Snake Bit: This Time the Snake Oil Salesmen Have Gone Too Far

Photo by Pixabay  from Pexels

By Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Contributor: 1% Safer,

For more than two decades I have written this blog and railed against what I see as the greatest threat to worker safety—snake oil salesmen. For those unfamiliar with the term, a snake oil salesman was originally used to describe a fraud who traveled 19th century America selling potions that consisted of ingredients that ranged from the innocuous to the out-and-out lethal.  The seller would claim that the exotic ingredients, for example, snake oil, would cure anything and everything that ails you. The snake oil salesmen were quick-talking swindlers who were long gone before anyone could hold them accountable for the damage they caused. By the time someone got sick, the snake oil salesman was off to the next town with the rubes lining up to be suckered.

I have encountered many a snake oil salesman in the world of Safety, from the ex-coworker who stole the intellectual property of my employer, swapped one word from the offering (even retaining the logo), and sold it as his own, to smug academics who wrote a book or two on how Behavior-Based Safety and blaming the injured was the way to a safer workplace, to the con artists who saw a speech on culture and rebranded themselves as cultural transformation architects.  All made promises that they could not deliver, but hey, caveat emptor!

This week I received the following from a publicist trying to get me to write an article about a new shoe for healthcare workers.  What follows is absolute, cut-and-paste truth, and it is terrifying that anyone—any person, company, or french poodle could ever present this as truth:

I won’t use the names of the person or company to abet the guilty. Please note the capricious boldface is all on her.

To: Phil La Duke

From: Unethical and clueless Public Relations Pukebag

Subject: New type of PPE: footwear protection that was needed even before the pandemic

Date: September 14, 10:02 a.m.

Hi Phil:

Healthcare workers around the US are have been waiting for a footwear solution to protect them from contracting diseases via their feet on the job: this was a danger to them even before the pandemic. The feet are the forgotten, disease entry-point. 

 Contaminated shoes transmit COVID-19 and many other diseases and infections–including HIV, Hepatitis B & C, syphilis, etc.–which result in illnesses and even fatal outcomes, for healthcare workers and their family members. 

Consider this: After over 1 year in a pandemic, there has not been even 1 single provider of protective PPE footwear; but there is now. 

Healthcare workers across the country and locally, and members of the National Association of Nurses and other nursing education foundations, are excited about (BRAND) and are wearing them. 

(BRAND), is new PPE Footwear® that was created by (Name Drop), a former Hollywood luxury shoe designer who immediately pivoted from making A-list celebs shoes, after a family member of his almost died last year, from COVID-19.  

Can I interest you in a conversation with (Founder) and nurses and doctors who are advocating for shoe PPE, about the issue of proper, head to toe COMPLETE healthcare worker protective gear?

When I challenged the efficacy of the claims that these shoes prevented people from contracting COVID-19 and/or syphilis the publicist sent me a follow-up email with a link to a study that essentially said that medical facilities floors were hotbeds of infectious bacteria (not for the record, viruses).  

I worked in healthcare for several years and even wrote a course on infection control, so this is not a subject of which I am completely ignorant, so let’s apply our keen problem-solving skills and dissect this email, shall we?

  1. Healthcare workers around the US are have been waiting for a footwear solution to protect them from contracting diseases via their feet on the job: this was a danger to them even before the pandemic. The feet are the forgotten, disease entry-point.” There have been footwear solutions that protect healthcare workers from contracting syphilis through foot contact for CENTURIES; they’re called shoes and healthcare employees are required to wear them in pretty much any hospital. Furthermore, in clean-room settings (intensive care, operating rooms, etc.)  employees are often required to wear disposable booties over their shoes to further control the spread of infection. 
    This claim took me back to my high school days where I had a class called  Sex and Human Relationships. The faculty always referred to the class as “Relationships” but the students dubbed it “Sex”.  I would deliberately go to my next class late, burst in and say “Sorry I’m late, I was having sex with Sister Judith”.  I did this at LEAST three times a week, and probably more.  I still thought it was funny even after no one else did, but I continued doing it.
    Only a nun can make a class on sex boring, but Sister Judith gave it her earnest best.  One day I was talking about something completely off-topic (I want you to pause a moment and ponder the level of shear unadulterated boredom to which one has to sink to bore a healthy teenage boy with a conversation about sex) when an aggrivated Sister Judith, tired of talking over me, said, “Mr. LaDuke! True or false: you can get venereal disease from a door knob?”  I smiled and slowly leaned back in my chair—I couldn’t believe my dumb luck at having been given the perfect straight line—and said, “well Sister…that depends entirely on what you’re doing with that door knob.” I was sent to the vice principal’s office to tell the simpering weasel in a bad suit and worse toupee my latest transgression.  I started out by saying, “well I was in the middle of having sex with Sister Judith when…” just to make things worse. He stopped me and lectured me about something but his voice sounded like blah, blah, blah.  I didn’t learn much in that class but I did learn that one cannot get a sexually transmitted disease without…well…having some form of sex.  I am not in any position to lecture any of you on your prurient interests or sexual proclivities but let me just say this: if you are going to be touching the bottom of a healthcare worker’s dirty, dirty shoes in, with, or around your bathing suit parts, wear a condom.
  2. Contaminated shoes transmit COVID-19 and many other diseases and infections–including HIV, Hepatitis B & C, syphilis, etc.–which result in illnesses and even fatal outcomes, for healthcare workers and their family members.” This is obviously a scare tactic cooked up to bolster the specious claims.  For someone to contract COVID-19 from walking across a floor would require a person to cough virus laden water droplets and then have the healthcare worker walk through the puddle of mucus immediately remove his or her shoe and snort the bottom of it like a stockbroker snorting coke off an Vegas hooker’s ass. (Now THERE’s an untapped PPE market.) Even in this unlikely (I pray) scenario, the odds would be (according to a virologist who is on an oversight board with me) around 900,000 to 1.  So I am not saying healthcare workers should engage in such practices (hey the odds are better of getting sick this way than the odds are of me winning a multi-state lottery but I still buy a ticket.)
    I am equally incredulous about people catching HIV from foot to floor contact.  The HIV virus is incredibly fragile outside the body and is transmitted through blood to blood contact, or a couple of other body fluids that I really don’t need to mention do I? Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t suddenly found religion or matured in anyway, but let’s just say when I say I am going to put my foot in someone’s ass: a) it’s just a figure of speech b) I most likely wouldn’t be doing it to a sick person, and C) I would definitely be wearing shoes (or more likely books because they would hurt more) when putting a foot in someone’s ass.

I won’t address Hepatitis B and C because I don’t know enough about the diseases to offer an informed opinion on the subject. I will however say that if a single person ever died—or even contracted—HIV, COVID-19, Hepatitis A–Z it would be the lead story of every news outlet in the world; color me sceptical.

  1. “Consider this: After over 1 year in a pandemic, there has not been even 1 single provider of protective PPE footwear; but there is now.” Okay, this is technically true but still a big fat lie.  It is true that “there hasn’t been a SINGLE provider of protective footwear” but that’s because there are thousands.  I did a google search and it returned a result of 853,000,000 in 1.04 seconds.
  2. “Healthcare workers across the country and locally, and members of the National Association of Nurses and other nursing education foundations, are excited about (BRAND) and are wearing them.” So what? Healthcare workers across the country and locally (um…local to where exactly?) are wearing Nike tee shirts, or baseball caps, or latex catsuits, what exactly does this prove. Also, if there is a “National Association of Nurses”  (there are dozens of organizations that have some combination of those words in them) I couldn’t find it after an exhaustive web search (it’s probably one of those secret societies like the Masons—or the Mansons for that matter,)
  3. (BRAND), is new PPE Footwear® that was created by (Name Drop), a former Hollywood luxury shoe designer who immediately pivoted from making A-list celebs shoes, after a family member of his almost died last year, from COVID-19.” How is footwear a registered trademark? And I don’t buy for a microsecond that so foo-foo luxury shoe designer from Hollywood was so moved because “a family member of his almost died…from COVID-19.” In my opinion, he was far more likely that his business was done and he moved vulture-like into a business niché that would return a fast buck.  And there is NOTHING in the press release that would lead anyone to believe that he knows ANYTHING about making PPE or protective footwear. This is yet another case of someone solving a problem that nobody had.  He didn’t find a need and fill it, rather, he invented a fake need and now is trying to sell his wares under false pretenses. 
  4. “Can I interest you in a conversation with (Founder) and nurses and doctors who are advocating for shoe PPE, about the issue of proper, head to toe COMPLETE healthcare worker protective gear? Um…no, well not unless you want me to ream these people out for misleading people and coercing them into buying shoes that don’t really meet the OSHA standards for protective footwear. (no steel/composite toe or other appropriate protection). These shoes are coated with an “antimicrobial” coating. I suspect this is gobblety-gook since a microbe is microorganism too small to be seen with the naked eye and a virus is a submicroscopic organism that only reproduce inside the body of a living organism. Also, take notice that the publicist invites me to talk to nurses and doctors (not virologists) who are advocating for shoe PPE (a nonsense word combination I can’t believe anyone who knows anything about safety would refer to “shoe PPE”. What are we trying to protect shoes from? What’s next, glasses PPE? Hard Hat PPE?

Some people will dismiss me as an alarmist, or a crank, or just a jerk, but I am hard on snake oil salesmen—whether they promise to improve safety by blaming victims or through behavior modification or by magically changing the culture—because the money spent on this garbage could be spent on the basic things that make small incremental differences that eventually yield meaningful results.

If someone tells you that a safety solution is fast and easy, run as fast and as far from that person as you can.  Remember the snake oil salesmen (and women—sorry ladies I don’t mean to insult you by not insulting you) will always tell you (or worse you’re company’s exec) exactly what you want to hear, but when the con comes crashing down it will be you who takes the blame.

I get four or five solicitations a week to plug a product in this blog or in one of my articles on safety.  They offer substantial incentives, usually upwards of $100 for every mention, and up to $1,000 for a link to a website.  I like money. But I resolutely refuse to compromise my integrity for a couple of bucks.

I wrote Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands so that people (those working in safety and those who aren’t) could implement a safety system that is about lowering risk and focusing on eliminating the things that hurt people.  In my typical genius, I released my book in the middle of a pandemic so you can probably predict how well the sales went.

So don’t just beware of the snake oil salespeople. Challenge them. Shout them down. Demand proof of their claims and ask for references.  It’s time to drive them out of our industry because at long last, they have gone too far.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published versus self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

#attitudes-toward-safety, #behavior-based-safety, #bullshit, #culture-change, #healthcare, #phil-la-duke, #ppe, #safety, #safety-culture, #snake-oil, #snake-oil-salesmen, #worker-safety

A Picture Tells a Thousand Lies

By Phil La Duke 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Contributor: 1% Safer,

If you have worked in safety for any length of time it’s a pretty good bet that you have been asked to put together a training on what hazards to look for, because grown men and women will look you in the eye and literally tell you that they can’t tell a hazard when they see one. I’ve always secretly believed that this was a delaying tactic—maybe if we tell the safety guy that we don’t know what we’re looking for he or she will get tired and stop asking us to look for hazards. But am I right? I don’t think so (I’ll explain why in just a moment.)

So typically we create training of some sort ranging from pretty good to absolute torture but one thing that almost all of them have in common is every course involves static photos completely bereft of consequences. We show a picture and ask, “is this a hazard? Or what’s wrong with this picture?

I once was conducting a training course on hazard identification in which we showed a picture and asked the class to identify and categorize the hazards pictured. The photo had been staged and had, ostensibly, ten hazards.  By the time I had administered the course five or six times the list of potential hazards had grown to over 50, and by the time the course was completed (about 9 months and 12,000 people) the list had grown to over 100.  Fortunately I had introduced the concept of “context” to the group so many of the newly discovered hazards were qualified as contextual (if x is present  then y would be a hazard). On the other hand some people hotly disputed that some things were indeed hazards “you don’t know if x is true”. They were even asking questions like “where is this workshop geographically?”, and “what is the temperature and humidity outside?” It was one of those great moments in a course where you could see the people applying concepts that you had just introduced and really enjoying doing so.

I work in the filmed entertainment  industry, “the industry” to insiders but I have ample experience working in oil & gas, mining, manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, maritime, and beyond.  While it is more overt in the movie and TV industry, to some extent things that look dangerous—even deadly—to the untrained eye are innocuous to those who are in the know.  In the entertainment industry things are SUPPOSED to look dangerous for the purposes of filming but are in fact harmless.  Take the layperson who called the fire department to complain about the dangers of 50 or so rusted and dented car batteries that we strewn haphazardly into a pile on the set.  The public safety officer arrived and was ready to start issuing citations, but only after a long, bellowing, sanctimonious lecture about the irresponsibility of whomever allowed this to happen. He walked off in embarrassment when someone picked one up and handed it to him.  It was made of styrofoam, deftly sculpted and painted to look like a corroded and leaky car battery. It was an honest enough mistake—the people who make props for a living are true artists—but a mistake nonetheless. 

Hazards are anything that can cause harm, but in most cases, hazards are just one element of a dynamic equation: Hazard+Interaction+Catalyst=Incident. You have a condition that could cause harm (hazard), an encounter with the hazardous condition (interaction), and a catalyst (for our purposes, something that sets an event in motion). This formula is routinely referred to as “context”. It is impossible for an injury to occur unless all three of these elements exist.

To protect workers from injuries  safety practitioners tend to focus on either eliminating the hazard or eliminating the interaction.  It is difficult to predict catalysts so attempts to eliminate (or mitigate the severity of) injuries are fairly rare.

One of the biggest problems in Safety is that there is always someone with some new bright idea usually based on either eliminating the hazard or eliminating the interaction (both to the exclusion of the other, or in the case of behavior based safety to the the exclusion of both.) Unfortunately, it is rarely based on scientific method or peer-reviewed scrutiny, and is largely the product of someone looking to make a buck, or an overly earnest Safety nerd who thinks “it sounds right”. We look for the easy solutions without regard to the basic solutions and the new and flashy over the time tested, but alas, I have wandered off point again.

The fact that the field of Safety has no fixed vocabulary complicates matters. Take the word system.  To the hazard control school system tends to mean (and I say “tends” because somewhere out there is a drooling imbecile who will want to argue the meaning) the process by which people work; the standard operating procedures. But to the interaction control school, the system is the values, mores, rituals, shared goals, and everything else that makes up a culture.

It’s tough to get anything done without explaining in practical terms what we mean when we say context.  How many of you, after encountering someone doing something INCREDIBLY dangerous with probable life-limiting or life-ending outcomes, have had the person shrug and say something akin to “I’ve been doing this for 46 years and I’ve never even had a close call.” This person isn’t distracted. This person isn’t forgetting that his or her family loves him or her. The person is behaving this way because after interacting with a hazard without the presence of a catalyst, has not suffered any negative outcomes AND experience not only is the best teacher it creates the most lasting and entrenched beliefs. No sign, no children’s poster, no amount of punishment, will convince this person that the act was unsafe.

I once confronted a safety professional who told me that all that I have just written was hogwash, I asked him if he had ever been killed in a car accident.  He looked a bit puzzled and finally said, “no, of course not.” I said, well by your logic you can NEVER die in a car accident because in your entire life you have been travelling in cars, you or the person driving the vehicle in which you were riding likely took risks and made errors, and you interacted numerous times with other motorists who were taking risks and making errors so what saved your life? The absence of a catalyst.

I would like you to try this.  Answer the following questions (silently if you aren’t alone)

  1. Have you ever driven a car?
  2. If so, have you ever violated a traffic law? (Speeding, texting, talking on the phone, had an alcoholic beverage or two, the list goes on and on)
  3. If so, did this cause you to crash your car?
  4. Have you seen other drivers engage in this kind of behavior?
  5. If so, did it result in an accident?
  6. Have you ever engaged in those behaviors while one or more OTHER drivers did as well?
  7. Did you get into a serious accident?

Fortunately for most of us the answer is no to #7 despite the answer to at least one of the other questions being “yes”. Okay let’s try another quick exercise.

  1. Is it safe to drive the speed limit in clear conditions and light traffic?
  2. Is it safe to drive the speed limit in inclement weather and light traffic?
  3. Is it safe to drive the speed limit in inclement weather and heavy traffic?
  4. Is it safe to drive the speed limit in inclement weather and heavy traffic when you are fatigued?

 The answers are all contextual and for most of us to truthfully answer we need more information to answer anything but “it depends”.  The conditions on which a situation depends in order for us to determine the risk of an incident is the essence of context and context is everything.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

#bbs, #context, #culture, #safety-culture, #system, #worker-safety

A Working Class Hero Is Something To Be

Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels

By Phil La Duke 
Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands
Contributor: 1% Safer,

The problem isn’t that there are too many people working in safety who want to be heroes. The problem is that too many people working in Safety already think they are already heroes simply because they work in Safety.  This circular logic frustrates me beyond imagining, and has me yet again addressing the topic trying to penetrate the granite wall of these knuckleheads who go about clothed in self-righteous indignation for anyone who dare question his or her status as a hero.  So what does it mean to be a hero in safety? If saving lives is the measure we all fail, that is unless of course you literally brought someone back from the dead—some have, but not that many in worker safety.  Heroism isn’t passive.  We can’t be three steps removed from a lifesaving event and then claim responsibility for it. I have said it more than once (at least I think I have) that safety personnel don’t save lives. This riles some zealots who think that they have saved untold lives because they put together a booklet on swimming pool safety and nobody drowned.  To claim that this entitles the author of some schlocky pamphlet bragging rights for all those people who read said literature and didn’t drown is a specious argument to the extreme. Why not claim to have saved their lives because they weren’t killed by meteorites? (Assuming they read a pamphlet about how to avoid being struck and killed by meteorites.)

Even in situations where it really feels like we might have saved a life chances are we didn’t necessarily.  Take for instance the time I was on a large elevated platform and I interceded when a person who held a notably high position in the organization was absorbed in his phone and walking toward the ledge and potentially a 50’ fall.  I ran up to him and stopped him before he reached the edge and explained the dangers he faced and politely asked him to remain stationary when his mind or body was otherwise occupied. He thanked me and said, “thanks Phil, I know you are only looking out for my safety” to which I responded “screw that. I am looking out for my resumé. If you die I may never work again, and let’s face it, my resumé is spotty as it is.” He laughed and walked away.  A short time later I watched as he walked up to a colleague who was doing what he had done.  He smiled and yelled to me, “See Phil, I’m looking out for your resumé!” I laughed and thanked him.  I saved both lives right? Wrong.  Even though the first man was headed for what appeared to be certain death, there is no way of knowing with certainty that he would have been killed but for my intervention. He could have self corrected. He could have fallen but caught himself on the ledge. He could have fallen and survived having fallen on something that cushioned the impact. As for the second man, I can’t lay claim to having saved his life either.  I did take some pride seeing an immediate change in behavior and a growth in the awareness of the dangers, and even that this awareness changed—in a very small way—the culture and how it viewed safety but I don’t expect anyone to pin a medal on me just yet.  

Now there are Safety blowhards who will argue chain of causality but, they never seem to be around when it comes to chain of accountability. Safety can’t be passive and the problem with attributing passive influence on safety is that it is impossible to prove. So if you want to believe that you are saving lives without knowing the outcome, if you did nothing you are more than just delusional. You are also more annoying than having a mosquito fly up one’s nose.

I have also said that we are never at more risk than when we think we have conquered danger and can relax in the knowledge that we—more hero or demigod than mere mortal—have made the workplace completely and irrefutably safe.  These are two things I don’t see much room for to debate, but alas, no matter what I say some vacuous, vapid, human equivalent of the yellowish fetid discharge oozing from a raccoon’s rectum decides that he or she needs to hop up on the soap box of the self righteousness and tell me how horrible a person I am for not caring more about saving lives. It used to bother me, but after so many years of being called far worse by people I actually respect that I don’t let the incoherent grunting of the mouth breathers get to me (but I sure love to wind them up.) Two weeks or so ago an imbecile took umbrage at the fact that I questioned the juvenile thought process that Safety personnel somehow are endowed with the divine right and responsibility to dictate that employees must behave safely while off the clock. 

The imbecile in question was a South African consultant with a high school education and allegedly military experience as a medic. In her mind, these credentials made her expert in      consulting, environmental requirements, worker health, quality, and social responsibility. She was positively enraged when I countered her smug comment that she has saved hundreds of lives with “if you claim responsibility for people not dying you must accept culpability for the deaths of the people who you didn’t save.” She reacted like a baboon with a late stage brain tumor; spewing vitriol and making wild speculations about the credentials of anyone who disagreed with her simple-minded views.

This got me thinking (anytime I say this, my financé—quoting American History X will chime in with “you’re thinking now Grandma? That’s huge!) about how hubris is probably the greatest threat to worker safety.  The smug, self-congratulating slugs who sit around telling each other what a fine job they are doing. Nowhere is this better evidenced than at National Conferences and Expos where the Safety Sanhedrin (a handful of dullards who have never really worked in safety in a meaningful way) determines the handful of speakers who submit abstracts that support these idiots’ world-view of Safety. We have given these tight ass jerks almost absolute power over the discussion of, and even the distinction of being designated, an emerging topic.

We are not a profession, rather we are a loose confederacy of practitioners with myriad agendas and no real governing body to help us sort through the useful and the dreck. 

We are hucksters taking all the credit and none of the blame. We treat safety like a game of chance betting on red or black. All the while we seem to forget (or ignore) that as we try to distinguish ourselves as thought leaders, people are still dying on the job. 

The brain trust that considers such thing seems to have concluded that 

We want people to trust us but we need management to value our contributions because whether we are successful or not depends almost completely on the perceptions of managers, directors, and executives. We are subjected to absurd Key Performance Indicators like injury rates.  This is as useless a measure of the performance of a safety practitioner as the number of items bought is by a purchasing agent. So what do we get measured on? Realistically fantasy.  Cost? Sure we can fudge the numbers through case management but is that really the intent of safety? Number of injuries? Without having a clear idea exactly the risk level is we can’t honestly say if a given number or injuries are good or bad.

Then we have the “I save lives because I haven’t killed anyone lately” zealots.  They see themselves as social crusaders butting into the lives of workers when they are off the clock. They can identify themselves as heroes, hell they can believe that they are heroes with every molecule in their bodies but they can believe they are endangered sea turtles but that doesn’t MAKE them either heroes or turtles because in the final estimation they are not.

But there ARE heroes in Safety.  I won’t single anyone out but I know plenty of heroes working in safety.  For example, I had a friend call me up and ask me what he should do when he discovered that an extremely dangerous chemical was leaking and exposing workers.  He told the operations manager who did nothing. He told the executives who did nothing.  He asked me if he should blow the whistle.  I told him that I didn’t see much alternative but I added that even though the process was anonymous it wouldn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out who had dropped the proverbial dime on the company and he most assuredly would be fired on some unrelated trumped up grounds.  He went forward risking his livelihood and his ability to financially support his wife and kids but he did it anyway.  The government came in and fined the company and caused the company well-deserved reputational damage.  He put the needs of the workers he was paid to keep safe ahead of his own needs, the needs of his family, and ahead of his pride. He was out of work for a while but still defends what he did and never EVER does he call himself a hero for doing what he was paid to do.

In another case, a Safety Hero works tirelessly on a safety blog, he challenges the gelatin-filled heads of the snake-oil salesmen, he decries stupid theories and answers his detractors with fact-based responses that leave the idiots reeling.  But I honestly think he would kill me if he ever heard me describe him as a hero.

Then there is the woman who worked diligently as a safety manager fighting to implement theories that made sense, lowered risk and generally made the workplace safer. She also volunteered for one of the major professional safety groups.  Before long her pursuit of doing things the right way got her fired from her job and unceremoniously dismissed from her volunteer position.

And finally, the editor of a popular and widely read safety magazine was fired because he ran content that wasn’t the palatable, bland pablum that other magazines ran. He liked to make people think.  He believed that Safety needed to be shaken up and reset every once in a while. He fought to get some of the greatest minds in safety to write columns.

None of these people, not a single one, saved a life but they are true heroes nonetheless.  As for me, I am not a hero. I’m just a guy who likes to piss people off.

”So if you want to be a hero, well,  just follow me.”

—John Lennon, “Working Class Hero”

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

#attitude, #attitudes-toward-safety, #behavior-based-safety, #culture-change, #heroes, #phil-la-duke, #safety, #safety-culture, #worker-safety

Where Does Safety End?

By Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Contributor: 1% Safer,

Photo by @victorpfreitas on Pexels

Okay, I started to write this last week but as I so often do these days I found myself in a sort of a funk; I get that way from time to time and truth be told I’m a fairly irascible and moody son of a bitch. So you are getting an amalgamation of thoughts wrapped ostensibly in the flag of what I do on my time away from work is my own business.  I know plenty of companies (and soft-headed safety crusaders) who want to keep me safe 24/7; while I am at work and while I am at home. I know of one safety imbecile who makes the proper use of condoms the subject of monthly tool box talks (an excellent topic if you are in the adult film business but a peculiar topic for a construction management company.) For more than a decade the rotting bowls of fruit that pass themselves off as safety do-gooders have been simultaneously  bemoaning their over-worked and under-appreciated subsistence and trying to insinuate themselves into the homes and private lives of their “people”. 

I’ll let the Lorax speak for the trees and I will speak for those of us who want the safety guy to mind his or her own business. Business, as in the job they are paid to do, which is to ensure employees a safe workplace as defined and required by law. I feel like Winston Smith sitting on top of his television because it was the only place that Big Brother couldn’t watch his every move. Before proceeding I should note two things: 1) my current employer encourages us all to make safer choices and walks the talk when it comes to allowing us all to safely decline work if it makes us feel uncomfortable or unsafe, and 2) I have had clients whose money I accepted to build programs to keep workers safe 24/7. I felt like an aging, syphletic truckstop hooker at the end of a 16-hour shift, but there has always been a fine line between consultant and whore—the principle differential being that you can generally trust the hooker to get the job done before trying to sell you the next one and a hooker doesn’t feel the need to shower like Karen Silkwood at the end of the shift.

So should our job extend beyond the four walls (actual or figurative—work with me here people) of our workplace? 

On the fourth of July every year, Americans celebrate freedom.  Unfortunately, many do so by getting blind drunk and setting off explosives, a practice they are neither bright nor qualified enough to even be in the area of said explosives. But many of those who don’t partake in this idiotic tomfoolery will fight like cornered rats to defend this stupidity.  And yet despite this streak of stubborn independence and resistance to authorities who have no business telling people what they can and cannot do on their own time and property, many soft-headed, mouth-breathing, Safety do-gooders want to intrude into the ostensibly private lives of their workers in an attempt to have them be safe 24/7 as if to say, “take safety home with you my precious children.”  

I resent the implication that my employer has a right to tell me that I need to work safely when I am at home, enjoying my vacation or holiday.  This week my fiancé and I redid the patio, which is to say I bought materials, schlepped heavy paving stones and bags of rocks into and out of the trunk of my car after which I  went inside to watch television.  It’s not just that I am lazy, it was 93° F outside, and I was more or less the financier of the project and hired muscle.  I did get injured while doing so.  While loading pavement stones into my car I accidentally pinched my left index finger. It hurt, but having some sanctimonious asshole give me feedback on my behavior would not have made it feel any better. 

I guess I am lucky.  I work with a team of top professionals who not only know and do their jobs, but are generous in helping me to navigate the idiosyncratic rules and procedures endemic to any organization.  My boss values you for my abilities and contributions and is a genuinely caring and kind person.  The organization truly values people over profits—recently I was asked if I had any reservations whatsoever about travelling, and was told to be honest because if I did have reservations my boss and the organization would figure something out. When me or one of my teammates makes a misstep my boss doesn’t yell and scream; he simply coaches us and tells us that he would have liked us to have handled it differently and then proceeds to tell us why. But that’s not why I think I am lucky. I’m lucky because no one expects me to save a life, or enforce a rule, or admonish the safety sinners.  I am there as a resource, a problem solver, a key advisor.  The old saying that “the show must go on” is rooted in the fact that everyone involved in the show gets paid whether the show goes on or not.  Do you think anyone who turned out for the April 15th evening showing of “Our American Cousin” got a refund just because the play didn’t finish? They didn’t. If someone is seriously injured or killed during a filmed production things grind to a halt costing hundreds of thousands or even millions because in that world, time really is money.

I remember when I was a consultant and one of my Johns said, “it doesn’t make any difference if someone is hurt at work or at home, if they can’t work at 100% capacity it affects us all.” I smiled and went to work±—I smelled blood in the air and stalked the “opportunity” as any amoral consultant would. But I should have said, “It makes a big difference you boob. The law requires you to do your utmost to create a relatively safe workplace. Anything beyond that is none of your business.”

Slavery is against the law so stop treating me like chattel. When you stop paying me you need to stop telling me what to do.  If I want to fornicate with pigs on the lawn of carnival, that is mine (and the pigs’) business.  I know that if I get arrested I might lose my job. But if so it should be because I can’t come to work if I am incarcerated and not because I didn’t use a condom while doing said pig sodomizing. 

You can make an argument that my prurient pursuits have reflected badly on the company (especially if we are selling pork sausage) and if my job has a morals clause you have every right to fire me, but otherwise mind your own business.

Seriously, I hate the fact that safety guys are held to a higher standard of personal safety simply because of our jobs.  When people point out the irony of me, a safety goof doing something unsafe I tell them that they need to pay me if they want me to advise them on safety and furthermore since they are not in the safety trade they can give me and the pigs some modicum of privacy such as it is.

Some of you will miss the message because of your bigotry against pigs, but that is precisely the point—mind your business and stop sticking your nose into the employees’ personal lives.  It really irks me that companies think that they have a right to keep us safe 24/7 ignoring the inconvenient reality that they aren’t even close to eliminating the risk of injuries in the workplace. So to all of you who want to keep me safe at home I say, remove the plank from your own eye before you try to remove the splinter from mine, or better yet just don’t you worry about my splintered eye, 

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

#attitude, #attitudes-toward-safety, #behavior-based-safety, #behaviour-based-safety, #condoms, #culture-change, #phil-la-duke, #safety-culture, #worker-safety

Stay In Your Lane

Photo by Domen Mirtič Dolenec from Pexels

by Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Contributor: 1% Safer,

In the world of Safety, but in other fields I would suppose, we get asked to do a lot that is not even remotely within our wheelhouse of skills.  We cheerfully accept whether to curry favor with our superiors, a desire to keep the peace, out of fear that if we admit that we don’t have the requisite skills to do the job we may find ourselves unceremoniously dismissed from our employment.

Think about it, once upon a time there was a Safety function.  It wasn’t really a department; its budget was set by legal or Human Resources.  It was more of a mascot than any sort of functioning activity.  The first people to staff the function were either injured on the job and had limitations so companies figured that it was logical to have the guy who got hurt talk to other people about how not to get hurt.  In other cases, the buffoons were given jobs in safety as political spoils—by both the Union and management. I remember one less than bright general manager getting his half-witted brother, a failed hairdresser, a job as the plant safety manager. I wouldn’t have taken this boob’s advice on safety if he told me not to run with scissors; he had the credibility of a magic eight ball without the charisma. I had no idea who my Union Safety Rep was, which speaks volumes.

Over the years the Unions championed safety and instituted training programs in safety regulations and compliance for the Safety Reps, and I’ve met a lot of good ones.  But some 40 years after OSHA became law, there still isn’t a universal standard for what specifically qualifies one to be a safety practitioner.

So here is the situation as of today: we have a dismally defined function that is asked to do more with less—fewer resources, fewer skills, less experience, less training, and less knowledge.  Somehow the Safety function became the organizational equivalent of a serial killer’s dumping ground. The engineers don’t (or more likely won’t) do Hazard Risk Analysis? No problem wrap it in a blanket and dump it in the shallow grave that is the Safety office. The accountant is whining about injury paperwork or case management? Dump it on safety.  Before long safety was doing everything from trending injury costs to planning the company picnic.  (You want a truly sick, out-of-control party, let Safety plan it.)

And then one day some genius decided to add “health” to the responsibilities of the already confused and adrift safety workforce.  Just as the Wizard granted the brainless Scarecrow a degree, someone decided that worker safety and worker health were the same things, or at very least required the same skill set.  And the world of Safety embraced it! More work to complain about! More reasons that we aren’t getting our work done.  But the organizational brain trusts didn’t stop there, no, why, the organization reasoned couldn’t Safety be given Environmental Compliance? I mean, they are protecting workers from getting hurt, or sick, why not have them protect the environment, and while we’re at it, let’s lay off some of those lazy Safety staff members because let’s face it, they never look all that busy. 

Then security was put under the Safety banner (not everywhere—no sense in giving those power-drunk safety managers any ACTUAL power.) And now employee wellness is rapidly being added to the Safety functions already overburdened sphere of responsibility.

As organizations, we give a function too much to do and blame them for not getting it done.  We give them responsibility for something they cannot be expected to know how to do and then we call them incompetent.

This is not an excuse to whine.  Too many people working in safety are too afraid or too proud to push back and say, “No, there are people who go to college and get masters degrees in employee wellness” or “I checked my resumé and it turns out I am neither a doctor nor a nurse—I know, I’m as surprised as you are.

Years ago I worked for a coked-out executive who would call me into his office about once a week with some delusional fantasy of a project that he wanted me to do.  I would calmly draw a circle on a piece of paper and say, “this is my plate. On it you will find all the things that you and others have asked me to do”. I would draw lines through the circle and tell him what the portion of the plate represented.  When I finished and the plate was overflowing I would look at him and ask which of these things he wanted me to remove from my plate so that I could accommodate his request. Invariably he would tell me to continue with my current work and he would find some sucker to execute his hair-brained scheme.

Safety practitioners need to stay in their lanes, that is, tell your boss what, given your skill set and workload you can reasonably be expected to complete.  I have become an expert in many things—it comes from hours and hours of researching topics for books and articles—but above all, I am the king shit expert of deflecting work.  I’m not lazy, but I have learned that a secret to success is to stay in my lane and to avoid things that I know with absolute surety that I will screw up, become overwhelmed, or take way too long to finish.

Today people working in safety purport to be experts in behavioral psychologists because they read a book by some BBS self-help cultist who couldn’t help himself at a buffet but was somehow able to convince them the mere act of reading the book they were somehow qualified to implement a largely unproven, theoretical, large-scale safety initiative that will look great on paper—lower reported injuries—but won’t lower the number of incidents that are impossible to conceal. The proponents of these incredibly irresponsible programs are puzzled as to why the number of non-life-threatening injuries is going down but the number of life-changing injuries and fatalities is either static or increasing. Their dubious conclusion? There must be different causes for these types of injuries! They will cling to junk science because they understand it and their bosses like it, plus you can have a safety BINGO! Dullards all of them.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, now we add the unqualified trying to change the cultures of organizations, despite not having a clue that there is no such thing as a “safety culture” rather it is a subculture. They speak to each other at conferences about “swiss cheese models” and “predictive analytics” with only the most superficial understanding of the underlying theory and no concept how to begin to even apply these theories in practice.

The safety field has become a function filled with jackasses of all trades and masters of none. We need to create safety specialists and deconstruct the safety generalist. There is no shame in not knowing everything. Far more educated occupations—doctors, lawyers, teachers, garbage collectors, and panhandlers just to mention a few—have long embraced specialization, so it is the height of hubris that safety folks refuse to do so.

Decades ago if you worked with electricity you were an electrician. Today the duties of an electrician have been splintered off into more than two dozen professions that I can think of off the top of my head.  Instead of becoming the organizational equivalent of stone soup, Safety should take its cue from electricians.  A boiler can only contain so much pressure before it explodes.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published versus self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn post and no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

#attitude, #attitudes-toward-safety, #behaviour-based-safety, #culture-change, #phil-la-duke, #safety, #safety-culture, #worker-safety

The Universality Bias

Photo by Alex Andrews from Pexels

Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Contributor: 1% Safer,

Like any good Safety guy I am particularly adept at creating theoretical concepts of little value or practical application; it’s what we do.  So this week I would like to talk about yet another theoretical concept that I have encountered since I started writing professionally many, many years ago. I call this phenomenon the Universality Bias.  Zachery Shore explored cognitive biases (things we believe that prevent us from seeing things as they really are) in his book Blunders. Shore asserted multiple biases that predispose people to making mistakes by ignoring the fact in favor or belief the book is worth more than a read; it’s worth reading and contemplating it with an open mind.

Recently, I decided to write—after much soul searching and internal debate—an article for Thrive Global called “What Does It Mean To Be White In America?”. I know many people who read my work think I am a radical anarchist leftist, while others think I am an arch conservative grouch who hates everything—a screaming malcontent who hates anything new or different.  The answer not only lies somewhere in between, but depends on the time of day and its proximity to my next meal; hey what can I say? I’m complex.

Throughout the years I grew accustomed to disgruntled readers who would try to shout me down because my assertions didn’t ring true to them.  I have come to realize that these people are suffering from a cognitive bias, the Universality Bias.  The Universality Bias works like this: you don’t believe something because it is alien to your experience,  In other words my assertion can’t be right because it is alien to your experience.  

I am fond of saying that there are three things that I don’t believe in: atheists, bi-sexuals, and umbrellas (clearly I suffer from the Universality Bias as I am none of these things.)  This puzzles people a) because they look for a pattern while ignoring the most obvious one (things in which Phil La Duke  does not believe) and b) because they BELIEVE in these things.  Even after I explain why I don’t believe in them (in order, because I have never met an atheist who didn’t pester me into trying to convince him or her that God does indeed exist (as Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbs put it, “well somebody is sure out to get me”). Also, bi-sexuals well come on! Choose a side already. And umbrellas are pointless—you still get wet with the only difference is with an umbrella you get wet while holding a (probably broken) piece of crap above your head.  

A close friend of mind is an evangelical atheist.  Every once in a while he will (usually after a beer or two) challenge me with: how can you believe in God? That’s just a fairy tale.  Finally, after hearing it once too often I said, “IT’S NOT MY JOB TO CONVINCE YOU THAT GOD EXISTS”. Obviously he suffers from the Universality Bias: because he has never felt the presence of God, God cannot exist.

Once I countered his argument by pointing out that he believes in all sorts of stupid shit that I don’t believe. “Like what?!” he demanded indignantly. “Australia” I calmly responded.  He was incredulous? How can you not believe in Australia?!?! He demanded. I told him that I had never been to Australia therefore I had no basis to believe it exists.  He could let it go. “But you’ve met people from Australia!” He demanded that I believe in Australia. No, I told him, all I could swear to is that I have met people who CLAIM to be from Australia. He countered with maps, and globes, and Rupert Murdoch and Fox and Kangaroos.  I knew it would enrage him but I couldn’t resist. I told him that for all I knew all of the examples he gave me could have been made up.  I acknowledged that I was able to believe in Australia even though I hadn’t experienced it myself.

Within and without the world of Safety our Universality Biases screw up our world view.  How many times have the members of the Cult Of Zero tried to prove that Zero Injuries is possible by claiming that they have achieved this in their workplaces? By that reasoning, 154 injuries is also possible because I know of a company that had exactly that number of injuries in one year or they averaged 154 injuries over 5 years.   This logic is akin to the waiter, when I ask what kind of soup do you have answers, “we have chili”. CHILI IS A FUCKING STEW NOT A SOUP! You may well also have a dead cat’s eye floating in  vanilla pudding but I didn’t ask what kind of pudding you had and I didn’t ask about your fucking STEW. I grant you that it is a small point but it is a point that I cling to as I am a small, petty, angry little troll of a man,

Some readers and attendees of my speeches genuinely HATE that I reference personal anecdotes to illustrate a point.  They have openly state that “just because something happened to you doesn’t prove it exists.” That is a cowardly way (although probably the smart way) to call me either a liar or just plain crazy.  I am careful not to make sweeping generalizations where I claim that because something happened to me, or because I believe in something that is true for everyone. But that is the claim of those suffering from the Universality Bias. They think that I am speaking for all of mankind when I am clearly not.

Recently I had a clogged pore in my ear that became infected.  The infection spread to my neck and manifested in a burning sensation that radiated out from my ear into my neck and down my back.  I went to the doctor and told him that I think I had pulled my neck (my ear really hadn’t started to hurt until the clogged pore was lanced and then the pain was excruciating.  If you suffer from the Universality Bias you would argue that it was a pimple and not a clogged pore or maybe that it wasn’t a single ailment but two that coincidentally happened at the same time, you might even claim that it didn’t hurt.  Some people (do I really have to say, not every man, woman, child, and sundry mammals every time I assert something?) because of insecurity, the fragility of their conviction or faith, are so defensive of their world view that they cannot accept the merest possibility that something outside their life experience can exist. They will ignore the facts in favor of impossibility because they have not experienced or are afraid to believe these seemingly contradictory facts.  These are the sick bastards who slurp down chili and call it soup; they are insane.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

Safety Soothsayers: Should They Be Burned As Witches?

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

By Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands
Contributor: 1% Safer,

The Spirit pointed from the grave to him, and back again. “No, Spirit! Oh, no, no!” The finger was still there. “Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at his robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse! Why show me this, if I am past all hope!” For the first time the hand appeared to shake.—Ebenezer Scrooge to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,

“A Christmas Carol” Charles Dickens.

Yesterday I was listening to the radio.  I tuned in in the middle of the show and someone was telling a story that I really couldn’t understand in anything more than the gist of it. My soon to be wife asked if I minded if I turned off the radio, but I said “no”; it was too late, I was hooked.  The part of the story that intrigued me was a discussion with a statistician about the probability of an event taking place at the same instant that a man was passing by in his car multiple times. What most of us would call a coincidence, or even ascribe a more metaphysical or even supernatural explanation. The statistician calculated the odds of this event—sorry, I missed the part where they explained the actual event; something about a guy on a bike overtaking the car as it was stopped for some reason.  None of that mattered to me as much as the explanation as to why this presumably oddball event kept happening to the driver of the stopped car.

The statistician said that to calculate the odds of a given event happening at a given time and place we have to consider all the other things that are going on—potentially hundreds of thousands of variables—and compare them to the frequency with which the “mysterious” event happened.  I was shocked to learn (after listening to a mathematical explanation that sounded to me like someone playing the trombone through a tube while standing in a tunnel) that the odds against this seemingly odd event weren’t astronomical rather the event happened approximately 30% of the time.

He went on to explain that in many cases the driver simply failed to notice that the event was happening (he was distracted, daydreaming, or simply looking in another direction. This got me thinking about the absurdity of predicting injuries and how much we miss simply because we haven’t considered all the possible outcomes and focus exclusively on causation.

We men and women of science, we self-proclaimed safety “professionals” have become obsessed with foretelling the future.  We pour over data that we have collected, pepper it with assumptions and disregard any and all facts that don’t fit what we want to see. In short, we fall far short of considering all (or most, or many, or  often SOME cases) the astonishing number of other factors that may have played a role.

This topic has fascinated me for some time.  My fiancé likes to watch shows about the paranormal (she says it’s because they go to cool places and travel the world over, but I suspect she likes a good old fashioned ghost story.) For my part I make the show unwatchable by blurting out  PARANORMAL! anytime literally anything happens, including during the commercials.  It’s not that I don’t believe in the paranormal, it’s just that—much like safety—the people involved in the show default to the least plausible explanation. 

Take crop circles.  For a decade and a half the paraphysicaligists and kooks (the Venn diagram of these two groups looks like a two dimensional drawing of a doughnut) believed that crop circles were created by extraterrestrial travellers. Their proof? They couldn’t explain how it was done (they never seemed to ask why it was done). I pictured the greatest scientific minds in Alpha Centauri arguing over whether or not to travel across the galaxy to make fancy patterns in wheat. “I’m telling you we waited too long to get in on the rectal probes and now it’s too late! Crop circles are the thing of the future! It was eventually discovered that two Scottish men, while drunk, started doing these as a prank.  They even showed the media the makeshift device that they fashioned out of barrel staves.  They even demonstrated how they made the circles and then walked away without leaving footprints. When confronted with this irrefutable proof that two drunk (too drunk? Either applies) Scotts were responsible, many in the kook community countered that these gentlemen could only account for ⅓ of the crop circles.  It never occurred to these water heads that two drunk Frenchmen, or Brazilians, or whoever might have mimicked the trick—the hardest part was coming up with the idea and actually making the crop circles while drunk, nauseated, and beset with an urgent need to urinate.  No. The idea of drunken extraterrestrials was just too intriguing to be ignored.

And so it is with Safety.  We too often fixate on predicting injuries and look for patterns in the data that just aren’t there. We are like children putting on lab coats, trotting out the chemistry sets (which now come with chemicals that aren’t the least bit interesting.  When I was a kid chemistry sets came with Uranium 235 (Plutonium if you went the extra $5 bucks but my parents never would) but now you’re lucky if you can find one that comes with baking soda and vinegar) and pretending to be scientists.

We don’t have enough data to make meaningful statistical inferences, but that doesn’t stop us from seeing patterns.  We misattribute correlation with cause (causefusion as Zachery Shore describes the cognitive blinds in which we mistake correlation with cause in his book Blunder.)

We make predictions that are simply uneducated guesses and if they come true we slap each other on the back and hail fellows well met.  If our predictions don’t come true we simply tell everyone that we need to wait—that as sure as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow or prediction will come true. We routinely ignore Ockham’s razor.  Ockham’s razor doesn’t mean what many people think (that is, that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one) rather it means that when offering a hypothesis or drawing a conclusion, one should choose the option with the fewest unknown variables. Ockham’s (the name is spelled a couple of different ways so I chose the most complicated just to contradict myself) razor should be the cardinal rule of safety. Instead too often we (as they say in medical school) see hoof prints and look for zebras.

So why are so many in safety in the field of Safety not only fascinated by the idea that all injuries can be predicted? Because it makes us look and feel smart when we misapply science and by sheer luck guess correctly. Identifying hazards that have a high probability of causing an injury and applying a high level control (engineering controls or above) and reducing the duration of exposure and probability of  both interaction and injury is a far better and more effective use of our time, but it just isn’t sexy, We can’t prove that sparks falling on a pile of sawdust will cause the mill to burn down so we get no credit.  Heroes only become heroes when someone is about to die and doesn’t; that’s why we call firefighters heroes but don’t even have a name for the people who design and install sprinkler systems and smoke detectors.  Who cares if we prevented someone from dying or suffering a life threatening injury if they eliminated the threat altogether? 

Too often in the minds of executives, the lack of injuries doesn’t mean the Safety Department is doing a good job, rather they wonder if the Safety Department is overstaffed, or even necessary at all. The kick in the pants is that they may well be right, the Safety Department might have gotten lucky.  That’s where standard progression and logarithmic progression comes into play.  With enough safety data one can statistically predict (and one Excel can do these progressions with a couple of keystrokes and no knowledge of statistics) how things are likely to progress if no changes to how business is conducted are made (standard progression) and how much of a difference a change has made (logarithmic progression). Of course you will have to filter out a lot of statistical noise (changes to the system that have nothing to do with the Safety Department) but if you can do that you can compare the logarithmic progression to the standard progression and demonstrate to the execs (in charts—executives LOVE charts) the positive or negative (so be careful) outcomes of your efforts.  In many cases you can actually quantify your results in terms of actual money wasted or saved.

So instead of trying to predict the next fatality, why not get off your ass and walk  through your workplace. In my experience a simple walk through is better than a dozen crystal balls (INSERT LUDE COMMENT HERE).

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

Requiem For A Stranger

Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Contributor: 1% Safer,

“After a short struggle with cancer, and with his wife by his side, Alan David Quilley peacefully passed away at home, at 67 years old on April 24, 2021.”

Despite an on-line connection for more than a decade, I never really KNEW Alan Quilley. Sure we sparred, we argued, we provoked each other, and even supported each other, but saying I knew him is like saying I knew John Lennon, or Tom Waits or John Steinbeck (though I never corresponded privately with them as I had with Alan.)  I missed Alan on line right about the time he got sick.  I had no idea he was ill—Alan was one of those people full of life that the possibility that he might be terminally ill never even occurred to me.  I passed it off as merely retreating from writing and contributing to LinkedIn with a combination of pandemic lethargy (you probably haven’t noticed but I haven’t written anywhere near what I have in the past) and the overall falloff of contributions to LinkedIn which becomes less and less a forum for professional discourse in favor of a venue for snake oil salesman schilling their crap, or worse water-headed, puke bags who post “inspirational” messages better suited for a poster in a New Age Book & Crystal store (Mercury may be in retrograde, but their heads are firmly in their anuses. Just a bit more of a rant, are these addle-brained shitbirds banned from Farcebook? Or do they just lack the manners and social acumen of a constipated feral hog?).

I learned of Alan’s death through another disenchanted stalwart champion of common sense, Dave Collins, who has spent more time than anyone has a right to expect devoted to worker safety.  Dave has been so embattled with those who would complicate safety with their intellectual drool that I expect to hear that he’s finally bagged it any day now.

 But back to Alan. Alan encouraged me to speak my mind and was a regular reader of my (this) blog.  We often disagreed, but always in a respectful way.  Alan was the kind of a person who is all too rare these days—a person who argues with facts and not speculation or opinion. Someone who could separate an attack on his position from a personal attack. He could bust my chops and I could bust his, but there was never any acrimony between us. When I wrote my first book and was looking for the best way to promote it, Alan offered me advice (self-publish) which I ignored, but it was still nice of him to 

Alan joins the patheon of great thinkers who were either taken too young or who retreated from the endless waves of stupidity that permeates the discussion threads.  People who spent their lives trying to bring reason and respectability to the Safety Function only to feel as if they were trying to address a crowd at Bedlam.  Too many of those who remain merely parrot idiots who walked out in the rain and think that they discovered wet.  The loss of so many of these great minds have left us dumber as a community.

So what is Alan’s legacy? He published books, but if he died a wealthy man it was not by selling books—trust me on that, it’s a money pit. Most of us who write books do it because we have something to say and think that it’s important enough that we want to share it with a wider audience.  Writing a book is putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to everything from disdain and ridicule to deranged fans and death threats, so why do it? “Unless someone hates you for saying what you’ve said you haven’t really said anything at all”, Alan once wrote to me in response to some BBS blowhard’s attack on me.  It was a kindness given when I most needed it.

If you want some insight about Alan, ubt are too cheap to buy his books, do a Google search on images of him.  You will see a man who genuinely loved what he did, seemingly was born with grey hair and a beard, and had an awful lot to say.  I chose the picture above because it captures Alan as I always saw him—confident with a mischievous glint in his eye.

I would say more about Alan but I won’t unlike so many people who die because they lived too long not because they lived too hard (the way, I’m sure many of you will agree, I am almost certainly going to make the great departure). For most people death is more the end of a good run; they have contributed all they were likely to and given more life they would likely just be repeating themselves. Sure we may miss them, but as far as being able to continue making great contributions…well we can pretend.  With Alan, however, I think had he not become ill he would have continued making outstanding contributions to the field of Safety, but who knows?

As I write this, I am haunted by a line from the movie (though not the book on which it is based) when one of the villains Delroy Lindo as Bo Catlett gives a hard look at the hero, John Travolta before he became a department store manikin as Chili Palmer, and says defiantly, and maybe a little hurt, “You don’t know me; you just think you do.” As so it was with Alan and I. I didn’t know him, but I sure wish I had.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. More recently lone gunman attacks are so prevalent that it’s tough to keep track of them. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

#alan-quilley, #mass-shootings, #phil-la-duke, #workplace-violence, #workplace-violence-prevention

Earning Aint Learning

PHOTO BY ANDREA PIACQUADIO FROM PEXELS

 “…they think deep thoughts — and with no more brains than you have. But! They have one thing you haven’t got! A diploma! Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universita Committeeatum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th.D.”

—the Great And Powerful Oz to the Scarecrow

Phil La Duke 

Author: 

I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Safety training sucks.  That’s right I’m coming out swinging.  In 2006, I wrote What’s Wrong With Safety Training And How To Fix It.  The story grew out of my employer’s insistence that I write about safety.  We put it on our website where it was purloined by Fabricating & Metalworking magazine.  The editor contacted me after it was published (under my by-line) and since most magazines don’t pay much (if anything) for stories and the primary goal of most contributors is to boost the public perspective of the author as an expert, to attract groupies, and to go on Oprah I wasn’t angry truth is I kind of got a kick out of seeing my name in print.

I have said that this was my first published article, but it was, in fact, not the case.  I wrote for a small newspaper for a couple of years when I was also working the night shift at Taco Plaza, a fast food chain that predated Taco Bell but was so forgettable that it doesn’t even make the top 40 failed fast food restaurants and in between taught a course in board games on Saturdays for Flat Rock Schools  Continuing Education Department.

But back to the subject at hand.  I earned my degree in adult education and spent a solid 30 years developing courses designed around the adult learner’s learning preferences and styles.  My brief stint in continuing education taught me this: teaching children is completely different than teaching adults.  There are mouth breathing droolers out there who will argue this point but then mouth breathing droolers will argue just about any asinine point so why would this be any different?  

This won’t be a post about andragogy (look it up) but there is something worth mentioning that speaks to a big problem in the world of training.  First let me address those of you who John Lennon might describe as “uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites” who bristle at the term “training” I have had to stifle the intense, primal urge to throat punch the many people working in what’s now euphemistically called “talent development” who correct me when I use the term “training” with, “you train dogs, you educate people”.  I always respond with, “Oh really, so you would be okay with your fifth grade daughter getting both sex education AND sex training?”  I wasn’t taught not to drag things down to gutter, I was taught that the gutter is the best place to win an argument with a waterhead who is desperate to stay clean and not offend anyone.  But what is really important to remember is the difference between training and education is training is teaching someone how to DO something and education is teaching someone ABOUT something.

In my experience earning an OSHA certification, or CEU credits to maintain an arbitrary credential, or the least impressive “participation certificates” (and we whine about kids needing a participation trophy for everything) is worthless.  For the record I have never won a trophy for anything.  The closest I came was when I won a ribbon for perfect attendance (shit I need to put that on my resumé) because my mom wouldn’t let me stay home from school—she was no dummy, she paid my tuition and it was in her mind money well spent for making me the nuns’ problem 180 days a year.  Talk about a pathetic award! I got recognized for just showing up. If anyone deserved the award it was the nuns—I was an irascible, ill-behaved child who hated school and barely tolerated nuns.

The other ribbon I received was for citizenship. That was the year I got the measles, mumps, and chicken pox all within three months of each other. It’s tough to act up when you aren’t there.  They actually considered double promoting me (sort of an anti-social promotion) AND failing me at the same time because I had not attended (I sure as shit didn’t miss it) enough classes.  In the end they figured it all balanced out and passed me to the next sap who was so sure that she could be the one to make me straighten up and fly right, poor stupid bastards.

Alright, where was I.  Oh yes, OSHA training sucks.  Let me lay down some rules of andragogy (in no particular order):

  1. An Adult needs to know What’s In It For Me (WIFM).  When I am sitting in your class I need to know what value there is to be had in successfully completing the class; what will I learn that I will value? What knowledge will you impart that I can use outside this course? If you don’t have convincing answers to that question it’s game over. From that point on you will sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  Oh and guess what? Teaching me crap I already know just wastes my time and yours.  What’s more is there is scarce little that I as Joe Employee need to know in this regulatory self-soothing.  Just tell me where I can look up the information and shut up.
  2. An adult needs to believe you have the expertise or standing to teach me something on the subject.  In highschool I had sex with Sister Judy…well not really, although as close to actual sex as either of us had likely come at that intersection of our lives.  Sister Judith taught the class Sex and Human Relationships (apparently to distinguish it from a “how-to” course in bestiality).  Every day I would deliberately arrive at the class that followed 10–15 minutes late and loudly proclaim, “I’m sorry I’m late I was having sex with Sister Judy.” I didn’t get any funnier when I repeated it, but I delighted in saying it every day. At age 15 I didn’t (and still don’t) believe that a nun had much to teach me about making the beast with two backs.  Much to my dismay, the text was NOT the Kamasutra but some lame textbook with creepy looking people from various races. I remember they looked like they were in some cult of celibacy—for the record the absolute WORST cult to join and that includes the People’s Temple (hell, at least they got free Kool-aid). Now I ask you, which class on sex has more credibility: one taught by a nun using a weird celibacy cult text book, or Hugh Hefner teaching from the Kamasutra? Well at least now when a woman tells me that my sexual performance was less than satisfactory I have an excuse.  So in short, you can’t learn from someone you don’t believe they know what they are talking about.
  3. Adults want to draw on their and other adults’ life experiences to teach and learn.  There is a cutesy saying in training (for the record training is the career equivalent of a kitten hanging from a rope with the caption “hang in there” below it—trainers love cute and saccharine. The whole profession is like Mr. Rogers on too much Prozac. I had to get out while I still had an edge.) “Don’t be a sage on the stage, but a guide on the side.” As goofy as it sounds, this is the way training works.  The word “facilitator” gets bandied about  when we talk about training, but I can’t fault people for that.  To facilitate is to make things easier, and that’s what good trainers should do. Adults will learn best through self-realization that helps them to anchor the new concept with something from their experience.  I use a lot of my own personal experiences in my writing and my speaking.  The “I’m just here to earn my certificate and get the hell as far from you as I Possibly can” crowd hates this.  They don’t want to learn, they want to earn a participation trophy.
  4. Adults call the shots.  In my brief stint teaching children (mainly to light fires and to curse) I learned that if you turn your back on that pack of yowling demons they will come at you like rabid wolves.  In the classroom you have to assert dominance and maintain it (but don’t dry hump their legs—while effective, it is now gone the way of playing dodgeball—no one can ever give you a satisfactory reason why you can’t do it, you just CAN’T). When teaching adults they have the power.  They can physically and mentally leave the classroom and there isn’t anything you can do about it.  Adults will challenge you, threaten you, or leave nasty comments (did I tell you about the dumbass who complained that I wore a hat during one of my speeches? Guess what? The hat stays on!) You need to win over your audience and keep them engaged. And for the love of all that is holy don’t embarrass or humiliate an adult learner or the whole audience will turn against you. This is an issue I have with on-line learning or the horribly named “webinars”.  What is the first thing they do in webinars? Tell you to shut up.  “Okay we are recording this so I need everyone to mute his or her microphone.” That sure sounds like shut up to me, but that isn’t enough is it? They follow up with, save all your questions until the end of the session.  Whenever I attend a webinar I find myself wondering if this is about me or about them?  I don’t think I have ever made it through a single complete webinar.
  5. Adults resent being forced to “learn” something they already know.  Years ago I led the training department for a global, tier-one automotive supplier.  I wrote the rules so they were easy for me to follow.  Every course had a pre-test and a posttest.  The purpose of the pretest was to ascertain how much of the topic the people already knew and the posttest was to measure the extent that people learned from the class.  I would BEG people to test out—make an appointment and take the posttest.  If the person was able to score 90% or higher they received credit for having successfully completed the course. If not they really didn’t lose anything and had a pretty fair idea of what would be areas to which they should pay particular attention.  Few people even tried—they liked going to class because it was interactive, a chance to have targeted discussions with their peers, and there was always free food.

I’d like to think that there is a lot more to it than this—I mean I did put in the college and the University of Michigan isn’t cheap—but so many regulatory required classes miss these five basic points I think this is enough.  

I think I would like to close with the question: If training is more about earning a certificate to prove you know ABOUT something than it is about mastering the skills to DO something of value than what is the point of it all?

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

#ceu, #learning, #osha, #safety-training

It’s Your Own Damned Fault

It’s Your Own Damn Fault

Phil La Duke 

Dear Readers

This is a first for me. Most of you who read me regularly know that I write stream of consciousness-still and often meander from my point never to come back to it. Most of you have come to accept it as just part of my writing. But today a reader, Gary Jones, made some comments that I would very much like to address. No I am not removing anything, Mr. Jones didn’t ask for that. Instead, he politely asked that I clarify (and finish) several thoughts. So thank you Gary, my edits follow in red:

Author: 

I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention

I started writing a blog post about the importance of empathy among safety practitioners but after what seemed like an eternity I gave up. I just don’t see empathy as the strong suit among people working in safety—people range from the case manager safety manager who sees his or her job as proving that whatever the injury it isn’t the company’s fault, to the safety supervisor who sighs when he or she gets the report of an injury. I myself, throughout my storied career, have been injured on the job many times—although I admit that I rarely report injuries (I’ve written articles about why people don’t report their injuries and in fact a book that most of you will never read on the subject, Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands.) But I will say this: whenever I have been injured it I almost always blame myself, and certainly I played a roll but if you do an injury analysis and find that my screw up is to blame you need to get out of safety. The average safety guy (this is a general neutral term, look it up) has the capacity for compassion and empathy as a serial killer with asperger’s syndrome. Doubt me? what is the first question you get asked after you get injured? Typically, you get asked, “what happened?” Not how do you feel about what happened, what do you think made you make the decisions you made, or even are you feeling okay. Most people are embarrassed about being injured, because they honestly believe it’s their own fault. And you know what? sometimes it is, but I have never once taken an ounce of solace in the knowledge that my suffering was brought on by my own actions. So I scrapped that and wrote the following instead:


This morning, while cooking my egg white veggie omelette with Detroit sausage cut up into it (what can I say? I’m complex) I burned my left hand not once, not twice, but three times in the course of the twenty minutes or so that I was cooking my breakfast, 

I should point out that I eat this breakfast darned near every day and cook it the same way, so what was so different about today? Not much actually, but I think it demonstrates how difficult it is to break the habits associated with rote tasks.  I cook the same breakfast virtually every day—although I occasionally mix it up by making stone ground oats with Detroit sausage cut up in it, but that is infrequently and usually because I’m out of egg whites—the same routine, day in and day out.

I don’t have to do a lot of thinking at 5:00 a.m. and it’s a good thing. I turn on a taped rerun of “Maverick” (I tape it because I hate that commercial where a drunk Joe Namath schills “the benefits that YOU deserve to ole people who should have done us all a favor and shuffled this mortal coil long ago, starting with Joe Namath himself; seriously when is he going to die?) and complete the same workout every day: 30 minutes on the elliptical, push-ups, the tower power, and weights.

When all this is done I cook breakfast, all pretty mundane and some of you are probably wondering where this story is going. So…today, I grabbed a small pan that my fiancé bought me as a Christmas gift.  It’s a great pan and perfect for making omelettes with one exception: the handle is metal and uninsulated.  Now to be clear, I worked as a cook in restaurants for over ten years and know my way around the kitchen, And yet I burned the same hand three times because I grabbed the hot handle without thinking. Nothing more, nothing less.

It wasn’t caused by any of “the four states: rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency” or any of the other horseshit that SafeStart sells for profit, or for that matter any of the other snake oil sales people eager to make a buck by selling a system that blames the worker.  

Let’s look at these one at a time.

  • Rushing.  Years of experience have taught me that unless you want to get sick you can’t rush the cooking process.  I wasn’t in any hurry, when cooking food each item requires a certain amount of time to cook, no more and no less. But let’s assume I was rushing; so what? Does rushing cause or contribute to injuries? I worked an assembly line at one of the Big Three (now sorta big 2½) where my job was to complete 12 separate tasks in 55 seconds) if that sounds easy you’re a fool.  It was tough enough when we were working in process, but we had to routinely have to call for a “line check” because managers would often secretly speed up the pace.  If you weren’t rushing you were behind, and if you were behind you made the operator’s next to you job harder. It would snowball and pretty soon you had 30 people pissed at you for messing with their routine.  Rushing was a cause of injuries; rushing was the norm.
  • Frustration. I have never in my long and storied career seen an injury that was caused because a worker was frustrated. “How’d you hurt your back Al?” “Ah you know I was frustrated so I jumped in front of a fork truck”. That doesn’t mean it CAN’t happen, unlike many of my detractors reading this, I don’t believe that my experience is universal and therefore somehow proof of my assertions, but the fact that I have never seen a grizzly bear in my backyard leads me to believe that said ursines are not indigenous to my neighborhood. At any rate I didn’t burn myself three times this morning because I was frustrated.
    None of this should be construed as somehow implying that workers don’t get frustrated, but frustrated workers are more likely to lip off to the boss, miss work, or leave early.  I believe that frustration should be addressed as a behavior, mental health, or a morale issue, not a cause of injuries.
  • Fatigue. While fatigue is what I describe as a “performance inhibitor” I most certainly wasn’t fatigued when I burned myself.  In fact, I was energized from the workout and caffeine, I had a good night’s sleep and I will say for the record I wasn’t fatigued. This is not to say that fatigue doesn’t contribute to injuries but everyone from nurses to over the road truckers routinely are expected to “tough it out”. We seriously need to address fatigue, but to paraphrase Mark Twain, “everybody talks about (fatigue) but no one does anything about it.”
  • Complacency. While I may have been complacent initially (having done the task so many times before) I would have to say that after the first incredibly painful burn to my palm and fingers any feelings of complacency (where I gradually came to view the task as less dangerous because of an absence of an injury or negative outcome) went out the window. I mean, really, how stupid does a guy have to be to grab the hot pan a second AND a third time? No, while like so many of the others mentioned above, we can jump to the conclusion that this factor contributed to the first injury, it strains credulity that after a second and third painful burn I would not be complacent (it really, REALLY hurt).

While all of these factors can inhibit performance and increase the probability of an injury to assign causation in this case or in our workplaces is a facile argument. What’s more it’s a dangerous position to take because if we decide that one of these is THE cause then there isn’t much reason for looking for other contributors or causes because continuing to look for causes is not unlike looking for your car keys for 15 minutes after you found them—it just doesn’t make sense. But few injuries have a single line of causation, which is too bad because life would be so much easier if they did.

So what caused my injury? A small change in the process. I used a different pan, the pan had a metal handle and even though I have written a text book on thermodynamics and another on heat transfer, the fact the pan never occured to me as even a remote possibility. (I learned weeks later that the pans came with heat resistant handle covers, but since these were a Christmas gift from my would-be wife and she didn’t tell me this, I can only conclude that she enjoys seeing me in pain.) Should I have known better than to grab a metal handle with my bare hand the first time, yes of course. Does that knowledge transfer to conscious thought? Not always. Was the first burn my fault? maybe not, but the second and third time I most certainly knew it would be hot but I tried to reposition the pan anyway.  Why did I try to reposition the pan after I had already burned myself? Because the habit was far more powerful than the visceral searing pain of the burn and the smell of my own burning flesh wafting up to my nostrils. Habits are hard to break, and when the habit benefits us it keeps us alive, but when we change even the smallest detail of our routine our habit will often prevail, even when the habit is not in our best interest. Joel Barker in his wonderful (albeit dated) video series, dubbed this a paradigm. The term wasn’t new when Joel used it, but it was a little known scientific term that referred to the very real (and dangerous) phenomena where scientists will discount a discovery because it flies in the face of a long held reality. The newly observed condition cannot exist because it is impossible. Paradigm has come to mean opinion, which is a shame (don’t you hate how if people use a term incorrectly long enough it becomes correct—damn you Noah Webster choose a lane!) Paradigms are a real problem when we are doing incident investigation, because if we start with a preconceived notion and believe it fervently enough then it becomes reality and opens the door to recurrence.

Was the pan poorly designed? I would have to say yes, but I am going to continue to use it because I like it and I feel like Kwai Chang Caine when it burns me. Thanks again Gary.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?

Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?

What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 peppered 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.) You should buy it.

#blame, #injury-reporting, #workplace-safety