phil La Duke

Yesterday I reposted a blog article of the same name that I wrote and published in 2011 on my own company’s website.  I re-read it and was amazed at how much my outlook had shifted on this matter.  I’m sure it’s the current climate of entitlement  and people ascerting rights that they don’t have, but here it is for good or for ill…I don’t bad mouth BBS so I don’t expect more than a half-dozen readers  to actually see this post.

Is safety a right? Do I by nature of my own basic humanity possess an individual right to an injury-free workplace, or do I have a responsibility to work safely and avoid injuring myself and others? This seemingly simple question is at the cornerstone of every safety process, debate, and theory. Let’s explore these concepts independently at first. For something to be a right, we must have some guarantee or assurance by a body of some standing that whatever point of contention is in fact bestowed upon us when we meet a given criterion. Some of these rights are bestowed upon us directly and unquestionable—for example the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. Other rights are subject to interpretation, as in the overblown debate over whether an over-paid athlete has the right to kneel during the national anthem before sporting events, which can be viewed as a subset of said athlete’s right to free speech.

Safety Cannot Be a Right

Safety cannot be a right, because nothing is ever completely safe since true safety is the absence of any probability of coming to physical, emotional, mental, metaphysical, or any other sort of harm you can imagine. This seems odd because if human beings have any rights at all it would seem that they should possess the right to make a living without dying, suffering a debilitating injury, or crippling chronic conditions because of the work they do. We have the right, in the form of protection under the law, to freedom from injuries that are caused deliberately by our employers, or through negligence, or depraved indifference, so in some sense, we have the right to expect our employers to exercise reasonable and practicable care to prevent us from being killed or injured. For simplicity’s sake, we will refer to these rights as the right to Safety.

Today, experts estimate that there are 27 million slaves. Experts differ on the definition of exactly what constitutes a slave and with variations in definitions comes larger estimates of the size, but in general, we can agree that there are a LOT of people who are enslaved. Interestingly, this number (and definition) of slaves does not include the working poor who feel that they have no options. Liberty is seen in most developed countries, as a universal right and yet for too many people liberty is taken from them by force, swindled from them by conmen, or simply ignored for those people too poor or who don’t know that what is being done to them is illegal.

The U.S. Chamber of commerce and other business lobbyists have actively engaged in a campaign to significantly curtail the rights of individuals in the U.S. to sue companies for products that are unsafe. But this is just the final battleground worldwide. Laws globally have made it harder for individuals to hold companies responsible for the safety of their products. And it’s not just product safety. Workers’ compensation laws disallow workers from suing their employers for a workplace injury (such cases are governed by worker’s compensation payouts instead of individual lawsuits.) Similar efforts worldwide reflect a growing legal opinion that the primary cause of worker injuries is stupid, clumsy, or reckless workers. As for criminal penalties for injuring another, such consequences are largely nonexistent unless a company actually kills an individual, does so quickly, and does show while showing criminal recklessness and depraved indifference. If you are a company and you kill a worker by slowing poisoning him or her over say 30 years your board or exec team will not see a day of prison time (remember Union Carbide and India?) So while it sure makes sense that safety would be a right the legal opinion seems to view safety as something for sale—break a rule pay a fine, maim a worker and risk a lawsuit with restricted remedies. As long as you are prepared to write a check you can pretty much injury workers with impunity. If safety ever was a right it has long since ceased being one.

Safety Isn’t A Responsibility
If Safety isn’t a right is Safety at very least a responsibility? If safety is a responsibility, who is responsible? Everyone? Workers? Corporations? Is it a moral responsibility or legal one? Is safety a personal responsibility or a collective one? More and more companies are looking to hold workers responsible for the safety of the workplace. In some business environs, safety is a condition of employment. In others, elaborate and expensive behavior modification programs are implemented to manipulate the worker’s behaviors so that they work more safely. Given that injuries are accidental (not assaults) it’s hard to hold an individual responsible for an unforeseen outcome of an unintended action. So who is responsible? An organization bears the responsibility for keeping the workplace safe by implementing 5S workplace organizations, applying safety controls, training workers, designing robust processes, and ensuring that equipment is in good working order. In my mind, the front-line supervisor is and always will be ultimately responsible for the safety of the crew that he or she oversees. This responsibility is beyond debate. Only the front-line supervisor has both the power and the authority to ensure safe work practices of all the workers in his or her area. I can be killed as easily by the human errors, uninformed risk-taking, poor choices, or wanton recklessness of a coworker as easily as my own, and it is the front-line supervisor’s responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Clearly, workers bear some responsibility for their own safety, for example, they must follow the work instructions procedures that should be designed to perform the task most efficiently and efficiently includes in the safest possible manner. Workers need to manage their personal lives and avoid performance inhibitors. Avoiding performance inhibitors—like hangovers, lack of sleep, unmanaged stress, and fatigue—also tends to build resilience (a word so inappropriately bandied about I hesitate to even use it). Building resistance involves maintaining the fitness of body, mind, or soul. It does matter who you are staying physically fit helps you to boost your immune system and to bounce back more quickly from illnesses. Exercising your mind helps you to build what Chris Groscurt (in the fantastic recently released book, Future-Ready Leadership: Strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution) calls, “Presence of thinking” according to Groscurt “presence of thinking leads to greater self-awareness. We need presence of thinking to get out of the default (autopilot) mode of thinking.” This mental discipline allows us to bounce back from mental trauma and tragedy more quickly. Finally, we need to exercise our spiritual health—whoever or whatever you worship (hell you can worship me as God-Emperor and most of you cheap bastards still won’t buy my book) or if you worship nothing at all you have to take care of your spiritual or if you prefer, your emotional health. Groscurth dubbed this the “Presence of Feeling”, as he explains it, “Presence of feeling supports self-management and enables presence of action. This type of ‘practical wisdom’ (phronesis) or in-the-moment decision making…”

So while no single individual is responsible for the collective safety, everyone is responsible for some part of safety and should at a minimum hold themselves accountable for their contribution or lack thereof to safety.
Both and Neither
And so it goes that safety is both a right and a responsibility, and neither a right nor a responsibility. Safety is probability, and probability is generally a balancing act. By making safety an abstract (right, responsibility) we obviate the need to think of our safety as a continuous condition, and remain situationally aware or constantly shifting probability that we will not be harmed by the hazards with which we interact. We can either reduce the number of hazards with which we interact, reduce the time with which we interact, or reduce the severity of the consequences when, despite our best efforts, we are injured anyway

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

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

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

Is Safety A Right Or A Responsibility?

Digging into the archives of my original blog.

The Safety Net

Is Safety a Right Or a Responsibility? Is safety a right? Do I as an individual have the right to an injury free workplace, or do I have a responsibility to work safely and avoid injuring myself and others? This seemingly simple question is at the cornerstone of every safety process, debate and theory. Let’s explore these concepts independently at first. Safety is a right .If human beings have any rights at all it would seem that the right to make a living without dying, suffering debilitating injury, or crippling chronic conditions because of the work they do. Today, experts estimate that there are 27 million slaves. Experts differ on the definition of exactly what constitutes a slave and with variations in definitions comes larger estimates of the size, but in general we can agree that there are a LOT of people who are enslaved. Interestingly, this number (and definition)…

View original post 576 more words

If BBS Is So Bad Why Do People Love it So Much?

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By Phil La Duke

Popularity seldom equals value or worth. When I would criticize a celebrity that I disliked, my late mother would almost always respond, “well they make a lot of money doing that so they must be doing something right,” to which I would respond, “I can make a lot of money robbing liquor stores or turning tricks at a truck stop but that doesn’t make these things good or a benefit to society.” Think of this exchange often when people challenge my assertion that there is a better way to safety with “Then why is so popular, and why do companies spend millions on it?”
The answer isn’t complex. BBS is easy and fast to implement so many companies figure so what if it is ineffectual, or to be fair, needlessly costly for a meager return ineffectiveness.

I have gone over, around, and through what’s wrong with BBS but essentially I have been arguing outcomes. I don’t think I’m wrong for arguing outcomes, but I DO think that I need to address the elephant in the dining room and talk about WHY BBS fails to deliver on its promises.

A LinkedIn contact said in condemning BBS, quoting, I believe a national study. “BBS works the Hierarchy of Controls upside down.” Most of us have heard of the Hierarchy of Controls, it’s yet another pyramid where the most effective measure of reducing risks sit atop the hierarchy and the least effective form the base of the pyramid.

The Hierarchy of Controls is a tool used to apply the most effective controls to processes. At the top of the hierarchy are the most effective controls, albeit the most difficult to implement. The layers of the hierarchy proceeding downward from their getting less effective and easier to implement.

Elimination. Design the hazard out, or remove it once it is in production.
Substitution. Replace the hazard with something less hazardous.
Engineering Controls. Physically construct barriers that prevent workers from interacting with a hazard.
Administrative. Rules, training, procedures, discipline, coaching, or just plain telling people to be more careful.
Personal Protective Equipment. Safety glasses, gloves, welding goggles, basically the suits of armor we put on workers to protect them when all else fails.

Companies that employ a BBS system are focusing on the easiest, fastest measures, which are also on the least effective controls. Instead of working up the hierarchy and looking for better, more effective solutions, BBS is just an attempt to make the easy, scientifically proven ineffective controls better. It seeks to redesign the people instead of redesigning the system.

Years ago I developed a way to immediately inform site leaders, safety personnel, and Operation or Maintenance leaders when an employee was working in a controlled area without locking out. No one cared. The technology existed and the company I was working at, at the time, wasn’t even going to charge for it. It was simply a matter of connecting the software that controlled these areas with our hazard tracking system. The client said “no”. Its reasoning was befuddling, “if we do that and we don’t act fast enough we could be liable.” “But if you kill someone you will be liable ANYWAY,!” I argued to deaf ears. It used to be we valued knowledge and armed with just a little knowledge we believed we could do great things. But now we revile knowledge and innovative. No one wants to believe that things can be as simple of getting rid of a hazard or substituting it with something less treacherous.
At the heart of BBS is the belief that people are at fault for injuries. Through what they have done or what they have failed to do. And people do, in fact, do a lot of stupid things. They rig safety interlocks with “jumpers” so they enter energized equipment, they remove guards to make it easier to clear jams, they run with scissors, they text while driving. But the answer isn’t to try to reprogram people with theories built on 100-year old junk science.
But what IS the solution. The average safety practitioner can’t eliminate a hazard that has been designed into a process or piece of equipment, but the Safety Function can convince Engineering leadership to invest in Design For Assembly/Manufacturing training and software. The Safety Function can get involved in and help create Failure Modes Effects Analysis with Engineers and talk about the implications of a design on the safety of the workers.
We need to accept that workers will ALWAYS make mistakes, but those mistakes should be death sentences. The things that make the lowest controls on the hierarchy ineffective are the amount that they depend on worker compliance, competence, and lack of mistake making.
So breaking it down:
People make mistakes
We can either try in vain to change point number one or we can concentrate instead on making sure that these mistakes don’t injure or kill people.
BBS seems to ignore point #1 and seems to believe that they can change the truth that “To err is human”. System after system plays God with worker’s trying to shape and mold them into some creature that doesn’t make mistakes. The goal is to make the worker better than robots (which, believe it or not, also make mistakes) the goal isn’t zero harm in these systems, it’s zero errors, zero machine malfunctions, zero parts shortages, and zero management accountability. You can make workers smarter, more competent, and even more engaged, but you will never make them infallible.
We need to focus less on fixing people and blame and more on fixing system errors, replacing worn out equipment and tools, and for the love of all that is holy protect people when they make a mistake.

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).

Ask Me Anything Has Been Extended

howtopublish

by Phil La Duke

Ask Me Anything is a forum where people can ask experts anything about (ideally about a specified topic). I hosted one on How to Publish Your Non-Fiction Book and it was so popular that they have decided to extend the question period until Friday at noon. So for those who have asked me in snotty emails, “what makes you an expert?” or “what makes you think you’re so smart?” or “why are you such a jerk to safety professionals?” or well…you get the picture.  Here’s your chance.

Ask Me Anything About Getting a Nonfiction Book Published