I Don’t Even Know Who We Are Anymore

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Phil La Duke

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

As many of you surely know by know, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) turned down the inclusion of my books in their library; I was disappointed—not just because that would exponentially increase sales, or even that in the case of Lone Gunman there is a real chance that it could save lives—no, what disappointed me the most was the response of ASSP.  I have a lot of respect for ASSP and the rebuff made me reconsider the role of professional societies and their purpose. That cascaded quickly into me questioning whether or not we as a profession (and I have to tell you that some of the thought leaders in Safety have taken me to task for even describing those who work in safety as “professionals”) have a unified view of the role of Safety in an organization, to whit: are we simply the people who enforce regulations and kiss boo-boos or are we people who challenge ourselves to do better? 

The actual rejection read:

“The primary reason was the overall tone. We know that you don’t pull any punches in your blog and presentations. The sometimes colorful language and in-your-face approach are contrary to the more neutral approach we take as a society. The other books we carry may not be as provocative as yours, but they are more traditional and what members expect from publications we publish or sell.” (Emphasis in bold is my addition)

Let me state for the record, ASSP and the National Safety Council can reject any work that they choose and I (and any others who have their work rejected) don’t have a write to complain about it. These organizations have a responsibility to their members and that may extend to politely declining to carry my book. I don’t get to be mad at the rejection and I am not. Truth be told I wasn’t really expecting that they would carry it, but figured it was worth a try. 

None-the-less I was deeply troubled by the response. Lone Gunman deals with the very real problem of workplace violence, which, a) differs completely from mass shootings and b) tends to increase as mass shootings are all over the news. In short, people right now are at risk and the risk is predictable and for the most part preventable.  What is the appropriate tone when talking about women being butchered by their estranged husbands and boyfriends? How can I adopt a more neutral approach to calling out the murder of employers by mentally unhinged homicidal maniacs? 

They also mentioned that the reviewers pointed to a lack of citation for fact-based conclusions. This is my fault completely, because although the citations for each of my facts are clearly labeled (albeit some are embedded in the chart titles and others are at the end of the book (my publisher’s idea, not mine)) they aren’t easy to find and don’t follow a conventional style guide. My only defense is that I am not writing text books and ostensibly that’s not what the organization is selling.  It is a valid reason for not including my books in their catalog, and again, I have no legitimate gripe.

It was the last line of the rejection that hit me like a gut punch: “The other books we carry may not be as provocative as yours, but they are more traditional and what members expect from publications we publish or sell.” WTF? Seriously? So because my book isn’t pablum that tells people in Safety that “all is well and stay the course” it has no place in the discourse in the safety community? The message I took from this is my books rock the boat and the people who buy from their library want upbeat, life affirming, books about all the good things that are Safety. 

This has me wondering whether or not I have a place in Worker Safety or at very least should I continue providing free reading material.  I have always viewed my role as providing workers, managers, and senior leaders with the information they need to make informed decisions about their safety.  I don’t delude myself into thinking that I am a lifeguard or that I am a policeman or that I am following some higher calling, and I will continue to call out in harsh tones and colorful language those who do. I am hated by some for it, but I don’t know these people and they don’t know me so hate away (chances are if I met you I wouldn’t like you much either.)

So again I ask, “WHO ARE WE?” Do we only read materials and listen to speakers who tell us things that reassure us that we are doing a good job? Do we only want to think about saving lives and getting a blue ribbon like a prize pig at the State fair? I spend hours writing blogs, articles, and books all on my own time and my own dime.  My employer doesn’t pay me to write these articles in fact, my employer should never be judged for anything I say or do in these areas because they neither commission my work nor see it before it is published, and most don’t even see it then. I have constructed a hard wall between my personal life and my professional life. I recently put in some long days working as a Production Safety Consultant on a major theatrical release film, and come Tuesday will be back on an equally exciting gig doing the same for another major film; in short, I have a rich and deeply fulfilling job working for a global company that I like and respect and for the most part that likes and respects me.  So why continue doing this? Why keep crashing a party where I am clearly unwelcome and uninvited. I feel like the guy who goes to the same restaurant every day and complains about the food—eventually the owner doesn’t want to hear it any more and will tell me not to come back.

My intent is not to single out ASSP either, after nine presentations in eight years the National Safety Council has decided that I am no longer welcome. The reason is one of the most simple-minded verbal drooling put to paper.  The NSC changed their selection process and began by looking at the evaluations of all the previous speakers. I scored in the top half of the evaluations of all speakers. They then divided the remaining speakers in half. I was in the lower half of this group.  Why? Not my presentation style which was scored as one of the highest, nor my knowledge of the subject, in fact nothing in my presentation style. How then could I score in the lower half of the top half you might be wondering? My topics. Really? I would send as many as 36 abstracts to the NSC and THEY CHOSE THE TOPICS. So I have to believe I am effectively black listed by the NSC for something other than what I have been told. To be fair, the NSC has never commented except to say I am welcome to submit abstracts for future consideration. (as if there was retroactive consideration) I was initially disappointed, but realized that unlike the ASSP who is generally gracious to its speakers the NSC always acted as if it was doing its speakers and vendors a favor by allowing them to participate (speakers are unpaid, pay their own travel expenses, and are given a free entrance to the event).

Yes I provoke. I irritate the establishment. I call ‘em like I see ‘em. But I don’t pick a fight just for shits and giggles. I don’t spend my weekends at my keyboard looking to irritate the more uptight and sanctimonious among our trade. I do it because I thought I made a difference, at least I used to think that. I used to do it because a handful of you would tell me that while you didn’t always agree with me, I always made you think.  Now I do it mostly out of habit.  What we do is too important for us to sit in our offices and argue about academic crap like is zero injuries attainable? I can tell you this, without a doubt we can never attain anything approaching zero injuries as long as we only seek out opinions that support our world view and get off our asses and engage with people.

So I am not angry with ASSP, although they might well black list me too, that’s their right, and if they do, well at least I understand why: because YOU have told them that you don’t want to hear about ugly topics like workplace violence, and YOU have created the impression in them that YOU don’t want to learn, that YOU are more interested in the alphabet after your name than helping people to learn to make better decisions about their safety, that YOU can’t handle a harsh tone or the merest insulation that you might not be doing a perfect job.  Professional organizations have a responsibility to their membership to provide what the members say they need and want, so if you tell them that you want a neutral tone on an ugly and urgent topic they don’t have a choice: they have to provide you with palatable crap that you will buy; that’s the job that YOU have defined for them and demand of them.

Recently I asked an editor who I respect greatly (and who has published 80-some articles I have penned) to tell me the truth about my books, specifically “is my baby ugly” (although both are selling well, so well in fact that Amazon and Barnes & Noble sometimes have trouble keeping up with demand), and here’s what he had to say: “You write like Hunter S. Thompson and people read his work for the love of the language. But while Thompson wrote on broad topics of interest to a large audience (Nixon, Hell’s Angels, Drug Use) you rewrite to technical professionals who are only interested in being told the procedure for doing x.  That’s why it was always so challenging editing your stuff—I was never quite sure if the piece was meant to be instructive or to share your view of the world. You need to decide whether you want to write staid, boring, technical/procedural stuff for an audience of technical people who lack taste or imagination, or share your twisted view of the world for intelligent, enlightened, and curious people who will love taking the journey with you.”

I am a firm believer in the second line of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If “if you can trust yourself while all men doubt you, while still allowing for the doubting too.” I have listened to my friend and editor/publisher and I reject the idea that all safety professionals are humorless drones incapable of taking the journey with me. It’s just a shame that the ones who are seem to be setting the agenda for the discussions around safety.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  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.)

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 pepper 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.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and 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 is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. 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 & Noble.com.

 

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Resilience Is the Only Way To Combat Fatigue

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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 know it’s been a while since I’ve posted and no, I am not off somewhere pouting.  I just spent two weeks on a movie shoot in the capacity of a Production Safety Consultant. A lot of readers don’t really know what I do and assume I am either a full-time author or some academic who pontificates about safety but never gets in the trenches; nothing could be farther than the truth.

The truth is I am a consultant and am primarily focused on making large-scale organizational changes focused on safety, but even this doesn’t really encapsulate what I do. I can be on a movie set one day, in a mine the next, on an upstream oil & gas rig the next week, and in a factory or warehouse after that. I do everything from research to building organizational infrastructures, so that, in a rather large nutshell is what I do to keep my dogs in biscuits. In my free time, I write, tweet, and blog.  (I just published 8 articles in Authority magazine.) And I speak.

Last month I spoke at the ASSP Safety 2019 in New Orleans on Worker Fatigue, and while the reviews were generally positive, I had some people whine that I didn’t magically solve all their problems with a couple of slick bullet points.  What’s worse is they are right, there is scarce little that the safety profession can do about worker fatigue—it is simply outside their power or expertise.

Now I am feeling fatigued.

This isn’t going to be a whiny, “woe-is-me” post about how hard life is. Life IS hard. But, life is a damned-sight harder for most than I have it and to complain about just feels ungrateful and dare I say it? sinful.

I won’t go into the symptoms of fatigue but they are serious and they can cause long-term health issues from obesity to liver failure. All I will say is fatigued is more than being tired; it’s more than being exhausted. Fatigue is that bone-weary feeling accompanied by a vague feeling of hopelessness that you will know when you feel it.

Fatigue is caused by prolonged stress and  as I wrote some time ago, “(t)he link between stress and illness is scientifically well-established. Recent research into fatigue and sleep deprivation has found strong links between worker fatigue and injuries, impaired judgment, and at-risk behavior.  In a study 2007 conducted by Vegso et al researchers found an 88% increased risk of an incident for individuals working more than 64 hours a week. As employers try to do more work with fewer workers, workers are often forced to work while sleep-deprived. As workers tire they make more mistakes and riskier choices, are less likely to comply with rules, and may become combative.”

Resiliency Is the Answer

In layman’s terms resiliency is a person’s ability to bounce back from a traumatic event. Some of you may be thinking that describing one’s job as a “traumatic event” is just the melodramatic complaining of a malcontent, but that is precisely what many jobs are.  Despite all the research and findings that fatigue is a killer companies continue to literally work the employees to death.

More and more companies are implementing resiliency programs but it is too soon to see how effective these programs actually are.  To scientifically judge the effectiveness of a resilience program you would need a control group and most would agree that doing nothing to battle chronic fatigue would be immoral. So what can we say to our executive suites, how can we justify a resiliency program with no empirical evidence that such an approach would work.

At the risk of sounding soft in the head, we really need to take hard look at how we view workers and work.  When we put profit before people any money spent on the health and well-being of the people is considered waste as it consumes resources and does not add intrinsic value to the products or services delivered.

I am quick to criticize people for simple-minded solutions, so let me turn that lens on my self for just a moment and analyze what I wrote on the subject for OH Professional in 2018:

“Tips for building resilience:

  • Maintain an optimistic outlook.  No matter what the stress one is under the optimist can always see the silver lining.  Train yourself to avoid falling into the trap where you try to shield yourself from disappointment by focusing on the good in the situation.  Years ago I was a chronic complainer. I would gripe about poor service i restaurants and complain about long lines, and well…just about anything you can imagine. One day I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired so I made a commitment to myself: from that point forward I would compliment three times more frequently than I complained (and I still complain a lot) it was hard at first (especially because I decided that I wanted to compliment with as much ferocity as I did when I complained.  Soon I found myself getting better service and people treated me better. I approached situations expecting the best and when I did I generally got the best. When I complimented I started getting everything from a free drink to an upgrade on my hotel room or seat on an airplane. And most of all it allowed me to bounce back from a bad mood.” How much different is this than for the safety person to tell people just to cheer up?  This is great advice for safety professionals who are feeling fatigued, but for someone who is already fatigued it’s like saying, “look on the bright side…” or “it could be worse…” in my worst moments I never felt better after someone said these things to me. In fact, I resented it. I resented it a lot.
  • “Get in shape. Yes, I know I sound like your nagging doctor but it’s true. Eat right and maintain a healthy weight.  You need not run marathons or spend hours working out at the gymnasium to build physical resilience but a relaxing stroll in the evening air or the leisure activity of your choosing (provided that it provides at least some physical benefit). And don’t think of exercise as a punishment—think of it as an investment in your ability to avoid illnesses and injuries and to recover more quickly in those cases where you were unable to avoid the illness or injury.”  Did you ever try to lose weight when the stress in life was unbearable? Forget avoiding comfort food, there are physiological responses to stress that cause it to become more difficult to lose weight.  Simply telling people that they need to get into shape is like telling someone they need to be taller. Few people ENJOY being out of shape but what can we as safety guys do to get people in shape? If they won’t listen to their healthcare providers, and caring family members, 
  • “Build healthy and close relationships. Paula Davis-Laack J.D., M.A.P.P., in her article Seven Things Resilient Employees Do Differently: The important ways developing resilience helps you work better in Psychology Today, (October 2004)” One big building block of resilience is a connection, but not just any old connection. High-quality relationships are critical to resilience. According to business and psychology professor, Dr. Jane Dutton, there are four distinct pathways for building high-quality connections at work. The first is respectfully engaging others by communicating sportively and being an effective listener. Second, facilitate another person’s success with guidance, recognition, and support. Third, build trust, which can be done by relying on another person to follow through on projects and other commitments. Finally, have moments of play. Play evokes positive emotions and is often associated with creativity and innovation (Dutton & Spreitzer, 2014). Work can be a serious place, but so many workplaces take the world far too seriously.”” So you have me working 12 hour days, 7 days a week and I have a 90 minute commute  that leaves me 11 hours and I am tired, physically drained, and cranky. You also tell me to get a good 8 hours sleep, and assuming 30 minutes to shower and otherwise prepare to go to sleep, and add another hour for breakfast and dinner that leaves around an hour to get in shape and build healthy and close relationship. I don’t even have time to take a decent bathroom break and you want me to make new friends? Not likely.
  • “Stay away from mental “junk food’.  Instead of spending hours with your nose in your phone reading the latest trash talk on an anti-social network seek out quotes or stories that inspire you.  When you feel good mentally you tend to feel better physically.” This one is easy, if you have time to linger on social media you probably aren’t fatigued.
  • “Forgive someone.  Life is too short to carry around bitterness and hatred, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. So if you want to be truly resilient find a grudge that you have been carrying and let it go.  Remember sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.” Here again, we aren’t likely to be in the state of mind where forgiveness comes easily.  We are living in an id state, ready to snap at the first provocation.

So what’s the answer?
The time for building resilience is BEFORE you have a problem and that is a hard sell for many of us.  Everyone seems to believe they are one lottery ticket away from becoming a millionaire, and leaders of organizations are no different.  COOs don’t respond to “what ifs?” most are more of the “if it aint broke don’t fix it” school of thought. Unfortunately, once we’ve broken the worker, we can’t easily fix him or her.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Buy this book it may save your life or the life of a loved one. 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.) It was recently turned down for inclusion by a major safety trade organization’s catalog because I didn’t take enough of a neutral tone. So apparently I should have tried harder to represent the pro-gun violence in the workplace point of view. Sorry I won’t do that.

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 pepper 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.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and 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 is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. 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 & Noble.com.

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 pepper 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.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and 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 is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. 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 & Noble.com.

 

Feeling Unappreciated? Maybe You Invite the Abuse

By Phil LaDuke

There’s no denying the job of a safety professional can be tough. Between opportunistic vendors pushing snake oil, trenchant Operations leaders willing to take unreasonable risks, and petulant workers who passively (or belligerently) resist any and all efforts to make the workplace safer it’s easy to see Safety as a thankless profession.  But I’ve it occurs to me lately that many in the safety community bring this suffering on themselves and I think we would all—those of use who work within safety and those who work on it’s periphery—be a lot better off if Safety ended the adversarial relationship.

What’s that you say? You don’t see us as having an adversarial with Operations? Congratulations; if that is the case you are in the minority, at least in my experience. While it is easy to see the safety practitioner as the put-upon, long-suffering victim in many cases we invite this abuse, how? By:

Wrapping Ourselves In the Flag. When we tell Operations that they must make the workplace safer for God and country, that we must be the protectorate of all things safe an humane, that in Safety we trust…we come off as self-righteous and delusional jerks without the business acumen of a water buffalo.  Too often safety professionals default to the “it’s the right thing to do” argument for safety.  What’s wrong with pursuing safety because it’s the right thing to do? absolutely nothing, but when we tell someone that safety is the right thing to do we are implying (or could create the impression that we are implying) the person to whom we are giving our sanctimonious sermon can’t (without our help) tell right from wrong.  As much as we all like condescending lectures it does tend to set up a dichotomy where we have a monopoly on all that is just and holy.

Answering To a Higher Calling. I have met many safety professionals who believe that their jobs are more than just an occupation it’s a sacred calling.  While one is entitled to believe what one wants, believing that one isn’t a slave to the almighty buck and whose purpose on this earth is to protect the great unwashed from unscrupulous employers who otherwise would prey upon them and break their backs against the capitalist anvil gets a bit old to those of us who work for a living.  I won’t apologize for making my living from safety, I think it’s a noble profession.  I have often said that engineers believe the whole world would be an engineer if only they were smart enough, and nurses believe that the whole world would be a nurse of only they cared enough.  If that is true then may safety practitioners believe that the whole world would work in safety if only they were both smart enough and cared enough.  I freely acknowledge that our chosen profession requires a certain skill set and a specific personality, but the whole world doesn’t want our job—or even value it.

Taking All Of the Credit And None Of the Blame. Too many people in safety play the “I save lives” card without acknowledging that if our effectiveness saves lives then our ineffectiveness gets people killed.  How can we claim success without acknowledging our role in failure? When we do this we trivialize any contribution toward success made by Operations and inflate our own role and conversely we quickly blame Operations when things turn sour.  Operations, for their part see this hypocrisy and resent it.

Pretending That Safety Is the Ultimate Goal. I know many safety practitioners who act as if they are somehow external from the money-making arm of the organization.  Imagine how irritating it is for Operations personnel to have someone act as if it makes no difference whether the company is profitable and who sees themselves as the watchdog of safety, implying that but for them you would act with wanton disregard for worker safety.  If safety were truly the organization’s ultimate goal it would close its doors and bubble wrap all the workers before laying them off.

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Safety Can Never Be A Science

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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 often said, put three safety nerds in a room and you will end up with seven opinions.  This is conceptually fine—after all we are all entitled to our own opininons however stupid they may be. But we aren’t entitled to our own facts. Facts must be sacrosanct in safety because supposition and snake oil get people killed.  I want you to think about that for a second. When people make up theories and models and money-making schemes in safety it puts the very people we are charged with protecting in jeopardy of being harmed, and scientifically speaking most of the theories out there aren’t really theories, instead they are hypothesis.  What’s the difference between a hypothesis and a theory? “In science, a theory is a tested, well-substantiated, unifying explanation for a set of verified, proven factors. A theory is always backed by evidence; a hypothesis is only a suggested possible outcome, and is testable and falsifiable. … Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them.

If we look at some of our most cherished beliefs in safety the BEST we can say is that they seem to make sense; only under closer scrutiny they don’t.

Henry Heinrich’s theories aren’t really theories at all.  That statement is not meant to vilify the man, it’s just that what has been long accepted as fact is really just supposition. People have strong allegiance to Heinrich; he has become as much a folk hero as DB Cooper or Pretty Boy Floyd, and that’s fine, but instead of worshiping the man why aren’t we trying to replicate his work and justify his findings.  Some people are. Carsten Bush, Fred Manuel, Alan Quilly have all contributed substantially to the study of Heinrich’s notions (I am hesitant to call them hypothesis) but in the end most of us fall into the Heinrich was a god versus Heinrich was a monster argument.

I’ve been guilty of fanning the flames and I am unrepentant.  I don’t believe we should build an entire business discipline on the work of one man, who studied one population, in one industry and take that as Gospel.  People criticism Heinrich for not taking notes, an assertion that cannot be proven. People criticize him for being a devotee of eugenics, and while that has an ugly connotation now, it was once—like phrenology or spiritualism—an accepted science.  What proof do we have that he believed in the intrinsic inferiority of a given ethnicity or race of some people? I think that his finding worker ethnicity as a root cause (or even contributor) to an injury strongly suggests this, but a suggestion or an inference is not proof. I could go on and on about the criticisms of Heinrich, but he was a pioneer in our field and for that he deserves a modicum of respect.

But we have taken so many concepts and without a shred of scientific evidence ascribed a universality to them.  Take safety observations. Paying someone to watch another person work and provide some sort of feedback as to the safety with which the worker performs the required steps is downright insulting, pits worker against worker, and creates a sort of a snitch mentality. But positioned differently, the Behavioral Observation could be an important tool in evaluating the competence of workers, not as a tattle-tale exercise or an exercise in bureaucracy, but as a way of coaching workers who may have drifted from the standard and also as a way of validating the SOP.  Of course the person doing the observation needs to know how to do the job, but that is not an insurmountable obstacle. 

We need to stick to things that can not only be proven, but replicated and verified. One study does not provide universal truth, opinions should be treated as hypothesis until they can be scientifically studied and shaped into theories which after enough time and study should become the Laws of Safety.

Let me illustrate what I mean.  There was a time when the connection between worker deaths and a failure to lock out was a hypothesis; someone looked at the data and thought, “I bet if these dead and seriously injured workers had only taken a moment to isolate the energy and somehow prevent it from electrocuting, crushing, or otherwise causing equipment to kill or cripple a worker I think we could reduce these kinds of injuries.  At this point the hypothesis was that if one isolated hazardous energy one reduced the risk of a catastrophic outcome. After examining fatalities where people were locked out versus the number of people who worked without locking out, researchers came up with the theory that locking out/isolating hazardous energy greatly protected workers. Unfortunately, that research proved nothing. It’s still a theory that people who lock out are safer than those who don’t.  I know this sounds like heresy but we don’t have an accurate idea (or maybe we do, but essentially we are just guessing) as to the total population of the people who worked without locking out and survived. So at best this becomes a theory. A theory bolstered by the fact that the incidence of people killed while locked out is, I must believe (but again, have no proof) that this is the case. To prove that locking out saves lives we would require a control group (a group of workers who NEVER locked out) and the experimental group (a group of workers who always locked out). From there we could count how many people died from not locking out and have proof that locking out results in fewer deaths than not locking out. Such an experiment is grossly negligent and unethical to the point of criminality, none-the-less it is the only way to prove our theory.

Lack of a critical piece of data is where the predictive element of Heinrich’s pyramid falls apart; we don’t know how many near misses we have with any certainty and therefore cannot postulate the statistical probability of fatalities.  

Certainly there are some things that are so obvious that we can take them as true just by using common sense.  This leads us to some dangerous areas. Remember there was a time when common sense told us that Eastern and Southern Europeans, Blacks, Jews, and women were intrinsically intellectually inferior to others.  Common sense told us that the bumps on a person’s head could be used to predict whether or not the person would be predisposed to a life of crime, and that the world is flat.  

Belief without proof is religion and if that’s how we want to address worker safety why don’t we just sit in our offices and pray; it’s as likely to produce positive results as a hypothesis, thunk up by an academic, without anything approaching proof.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  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.)

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 pepper 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.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and 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 is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. 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 & Noble.com.

 

Just a quick note

As I rush around preparing for my speech at the American Society for Safety Professionals I just want to take a moment to send out my heart felt gratitude to the many people who read this blog, read the published articles, and buy and read my books. No ulterior motive just thank you.

There’s No Hope With Dope

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

Full Disclosure: My ex-wife died of a heroin overdose three years ago leaving two daughters to pick up the pieces so I don’t have a ton sympathy for drug enthusiasts.

Before there was “Just Say No” public service announcements had the tagline “there’s no hope with dope.  My friends and I used to say it each other as we sparked one up, or when someone said something stupid, or…well we used the line in much the same way as Sick Boy and Mark Renton did in Trainspotting.  Personally, I wasn’t so much a drug abuser more of an alcohol abuser, but more on that later. More and more States are legalizing marijuana and given its effects (according to the National Institute On Drug Abuse the effects of cannabis (people like to pretty up the image and marketing by calling it cannabis) aren’t exactly what we would like to see in our workers “Marijuana overactivates (sic) parts of the brain that contain the highest number of these receptors. This causes the “high” that people feel. Other effects include:

  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • impaired memory
  • hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
  • delusions (when taken in high doses)
  • psychosis (when taken in high doses)”

With the number of remote workers, drivers, and contractors and no reliable method to test whether or not someone is currently high, it makes for difficult enforcement. It’s difficult to keep workers who AREN’T high safe when someone is suffering from paranoid delusions and psychosis.  Since this is new territory, most States that have legalized cannabis don’t have laws against spiking the pot with other substances, legal limits for driving (or a way to test for it), or just about any criteria that the FDA would use to determine if pot is safe to use. Hell, I don’t even know of a law that defines what cannabis is and what it is not.

Recreational Marijuana users listen up: I am sick to death of cannabis. I’m tired of party guests sneaking off to a corner of my garage to smoke a joint.  I’m tired of the sickly sweet smell of ganja wafting past me as I pass the band of reprobates huddled around the dumpster behind the American Legion Hall during breaks from BINGO. But mostly I am sick to death of people looking at me through pink, blood-stained eyes smugly thinking that they are so much cooler than I am for not partaking

In case you haven’t guessed I am not a pot enthusiast, but I don’t begrudge those who, in the privacy of their own homes, decide to ingest pot.  I don’t buy much of the bullshit about how much medical use there is for the drugs, that’s right drugs. My opthamologist tells me that their are at least 70 psychotropic drugs in marijuana the effects of many of which have never been studied.

And for the record, I have smoked pot. I was first introduced to it at the age of 9 when I woke up high as a kite owing to the fact that my older brother used to smoke it in copious amounts in our shared bedroom while grooving to the Moody Blues.  It was a memory I won’t forget, a bit like the scene from the made for TV movie Go Ask Alice without the histrionics. I didn’t like what as happening but just went back to sleep.  Later, when I was 13 I smoked my first joint with my sister after she picked me up from my power position as the cleanup boy at the Dairy Queen. I was done with work and figured there was no harm in relaxing with what I was assured was a safe and enjoyable drug.  

Later at high school, I remember the terror of smoking a joint with my friends in the back seat of my buddy’s sister’s hand me down Cadillac.  For me, smoking dope at school was a dumb move and a line that once crossed forever change me. I was officially a burn out. I had changed schools after my freshman year of high school and  was trying to fit in. I had no such compunction about downing the better part of a fifth of whiskey and three beers on the school bus before school later that year, almost dying and receiving a merciful three day suspension.  The faculty council decided I was a good kid who had made a mistake, and I am grateful that they did although to a person they all regretted the decision.

Since then I’ve had a puff here or a puff there mainly to be sociable until giving it up since college. I never enjoyed pot and never understood the allure. For one it triggers my anxiety disorder, makes me paranoid, quiet and withdrawn; in short, for me, cannabis is not the social lubricant that alcohol is.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, the pedestrians all seemed to be stoned, most begged for money to get something to eat.  In Venice Beach a group of high panhandlers was stoned to get up and ask for a handout, choosing instead to lie on the ground and shout at me across the street.  Here’s a tip: don’t ask me to feed you when you have money for dope.

On to brass tacks. I am not some anti-drug crusader but let’s face it cannabis is not harmless. Of course, it is not as dangerous as cocaine or heroin which it is currently classified the same as such. Should it be legalized? I think that ship has sailed. But should we put the same rigors on it that we do alcohol? Certainly.  Cannabis impairs judgment slows reaction time, and generally makes you act like an emotionally stunted child. In Michigan, where I live, the laws have not quite caught up with the legalization of cannabis. There is much ado about the fact that there are no good indicators for determining if an individual has gotten high while driving or the day before, because cannabis stays in the system so long, and it is impossible to say whether or not the person is high, or just smoked pot several weeks before, or even if he or she is just an imbecile.

But there is something in the law in Michigan akin to the General Duty Clause.  Michiganders have a legal responsibility to operate a motor vehicle as safely as possible and we are actually required by law to violate a law that would cause a threat to ourselves or others.

Just as we can be ticketed for driving too fast for the weather/road conditions, we can also be ticketed for abruptly stopping at a yellow traffic light and causing an accident.  There is still a law on the books in Michigan called Operating a Vehicle While Visibly Impaired. The charge is typically imposed for people driving like a fool after consuming alcohol, but not enough to blow a .08 on the breathalyzer (incidentally one of the coolest names for something) but can also be imposed for someone driving while fatigued, sick, under the influence of Px or over the counter drugs, and now cannabis.

There are also laws on the books against loitering, public intoxication, and disturbing the peace, so if you’re doing your Cheech and Chong schtick in a public place you can be ticketed, fined, or my personal preference has a nightstick whacked upside your head.

So what can we do in the workplace? I would again invoke the General Duty Clause and stick to behaviors and fitness for work. If someone is unfit for work because of intoxication—whether from cannabis or from drinking alcohol or even drinking cleaning products (don’t judge me) we still have a duty to protect our workers and a stoned worker is not a safe worker.  I know some of you may be thinking that a couple of puffs before work has no effect on your ability to work safely (and yes, there are plenty of people working in safety who use cannabis, I’ve met a couple) I would answer that argument the same way a person who asserts that he or she drives better drunk.

Legalization of cannabis has happened hastily, and without consideration for the many situations where smoking, eating, or vaping pot could constitute a threat to the workplace or public safety. After all, there’s no hope with dope.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. And I can now say that it is finally safe to order it (we have corrected the quality control issues and expect to have it out this week). 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.)

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rainforest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my work for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy 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 & Noble.com.

Safety Always Seems To Be Late To the Party

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

“You don’t know what’s going on. You’ve been away for far too long”

Out Of Time, The Rolling Stones

As I sat pondering what topic, if anything, I should propose to Safety 2020 I had a startling revelation, safety has spent so much time looking over its shoulder that it cannot see forward.  It’s not completely our fault—The National Safety Council and OSHA have been obsessed with counting bodies and lagging indicators that it wouldn’t surprise me a comet struck the world and they were the last surviving members of the human race that that they weren’t worrying over whether an injury was work related and if so was it a recordable. And with no apologies to the National Safety Council, well…. In my opinion they lag behind the most serious for the last decade; they act as if the walked out into the rain and discovered wet.  

Take the opioid epidemic, according to History of the Opioid Epidemic How Did We Get Here?

The opioid epidemic has occurred in three waves. The first wave began in 1991 when deaths involving opioids began to rise following a sharp increase in the prescribing of opioid and opioid-combination medications for the treatment of pain. The increase in opioid prescriptions was influenced by reassurances given to prescribers by pharmaceutical companies and medical societies claiming that the risk of addiction to prescription opioids was very low. During this time, pharmaceutical companies also began to promote the use of opioids in patients with non-cancer related pain even though there was a lack of data regarding the risks and benefits in these patients. By 1999, 86% of patients using opioids were using them for non-cancer pain. Communities where opioids were readily available and prescribed liberally were the first places to experience increased opioid abuse and diversion (the transfer of opioids from the individual for whom they were prescribed, to others, which is illegal).

The second wave of the opioid epidemic started around 2010 with a rapid increase in deaths from heroin abuse. As early efforts to decrease opioid prescribing began to take effect, making prescription opioids harder to obtain, the focus turned to heroin, a cheap, widely available, and potent illegal opioid. The use of heroin increased in both sexes, the majority of age brackets, and all socioeconomic groups. Deaths due to heroin-related overdose increased by 286% from 2002 to 2013, and approximately 80% of heroin users admitted to misusing prescription opioids before turning to heroin. Heroin is commonly injected, which puts users at risk for injection-related diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, skin infections, bloodstream infections, and infections of the heart.

The third wave of the epidemic began in 2013 as an increase in deaths related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The sharpest rise in drug-related deaths occurred in 2016 with over 20,000 deaths from fentanyl and related drugs. The increase in fentanyl deaths has been linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl (not diverted medical fentanyl) used to replace or adulterate other drugs of abuse.”

So the problem has been around 1991, so while the NSC was bleating and extolling the virtues of the Behavior Based Swindle people were dying.  Of course they finally got around to thinking that it might be a problem somewhere around 2017. Nice work, that. Research apparently 25 years in the making. And neither OSHA nor the NSC have ever accepted the direct role that they have played in this crisis.  Nobody sets out to die on a dingy floor frothing from the mouth from a heroin overdose. Tens of thousands get hooked because they got hurt on the job and are prescribed oxycontin or Vicodin once their doctor deems the drug no longer medically necessary the addicts turn to the street where oxycontin and Vicodin command top dollar while low grade that has been stepped on more than the welcome mat of a $2 bordello. This stuff is laced with poison and it is killing more people than any of us can imagine.  Talk to people and you will hear of relatives dying peacefully in their sleep at age 30 or some other euphemism we use two pretty up the ugliness associated with drug overdoses and suicides.

Or take workplace violence, a problem that costs industry $120 Billion in 2012 (the last time anyone apparently tried to calculate it) according to NIOSH as reported in Workplace Violence Costs Employers More than $120 Billion Each Year  is now all the rage at technical conference presentations.  Having done extensive research on the issue I know a fair about Workplace Violence, and it is different from mass shootings, violence in hospitals, and postal shootings.  I attended several recently and the first was so filled with bad advice it was like taking career advice from the Unabomber, as a fellow attendee observed, “this presentation is like a fourth-grade book report and he got a C minus on it”. (He spent the first 20 minutes defining violence and what the workplace was and wasn’t) It was a muddled  puddle of crap that he spent 15 minutes looking up on the internet. He only made it three quarters through his presentation and when it ended I felt like the jail cell flew open and an openly apologetic turnkey said, “you’re free to go”. The second presentation I went to was equally painful as the presenter focused on postal shootings and how the people felt.  I wanted to scream ‘THEY FELT DEAD YOU BLITHERING IDIOT” but as people put conferences together they jump all over the topic like buzzards on a gut truck. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be concerned about workplace violence but NIOSH put out its report in 2012 (for the record my book, Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence deals exclusively with violence perpetrated by a lone gunman who has a specific target in mind, and it was commissioned by my publisher—the book, not the violence.) According to the NSC homicide is now the number 4 cause of workplace fatalities and women are the target of 77% of non-lethal assaults in the workplace? Where is the outrage? I give you a hint, there isn’t any. How many Fatality Prevention Programs even consider the FOURTH LEADING CAUSE OF WORKER FATALITIES?

Pick a topic, Distracted Drivers, Worker Fatigue, Texting While Driving we always seem to be slamming the barn door shut after the horses have escaped.. We spend so much time at conferences bragging about what we’ve done or stating the obvious that it sometimes makes me wonder why people attend and what, apart from a company paid trip to San Diego, entices  anyone to attend a conference? We need to demand better information on emerging trends and vote with our feet. In the meantime, I sit and ask myself what is the most meaningful topic can I bring to the community and I am forced into a conundrum: Do I put out the topics that the conference organizers will accept or do I send in abstracts that I think will help people? Or do I just retire from providing free speaking engagements all together?

Great News from Marriah Publishing my second book,  Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence will have its hard launch later this week. (Press releases, Interviews, and Book Events). And Entrepreneur magazine will be publishing Domestic Violence is Often the Cause Of  Workplace Violence. If you have a mother, aunt, sister, daughter, spouse, mistress, or any other female in your life that you don’t want to see murdered, beaten or raped at work buy the book and 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.)

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Of course, my first book is still for sale…

My first book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com. Why should you buy a book that you can get all the material online? Well it turns out you can’t get a lot of it online anymore.  As magazines change their websites they drop many of the older stories, mine among them. Also, my blog only archives to about January of 2017 so if you are a new reader there are some things in there I think you will enjoy.  Many people who are not employed in worker safety have told me how much they enjoyed the book and are surprised at its applicability to other disciplines. And then of course there is new material as well. So buy it, not for me, but the executives and middle managers, and front-line leaders who need a kick in the pants.  Also it makes a great gift for someone you don’t like but feel obligated to give a gift.