Phil La Duke
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.