By Phil La Duke
Sorry for the delay in this post. I was working feverishly to get my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention, which went to my publisher last night. Expect coercive pressure to come. But as I was writing about a cold-blooded killer going through the workplace I got to thinking about all the many approaches to safety and all the models (both well-meaning and half-witted) and I saw in all (or most) of this thinking a fatal flaw: they all tend to see “safety” as a static state. “If people would just do…we could have safety”.
Unfortunately, life gets in the way. In the US workplace safety accounts for the slimmest of fractions of preventable death—before you cluck that tongue, consider…hold on now stop shaking your head in vehement denial and just consider heart disease, cancer, automobile accidents, any one of which kills more people each year than workplace fatalities. Even the most reckless doctor would never—even after proclaiming you to be in perfect health—tell you that you will never die of heart disease. Why? Because we live in a complicated system and what is true today may not (in fact, I will go so far as to say WILL not) be the same tomorrow. I’ve known too many people who have, after getting a clean bill of health, treat themselves to 6 months of unhealthy living.
So my question is this: Why do so many of us persist in our quest for that mythical lost city safety? Where machinery never wears out, and processes are perfectly designed, and all the people mindlessly follow every safety procedure and protocol like drones.
Not many people know this, but even robots (which is a pejorative term it means “slave”, you insensitive louts! I know you are thinking that “robots don’t have feelings” and your right, for NOW, but when they do develop sentience and want to be called “enhanced humans” you still will call them robots behind their back. This is what will lead to the machine uprising! Just kidding folks I don’t care what you call robots and as for the machine uprising I will worry about that when Siri (who buy the way I insist call me Mr. La Duke, because it’s an appliance not a friend) can get my doctor on the phone when I say, “Call Dr. Ford” instead of saying, “I’m sorry Mr. La Duke, but I can’t find a ‘Ivan Robertonski in your contacts.” I have left many people wondering because I have left them screaming voicemails of “cancel, cancel, cancel! You (expletive) piece of (expletive).” I’ve done it so often that I think I may have inadvertently shut down sleeper cells.) make mistakes? It’s true. But hell I’ve wandered off the rails again.
Safety is never a permanent state and all these lagging and leading indicators are so often misinterpreted, or not analyzed at all remind me of the organizational equivalent of a snipe hunt. I would like to see us slow down in safety. Speed kills, or at least that’s what anti-drug public service announcements told me in the 1960’s. Seriously though, let’s just take a moment to clean out our attics when it comes to safety. So many of us hoard ideas and heap another piece intellectual excrement on the growing pile of thought dung. So many of us do the right things wrong and the wrong things because we’re afraid to tell our CEO who heard about a dumb idea on a plane from some drunk sitting next to him who read a book about it, that the idea is stupid!
If all we do is fill requests without truly informing the organization what it will REALLY cost (not just to hire the consultant, but how much labor, and materials, and administrivia will result) and the opportunity costs then we are nothing more than overpaid errand boys.
We need to get back to basics. Let’s face it we know what is hurting our people (and eventually our robots…no! I will stay focused.) We generally know how it’s happening. We know which jobs are more dangerous. And if we don’t know these things we need to get off our asses and get out to where the work is done. When someone does something stupid we need to ask them to help us understand WHY they thought that was the best option? We need to understand the people and they need to understand us. So no more jargon, no more half-witted safety BINGOs, no more sociopathic children’s coloring contest. (Nobody ever died on the job because they hated their kid). We need to just STOP and ask ourselves how everything we do lowers the risk of employee injuries, and if our answer is “I dunno” then we need to stop doing it.
Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com. Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.
The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).
Remember the holidays are coming up and this book makes the perfect gift for the person for which you feel obligate to get something for but don’t really like.
In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy the damned book.