You Haven’t Said Anything Worthwhile Until Someone Tries to Silence You 


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

I don’t usually post more than once a week, but I was just informed by WordPress that today is the 10th anniversary of my blog. (Completely coincidentally, it also happens to be the one-year anniversary of Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence). I guess a decade of blathering should make me at least partially introspective and cause me to reflect on what the blog has meant to me, so here goes:

First of all, it’s not really the anniversary of my blog.  I first started blogging, under protest when the owner of my place of employment insisted that I blog. I told him blogs were, in my opinion, for people who could write well enough to get published. He was listening to a sneaky, know-it-all who insisted that all companies needed to have a blog. Since I was, at the time, one of the top purveyors of safety he made it clear that my having a blog was a condition of employment. I reluctantly agreed but added that I would only do it if there was no censorship. That was somewhere around June of 2006, and the blog has brought little more than grief ever since. Almost every employer since has taken issue with something I said at one time or another, but as of my current employers observed, “You can’t be a thought leader by telling people what they want to hear.” 

Things got so bad by June of 2009 that I finally scrapped the blog and erased my account. Close to 500 blog posts were lost forever, but fear not, I’m sure I’ve repeated myself numerous times. And I decided to say “fuck it” and restart the blog in 2010, but my employer insisted that I allow him to edit my blog so I didn’t write anything until I was summarily dismissed in October of 2010. The company is out of business now, good riddance to bad rubbish.

How do I feel about the blog? Well…ambivalent. On the one hand, it allows me to explore topics within the Safety function and rile up the establishment, but on the other hand, it’s a legitimate pain in the ass to come up with topics to explore.  If I really try to drive innovative thought or share a best practice, people don’t read it. But if I dare say anything remotely disparaging about Bullshit Based Safety (BBS) people flock to the site in droves just to work up a froth and get mad at me.  I really don’t care if a bunch of dim-witted mouth-breathers hates me, the more emotional someone becomes about an issue the more likely they are to internalize it. So I have been a safety subversive for almost 16 years.

Biting the Hand that Feeds Me

I have two things that I have traditionally despised: a safety practitioner and a consultant. I have always said that consultants are people who give you an unworkable solution and then blame you for its failures, and safety folks, well…let’s just say that before I was dragged kicking and screaming into the field most of the safety professionals I met were dullards who were too stupid to be useful but were either related to a big shot or well-liked numbskulls that were put into the role of safety supervisor because the big shots figured they couldn’t do much harm there. 

One such numbskull was the inspiration for the title of my first book,  I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business.  I used to be a consultant for a large manufacturer and every time I would enter the production area I seemed to have my shoes untied.  The safety cop would threaten to write me up and “put me out of the plant for good” if he saw me with my shoes untied again, so that night I went out and bought loafers.  The next time the goofball saw me he seemed genuinely disappointed that I was in full compliance. What made his insistence on my shoes being tied was that he invariably would bust me several feet from an electronic induction hardening machine. For those of you who may not know what that is, “Induction hardening is a type of heat treatment in which metal parts are heated by electromagnetic induction and then quenched.”  I walked past that machine for years wearing a metal belt buckle, watch, and ring until one day the operator was killed when by an arc flash that connected to his wedding ring electrocuting him to death. Yes, I could have tripped on my shoelaces, but I ALSO could have been the victim of that arc flash. The simpleton of a safety cop was so focused on the obvious that he overlooked the much more serious threat. As far as I am concerned he is complicit in that man’s death, but by God, he may have saved me from a nasty spill.

Over the last 29 years, I have met, and continue to meet, sharp, effective, and conscientious safety professionals, but I continue to have the sub-simian asshats crawl out from under their rocks to give me what for because I questioned one of their simple-minded, but cherished traditions.  I remember some fossil chewing me out because I questioned the kind of psychopath that introduces the idea that a parent could get killed while at work. This jerk made a point of defending the practice because a) he had worked in the field for 50 years and b) people liked the contests. I countered that a) a person who has spent 50 years sucking at something isn’t as valuable as someone who has spent three years doing a job competently and b) there are people who like fornicating with pigs, but that’s not really something we want to encourage now is it? He spat back a death threat. 10 years later I’m still waiting for his wrinkled old ass to show up.

Since I started this blog, death threats and threats of violence have become commonplace.  I don’t give them much credence, only the most ineffectual murders announce their intention to kill you before making an attempt, but every once in a while I have to call the police—like the time a woman called me up, confirmed it was me, read me my address, and told me that she would be delivering a bomb to my house the next day. I told her that she better detonate it fast because I keep sundry swords, knives, and cudgels on hand and would beat any suspicious character to a bloody pulp and hung up.  Then I noticed that the imbecile had not blocked her number on the caller ID. I called the police and the officer using my phone called her back. He told her that it was up to me whether or not she would be arrested for making terrorist threats. She was dumb enough to have called me from her employer’s business and the officer then called her boss and that if I chose to I could sue him and he would likely lose. Before he hung up he said something similar to what a friend of mine said to me when I was dealing with a deranged stalker, “have you met this guy? He doesn’t strike me as a restrainer order kind of guy, he strikes me as more of a lure you to a secluded area with a shotgun kind of guy. Tell her if she comes looking for him she better get fingerprinted because dental records weren’t going to be enough to identify her body.” I still find it ironic that safety people threaten to kill me or in some other way inflict violence. But I grew up in the Detroit area and we’re not easily scared. My only regret is I never found out what bug had crawled up that woman’s ass. I mean, it’s not like I would stop saying it, but I would like to explore the topic further. Before the officer left he told me that if someone came at me I had the right to kill them; it’s a legal theory I don’t believe is accurate, and not something I’m likely to pursue more out of an aversion to the mess and paperwork than any real moral center on my part.

So looking forward I can foresee a day when I give up blogging, but for now, I will still be the fly in the ointment, challenging, pushing, irritating, and insulting, all to make you think and question your opinions. If what I am saying isn’t pissing someone off, it probably isn’t worth saying.  

Thanks to all of you who have read my words and telling me that while you don’t always agree (you shouldn’t) I always make you think. Thanks for all the death threats and hate mail as well, my life wouldn’t be fulfilled without it. 

Almost a month ago now,  there were three workplace shootings in five days. 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. Seriously I’m not telling you how to live your life but you should buy it. Okay, I AM telling you how to live your life, just buy the damned book.

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

As always, Read. Learn. Live. Share. Inspire




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