When it Comes To Safety There is No Room for Politeness

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By Phil La Duke

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

It occurs to me that one or two of you might have actually noticed that I haven’t posted to my blog in a couple of weeks. I could claim that I have been busy (being a production safety consultant for two major motion pictures in the last month, speaking at VPPPA, and writing almost 100 articles for Authority magazine) but that would just be bullshit. (Pause a moment for all those uptight assholes who have never heard the word to exit in disgust,) The real reason is that since my books were rejected for inclusion in the American Society of Safety Professionals library, I have come to question everything that is safety.

To be fair, the ASSP has been nothing but good to me, and it is within their rights to not carry my book.  What has me troubled is that YOU, the people who ostensibly work in safety, who supposedly care about safety, are the ones who dictate what they sell. If you don’t buy it they don’t want to offer it anymore than the vending machine operator wants to be stuck with a gross of stale Zagnuts.  

I came from the world of Organizational Development. I am a change agent. But what are YOU? I have heard people bemoan the poor quality of trade organizations but with a couple of exceptions you either never got involved or you doing what I am considering doing…taking your ball and going home.

As Dr. Rob Long is fond of saying, and I’m paraphrasing, “Safety is not a profession”.  He won’t even use the term “safety professional”. For my part I don’t see much professionalism in safety.  Academic pendantics? You bet. Blowhards who talk a good game on discussion threads? We got them in spades. Snake oil salesmen? Too many to count.  We preach innovations and have lofty philosophical discussions about zero-injuries and other gobbledygook that makes us FEEL like we are advancing the function but in the end it’s just ones and zeros on an electronic display and it has about as much impact as one could expect, which is to say none.

We talk about lowering risk, without so much as a basic understanding of probability or statistics or even risks.  We make shit up and float it by an audience and if it finds it palatable it becomes part of the tool kit. We slap a new label on a defunct and debunked methodology and trot it out like  we went out in the rain and discovered wet.

Who are we? What is our role? I have always said my role is to help people from the C-suite to the “see? Sweep” to make informed choices about their safety. I go so far as to correct people who say, “you’re here to keep us safe”. I tell them that the best way they can lower their risk of injuries is to make better choices, and I am here to help guide them in those choices. Of course it depends on the situation, but in general that is my philosophy, Years ago, I had a nasty exchange with one of  the more belligerent workers (he always made a mockery of anything I said) I said, “I ain’t your mama, I ain’t your boss, Hell, I ain’t even your friend. I just met you and if you are harboring some half-baked grade-school grudge against authority take it somewhere else because if you ignore my advice and you end up dead I won’t shed a tear. But I WON”T have you undermining my advice to the other workers.” I stopped dead. I’m a hot head, but I generally don’t treat the people on a client site this way. I resolved to take whatever consequences came my way. He walked away, more embarrassed than angry. I felt bad. I wouldn’t have wanted to be treated that way and I don’t like to treat people the way I don’t like to be treated. The next day he showed up on site with a new lease on life.  He apologized in front of the same construction crew he so often had mocked me. When I started to reciprocate his apology he stopped me cold. “No,” he said, “don’t apologize you were in the right and I was in the wrong. I could have gotten someone killed.” He went on to tell the crew (who had no idea what had transpired between us) that I was a “wealth of information on safety and if they were smart they would listen to me.” I still feel ashamed of how I handled it and told him so. He responded that if I had responded to him in any other way it wouldn’t have had any effect on him whatsoever. That was the birth of my, stand-my ground, safety jerk, in-your-face style of which one or two of you are so fond, but at which so many more of you cluck tongues and shake your heads as you dismiss me because of my tone, or grammar (if you find typos feel free to cut/paste my blog into Gammerly and sit in smug satisfaction.

You people seem to forget that this is academic to me.  Both my grandfathers died from injuries sustained on the job.  They died a decade or more before I was born. Remember YOUR grandpa? Remember all the good times you had? Not me.  That was stolen from me. I have lost friends, a great uncle, neighbors, and coworkers to workplace injuries. How about your dad? Mine died from mesothelioma. Next time you barbecue with your dad think of what I wouldn’t give to have just one more barbecue with mine. Or my brother-in-law, part of my family since I was 8 or 9 who died of silicosis, the most gentle, generous, and goodhearted person I’ve ever known, killed by his job; I wouldn’t mind another conversation with him. So to those of you who think my tone is too harsh, or not academic enough, I ask you: What TONE AM i SUPPOSED TO TAKE?

I guess I’m just thick.  I used to think that people who were outraged by senseless, stupid injuries on the jobs that killed temp workers the first hour of their first day of their first job out numbered the smug asshats who referred to the people working in factories, and on oil rigs, or in mines, as yard monkeys, or factory rats, or whatever pejorative term your industry chooses to throw at them.  I have met some of the smartest (and dumbest) people I know when I was working the line. I WAS WRONG. I still here, “well if the imbecile would have just done the job like he was supposed to…?” Of course no one has the balls to say that to the next of kin. “I’m really sorry Mrs. Wiseman but your son just screwed up. When you think about it’s his own fault for not going going to college.”  

I have no desire to be a safety cop. I have no desire to protect the company by fighting workers’ compensation claims.  I just want to help people make informed decisions about their safety and I’m damned good at it. But as for continuing to spend money (I actually figured out how much it cost me to travel to conferences since my first one in 2006, and it came out to over $70,000 a lot of it subsidized by employers, but even that has its own costs—like them wanting to see sales come out of my appearance (which, given I am not selling gloves doesn’t happen). I am done with speaking for free and pretty fed up with writing for free.  Forget being a thought leader…there’s no money in it (or respect for that matter.).

Okay, it’s time to get off your asses and buy both my books. I have been writing this blog since 2006 and refusing ads (although WordPress my stick its own in) In January, 2019 I announced the release 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’s important that you read it; if you’re not part of the solution than you ARE the problem.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble  Thanks to you who have already purchased it.

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.) 

And if you still haven’t purchased first book, what the Hell are you waiting for? It 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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Is it wrong?

That I give less and less a shit about safety every minute of every day? Persist in your stupidity. It is your right.

I Don’t Even Know Who We Are Anymore

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

 

Resilience Is the Only Way To Combat Fatigue

man in green jacket leaning head on blue case

Photo by Marcelo Chagas on Pexels.com

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.

#5s, #accountability, #aerospace, #at-risk-behavior, #attitude, #attitudes-toward-safety, #awareness, #behavior, #behavior-based-safety, #behavior-observations, #behaviour-based-safety, #branding, #change, #combustible-dust-2, #construction-safety, #continuous-improvement, #contractor-safety, #core-skills-training, #criticisms-of-bbs, #culture-change, #deming, #distracted-driving, #driving-while-distracted, #empowerment, #enforcement, #engagement, #fabricating-metalworking, #fabricating-and-metalworking-magazine, #fleet-safety, #guiding-behaviors, #happiness, #hazard-management, #healthcare, #human-error, #incident-investigation, #increasing-efficiency, #individual-accountability-for-safety, #injury-reporting, #joy, #just-culture, #kan-ban-systems, #line-of-fire, #logistics, #loss-prevention, #manufacturing, #mining-safety, #mistake-proofing, #mistakes, #national-safety-council, #near-miss-reporting-2, #oil-and-gas, #operating-efficiency, #organizational-change-2, #organizational-development, #peace, #pedestrian-safety, #performance-improvement, #phil-la-duke, #phil-laduke, #philip-la-duke, #philip-laduke, #poke-yoke, #process-capability, #process-improvement, #process-safety, #regulations, #risk, #risk-management, #risk-taking, #rockford-greene, #root-cause-analysis, #rules, #safe-work-culture, #safety, #safety-branding, #safety-culture, #safety-culture-development, #safety-incentives, #safety-observations, #safety-slogans, #safety-tours, #safety-training, #selling-safety, #selling-safety-in-tough-times, #stop-trying-to-prevent-every-possible-accident, #systems-based-safety, #talent-management-2, #texting-while-driving, #the-enforceable-rule, #the-nature-of-mistakes, #traffic-fatalities, #traffic-safety, #training, #transformational-safety, #values, #variability-in-human-behavior, #why-we-violate-rules, #worker-safety, #worker-safety-net, #workplace-fatalities

Safety Can Never Be A Science

close up of drinking glass

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.