If You See Incompetence At the Bottom, The Fault Lies At the Top

“(A)s you work your way up the food chain of a dysfunctional workplace and you will find gross incompetence at all levels. “

The truth
Photo by Vlad Bagacian courtesy of 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  and contributor to 1% Safer, 

I’m sitting in a hotel room in New Orleans.  Most people immediately tell me how lucky I am, but I go to work, get some carry out, and live in the hotel room.  I haven’t had maid service for ten days which means that the hotel room is approximately about as clean as the average hotel room was prior to the pandemic. The only thing worse than going to a city that sucks for work is going to a really REALLY fun city and not only having to work, but having to stay in—even on the weekend. I can’t really talk about what I’m doing or where exactly I am working, but I can assure you that I am not a hired killer. 

It’s not that I don’t have the temperament for wet work—put me in a room with a bunch of drunken revellers and I’m morally ready to kill at least four of them within 15 minute—it’s more that I think I would suck at it.  I watch enough “murder television” to know that they will still be finding my DNA 100 years from now, and that’s just in this increasingly squalid hotel room.  In a word I would be incompetent.

Those of you who have read my work more than occasionally understand the importance I place on competence—a workers physical and mental ability to safely do a task—but what about incompetence? Where does it come from, and more importantly, why does it persist?

Many refer to a culture where dysfunction is rampant as a “toxic culture”, and I have explored in some detail the causes and often tragic effects of a toxic culture in my second book  Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention and the four of you who bought it and read it understand how ignoring dysfunction can directly lead to a deadly workplace incident.  I won’t say that the alpha dog executives are complicit in these deaths (but I’m not saying they are innocent either).  I also made my case for competence in Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands  and even wrote my chapter of 1% Safer, on the topic.  So it’s fair to say I think it is both a crucial element in keeping workers safe and a largely ignored and poorly executed activity in safety, but that’s not what I want to talk about right now.

A great friend of mine started a new job.  She is maybe my opposite; she is a glass-is-half full, there is good in everyone, and if only the top executives knew the gross incompetence of so many of the people who work in her office knew the depth of the problem they would do something.

I disagree with her.  In my experience—and Lord knows I have worked in my fair share of toxic workplaces—as you work your way up the food chain of a dysfunctional workplace and you will find gross incompetence at all levels. 

Have you ever had deplorable customer service? Now remember this is a job that exists solely to troubleshoot problems and make the customer, if not happy, at least satisfied.  And yet if you have a problem with a first line worker’s poor performance and call the customer service line you are likely to reach a subcontinental employee of a customer service firm. Danny, will read to you from a script with such a thick accent that he might as well be speaking Esperanto. There is no consequence for the incompetent employee(s) not for Danny and not for the person who wronged you. This is tacit approval of poor performance.  If you can do a job so far below the standard that you are driving away customers and keep your job it is an endorsement of your excremental performance. If you really push your grievance you will be told that the person will be “coached’.  What bullshit.  Incompetent supervisors hide behind labor laws so we never see or hear about what was done to remedy the situation.  I know of a case where a worker was caught in the act of stealing from a retail company, not once, not twice, but THREE times before they even thought about firing him. This is incompetent supervisors, shielded by incompetent managers, shielded by incompetent directors, who are shielded by incompetent Vice Presidents, shielded by incompetent executives.

Companies like this become a beacon for the lazy, uneducated, and unemployable dolts who probably don’t even interview well, but are hired by an incompetent HR person, trained by an incompetent trainer, and it doesn’t take long before the incompetence spreads like a cancer. Employees with good work ethics leave to employers who value them and their good work pays off with positive consequences.  

Meanwhile, safety professionals stuck in the quagmire of dysfunction of the organization are expected to do a good job? I know plenty who try to succeed in this environment but ultimately they burn out and quit.  You can set your watch by it.

I wrote an article sometime ago, I think it was for “Entrepreneur” magazine but I don’t remember. The title was You Get What You Put Up With.  In it I talk about the line of causation of incompetence and it all starts at the top. When you—whether as a manager or a consumer—accept unsatisfactory performance you normalize and endorse it as acceptable; it is the act of a coward.

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.

#competency

First, Do No Harm

“First, Do No Harm”

—The Hippocratic Oath
Doctor injecting person
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  and contributor to 1% Safer, 

Safety personnel aren’t typically doctors, so it may seem odd that I would start a blog with a well-known quote from the Hippocratic Oath. But I had a troubling exchange on LinkedIn with a guy who runs a CNC shop—he made assertions relative to wearing a mask that were flat out inaccurate.  The more I asked him about his qualifications the more the boob sounded off with more dreck about what China was doing, the nature of bacteria and viruses, etc.

For the record I am a COVID-19 Supervisor. I write and edit protocols for a large, global entertainment corporation.  I need to keep up on the most recent developments and spend much of my time reviewing government regulations and reading the latest in COVID research on the Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical websites, as well as international sites. I eat, breath, and cough COVID facts. Add to that that I sit on five Industrial Review Boards where I sit virtual shoulder to shoulder with virologists, epidemiologists, biologists, and other brilliant people. One of these boards is dedicated solely to COVID research. Two of the others also oversee COVID research.

The dullard in question made the point that  masks protect you from bacteria not viruses.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was once under this same misconception, but here is why: when the COVID outbreak started scientists believed it was an airborne illness, in other words they believed that the individual virus particles travel through the air.  If that were the case, then wearing a mask to protect to block viruses out of your lungs is like trying to keep mosquitos out of your house with chicken wire; it won’t work.  

But researchers really didn’t KNOW whether or not the virus was airborne or spread by travelling on water droplets that are exhaled (or coughed or sneezed) by infected people.  Once it became clear that the virus travelled on water droplets (which are far FAR times larger than a virus) masks were determined to be an effective way of greatly reducing the spread of the virus. Now we do know that masks do reduce the spread of the virus, but this isn’t about me, or masks, or COVID; it’s about the harm people do by  spreading stupidity.  If you get your news from Facebook and spread that news as if you read it in the Wall Street Journal I am talking about YOU.

When you share things without researching them you perpetuate stupidity, and when you do it in a public health crisis you could end up getting someone killed.  It’s not hard to find some crackpot conspiracy theory online, but that doesn’t make it true.  As is so often said these days, you can have your own opinion but you can’t your own facts. What’s more, you can’t cherry pick the facts that support your lunatic fringe ideas and ignore the vast storehouse of facts that dispute your beliefs.  I’m not here to tell you what to believe, well at least not this week, but if you want to believe that the moon landing was fake, that the CIA is trying to steel your thoughts, or whatever other stupid global conspiracy you want to believe put on your tinfoil hat and go huddle in your panic room. BUT STOP TRYING TO CONVINCE OTHERS OF THE FOOLISHNESS YOU BELIEVE. 

We’ve seen an undermining of science for two long.  Does science have all the answers? No. But at least it is working on finding answers.  Years ago, when my daughter was young I took her to the pediatrician to get vaccinated.  This was when the anti-vaxxers were just building up steam.  My doctor was really angry (and I wasn’t suggesting that my daughter not get vaccinated) and explained to me that a) he questioned the validity of the research that drew a correlation between vaccines and autism (the study was later discredited because the researcher admitted that he had faked the results) and b) if that study was to be believed that the chance of a child becoming autistic because of a vaccine was 1 in 300,000 but the chance of getting the measles (now this is according to him and this was some years ago) were about 1 in 30,000.  

He went on to give me a litany of facts about the measles. He told me percentages of people who had complications from the measles ranging from deafness, brain damage, and even death. He said, and I confirmed this on Healthline.com that 90% of people who get vaccinated against the measles don’t get it, while only 2% of people who don’t  get vaccinated don’t get the measles. (I’m assuming he meant if exposed.)

To promulgate misinformation just because it fits your worldview is beyond careless and unprofessional it is depraved indifference.  So if you aren’t a constitutional scholar, feel free to read the constitution, but don’t publish your opinions as fact (or worse yet publish your brain addled buddy that you’ve never met’s brain addled opinion). If you don’t have a background and solid, scientific information then don’t post hearsay and speculation because it aligns with your politics or world view.

Even though we aren’t in the business of saving people’s lives, we can at least not put those lives at risk by posting theory and conjecture.

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,

Thanks,
Phil

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.

#covid-19, #first-do-no-harm, #ignorance, #phil-la-duke, #worker-health

Risk Versus Uncertainty

Photo by  Rainer Puster  on  Scopio

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  and contributor to 1% Safer, 

I get a lot of heat—most of it richly deserved—for my largely negative view of safety.  All I can say is two things: 1) if I point out the many flaws in the Safety Function readers flock to my blog if for no other reason than to hate me (someone they never met, but let’s face it we probably wouldn’t like each other) and, 2) If you want a well-thought-out and practical approach to safety than buy and read  Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands.   

 But in the spirit of the season, I am going to once again buck the trend and avoid the schlocky “New Year’s Resolutions For Safety” and leave that to the feel-good safety folks.  Today I want to talk about risk versus uncertainty.  But first some background. I was listening to an interview on the radio with a woman who wrote a book about planning for uncertainty.  I don’t remember the woman’s name or the book (which I had intended to buy), but I do remember how deeply and profoundly what she had to say about risk and uncertainty as it pertains to safety.

According to this nameless author, risk can be quantified and one can easily calculate the risks before making plans and contingency plans, but it is ludicrous to think that we can plan for uncertainty. I like the idea of writing a book about planning for something and then telling people it’s impossible;  Hell I would do it if I thought it would sell more of my books.

So what does this have to do with safety? A lot actually.  We mistake correlation with cause all the time—we use body maps, and area maps, and all sorts of misleading indicators.  Author Zachary Shore’s outstanding book Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions calls this cognitive bias “causefusion” and I highly recommend his book. In other words, we see a connection (or correlation) and ascribe significance to this connection where one does not exist.

We do much the same way with uncertainty, we tend to see risk instead of a gap information.  Take for Root Cause Analysis for example.  We typically take a couple of minutes to brainstorm possible causes (all the while looking for that single string of causation) usually under a preconceived notion of what probably happened (if I have seen this once I have seen it a hundred times) and decide that x was the cause.  Unfortunately, we usually act on the information we know (or worse yet suspect) and ignore the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know.

Some may be bristling at the idea that we can’t quantify risk.  If you are one of those people, I dare you to say that in front of an insurance actuary or a Las Vegas oddsmaker.  The insurance professional—knowing as he or she does that accurately assessing risk and probability is the cornerstone of the insurance business model (smokers are more likely to develop respiratory illnesses than nonsmokers and drivers with a lot of traffic violations are more likely to be involved in accidents than drivers with no violations—they make their bets and set their rates based on these correlations without mistaking them for cause and effect.  In fact, years ago I read a study that said that many really horrible drivers believe that because they have never been in an accident that they are actually good drivers, when in fact, their poor driving causes other accidents as other drivers careen out of the way as some 88-year-old man blows through a stop sign and causes them to make evasive maneuvers.

We also ignore uncertainty when we are doing Risk Assessments. Ironically, we often don’t do enough research to determine precisely the risk factors involved in performing a task so we tend to ignore the more remote and move on to the next task.

We need to do a lot more research on the risks of our industries, our work sites, and our individual tasks. We have to, in so much as it is possible to do so, drive out uncertainty so that we can accurately assess the risks.

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.

Anyway a big thank you to those of you who have bought my books and/or have reviewed them. I appreciate you.

#causefusion, #cognitive-bias, #phil-la-duke, #planning, #risk, #root-cause-analysis, #uncertainty, #worker-safety

Six Things Everyone Should Do In 2021

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  and contributor to 1% Safer, 

As 2020 draws to a close there are many looking forward to “getting back to normal” well, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see things as all that great BEFORE the pandemic. Political circuses around the globe, racial tensions, the mean-spiritedness and petty arguments on Social Media, income inequality, wage stagnation, and a steady loss of jobs to automation is not something I want to become “the new normal”. But even if I did want things to go back to the way they were, we can’t.  The Pandemic was our generations, Great Depression and our WWII, but instead of coming together we came apart at the seams.

I typically blog about safety, but today I am addressing workers and businesses of all disciplines, geographies, and stripes.  I have developed a list of six things that everyone should commit to in 2021 and beyond.  For good or for ill here they are:

  1. Think Globally Act Locally.  In my locale we have been given mixed messages: “stay home stay safe” and “support local small businesses.” This led to a monumental rise in on-line purchases and a surge in the demand for delivery services.  I ordered Christmas gifts in October that are still sitting at a distribution center less than five miles from my house because—despite knowing about this surge in business—the dolts in charge did nothing to prepare for this holiday surge.  I won’t buy from China or India anymore, ever, no matter the item or the price. This isn’t me being jingoistic or xenophobic or just plain bigoted.  There are a lot of good reasons for not purchasing from countries that routine have sold me ill-fitting, poorly made, or low quality that arrived late or incorrect, with the supplier demanding that I pay an exorbitant shipping fee to get a refund.

    I encourage everyone to not only go on the websites to see where the item you are purchasing ships from but also where it is manufactured. There is an increasing trend to have foriegn governments have warehouses in your country, but still manufacture and ship from their home countries. For example, my books that are sold on Amazon in Australia are actually printed and shipped from the UK.  It essentially prices them out of the Australian market. If you live in Australia DON’T BUY MY BOOKS. If you are in Australia and want to find a local printer and distributor contact me. I would rather lose sales than have people half a world away buy books from companies that are a different part of the world.  In the long run it will be cheaper and probably higher quality than paying someone outside your country to make the products you buy.
  1. Keep following COVID protocols.  I am not saying you should wear a mask after they are no longer required, but I am saying that washing your hands, not sneezing into people’s faces, not picking your nose (why don’t the people who issues these warnings leave out this filthy, germ-laden practice out of the warnings? It is a lot more commonplace than coughing in someone’s face), disinfect frequently (years ago I was speaking at a Mining Conference in Lima, Peru.  The hotel at which I stayed disinfected the elevator buttons once every ten minutes. I was impressed, and now when airlines and hotels brag about cleaning their respective jurisdictions I ask myself, “what in the actual Hell were they doing before?!?” and that goes double for restaurants! As my late father used to say before dinner, “scrub up!”  No one should have to be told to do this, but apparently we do. And while we are on the subject don’t go to work sick and employers stop trying to limit sick pay.  I used to work at a company where the supervisors would bellyache about the lack of sick days or an absentee policy.  If these mouthbreathers had actually READ the policy they would have known that the policy said:  a) “do not come to work ill” and b) “your supervisor can at his or her discretion require a doctor’s excuses for your absence.”  At one point I had an employee who would routinely get migraines  on Fridays and Mondays causing her to either leave early on Fridays and or come in late on Mondays.  I saw a pattern and was immediately angry.  But then I decided to take her at her word.  I did some research and told her the exact number of days/parts of days she had missed because of migraines.  I told her that the next time she had one I wanted her to see a doctor and provide me with an excuse.  I explained that I thought there might be an environmental cause that could affect other staff members.  She was miraculously healed and the problem was solved.  Despite having a company-wide absenteeism rate of .05 days (less than one hour per person) the do-nothing supervisors persisted and everyone was given five days of sick leave.  As you might have guessed the absenteeism rate sky-rocketed to just under 5 days per person.  So what was gained? Nothing, in fact, people would come to work ill more often and joke that they weren’t going to waste a sick day being sick.
  2. Follow the law, and don’t patronize businesses that don’t. In my city and State, a prominent restaurant chain owner has decided to disregard the Health Department restrictions placed on restaurants and is calling on other restaurants to do the same.  I don’t like the restrictions placed on bars and restaurants but I abide by them. When I hear about businesses, particularly bars and restaurants, flouting this particular law I wonder what other health codes they chose to ignore? Is the meat rancid? Is the refrigeration sufficient to keep the seafood safe to eat? Do they serve food that is past it’s expiration date? Those of us who work in worker safety see companies who deliberately put workers at risk simply to make an extra buck; think of the illegal shortcuts that your local restaurant  that ignore the obvious code violations. Read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair before you go to eat there. I don’t like speed limits or Stop signs but I obey the law nonetheless.
  3. Create a five-year plan. Whether it be a Pandemic or a war or some other catastrophe—personally or globally—the one thing we can be sure of is that we haven’t seen the last of major disruptions in our lives.  Many people lack sufficient savings to weather even the smallest storms. Individuals and businesses need to develop five- and ten-year plans that have built in contingencies for major disruptions.  Make a plan that assumes that there is a strong possibility that something could go wrong (generally you know the categories at least: illness, financial setbacks, etc.) and have a contingency plan. Oh and businesses, don’t expect loyalty from workers you continually ask for sacrifices like deferred raises, unpaid furloughs, or layoffs; if you had the sense that God gave geese you would have a war chest that gets you through the tough times.
  4. Hold people accountable.  We have policemen who aren’t enforcing laws they don’t like, but whine that people don’t support them when they get into trouble. We have delivery companies that can’t deliver their parcels in a timely manner. We have businesses who provide low quality and worse service but we blithely go on with our lives as if this is acceptable.  I am not saying you crucify someone for making a mistake, in fact, I live by the personal credo that you don’t judge a person or business by whether or not something goes wrong; it will.  You judge a person or business by how they react to what goes wrong.  And while we’re at it, we need to do a better job of taking people to task when they spread their paranoid, science-denying crap on Social Media.  My step mother died of COVID (it’s okay she was old and I was only a couple of weeks away from pushing a pillow over her face).  Some asshat on LinkedIn demanded that I prove that she died of COVID. I disregarded his complete insensitivity and told him to prove that she hadn’t.  He went on a rant about a global conspiracy to get people used to getting under the government’s thumb. He lied and people died.  I even have family members who denied the existence of COVID…until they contracted it. Then it was “poor me I was so careful”.  Demand a source for dubious information, or better yet find a reputable source that refutes it.  And when a person or business wrongs you, hang on like a terrier with a rat in its mouth. People and businesses treat you better when you demand it.
  5. Learn from this.  As I said, 2021 isn’t going to be like Dorothy emerging from her house into the color of Munchkinland. (I met an old woman who was in the original cast, but that’s for another story.) Disruptions, even catastrophic and tragic ones, can teach us valuable lessons.  One lesson that we should all consider is that most people have an insufficient safety net and we need to make serious reforms in many institutions (and business policies) to remedy the egregious flaws in our policies, organizational structure, and even governments in some cases.  2020 showed us the cracks in the veneer of our society let’s focus on learning from this and work together to fix things.

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.

Drive Fear From The Organization

As businesses feel the economic pinch of COVID many safety professionals are living in fear for doing their jobs

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  and contributor to 1% Safer, 

Not that anyone has been keeping track, but I have been blogging on fewer and fewer occasions—mainly because there just isn’t much to say about safety in a world (and a field) seemingly completely unable to distinguish facts from uninformed opinion.  I’m used to the halfwits of safety puffing their chests out in righteous indignation when they feel the need to defend the slack-assed and slack-jawed people working in safety (not all people obviously, but if that just made you bristle then maybe you had better stop reading my stuff and start reading some of Scott Gellar’s dreck that he churns out like a 1890’s pulp fiction sweatshop) and lately I have become more and more impatient with the crazy as a shit house rat crowd.  Gellar will make you feel good, special, and you will be even dumber for having read it.  Don’t bother sending me hate mail because you studied under him and think his work is just an easier to read version of the King James Bible.

This week I decided to try and be more positive with a Social Media post.  I thought it would be interesting to hear from people working in the field and find out how they got into training, what they liked about it, what were their greatest frustrations and finally would they do it over.  It was an interesting thread only occasionally interrupted by the usual type of boobs who want to argue my opinion apparently because the questions are too hard.

I was intrigued because I don’t think a single person said that safety was a lifelong dream, or even that they thought they could make a difference, ironically most of us—judging from this insanely small and statistically irrelevant sample size—ended up in safety accidentally, we figuratively fell into a job that is responsible for helping companies reduce falls. Even I who have lost too many people to indifferent managers and owners of dangerous workplaces can muster the fervor to say that I got into this thankless job.

As for the thread—except for a couple of responses—I thought it was a fun and interesting exercise and I was entertained enough by it.  What I hadn’t expected was the outpouring of private emails and messages that I received in response to my fairly innocuous thread. I got dozens of emails where our colleagues in safety wrote to me privately because they feared career repercussions if their answers were shared publicly. Several in particular really moved me as they literally begged me to keep up my barking rat schtick.

Three were fired for whistleblowing (and I know of at least three more outside of this who were also fired for whistleblowing), another five or so shared with me that they had been openly intimidated by their employers to NOT intervene on safety matters.  All of them voiced their frustrations at owners and middle managers, and sadly all of them told me that they had once loved their jobs but now dreaded the prospect of going in and knowing that they couldn’t make a difference.

I for my part love my job (I now work for a company that knows and values what I do, and also truly puts people before all else), and for the most part I loved my last job even though I had a boss who felt it was his full-time job trying to censor and silence me.  When I referred to my first car (a 1976 used Granada, as a Ford POS, he threw a conniption fit because 30 years later someone from Ford (our client) might see the blog and be offended.  I have driven many Fords and the last two have had serious recalls, and I would categorize them as Steaming Piles of Mechanical Dung heaps.  That just sent my exboss’s tiny testicals ascending back into his body cavity. I spent seven years continually arguing over something I said that they thought reflected badly on them. To the point that I removed the name of my employer from my profile. One arrogant pig fucker (he and the pigs know who he is) from Australia, who left my former employer got pissy and told me that he was going to my CEO. He did and dozens of emails were exchanged before cooler minds prevailed. Think of the money spent with seven figure executives taking the time to try to silence me. Fuck it, if it were me I would have just spent ten grand and had me killed. But it wasn’t just them, a prior employer also got into my shit because of my blogs and articles.  To quote Ice Cube, “Speak a little truth and people gonna lose their fucking minds”.

I’ve addressed Deming’s 14 points as they pertain to safety, but today’s business climate makes one of those points: “Drive ferar from the organization” even more important lately. I participated in a contentious thread about “psychological safety”. Yes people should feel safe to speak up at work, but unfortunately, in many companies, shit ain’t like that, and likely never will be, at least soon. The worst workplaces are often extremely adept at making workers feel as if they are lucky to have a job at all. It’s gobsmacking to think that people would buy into the crap that it’s better to work for an employer who is more concerned about cheating you out of your Workers’ Compensation than in protecting you from harm (which is, afterall, its legal obligation.)

Safety has been under siege for a while, and it’s because some companies will never want a Safety function that does what it is supposed to do: to enable safer production.  Part of that is our own fault, we have been saying stupid shit like, “I save lives” or “safety is our top priority”. We sound like people who were born simple and then took it further south with years of Meth use.  But things in safety are worse then they have ever been. People are panicked at the spectre of losing their jobs as COVID ravages businesses.  Some people flat out refuse to go to work because they are terrified of the invisible enemy, while others are too cowardly to even believe that the disease exists.

COVID is a blessing.  Before COVID companies could lie about putting people before profits, but now, they openly protest in favor of becoming super spreaders just to stay open.  Business owners whine about restrictions and how it hurts them financially.  Why is it that we never heard them say a peep about the financial burdens placed on people who were injured and had to suddenly live on a fraction of their salary? 

COVID makes the news.  A Washington state restaurateur openly flauts the law against inside dining, and in Michigan many restaurants are doing the same.  The police in Washington said they aren’t going to enforce the laws, in Michigan the laws are enforced unevenly.  I know some of you don’t care about COVID; some think it’s a hoax, or even a world-wide conspiracy, if that is you go put on your tinfoil hat and post on some wackadoodle website; I make it a point to not argue with the crazy.  For the rest of you, let me ask you this: what other health codes and laws do these businesses avoid to make money? How many businesses out there ignore safety openly and contemptuously because it would cost too much to comply.  This isn’t about COVID; since when do we allow greedy businesses to decide which laws they get to follow and which laws they can just ignore? And what about police officers and entire departments who have decided that they will only enforce some laws and not others.

COVID—irrespective of how you feel about the restrictions—has shown the true colors of a lot of people.  We as a society are okay with people dying as long the checks keep clearing.  This is proof that these companies not only are okay with endangering their employees, but endangering their customers, and the general public as well! 

I am not going to call out the people who are afraid to do their jobs in safety when  they have already been told that doing so is a sure ticket to being fired, but l would like those of us (myself included) who work for decent companies who do put people before profit and public health ahead of cranking out products to speak out against these companies that fail to protect their workers, customers, and the general public.

Trust me when I tell you, that there are a lot of safety personnel terrified to do their job because they have already been threatened and can find no justice.

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: Scientists or Charlatans

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

I work as a COVID Compliance Supervisor for a large entertainment conglomerate. When people hear this the conversation usually steers in one of two directions. Either people want an “insider’s view” of Hollywood film and television production, OR people want to rant about how COVID-19 is just a global hoax engineered by the Illuminati, Shriners, and Space Aliens. The sheer stupidity of some people is absolutely exhausting. Yes, I know, there are people out there who believe that the finest scientific minds of Alpha Centauri have traveled light years to come to Earth to create crop circles just to screw with our heads. I imagine the debate on AC going something like this: “listen, we waited way too long to get in on rectal probes, and we will be lucky to get a first look at the inner workings of a raccoon’s anus! If we don’t move on crop circles NOW the envelope will close!”) other dullards believe the world is flat, which I could get on board with if they meant flat as in tasteless…but they don’t.

But the blowback I have received from safety drones has really blown my hair back. One reader posted on a thread—interestingly a thread discussing the role that training had in safety—that (presumably because he saw my title) COVID is a global conspiracy whose purpose was to…I quit reading. This dumb-shit believes in global conspiracies but not basic (and I am talking high school biology level) science. I sit shoulder to virtual shoulder with some of the greatest scientific minds working today as a member of five Industrial Safety Review Boards. These boards oversee experiments involving Recombinant DNA, and now all but one includes at least some COVID-19 research, and one, in particular, is 100% devoted to studying the COVID-19 virus. By law or charter, each has to have at least two voting members that represent the interests of the community. I am one of the resident morons who ask dumb questions like, “if these mutated genes get out into the wild how many people will die horribly?” I joined my first board three years ago and I learn more in a single two-hour meeting than in a semester of college microbiology. I like it. It’s fascinating to be on the razor’s edge of scientific discovery. Unless you are one of the many pig-fuckers who believe that COVID isn’t real.
Before I get into the myths and sheer stupidity of not believing in COVID, or of thinking of it as just the flu, let me rant a bit about why we should tar and feather (I assume both are available from Amazon with Prime free delivery) the safety water heads who reject science in any form. If those of us working in safety don’t believe in science then what do we believe causes accidents? Magic? Ancient curses? An ancestor who spit on a witch? In a field where we struggle daily to be taken seriously, we can’t afford the marginally employed safety imbeciles to be given the same standing as the people who are looking for better, scientifically validated methods for lowering risk. The science deniers used to be laughable, akin to people who believe that mathematics was the work of a Chinese demon. We didn’t take them seriously, and yet now a considerable number have joined our ranks, and have driven people who know the value of scientific method from social media if not the field itself.

So back to COVID. I have several family members currently infected with the COVID virus and several others who have died from complications from the life-altering effects being infected and recovering had on them, so if you are tempted to ask me to prove it to you, I am more likely to prove that the repeated slamming of my fist into your head may not kill you or leave you blind, but you will wish to whatever sewer-spawned god to which you pray would have killed you. This I solemnly swear— one day you fuckers who write to me, or call me trying to intimidate me, or make me think you’re crazy are gonna push me to the point where I make Charles Manson look like Mr. Rogers on too high a dose of lithium; I shit you not. But until then let me dispel some of the dim-witted myths about COVID-19:

“It’s Just the Flu”
In the interest of full disclosure, when COVID came on the scene I was in the “it’s just the flu” camp. I was wrong…no it’s not. Covid is a contraction of CoronaVirus Disease in 2019. (Don’t get me started with why they felt the need to a) capitalize the “V” in CoronaVirus or b) add “disease” afterward; they just did. The “flu” is short for influenza. Influenza is a completely different virus and just like HIV and the common cold are also different viruses. One can be excused for confusing COVID-19 with influenza±are both contagious respiratory illnesses and neither have any highly effective treatments (doctors tend to treat symptoms and side effects—like bacterial pneumonia—rather than the disease itself. Despite the obvious similarities, there are significant differences. Let me break this down for all you Social Media Constitutional scholars turned budding armchair epidemiologists; COVID-19 is not “just the flu” in fact, it’s not the flu at all. Asking “what’s the difference?” is like asking the difference between being run over by a speeding car and being nudged by a mouth-breather with a shopping cart—both involve being struck by a vehicle, both vehicles have a human operating them, and both vehicles have wheels. So you are just being hit by a vehicle so you shouldn’t worry, right? But even if COVID was “just the flu” it wouldn’t be any joke. Experts estimate that over 65,000 people (that you probably don’t know) in the U.S. alone die from “just the flu” and those that survive it feels as if they barely escaped the grim reaper. Having “just the flu” sucks and it can lead to other life-limiting conditions as well.

Just as a side note, there is no such thing as “stomach flu” (although the term is widely used, influenza is a respiratory illness, not a gastrointestinal illness.) More accurately, a “stomach bug” is caused by a completely different and non-influenza virus and while it’s damn unpleasant it isn’t typically life-threatening. In many cases, what people describe as “stomach flu” is low-grade food poisoning. Wash your hands before you eat and you might want to choose a different restaurant.

So why worry about COVID? Well, I am not for worrying period, but on the other hand, I am a huge supporter of taking reasonable precautions to prevent myself from getting ill or being a selfish prick who blithely infects others with a potentially life-threatening illness. A lot of dimwits who feed on the fears of other dimwits compare COVID-19 to The Spanish Flu, I will address the fallacies one at a time later, but for now, let’s talk about how deadly the Spanish Flu was versus COVID. According to an article in “Smithsonian Magazine” Ten Myths About the 1918 Flu Pandemic The ‘greatest pandemic in history’ was 100 years ago – but many of us still get the basic facts wrong (which should be required reading for all the chowderheads who still want to perpetuate the crap they heard from their neighbor who read it on a dubious website written by a paranoid schizophrenic), The Spanish Flu killed about “25 million people in just the first six months” and ultimately killed between 50 and 100 million people. You have to admit that is a pretty impressive body count, particularly when you consider that there were less than 2 billion people on Earth at the time. Even so, experts in epidemiology now believe that contributors like close contact in the trenches of WWI, squalid living conditions in urban population centers, malnutrition, and general poor health of many of the people who died played major roles. In the same article mentioned above, scientists now believe that the treatment may have significantly increased the fatality rates—doctors were prescribing as much as 30 grams (not milligrams) of aspirin a day to patients (in case you’re wondering that is an order of magnitude above what is now considered the safe dosage). What is truly remarkable is how many people survived the illness but, unlike COVID-19, the flu has been around for a very, very long time and most of us have at least some immunity to it. No one is immune to COVID, some people are just fortunate not to get it and some get it without developing symptoms but still remain contagious.

CoronaViruses are nasty; typically originating in animals and jumping species. Contrary to what you may have heard, one need not eat or have carnal knowledge of an infected animal for the virus to infect you (but then again I am not recommending unprotected sex with animals either. I joke about this, but a fair amount of people actually believe that these diseases were the result of bestiality.)
So why do so many people dismiss COVID as “just the flu?” Because the symptoms are virtually identical so it is difficult for physicians to distinguish between the two, but it is important to remember that while influenza may not be a barrel of monkeys, COVID is far more likely to kill you or cause you life-limiting conditions, which leads me to my next point…

“A Lot Of The People Who They CLAIMED Died of COVID Really Died of Something Else”
In this case, people who make this claim may be right, but it falls into the “no shit” category. This statement is one of those things that people say that is technically correct but makes absolutely no difference; it’s like saying that the 911 terrorists didn’t kill anyone, the flames and the sudden stop after jumping off the roofs of the towers is what ACTUALLY killed them. It’s a semantic argument that only know-it-all blowhards make. According to the CDC, COVID can cause other health problems. “COVID-19 can affect your nose, throat, lungs (respiratory tract); cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease”. So the point is if you “survive” COVID, but you die because of something that was CAUSED by COVID does it make a meaningful difference? Don’t bother answering, it was a rhetorical question. It’s like me asking whether it makes a difference if your dog was killed after being run over by a red car or a blue car? It’s a stupid point to make and it certainly doesn’t justify ignoring safety protocols.

“COVID Is A Global Conspiracy”
For a conspiracy to work secrecy is absolutely essential. There is an old Sicilian proverb that says, “how can three people keep a secret? When two of them are dead.” So for you to believe that not only is COVID a conspiracy, it’s a GLOBAL conspiracy you would have to believe that hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are in on this big secret, but you were able to find out about it from your Facebook friend who failed the eighth grade three times somehow caught wind of it (probably from a dying journalist who confided in him alone) and shared it with you. I can’t tell you how often I have been told this, not just by the part-time nut (and full-time turd eater) mentioned above, but by many mentally unbalanced people who pass among us unnoticed. You can believe this is a global hoax; stupidity and gullibility is a basic, inalienable human right. Alternatively, you can believe that were it not for the internet this yahoo would be sending out 34 newsletters (26 of which were going to various government agents.) Personally, I don’t know three people I would trust with a secret let alone three hundred thousand or more.

“Masks Don’t Work/Mask Cause Carbon Dioxide Poisoning/They Can’t Make Me Wear A Mask”
There is actually something to the claim that masks don’t work, but probably not the way you think. Correctly wearing an appropriate mask can significantly lower the risk of spreading the virus, but yeah if you’re wearing a mask around your chin, leaving your nose exposed, removing it when you are talking, wearing it as a jockstrap, or wearing a mask that allows exhaled air to escape through gaps between the mask and your face—in short, if you are too stupid to wear a mask properly—then yes, you are correct, they won’t work.
But let’s back up a bit, masks were never intended to protect the wearer from getting COVID rather, it is intended to lower the risk of infected people (you can have the disease and not know it and be contagious before getting symptoms) and for this purpose, masks work well provided you are wearing a proper mask and wearing it properly. If you can breathe through a mask you can catch COVID through a mask.

COVID is transmitted on water droplets that we exhale either through conversation, coughing, sneezing, or singing (or any combination thereof). All viruses are tiny—smaller than dust, bacteria, and germs—much smaller than the gaps in a mask that allow you to inhale air. While it is true that there are some masks out there that have their own air supply they tend to be reserved for medical professionals. But this isn’t a binary Protects/Does Not Protect scenario. A mask will shorten the distance that your breath will travel particularly when sneezing or coughing. And since water droplets weigh more than air the infectious droplets relatively quickly to the ground.

The purpose of the mask isn’t to stop COVID entirely, rather the masks are designed to reduce the distance that the virus can travel and of course they are most effective when you keep at least six feet of distance between people who don’t live in your household. You should wear a mask because you may be contagious before showing symptoms or you may never develop symptoms and still carry the virus. Again, it shortens the distance it doesn’t erase it, so remember to stay at least 6 feet away from other people, especially me.

As for carbon dioxide poisoning, don’t be a dumbass. According to an article on the website Scienceing.com “After a human breathes in Earth’s air (roughly 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen), he or she exhales a mixture of compounds similar to the air inhaled: 78 percent nitrogen, 16 percent oxygen, 0.09 percent argon, and 4% percent carbon dioxide.“ So we effectively exhale 400% more oxygen than carbon dioxide. The only ones who believe that masks cause CO2 poisoning are the people donning plastic bags on their heads—I’m not denying they are oxygen deprived, I’m merely pointing out that it probably happened long before they were told they had to wear a mask. Use your head people, if breathing exhaled breath would cause carbon dioxide poisoning given a person mouth to mouth would not resuscitate them; it would KILL them.

“I have a Constitutional Right to refuse to wear a mask”
Finally, I was recently in a tire store getting a tire repaired (I wanted to be clear that I wasn’t just hanging around a tire store) when the manager told an employee to put on a mask.  The employee balked and said he had a constitutional right not to wear a mask.  The manager reminded him that he DIDN’T have a constitutional right to a job at the tire store so he could either put on a mask or find another job.  But do you have a constitutional right not to wear a mask? No, according to the National Bar
Governments have the power to regulate in the name of safety. In a pandemic, state governments really are the key players…Under the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment and U.S. Supreme Court decisions over nearly 200 years, state governments have the primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions. The 10th Amendment, which gives states all powers not specifically given to the federal government, allows them the authority to take public health emergency actions, such as setting quarantines and business restrictions.” So while the federal government has limited powers to enact requirements to spread the control of diseases, the States actually have quite a LOT of power to require you to do whatever they deem necessary to protect the general population from diseases. Even if the government didn’t have a right to order you to wear a mask your employer certainly does, so quit bellyaching.

Back To Safety and COVID
There is a lesson in here for all safety professionals: if we make the consequences too scary (death or a horrible life-altering condition) people will either suspend belief or will refuse to come to work because it’s just too dangerous. As I write this, the State of Michigan has set two consecutive records for the number of new cases reported and for the number of deaths. This is real, and the people who deny that it is real are chickenshit, just as the guy bitching about wearing a harness while working at height—it’s the rule so suit up and shut up or go find another job.

What we can learn from COVID is this? let people know the seriousness of the situation without making it seem hopeless. We have to communicate the risks and the rules in a language that people understand and to do that we have to understand that language ourselves.
About My New Book

In a couple of weeks my latest book, Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands will be available for purchase. Why should you buy it? Well for starters I have been providing blog posts, articles, advice, and speeches on safety for free since 2006. That’s my choice, but it consumes time and resources I could be using to have a lot more fun. But beyond that, some of you seem to think I am a millionaire because I have three books published; I am not. I am the quintessential fool and his money, which doesn’t help. All of my book revenue funds more books, Even though I am published by an actual publisher, I pay the initial start-up costs to get the book from my computer to (hopefully your hands). These costs are not insubstantial—$100 an hour for an editor (which I finally broke down and paid for this book) even more an hour for a graphic artist to clean up the images and put the book into its final size, fees for getting the book an ISBN number, and the physical printing of the book (all told around $4,000) For this initial payment I get a substantially higher % of the royalties, but since I use that to pay my PR Manager $250 an hour to promote the book it’s fair to say that writing books is not a money machine. Oh and advertising, $50 bucks a month for Vertical Response to send out email blasts that less than 10% of you even open, $100 bucks a month for Shutterstock—absolutely overpriced in my opinion, and sundry books sent to book club organizers, libraries, and thieves who promise to either give the leadership of their book club with promises of hundreds of purchases likely to follow or to people like the leadership of ASSP who read both my books which I sent to them free of charge and hated the tone and lack of scholarly form so much that they didn’t even bother to return the books. Oh, and postage is an absolute bitch. So buy my books or don’t buy my books, but don’t think I’m getting rich off them. They are selling well, but I need to sell a lot more to stay ahead of the money pit.

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.

Superstition Based Safety

By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business, Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence, and Blood In My Pocket is Blood On Your Hands

Are you superstitious? I don’t consider myself superstitious but I am fascinated by the phenomena, particularly why people are superstitious.  If you think of it, a lot of superstitions are based on safety tips.  Why is it unlucky to walk under a ladder? Because a ladder generally could be a sign that someone is working above you and even if you don’t SEE a person working the danger of a dropped tool or a falling human still might exist, so yeah, I guess I can see why walking under a ladder is—at least potentially—bad luck.

Similarly, the superstition that putting shoes on the table was a harbinger of death reputedly rose from the practice of delivering a worker who was fatally injured on the job’s work boots (by far the most expensive possession of most workers centuries ago) to the widow.  When the bearer of bad news would enter the house he would place the boots on the table and tell the widow the terrible outcome. So in a very real way, boots (which overtime became shoes) on the table did indeed foretell at least the news of the death of a loved one. 

The list could go on and on; stepping on cracked pavement could be a trip hazard or a sign that a bridge or roof was about to collapse under the weight of the person who steps on a crack.  I know that people around the world have different taboos and superstitions, but that’s not really what I am looking to explore.  What I am more interested in is why the context was lost. 

My guess is that like many of us still do today, the warning was given about what not to do (or what to do) without telling people why it was important not to do that.

Any parent will tell you how irritating a child’s “why? stage” can be and will quickly add that the child will outgrow it. But I don’t think we ever outgrow the “why? Stage” nor should we.  As some of you may know, my degree is in Adult Education (I thought it would be dirty—it wasn’t). There are two basic tenets from Adult Learning theory (Andragogy, for the pendandics and nerds among you) that always stuck with me: 1) Adults need to respect the authority of the person giving them advice (“why should I listen to this clown?”) and 2) “What’s In It For Me?”

We tend to ignore these questions when we are teaching safety, or if we don’t ignore them outright we answer these questions in the most facile way.  Why should I listen to you? Because I’m the safety guy! I don’t know about you, but I’ve met these asshats and I couldn’t care less that they were anointed the “safety guy”. But if someone were to get up in front of the class and say, “Good Morning, I’m Josh Randal, and I am the safety manager for this facility.  I have worked in this industry for 18 years and have done most of the jobs out there.  For the last eight years I have been working in safety in one capacity or another. “ I am likely to at least give the guy the benefit of the doubt.  I am likely to be predisposed that this guy just might have something to say that is worth listening to.  Similarly, if the guy then says, “my job is to keep you alive” and follow up with gorey war stories, I guarantee I am going to tune out. Why? Because I have met enough self-important safety blowhards who treat workers as if they were too stupid to save their own lives. But, on the other hand, if the instructor continued with, “what we are going to cover in today’s session are some less obvious hazards, and our top ten injury causes.  My goal isn’t to read you a bunch of rules, rather I hope that I can give you good information that will help you to make informed decisions about the choices you make regarding risk and safety. We can’t cover everything that could harm you, but if we can at least help you to make better decisions based on good information, I will have done my job. None of us here wants to get hurt and the process isn’t designed to hurt anyone, so we have to work as a team to ensure we operate under the lowest possible risk.”

So why should I listen to this guy? Because he has worked at the grass roots level of this operation AND he probably knows a thing or two about real-world safety and not just academic safety.  What’s in It For Me? Good information that will help me make informed choices—not just rules that may or may not have anything to do with protecting me,  I’m a grown-assed man and I do have a modicum of common sense. I’m like most people.  I will follow the rule provided that the rule makes sense and that the rule is in my best interest.

Safety superstitions grow out of two basic origins: 1) a safety guy makes a rule without really understanding why—like the imbecilic rule that one has to hold on to the hand rail while walking up and down the steps. Like all superstitions this SOUNDS reasonable.  Except the purpose of a guard rail isn’t to keep people from falling down the steps, it’s to give people something that they can grab to break their fall. But some safety guy was taught at age 5 to hang on to the handrail by his mother and kept that safety gem in his head from that point forward.  I’ve worked in healthcare, and people are told NOT to touch the hand rail unless they have lost their balance, and then to sanitize their hands immediately afterwards.  In hospitals the risk of spreading deadly diseases is far greater than falling down the stairs. I followed the rule religiously because it was clearly explained to me by a clinician and it made sense. Furthermore, there are some nasty diseases going around hospitals and I didn’t want to catch one.

On the other had, I worked for a time where a dimwitted safety Nazi stood at the bottom of a massive staircase at shift change and would cast a steely gaze at the people on the staircase. Nothing delighted her more than writing up (and often firing) someone for not keeping his or her hands on the stairway.  She saw her job—like so many safety people do—as dispensing justice, when truth be told she was just dispensing stupidity and creating superstitions.

Just one final thought on safety superstitions: the best way to change a reasonable safety tip into a superstition is to not draw out the consequences of a bad decision.  Why is a bad idea to work at heights without some sort of fall protection? Because as you work you tend to become less and less situationally aware (as you become more and more focused on getting the job done) and so you are gradually increasing the probability of falling, and if you fall without protection the likelihood of your death rises. So protect yourself or don’t protect yourself, but don’t say you weren’t warned of the risks you are taking.

About My New Book

In a couple of weeks my latest book, Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands will be available for purchase.  Why should you buy it? Well for starters I have been providing blog posts, articles, advice, and speeches on safety for free since 2006.  That’s my choice, but it consumes time and resources I could be using to have a lot more fun.  But beyond that, some of you seem to think I am a millionaire because I have three books published; I am not. I am the quintessential fool and his money, which doesn’t help.  All of my book revenue funds more books,  Even though I am published by an actual publisher, I pay the initial start up costs to get the book from my computer to (hopefully your hands). These costs are not insubstantial—$100 an hour for an editor (which I finally broke down and paid for this book) even more an hour for a graphic artist to clean up the images and put the book into its final size, fees for getting the book an ISBN number, and the physical printing of the book (all told around $4,000) For this initial payment I get a substantially higher % of the royalties, but since I use that to pay my PR Manager $250 an hour to promote the book it’s fair to say that writing books is not a money machine. Oh and advertising, $50 bucks a month for Vertical Response to send out email blasts that less than 10% of you even open, $100 bucks a month for Shutterstock—absolutely overpriced in my opinion, and sundry books sent to book club organizers, libraries, and thieves who promise to either give their leadership of their book club with promises of hundreds of purchases likely to follow, or to people like the leadership of ASSP who read both my books which I sent to them free of charge and hated the tone and lack of scholarly form so much that they didn’t even bother to return the books. Oh and postage is an absolute bitch.  So buy my books or don’t buy my books, but don’t think I’m getting rich off them.  They are selling well, but I need to sell a lot more to stay ahead of the money pit.

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 Sucks

By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business, Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence, and Blood In My Pocket is Blood On Your Hands

It’s no exaggeration that I haven’t posted to my blog in a while.  No, I haven’t been too busy with other projects, and no I am not suffering from writer’s block. So why haven’t I posted in God knows how long? Because I have grown to hate safety.  It is a soul-sucking, occupation suffering from an identity crisis like a 14-year old girl. we’re not a science, we’re not an art, at best safety is a demented hobby akin to hoarding shit (sometimes literally) out of the garbage and piling it our personal ideologies.

Safety “professionals” run the gamut from pretentious academics whose last actual job was…well I don’t know that they actually had one…to the epsilon minuses who were put in the position out of  pity (it was either that or Euthanize them—and honestly I can’t say the powers that be made the right decision.) Some of the actual GREAT thinkers in safety were driven out of safety—from Dr. Jim Leeman, Chris Collins, Dr. Robert Long, (and how long has it been since Alan Quilley weighed in on a safety issue?)

Safety nitwits have so polluted LinkedIN (along with Microsoftic greed) that there have literally been times when I signed on to LinkedIN and did a double take thinking I was on Facebook.  I don’t give one tenth of a fuck about your inspirational meme. And even though I have it written in my headline AND my profile “don’t connect to me to try to sell me something” I get two or three mouth-breathers doing just that. Take a hint you fucking social networking maladroits.

LinkedIN sold out to Microsoft who decided LinkedIn would be more profitable if it could be the place where thought and intelligence went to die.

Are you enjoying this? If not, does it at least ring true? Does it offend you? If so fuck you, I neither want nor need you as a reader. I would tell you to go to Hell, but I feel like intellectually we are already there. LinkedIN does to intellect what sorted Boy Scout Troop leaders did to their charges (and I am not talking about what they were supposed to do,  which is to train the next generation of serial killers.  Think about it. The Boy Scouts teach eager kids how to tie knots, navigate in remote wooded areas, start fires, and dig shallow graves. They even issue them knives, collapsible shovels, and a hatchet.  Give them a case of bleach, a panel van and a copy of Silence Of the Lambs and they are all set.

The major problem with Safety is that we sit around arguing theories, stupid theories usually, and unstudied and untested theories at that. We spew so much horseshit that if we stood at the doors of the Augean Stables with our mouths open they would  fill up faster than Hercules himself wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Social media is killing us.  The stupid are given the same standing as the truly educated.  And the truly educated—the people who ate, breathed, and shit safety—threw up their hands and said, “screw it, these people deserve each other” and walked away. 

I gotta say, I sympathize.  Now that I am on the health side of safety and working in the film industry (no not porn, get your minds out of the gutter) I don’t have to listen to the same old inane arguments about how great one totally bullshit opinion is superior to another steaming heap of bullshit—the only difference is the bull that created it.

I get to solve problems in a world where scientific discovery ebbs and flows; it can feel like chasing the wind, but at least it is scientifically based. But even here mouth-breathing halfwits who failed high school biology weigh in on the efficacy of the science, like Nobel-Prize winning epidemiologists. It’s been said many times but I will say it again: YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO YOUR OWN ASININE, JUVENILE FAIRYTALE OF AN OPINION, BUT YOU DON’T HAVE YOUR A RIGHT TO YOUR OWN FACTS. 

So many of our world leaders are a cross between Charles Manson, Caligula, and Nero that it is troubling.  But what is more troubling is the sheepeople who support them, because they say what is on their minds and they don’t talk like politicians. When neither do I; do you want me to lead your country? To quote Alfred in Batman, “some people just want to watch the world burn”  and now I am beginning to feel like grabbing a bag of marshmallows and getting a good seat.

About My Latest Book

Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands has be available for purchase for awhile. It was particularly marketing genius to go to market during a pandemic. Why should you buy it? Well for starters I have been providing blog posts, articles, advice, and speeches on safety for free since 2006.  That’s my choice, but it consumes time and resources I could be using to have a lot more fun.  But beyond that, some of you seem to think I am a millionaire because I have three books published; I am not. I am the quintessential fool and his money, which doesn’t help.  All of my book revenue funds more books,  Even though I am published by an actual publisher, I pay the initial start up costs to get the book from my computer to (hopefully your hands). These costs are not insubstantial—$100 an hour for an editor (which I finally broke down and paid for this book) even more an hour for a graphic artist to clean up the images and put the book into its final size, fees for getting the book an ISBN number, and the physical printing of the book (all told around $4,000) For this initial payment I get a substantially higher % of the royalties, but since I use that to pay my PR Manager $250 an hour to promote the book it’s fair to say that writing books is not a money machine. Oh and advertising, $50 bucks a month for Vertical Response to send out email blasts that less than 10% of you even open, $100 bucks a month for Shutterstock—absolutely overpriced in my opinion, and sundry books sent to book club organizers, libraries, and thieves who promise to either give their leadership of their book club with promises of hundreds of purchases likely to follow, or to people like the leadership of ASSP who read both my books which I sent to them free of charge and hated the tone and lack of scholarly form so much that they didn’t even bother to return the books. Oh and postage is an absolute bitch.  So buy my books or don’t buy my books, but don’t think I’m getting rich off them.  They are selling well, but I need to sell a lot more to stay ahead of the money pit.

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. 

That Mask Won’t Save You

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

I have deliberately put off this post, because so many people are turning masks into political statements. This is not a political statement.  Masks are useful PPE for protecting us from dust or for concealing our identities when we are involved in violent crimes. But when it comes to protecting you or others a bandana or cloth mask just won’t do it. Unless, unlike most, you follow the Johns Hopkins guidelines. I find that research institutions like JH or Harvard Medical are the best sources but   I have already exhausted my patience arguing with idiots so you can save your breath. 

But as someone who has devoted two decades to safety both as a job and as an all-consuming passion to push folklore, mysticism, snake-oil, and abject stupidity out of the field in favor of science, I thought would examine why people are so resistant to following the rules.  In Michigan, this week our governor responded to noncompliance by implementing more and stricter measures. This is no different than industry responding to noncompliance with its existing rules by enacting more rules until there are so many rules that it is ridiculous.

So I given considerable thought to once again, why we don’t violate the rules and I have come up with the four laws for compliance:

  1. The rule must be clearly communicated. In the COVID-19 executive orders the language is infuriatingly vague, filtered to the people prematurely and on social media.  The first absolute truth is the rule must clearly articulate the line between compliance and noncompliance.
  2. As a subset of the first law, the rule must be clearly and uniformly understood. Let’s take that mask rule: I am required to wear a face covering in any enclosed public facility. Does that mean that I have to wear a mask in the stink tubes that are portable toilets? (believe me I have no problem doing so.) Do I have to have it cover both my head and mouth or just my mouth? What are the acceptable exceptions to the rules? If people don’t know the answers, or if their answers don’t line up with the expectations, we can truly have a mess on our hands.
  3. What Are the Consequences Of Violating the Rule? Am I going to die if I don’t wear a mask? No, but if I am sick I might have a chance of not making someone else sick: Will I be arrested? No, but if I am in trouble for something else the police might take that on as an additional charge. Will I suffer the wrath of an angry mob that is filled with idiots wearing the wrong masks or wearing their PPE improperly? Maybe, and again, I have a problem with that.
  4. What Can I Do If I Don’t Like The Rule? If you don’t like a law you can write to your congressman/woman, or to the governor, or peacefully protest it.  You can’t march on the capital brandishing firearms in protest. 

I think this is a pretty simple formula for compliance, so why do so many organizations (in Government and in Industry) screw it up?

First, we don’t do a good job communicating the rule because oftentimes we don’t really understand the rule ourselves.  Whether it be a law or a rule, organizations like to keep things subject to significant interpretation to allow them to squash someone like a bug for doing something they don’t like.  Lawyers deliberately use vagaries to cheat people out of their rights or to nullify their clients’ contractual obligations. Legalese as it is called, is a useful way to leave room for interpretation. If you want to fire someone, you don’t want a rule to be very specific, but if you are a labor Union you very much want to know exactly what the rule is so that it can be evenly and fairly enforced.

Second, (piggybacking on the first point) is that we don’t really care if people understand the rule as long as we can get them to sign a piece of paper acknowledging that they received the information and that they understood it.  It often works better for us if they don’t have a clue if the people understand the rule particularly if it infringes on their rights.  People have become such sheep that they will sign a paper that allows their employers to harvest their organs just to get out of sitting through a safety presentation.  Even as you read this, employers are inserting chips into their employees (I wish I were joking) to track their productivity.  You read that right. It’s not to ensure the worker can be located in a medical emergency or to be sure they are accounted for in the event of an evacuation. No it’s to track how much blood they can squeeze from a stone.  And what of the people who refuse? In many municipalities that isn’t an option. What about people who leave the company? Will the company remove the chips? We’re right back to square one on this one. Nobody is accurately communicating why this is necessary so we can’t say what the long-term how it will affect the workplace.

Third, consequences are often so severe that employers have painted themselves into a corner.  I remember working at a factory that had 37% absenteeism. The factory was slated to close and the new factory had already been built and staffed and all that remained was the dregs from the old plant and new hires (I’ll leave it to you to guess which one I was.) So here is an operation where on any given day over one third of the workers were absent. This was a poorly managed operation with a sharp Union.  Guess what the penalty was for being absent? Time off without pay.  Nobody in management ever thought about the absurdity of punishing time off by forcing people to take more time off.  What’s more, despite the fact that absenteeism was without a doubt the biggest problem that the plant faced,  three days, a week or even a month off without pay was virtually the only disciplinary measure (apart from outright dismissal) the plant ever took.

One day I was having a particularly rough time keeping up with the line and I put on three (of the 1800) parts that were wrong.  I got called into the foreman’s office and he asked if I wanted my Union rep. They had the write up in front of me but offered me a deal: they would put the write up in my disciplinary file but would not give me the time off. My discipline would be “on paper”.  To any future boss or HR manager it would look as if I had been put out of the plant on unpaid disciplinary leave but I wouldn’t suffer any financial consequence.

Please understand that in two days I was making more money than I was making in two weeks at my old job.  I looked at them stone faced and said, “No.  I won’t learn my lesson unless there are financial consequences. In fact, I don’t think a three day suspension is enough. I don’t think I will learn my lesson unless you give me a month off without pay.” I refused their offer and asked to be excused so I could gather my things.  It was June and the plant was over 100° and stank like body odor, machine oil, and the gut trucks parked in the sun at the rendering plant across the river.  A month off would be a nice break.  

They looked stricken. I had perfect attendance and did one of the most physically demanding jobs on the line. “I screwed for a living and came home dirty and sore” I used to brag to my friends, or the stranger at the bank, or a stray dog…it mattered little to me. I thought it was funny then and I think it’s funny now.

They stopped me from leaving the phone booth-sized office as they made some phone calls. The phone booth got fuller and fuller.  Finally, the second in command of the plant, the man who hired me and with whom I had developed a cordial relationship if not out-and-out friendship, happened by and asked what was going on.  The managers looked like deer in headlights.  I piped up with, “Bob, they are sending me home for a month without pay.  I put on three parts that were wrong and I need to be made an example of.” Bob frowned.  “Don’t blame them, Bob, they are doing this for my own good. I won’t ever learn unless I am punished.” Now Bob was visibly angry.  He took the write-up from my foreman’s hands and tore it up. He said, “La Duke, get back to work” I knew from the murderous look on his face that now was not the time to push it any further.  As I left the office I heard him say, “Don’t @#$! With him; he’s smarter than you. A lot smarter than you.”

The rules were a joke. We knew they were a joke because the only leverage they had wasn’t really leverage. If there is no consequence for not complying only a rarified few will follow the rule if it inconveniences or annoys them in any way.  There were a lot of things they could have done to punish me, but that never occurred to them. 

Finally, people need to know what they can do if they don’t like the rule. In the case of rules in the organization you can make your appeal to the source. I remember when I worked directly for the CFO of a global automotive supplier. I had just returned from my business trip and gone over the daily food allotments, of $5 a day for breakfast, $10 a day for lunch, and $15 a day for dinner.  My boss approved the expense reports and I asked my admin if there was any reason to keep my receipts. She said “no, the CFO signed off on it so just throw them away”. So I did.  Accounting kicked my expense report because I went over the ridiculously low food amounts.  I complained to my boss who said, “don’t worry about it, just next time keep your receipts.”  Now I hate rules but will comply, but I will always fight to change them.  I went to Denny’s which was the cheapest restaurant that would accept a credit card at the time.  I found that all I could order for breakfast was a Cereal Scrambler (literally a bowl of cold cereal) and a glass of water, my lunch was similarly constrained, and there was NOTHING I could order for dinner.  

I sat down and hammered out a 36-page policy that was more realistic.  I printed a copy of the memo I was preparing for the CEO and handed it to my peer and buddy the head of HR.  He read it and shook his head.  He looked half frightened when he told me, “I wouldn’t send this”.  I considered not sending it, but in the end I couldn’t NOT send it. I sent the email, feeling like my career was over when I pressed the button.

A few days later I got called into my boss’s office.  He had a print out of the email.  His face was inscrutable.  He told me to sit down and I did.  He hesitated and all I could think is how this man NEVER minced words. Then he spoke. “(The CEO) asked me about this, and first of all thank you for copying me on this.  We talked and I want you to know that I told him that I thought every point you made was dead on, but he’s a cheap sonofabitch so don’t expect much to change.  A month later a new policy was released and to my delight all but one of my recommendations. But most companies have an “if you don’t like it there’s the door” mentality, and that causes workers to erupt, quit, and may even usher in workplace violence.  Everyone in the organization should be able to have their say about a policy and if you want people to comply you have to explain why. 

About My New Book

In a couple of weeks my latest book, Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands will be available for purchase.  Why should you buy it? Well for starters I have been providing blog posts, articles, advice, and speeches on safety for free since 2006.  That’s my choice, but it consumes time and resources I could be using to have a lot more fun.  But beyond that, some of you seem to think I am a millionaire because I have three books published; I am not. I am the quintessential fool and his money, which doesn’t help.  All of my book revenue funds more books,  Even though I am published by an actual publisher, I pay the initial start-up costs to get the book from my computer to (hopefully your hands). These costs are not insubstantial—$100 an hour for an editor (which I finally broke down and paid for this book) even more an hour for a graphic artist to clean up the images and put the book into its final size, fees for getting the book an ISBN number, and the physical printing of the book (all told around $4,000) For this initial payment I get a substantially higher % of the royalties, but since I use that to pay my PR Manager $250 an hour to promote the book it’s fair to say that writing books is not a money machine. Oh and advertising, $50 bucks a month for Vertical Response to send out email blasts that less than 10% of you even open, $100 bucks a month for Shutterstock—absolutely overpriced in my opinion, and sundry books sent to book club organizers, libraries, and thieves who promise to either give their leadership of their book club with promises of hundreds of purchases likely to follow, or to people like the leadership of ASSP who read both my books which I sent to them free of charge and hated the tone and lack of scholarly form so much that they didn’t even bother to return the books. Oh and postage is an absolute bitch.  So buy my books or don’t buy my books, but don’t think I’m getting rich off them.  They are selling well, but I need to sell a lot more to stay ahead of the money pit.

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. 

Read. Learn. Live. Inspire. Share. 

It’s Father’s Day and I Miss My Dad

By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business, Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence, and Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands: A Better Approach To Worker Safety coming soon.

“It’s hard to say grace or sit in the place of someone missing at the table.”

—Tom Waits, “The Fall of Troy”

Today is Father’s Day in the U.S.  It’s a day where we celebrate and honor our fathers.  For me, and many like me, Father’s Day is tinged with sadness because our fathers are no longer with us. There are some who chose to leave and others, like mine who was snatched from us prematurely simply because they went to work.

My dad died—a horrible and agonizing death—almost 20 years ago simply because he did his job.  He did die while physically at work or while on the timeclock, but as sure as you are reading this his work killed him.  He died of mesothelioma, an industrial disease (a form of cancer that eats holes in your pleura (the thin layer of mucus membrane that contains your lungs) and allows your body fluids to surround your lungs and slowly crush the wind out of you.) The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. It can be transmitted, I’m told, by asbestos particles on work clothes so as children run to hug daddy as he returns to work they can be exposed. Similarly, a wife laundering asbestos covered work clothes could also contract the disease.

My family was spared this fate.  Dad worked as a  boiler mechanic and as the vice president of the trades Union for a major power company.  His Union work was limited and often performed off-hours so the majority of the time he was neck deep in soot, asbestos dust, and God knows how many other industrial poisons that may well have killed him had the mesothema not gotten to him first. He rented his work clothes and showered before returning home—so without knowing it, he was protecting his wife and kids.

It’s easy to assume that victims of industrial diseases would have been spared had they only followed the appropriate safety protocols. In fact, I have even heard safety personnel insinuate that all that is generally needed is to listen to the advice of experts. But there weren’t any experts, not then anyway.

Post World War II jobs were plentiful, so much in fact that when my dad was discharged from the service circa 1945 he immediately got a job at a Ford Motor plant, but he decided he didn’t care for the job and quit at lunchtime.  He walked across the street and accepted a position working at Firestone tires and he didn’t like that any better so he quit at the end of the day.

The next day he got a job working at Detroit Edison and worked there for 40 years or so before retiring, “to let the younger guys have a job.”  He was a natural athlete and played for the company softball team until he was in his sixties, but quit when the younger players wouldn’t show up for games and they would have to forfeit. “I don’t mind losing to a better team or a team that just out plays us, but I won’t lose because we don’t have enough players.

For most of those 40 years there was no such thing as OSHA, and it was only Union-negotiated safety rules that stood between workers going home in the same condition as in which they arrived and ending up mangled and maimed after falling afoul to a mistake and an unforgiving process.  In my first book,  I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety I included a blog post, “An Open Letter to Safety Professionals from the 4,690 Workers Who Died On the Job In the United States in 2010” and it created a firestorm of protest and whining from safety personnel who felt wrongly accused of complicity in the deaths of workers.  I actually had written a response to the letter that I had scheduled for release the following week but was tempted to pull it because in lieu of the vitriol I received the response from the “safety guy” seemed to pander to the people.  I posted it anyway.  

My point was, is, and ever shall be is that anyone associated with safety can’t smugly and self-righteously claim to SAVE lives while at the same time distancing themselves from the many workplace fatalities. My dad, and my brother-in-law (who was more of a big brother than an in-law and died of silicosis after 30 years on Zug Island, a site so polluted that it was once listed in the Guinness book of world records as the dirtiest square mile on earth.) aren’t considered workplace fatalities, nor is the late Bill Sagy, a colleague and dear friend of mine who died from an infection after a surgery to correct a workplace spinal injury that had occurred 30+ years prior. A seemingly insignificant injury today can kill you tomorrow or decades from now.

There was no one looking out for my dad’s safety for most of his career, and while he deeply distrusted management (a trait that you may have noticed I have inherited although I have worked in white-collar jobs for most of my career) he never blamed his employer. And despite the urgings of his lawyers he refused to sue them. “Edison got us all the safety equipment and information they knew as soon as they knew of the dangers they protected us as best they could” he argued.  He was so anti-litigious that he wouldn’t even sue when my mother died suddenly from a faulty pacemaker.  “Medical science gave us thirty years with your mother that we wouldn’t have otherwise had”, he told my siblings and I, “and these medical device companies aren’t going to take any lawsuit settlement out of profits; they’ll take them out of research. By suing them we could just be killing someone else’s mother.”  That’s the kind of many he was, by all accounts a stand up guy.  A man of deep integrity and the kind of charisma that made people who barely knew him respect him.

When my dad found out that the manufacturers of asbestos knew about, and concealed, the dangers of working with this poison, he sued them. He never talked about it, at least to me, but I got the sense that he resented being monetized, that his life and death were just a part of doing business; a justifiable risk.  Disclosing what they knew about asbestos may have put them out of business and what is that compared to my dad dying? It wasn’t personal; it’s just business. But for my dad and my family it was very personal. These buckets of slime took something from me that can never be replaced.

Politicians and captains of industry look at health (as in industrial diseases) and safety in much the same way: intrusive, burdensome, onuses that get in the way of them making their next billion. And in an economic environment with so many people unemployed there will likely be plenty of people so grateful to have a job that they will ignore the peril their employers will subject them simply because they have a job when so many others don’t.

We have to come together and fight for not only jobs but safe jobs (well at least jobs where every practicable action has been taken to reduce the risk of injuries) instead of just jobs.

At any rate happy Fathers Day to everyone everywhere, and remember as long as people are dying for doing their jobs employers by action or inaction are killing someone’s father, mother, sibling, friend, or child.

Anyway, it’s Father’s Day and I miss my dad.

Stay well and be safe.

About My New Book

In a couple of weeks my latest book, Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands will be available for purchase.  Why should you buy it? Well for starters I have been providing blog posts, articles, advice, and speeches on safety for free since 2006.  That’s my choice, but it consumes time and resources I could be using to have a lot more fun.  But beyond that, some of you seem to think I am a millionaire because I have three books published; I am not. I am the quintessential fool and his money, which doesn’t help.  All of my book revenue funds more books,  Even though I am published by an actual publisher, I pay the initial start up costs to get the book from my computer to (hopefully your hands). These costs are not insubstantial—$100 an hour for an editor (which I finally broke down and paid for this book) even more an hour for a graphic artist to clean up the images and put the book into its final size, fees for getting the book an ISBN number, and the physical printing of the book (all told around $4,000) For this initial payment I get a substantially higher % of the royalties, but since I use that to pay my PR Manager $250 an hour to promote the book it’s fair to say that writing books is not a money machine. Oh and advertising, $50 bucks a month for Vertical Response to send out email blasts that less than 10% of you even open, $100 bucks a month for Shutterstock—absolutely overpriced in my opinion, and sundry books sent to book club organizers, libraries, and thieves who promise to either give their leadership of their book club with promises of hundreds of purchases likely to follow, or to people like the leadership of ASSP who read both my books which I sent to them free of charge and hated the tone and lack of scholarly form so much that they didn’t even bother to return the books. Oh and postage is an absolute bitch.  So buy my books or don’t buy my books, but don’t think I’m getting rich off them.  They are selling well, but I need to sell a lot more to stay ahead of the money pit.

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.