Sick and Tired Of Safety

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

For  many safety practitioners the cure-all for worker safety is if the “idiots would just pay attention and do what they are told, we wouldn’t have injuries.” I have heard these very words and variations thereof, scores of time. The typical reactionary response from many and more in our industry is to launch another awareness campaign, which presumes two things: people weren’t aware of the dangers and people unknowingly put them self at risk.  I have been injured on the job and off the job and in most cases, I knew or should have known the risks I was taking so a sign telling me to be careful would not have helped. That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and a place where awareness campaigns aren’t helpful—but only when they are warning of a new, heretofore unknown hazard (think: “Bridge Out Ahead”)

On the other hand, I have been injured, made poor choices, and took risks that I ordinarily wouldn’t have, because of fatigue. Fatigue is more than just being tired; it’s being exhausted and it can manifest in illness, increased probability of poor decision making and increased risk-taking.  It is no accident that casinos have no clocks, and bright lights and enticements to keep you at the tables or slot machines. In Las Vegas, you are encouraged to stay up all night and a good casino has everything you need to keep you up and at the casino. Why? Because casinos make their money by people making foolish choices and taking unreasonable risks.

According to an article by Polly Campbell in Psychology Today The more mentally tired we become, the less capable we are of keeping up with the demands of the day. It becomes harder to make healthy decisions, stay focused on tasks, and remain calm. It can also become difficult to regulate our emotions. Over time, mental exhaustion can lead to full-blown burnout, physical issues, and stress-related illness. But, as soon as you realize why you are feeling so tired, you can take steps to restore and feel better fast.”

In many cases, our very efforts to keep people safe by heaping more and more information on to them actually increases mental fatigue and instead of making things safer we actually increase the likelihood of injuries.

I’ve worked an assembly line, nine hours of back-breaking mind-numbing work five days a week one week and six days a week the next, alternating but sometimes doubling up on the Saturdays (our Union contract prohibited more than two Saturdays in a row). The work was literally exhausting—sometimes it was all I could do to make the drive home. As arduous as this work was, it is nothing compared to many modern workplaces who work 12-hour shifts seven days a week, and to that, a modest 30-minute commute and you have a recipe for disaster. Studies have shown that a sufficiently fatigued individual is as impaired as someone who is legally drunk.

According to WebMD, “Fatigue can be described as the lack of energy and motivation (both physical and mental). This is different than drowsiness, a term that describes the need to sleep…Also, fatigue can be a normal response to physical and mental activity; in most normal individuals it is quickly relieved (usually in hours to about a day, depending on the intensity of the activity) by reducing the activity.” That’s great, but a growing number of worker are becoming fatigued and less resilient because of prolonged overwork, heightened stress both at work and outside work, or existing medical conditions from diabetes to mental health issues and corporate and individual greed (front-line and middle-managers who are desperate to make their production Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)) are pushing people too hard.

There is a major disconnect between the medical establishment and corporate America.  The cure for fatigue? Rest. How likely is it that a company facing a labor shortage and a steady demand are going to cut back on the speed and hour of production? Not very.

What’s more, the time and physical demands of work aren’t the only cause of fatigue. Prolonged concentration is also a major factor in causing mental fatigue, so awareness campaigns if they are working (they probably aren’t) can actually exacerbate the situation by forcing people to concentrate excessively.

Another way that “attention fatigue” is caused is through shorter cycles and takt times. Cycle time is the time it takes to complete one job. When I was building seats by cycle time was 55 seconds, which meant that for me to make production I had to completely assemble two seats (right and left side) in 55 seconds. Takt time is the number of units a customer demands in a given period of time (typically each day but it ould be each week or some other period.) Takt time was the determinant of whether our shift was 8 hour or 9 hours and whether or not we had to work Saturdays. The longer the cycle time the more steps a worker has to remember and the higher the takt time the more times a worker has to do this task.  I worked at a manufacturer that had a 20 minute cycle time for most jobs and had a takt time of 240 units a week. This meant that if everything went precisely to plan we had to work 5 ten hour shifts, and if anything disrupted production we had to work over time. This was 20 years ago, but we wondered why we had so many injuries at this particular plant, especially expensive ergonomic injuries. Absenteeism was high and illness was rampant. Workers were irritable and tense and tempers frequently flared. Our turnover rate was high and the time it took to bring workers up to speed was substantial. Looking back our workers were fatigued, but that wasn’t something we knew or thought about back then. We focused on the work and we were working our employees to death without a clue as to what to do about it.

At the time we were the most productive manufacturing plant in North America, but the work wasn’t just physically hard, it was mentally taxing and trying to perform 50 separate tasks to perfection in 20 minutes soon wore on people.  The project finished long before we figured things out, but it’s a lesson I never forgot.

High cycle time and takt times aren’t limited to manufacturing, they’re just better and more clearly defined in manufacturing. Call centers are expected to process calls in x time and must process x calls a shift or the call center operator is not “making shift”.  This leads to prioritizing production over the customer and in many jobs over safety. Even jobs where a mistake will not lead to an injury, the boiler room pressure it creates causes mental and physical fatigue that becomes a vicious circle.

Fatigue is a possibility in every workplace. I literally had to take a nap after beginning this piece yesterday. I work anywhere from 40 to 60 hours a week and write 5,000-10,000 words a week on my off time. The pressure to sell and remain billable in the world of global consulting is extreme, to say the least, and my job is no exception. You’re only as good as your last sale and like any other top company, management is always keeping a watchful job on the lowest performers.  Fortunately, my company emphasizes coaching over cuts, but just like your job the pressure is always there.

So what can be done?

 

  • Take “micro” breaks. Taking shorter breaks more frequently is a good way to reset your brain.  Longer breaks tend to make it tougher to go back to work, but a quick 5-minute break can refresh and rejuvenate you.
  • Exercise. Bleeck right? Who wants to exercise when they are physically exhausted? Experts have found that mild exercise will help relieve both physical and mental fatigue. I personally start my day at 4:30 a.m. with a 20 minute work out on the elliptical and another 20 minutes at lunch, and finally, at 3:00 p.m. When I can barely keep my eyes open I force myself to do another 20-minute workout.  In the morning it wakes me up, at lunch, it clears my head of all the clutter that people have caused, and at 3:00 it rejuvenates me (and since it is well before my bedtime I am able to sleep well at night.
  • Meditate. Praying, meditating, or just conjuring up pleasant memories of that great vacation you took are a great way to fight fatigue. Building your spiritual core is a great way to build resilience and fight fatigue.
  • Stay Optimistic.  Sometimes the only thing that got me through my work week was thinking how great my weekend was going to be.  Looking at the bright side of life is more than just a Monty Python song, it’s critical advice for building your resilience.
  • Eat Right. Junk food is filled with empty calories which make it tougher for your body to summon the energy needed to fight fatigue.
  • Look out the window. Taking a look out the window (or better yet taking a quick walk outside) can be surprisingly restorative. When I worked in a factory, I purchased and brought my own cleaning supplies to work so that I could wash the two windows (caked with 100 years of grime) so that I could tell what kind of weather we were having.  People said I was crazy but it made me feel a little bit better, and that’s how you beat fatigue and burn out, a little bit at a time.

     

I am proud to announce that Marriah Publishing has published 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 & Nobel

Of course, my first book is still for sale…

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com.

Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free (without sponsors or advertising) clearly damned near zero moral support from people who could and do benefit from my notoriety for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy a damned book.

 

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You Know What They Say About People Who Can’t Take A Joke

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

by Phil La Duke

I’ve taken a lot of flack over the use because I use humor in presentations and training. It appears that there is always someone with an insect in his anus about humor. I’ve heard everything from “well I don’t think safety should be taken lightly” to “if he wanted to be a stand-up comedian he should have performed somewhere else” to “I came to learn, not to laugh”.

Humor is an important part of how we learn, but it can’t just be “infotainment” (term trainers used to use to derisively describe a course that people enjoyed, but that taught them nothing.) And humor is subjective and what you think is funny or light-hearted, might be offensive to someone else, so you need to be careful. That is going to strike some of you as odd because I generally don’t give a rat’s ass if someone takes offense to something I’ve written, not because I am insensitive jerk, but because one takes offense and if I didn’t write or say something deliberately give offense to someone yet he or she still takes it then he needs to feel the hurt and let it go, even if that means seeking therapy where he can talk to a trained professional using dolls to describe exactly how and where I hurt him.

So while there are self-righteous people who routinely take offense to any use of humor as either diminishing the seriousness of a safety course of a safety presentation there are plenty of good reasons for using humor in these situations:

  1. Humor engages the audience. Many people enjoy a good laugh and since humor is rooted in the unexpected it requires the audience to pay more attention to what is being said than at a staid, monotone, presentation read to the audience of ugly and poorly designed PowerPoint slides.
  2. Humor increases retention. Years ago a taught a class in leadership and the next day one of the more senior managers from the class came up to me and told me that he went home and was telling his wife about how funny my class was. He told me that he repeated some of my funnier lines and how his wife looked at him irritated and asked him if he had been to training or to a comedy club. He told me that he quickly defended me and said, that right after I made the joke I made an important point. He was amazed. He told me that he remembered almost word-for-word the point I had made, and then he asked me if that is why I used so much humor in my courses. I told him that yes, indeed it was. Humor activates the part of our brain that controls emotions. We laugh because something surprises, delights, or just plain makes us happy. Recent brain research (there are phenomenal discoveries made about the human brain now that we can see what’s going on through MRI’s and brain scans that were impossible when most of what has been accepted in psychology for 200 years was based merely on people telling researchers what they were feeling) has shown that we make decisions and retain more information using when we activate the part of the brain that controls our emotions. So even if you HATE my humor you are still learning more than from someone who does a hardcore data dump on you. So hate away, you humorless howler monkeys who write scathing hateful reviews, you still learned something and you have me and my humor to thank for it. You’re welcome, don’t come back.
  3. Humor Energizes an Audience. The average person has an attention span of about 2 minutes and that is shrinking (many attribute this to smart devices and reading from a screen, but the science on this is sketchy and frankly we have enough sketchy “science” in this profession and I don’t want to promulgate any more of it.) Let me explain. The human mind works a lot like a computer, in that it gathers information for about 30 seconds and then processes it for about 90 seconds; it completes this cycle over and over again and it is easiest to get distracted in between cycles. Even using the most intense concentration a person cannot maintain focus after approximately (give or take 3 minutes) 10 minutes. Minds begin to wander and people can actually suffer from attention fatigue. That’s why a good training course varies the delivery method every 10 minutes, but let’s face it good safety training is often an oxymoron. Humor allows the presenter to interject information that alleviates stress and concentration fatigue, again except for the people who hate humor because they were molested by a clown at an early age (or whatever their deal is, I honestly don’t care).
  4. Humor increase resilience. Early horror filmmakers realized quite quickly that a horror movie that doesn’t release the tension causes the audience to reject the premise and either check out or laugh inappropriately. Their answer? Build suspense and tension and then relieve it with a bit of humor. Resilience is a person’s ability to bounce back, not just from tragedy and horror, but to a far lesser extent from attention fatigue. I have been to one hour sessions where fifteen minutes into the session I was praying to die, and others where 55 minutes into the presentation I was astonished at how quickly the time had passed. Which presentation do you think I rated higher? I can tell you that I retained more information in the ones that flew by than the ones that dragged and the difference was usually humor (sometimes unintended).
    Think about Remembering Charlie. For the record, in my opinion, Charlie Morecraft is a) a hell of a nice guy, b) tells a compelling story, and c) has helped a lot of people. For those of you unfamiliar with Remembering Charlie, it’s a speech/video made by Charlie Morecraft that recounts in excruciating detail the story of Charlie, eager to join his family on a long weekend, took one too many shortcuts and broke one too many rules. I know the story better than most because I edited some 2 hours of footage into a 15-minute video for a company who paid him to speak and to create a videotape of his story. Even Charlie himself agreed that the tape captured the essence and key points of his presentation, and it’s powerful stuff. It’s not uncommon for people in the audience to wipe tears from their eyes.We used the tape during many awareness sessions and after one such session, I was approached by an audience member who asked me, with surprising derision in his voice, “what am I supposed to learn from that? This idiot violates all kinds of rules and gets burnt up! And now he goes around making millions of dollars talking about his (screw) up—as you might imagine he didn’t use the word “screw”—I follow the rules and don’t take shortcuts; that isn’t going to happen to me.” I assured him that Charlie wasn’t making “millions” of dollars, and he wasn’t an idiot. I told him the point of the video was that Charlie, by his own admission, made some poor choices (many of those choices he had made many times in the past and suffered no consequences) and that Charlie has since devoted much of his life to trying to get others to understand that it only takes a couple of poor choices to have permanent life-altering consequences. But the guy wasn’t having any of it. I realized later that Charlie’s message was just too intense for him to handle. The man in the audience couldn’t bear to imagine himself in that situation and therefore he involuntarily shut off the reality of the message.

    Now for the life of me, I can’t see how Charlie could have introduced humor into his story; it’s truly horrific, but the point remains that if the message is too horrible to imagine it will not be received, and where possible and appropriate the use of humor adds much to a session.

With Humor Comes Danger
As Charlie’s story illustrates, humor isn’t always appropriate (and no matter what The Reader’s Digest would have you believe it is seldom the best medicine). Humor that mocks a tragedy, or that is sexist, racist, or whatever other “ist” you want to put in here, shouldn’t be used, and one should always target themselves rather than someone in the audience because when you have the microphone and the podium you have the power and it’s not right to make fun of people in the audience and rightfully turns the others at the session against you.

So you can do what you want, but I will continue to use my humor in my sessions to drive key points, energize the room, and make things a little bit more fun. If you can’t handle that, stay the hell out of my sessions, and remember no matter how much contempt in which you hold me, how much you detest me (and presumably the horse I rode into town on), and how much bile and bitterness you feel for me, I feel all that and more for you.

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my up-coming book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com. Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you  are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted  by the publisher (expect less reprints and more new material).

Why I Pick On Safety Professionals

By Phil La Duke

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Why I continue to Pick On Safety Professionals.

By Phil La Duke

Whenever I post a blog entry or submit a guest blog entry the crys of injustice ring out.  “Why does he always pick on the safety professional? Doesn’t he know how hard we work? How under-valued we are? How much we sacrifice? Why does he tar us all with the same brush? WHY DOES HE KEEP PICKING ON ME?”

Such criticsm is not without merit. I do focus on the shortcoming of both the safety function and the safety professionals themselves. But why? Am I the self-important bully that some of you make me out to be? Before you answer, consider that a true bully is someone who abuses his or her power over those who are either physically, emotionally, or intellectually inferior to them. So if you feel bullied by my work, you have to ask yourself if you are inferior to me in these areas; I don’t think most of you are.  There are no victims in Safety.  If you’re feeling inferior in some way, well then… that’s on you.

We Can Only Control Ourselves

I address the shortcomings our safety professionals because that is an area where we collectively can effect real and lasting change.  Some where along the way the snake-oil salesmen us that we not only had the power control other people’s behaviours we also had the right and the responsibility. Most people I know can barely control their own behaviour yet the safety community arrogantly presumes to modify the behaviours of others to its own sophomoric and twisted vision.  When we pronounce our ability to influence the behaviours of the workers we assume the culpability for injuries.  If we have a monopoly on the  knowledge about working safe than every injury is on the shoulders of the safety professional.  But we can’t change behaviours, and more importantly we can’t change Operations, at least not with platitudes and tired rhetoric  In fact we can’t even positively influence changes in Operations  without changing ourselves. So where does that leave us?

So Where Do We Need to Change?

If there is anyone out there truly listening, if I can reach a single open mind, if my message can punch through fog created by the red-faced hyperventilating mouth-breathing brutes who can’t wait to finish reading so they can hammer out an angry, half coherent (and I am being kind) snorting response, if I can speak to one reasonable person, listen to me.  If we don’t change, our profession will cease to exist, and our profession is the only thing that stands between us and the return to slavery.  We are the only thing that prevents corporations treating people like chattel, like an expendable, use-them-up-and-throw-them-away commodity and the simpletons that we have entrusted this sacred trust our selling us out.  We need change right now, and specifically here’s how:

  1. Enable Operations Ownership of Safety.  Operations clearly needs to own safety because only it has the power to aggressively manage hazards and risk.  But Safety can’t just dump its responsibilities on the doorstep of Operations like a box of unwanted kittens.  Operations ownership of safety will involve a great deal of education, not just of Operations but of Safety as well.  This shift in ownership will involve a great deal of education, not of Operations but of Safety as well.  This shift in is difficult to e effect from within and trust me when I tell you that the purveyors of bullshit are rapaciously watching and watching for any misstep.
  2. Stop Belly Aching.   Far too many safety people don’t feel appreciated: suck it up and stop simpering like a three year old who missed naptime.  If people don’t appreciate your contributions it’s likely because you haven’t made any. I am sick to death of listening to safety “professionals” whining about how nobody appreciates them. Is this how we want the world to view us? If you are truly under appreciated then do something about it, either clearly articulate the value you provide, leave and go work someplace that values what you do, or shut the hug up and cash paychecks.  But know this: safety is a job for grown ups.
  3. Learn the Business.  No business exists solely or even primarily to protect workers.  When you perpetuate this myth you make us all look stupid and out of touch.  What say you do us all a favor and learn how the organization makes money?  No one values advise offered by someone who refuses to take the time to learn the intricacies of the business. Safety professionals frequently act as if they are external to the core business.  This is wrong on so many levels.  First of all, safety professionals aren’t entitled  to their jobs.  Having a Safety function costs money and that investment is expected to return some tangible benefit. Secondly unless safety is hardwired into every process it will always be an after thought.  Safety has got to get in the game and stop waiting for someone else to do its job.  And safety can’t stop at operational processes.  Safety should inform organizational policies. Often the policies proffered by HR can actually encourage at risk behaviours.
  4. Anticipate Business Needs and Prepare to Meet Them.  As the executives roll out their strategic goals, safety professionals need to find ways not to merely support these strategies but to enable them.  The savvy safety professional will meet with individual Operations leaders and see how safety can help them to accomplish their incentive pay goals.  Putting money in the leader’s pocket is a sure way to have them invite safety into their decision making process.  Even if the safety professional can’t help accomplish the goal knowing what motivates the leader is invaluable.
  5. Collaborate, Communicate, and Cooperate.  Safety sounds great, but it cannot happen unless we tear down the internecine walls of the organization.  Safety needs to collaborate with departments like Continuous Improvement, Training, and Human Resources.  This collaboration will increase the power of the safety professional to effect meaningful change and to add real value.
  6. Earn Respect.  The most frequent whine I hear from the self-pitying safety mopes is that they aren’t respected by Operations.  Well why would they? You haven’t earned it.  If you walk around the organization advocating safety gimmicks that would make a first year kindergarten teacher blush how can you ever expect to be respected?  If you want respect you have to show respect for others.  Respect runs pretty thin in workplaces today. Meetings that waste people’s time, emails that are indecipherable and inane safety activities are disrespectful and wastrel.
  7. Grow a Pair.  Too many safety professionals acknowledge that there is a problem but quickly add how it’s not their fault.  And then continue to decry the injustice of it all.  Do use all a favor and consider for a minute that you might be contributing to the problem.  I have more respect for the safety veteran who admits his or her role in the problem but refuses to change then I do for those who refuse to be held accountable.

Now What?

Some of you reading this are getting all frothy and are gearing up to set me straight.  Well don’t.  I am beyond tired of reading crap from self-righteous safety professionals who are offended on other’s behalf.  If you think I am talking about you it’s because I probably am.  You don’t like it? Hammer out an email to somebody who gives a rat’s ass, but to quote Dylan, it aint me babe.  I hope some of you will heed what I have to say, or better yet send this post to those imbeciles who need it most.  But leave me out of it. Just change for the love of all that’s holy; you’re not just embarrassing yourself but all of us out here trying to make a difference.

If you feel picked on you probably deserve it.

#accountability-for-safety, #phil-la-duke, #picked-on, #rockford-greene, #safety, #worker-safety

These Deaths Were Easily Preventable

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

I was about halfway through my third book a couple of months ago when my publisher called me and asked me what I know about single-shooter events in the workplace, and I told her that I knew quite a lot, having worked at three places that were the scene of such tragedies (two of the three had multiple events and I had to write and conduct training on how to prevent this from happening again,  She told me that she wanted me to shelve the book on which I was working and immediately get to work on a  book about preventing workplace prevention,

I didn’t want to write the book that ultimately was published as  Lone Gunman: Rewriting The Handbook On Workplace Violence  and I certainly didn’t want to plug it on my blog, so if you see this as a crass attempt to use recent events to promote the book you probably already know where I think and want you to stick it. But a couple of things have happened since I was out sick: 1) two weeks ago a lone gunman entered his workplace, armed, and gunned down five people and 2) yesterday my abstract On Preventing Workplace Violence for the National Safety Council was soundly and unceremoniously rejected.

Neither of these points surprised me, workplace violence begets workplace violence and we are in for a firestorm of these kinds of attacks.  These attacks are real, and they are as different from mass shootings are as serial killers are from people who shoot people in robberies. Workplace violence tends to be either what we saw in Aura, or the one exactly one month earlier in New Jersey was a lover’s quarrel turned deadly.  These are predictable and preventable but no one, not the least of which the National Safety Council wants to talk about, or more accurately, they don’t want ME to talk about it—it would appear that the NSC holds me in contempt with which I hold it.

I suppose this begs the question, is this a Safety issue or a Security issue.  Homicides are the 9th cause of workplace fatalities overall and is the #1 cause of workplace deaths for women, but this is a topic that is routinely overlooked in Fatality Prevention Programs. Of women murdered in the workplace, 42% are killed by a domestic partner or family member whereas only 2% of men who are murdered at work are killed by this demographic.  These are statistics that are routinely ignored and for the life of me I can’t figure out why,

As I read the accounts in sundry outlets I was disheartened.  The company had basically ignored one of the most basic tenets of my book: preventing workplace violence begins at recruiting.

What they missed

  • The shooter had a lengthy arrest record.  He was arrested six times.
  • He also had a felony conviction in Mississippi
  • He was fired but then allowed to later reenter the premises
  • He faced charges of domestic abuse
  • They took no precautions after he was fired despite reports that he became agitated because there was a Human Resource intern in the room.

So let’s take these one at a time:

  • The shooter had a lengthy arrest record.  He was arrested six times. The company claimed that they had done a  background check on him before he was hired. That may be, it’s unclear if his six arrests happened after he was hired. But as I warn in my book, a background check only tells you what the person has done BEFORE he or she gets the job, and you have to monitor the person’s behavior for signs of instability AFTER the hiring.  Too often that is ignored and it ends in violence.
  • He also had a felony conviction in Mississippi.  I’m all about second chances, but either this was missed on the background check or ignored.  Even someone who has been convicted and served time for a non-violent offense can be indoctrinated into a culture of violence simply by living in a correctional facility.  There are people who are reformed, and people who are not. If you hire an ex-con it is prudent to monitor him or her for violent tendencies.
  • He was fired but then allowed to later reenter the premises. Several reports said it was unclear whether or not the assailant had the gun on him or went home to retrieve it, which tells me that at very least he didn’t just pull a pistol and start shooting as the words, “you’re fired” left the lips of the HR Manager.  Immediately after his dismissal, he should have been escorted out of the building and off the premises. Law enforcement should have been alerted given his criminal history; under no circumstances should he have been allowed to reenter the building once he had left it.
  • He faced charges of domestic abuse. Here is a red flag if ever there was one.  Given that domestic abuse is a leading contributor of women murdered at work this should have tipped HR off right away. There is a national domestic abuse database that makes it simple to find people arrested for domestic abuse.  When the decision was made to fire this individual HR should have done some research to see if he was a violence risk. It might have saved their lives.
  • They took no precautions after he was fired despite reports that he became agitated because there was a Human Resource intern in the room.  There is a simple fix to this situation, remove the intern from the room. There were four other people in the room and the intern a) added no value and b) clearly made the situation worse. They may have seen it as a learning opportunity but if the poor kid learned anything he took it to his grave.
  • We don’t know the events that lead up to the firing of the assailant, but typically, it isn’t just one incident.  Workplace shooters tend to be in a downward spiral. In this case, his home life wasn’t the greatest (domestic abuse charges) and there were likely changes in his appearance, behavior, attitude, and work performance, that could have been handled in such a way that the assailant could have been given some sense of choice and compassion.  Killing your boss is the last act of a person who feels like they are out of options, interceding early and advocating instead of throwing the person out with the garbage might have prevented this.

To be clear, I have no sympathy for the assailant, killing the boss is almost NEVER the answer, but in this case, the gross stupidity in how this was handled is staggering.  

And I want you to think about this, somewhere out there is a man (statistically it is almost always a man) with a gun (and I am not taking a side here because someone who wants to kill can think of a thousand different ways to do it, but statistically in the U.S. 89% of these cases involve firearms) and feels like his life is going down the drain, is considering if not planning, a workplace homicide, How sure are you that it won’t be at your company?

I am proud to announce that Marriah Publishing has published my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. While homicide accounts for 10% of workplace fatalities this is a problem that can be easily prevented. Victims of domestic violence are disproportionately affected. Of women murdered in the workplace, 48% will be killed by a family member or domestic partner, while only 2% of men are killed this way.  I wrote this book at the request of my publisher, as there are growing numbers of “experts” who are treating random mass shootings (where the goal is usually a high body count) the same as single shooter events in the workplace (which tend to target a specific individual.) The research I did was eye-opening for me as I expect it will be for you too. This is one of the most powerful things I have ever written so I hope you will find it useful.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon (US and Canada) or Barnes & Nobel (as it stands now B&N is only listing the hardcover but I’m told the paperback will be on sale this Monday.  It’s an important book on a serious topic as seen through my bleary-eyed lens.)

Of course, my first book is still for sale…

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com.

Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free (without sponsors or advertising) clearly damned near zero moral support from people who could and do benefit from my notoriety for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy a damned book.

 

I’m too ill to write

By Phil La Duke

I’m sorry to disappoint but I have taken ill. No writing this week.

Safety Is No Accident

SafetyIsNoAccident

By Phil La Duke

Let me begin by saying that the title is trite, and sounds like a slogan, I have to say I thought of rephrasing it but ultimately decided that however much it made me seem like I was trying to be clever or cute that was not my intent. It pains me to know that it countless workplaces there are probably signs with this slogan.

I don’t mean it as a slogan, I mean it as a call to action. Too many of us think of safety as this passive event.  Nothing happened and therefore we’re safe.  We shift from behaviors to culture to risk to whatever cockamamie idea is slowly percolating in the mind of some PhD who has never done an honest day’s work in his life. I will confess that this post grew out, to some degree, of my post Zero Injuries Are Nothing to Celebrate, where my principle point was that, while it’s great that nobody died, what did you do to prevent it.  What one thing, or multiple things did you do that was the proximate cause that nobody died? Scarce few had answers so they instead focused on my heresy that a celebration of a perfect safety record was soft-headed.

So what can we do to act with purpose to make the workplace safer? I get criticized a lot for only pointing out what’s wrong without offering solutions; to that I say: a) I raise these points because they need to be raised, b) nobody else seems to be raising them, and c) I’m not your paid consultant so I am under no obligation to give you free advice, but that’s just me getting cranky.  The truth is, there isn’t one true path to safety.  Somehow (and I have my characteristically strong opinions as to exactly how, but that is for another article) “Safety” has become a quasi-religion with the cult of behavior, or the cult of Gellar, or the cult of…well you get my point.  I’m not going to get into a debate over whether or not there is one true religion, but I will say that, having worked across many industries that safety means very different things depending on your industry, your location, and your size.

If you work in a high-consequence industry like oil and gas—where a single slip up can have catastrophic results—you tend to have a very different view of what’s safe and therefore a much lower tolerance for risk than say a shoe retailer. So for me, or anyone else, to offer universally applicable suggestions is irresponsible to the extreme. But I will say this: we have to understand how what we do is affecting the risk of a person being hurt by hazards in our workplaces.

Take slips, trips, and falls for example. Not a big concern for a chemical company whose biggest threat to worker and public safety is lethal chemicals shooting a death cloud over the surrounding community, but a huge concern for people working at heights or around sharp materials or bio hazards.  So what YOU think might not be a big deal (and you are correct) could be a huge deal for someone else.

Safety as Superstitious Nonsense

We do so much in safety, from awareness campaigns to Job Safety Analysis (and every day some genius comes up with something else for us to do) that we lose sight of the key components of safety; we can’t separate the nice to haves from the absolute must haves. Let’s take an easy example: A worker ascends a step ladder 15 feet.  We have two probabilities to worry about 1) the probability that he will fall and 2) the probability that if he falls he will be killed (or seriously injured but for our example let’s just say killed) is 98% (I don’t believe in absolute certainties) so let’s now work through how we lower that risk from 98% to as close to 0% (again I don’t believe in absolutes) as is practicable (don’t mistake this for practical). Now bear with me here as I work the problem backwards.  If we have the worker tie off how much does that reduce the risk? To answer that we would have to know the failure rate of all the fall protection components, but for our purposes let’s say it cuts it down to 20% can we live with a 20% chance that the worker might bang his head, have a lanyard break, or have some other unforeseen hazard come into play? Probably not, so we add…a children’s poster contest to remind him not to die? A pizza party if he doesn’t fall?

No in our case we would probable decide that a ladder is the wrong tool for the job and use a man lift. Let’s say this reduces the chances of him falling to his death to 2%. Obviously all my percentages are WAY too high, but the point remains we need to know, at a minimum, if what we are doing is causing safety.

We have to stop concentrating on preventing injuries and focus on causing safety. Let us never forget that everything we do should have a direct consequence of causing safety. Sure awareness campaigns may have some effect on workplace safety, but is this really where you should be spending your time and money? In environments where you have high turnover of workers who tend to have a limited awareness of the dangers around them, then it may well be, but if you are in a factory where people do repetitive jobs that cause their minds to wander or where they are more likely to be injured by a fatigue-induced mistake it probably isn’t.

The most difficult job in safety is that there isn’t a magic formula for getting things right. We have to think.  We have to create solutions that work in OUR environments  and stop thinking that anyone out there has it all figured out and all we need do is to copy their solution and we will be alright.  This is what makes it so difficult for people to move from one industry to another.  What is important in mining may be insignificant in retail.  What’s worse is even within our own industry what works for our completion may not work for us at all.  It’s too bad really, because my experience as a person who helps companies build safety management systems and infrastructures I’ve seen some pretty cool things that are completely unworkable in other industries, geographic regions, or sites.

Unfortunately for most of us, we are barraged by people telling us the opposite; that they have figured out the magic bullet and for the right price they can sell us a solution that works for everyone like magic! I’ve reviled these people as unethical snake-oil salesmen and some of them are indeed thieves.  But more of them believe what they’re saying, which makes them more dangerous.   It’s tempting to buy in to a philosophy that just requires you to turn off your brain and drink the Kool-Aid, especially if our boss has a big vat of it on his or her desk.

It is incumbent on us to make every dollar spent on safety count and if we are spending our time and money foolishly we could get someone killed. So again, before you start a new initiative, or even continue the things you’re doing, ask yourself, “how does this cause safety?”

Just Terriers With A Rat

shutterstock_308568296

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

I don’t want to write. My mood is sour and my disposition is foul.  Writing this has become a chore and inevitably and increasingly I have people pressuring me what to say and what not to say.  Fuck it. This is MY blog, nobody thinks that there’s an editorial staff that meets to decide what I should say and shouldn’t say. This isn’t marketing, this is me talking to the handful of you with open minds (some of you who actually find benefit from what I have to say).  But of course, there is a fair amount of you who read this for the sole purpose of taking offense and frankly I am beyond being bewildered by that particular motivation if I offend you well then it serves you right for continuing to read it, and if you think it reflects in ANY way on you or what you stand for, get over yourself. No one out there thinks you have the imagination or insight to coauthor or edit me.

Some weeks or a month ago even I was listed by Thinkers360.com as one of the top 20 Thought Leaders in Culture. Last week someone shortened that list to the Top 5; I was fourth on that list.  I know many of you are thinking, okay, here it comes, yet another internet loudmouth who is blowing his own horn, in fact, if the past is any indication, some washed up loser who hung out a shingle in Australia (if you think I am talking about you I probably will) will send an email to someone he thinks matters to me in hopes of getting me in trouble, someone else will post hateful posts trying to goad me into an internet postwar, while still others will just post their dreck about how self-aggrandizing I am.

This shit used to really bother me, but I guess after all these years I’ve developed a thick skin. For the record, Thinkers360 has developed a patent-pending algorithm to determine who the top thinkers are, and yes, you have to apply to the website to be considered (and there is no guarantee you will be selected) but other than what you write, get published, how many social media interactions you have, and media appearances there is nothing one can do to be selected; it’s a point system and one I don’t quite understand.  It’s free, so if you want to be an expert apply and see if they select you. Be forewarned that they make their money by pimping experts out to reporters and industry, so they are fairly selective about who they bring on board—they are more concerned about THEIR reputation than yours—so prepare to have your ego bruised.

It would be easy to dismiss this crowd of dimwits as jealous of my success, but I can’t do that. You see I don’t think it’s jealousy.  These human colonoscopy bags don’t want what I have, there is no envy here. What motivates these people is to make themselves feel better about being lazy.  I achieved what meager success I have by hard work. I write voraciously, on my own time—late nights after long days, I ponder the issues in safety and corporate culture continually, I read and process what others write.  I speak at professional events for free and talk to the people there. And I am about to publish my third book.

Does this make me any better than anyone else? Any smarter? Of course not.  I haven’t met many people who work in the field of worker safety that couldn’t do what I’ve done or will do.  For the most part, the only thing stopping most people is that Safety, as a profession, is exhausting. Most people don’t want to put in a full day’s work in Safety and come home and think and write about it, that’s okay. I’d be lying if I said that the whole idea of safety doesn’t make me want to chuck it all and work as a short-order cook every once in a while, but I can’t.

I could bring up the deaths of my father, brother-in-law, both grandfathers, one great uncle, a childhood acquaintance, and all coworkers and friends of friends who died on the job as the one thing that brings me back, and I’m sure that these many losses have shaped who I am and drive me subconsciously to some extent, but that’s not it, at least not entirely. What keeps bringing me back is just when you think the field of safety is growing someone will trot out some snake-oil like a terrier with a rat in its mouth.  

I want to scream “it’s dead, drop it”. But they won’t. Our field is choked with mouth-breathers who continually rediscover the obvious and proudly trotting it out like they walked out in the rain and discovered wet. I’ve been described as passionate about safety, I’ve even been called a crusader. If I am passionate about anything, if I am crusading against anything is ending stupidity.

We live in a world where correlation is considered causation, where if you don’t like the facts you just scream fake news or media bias, where vendors will sell a customer a safety solution that some vacuous executive wants knowing full well that the solution all smoke without the mirrors,  and no one asks, because no one CARES, how the purveyors of bullshit make their money. Safety is the only discipline in Business where executives continue to authorize increased investment without knowing if the solution they are buying will do anything but cost money, and where the people in the function can be blissfully ignorant as to whether the money is reducing risk or just making charlatans rich.  Try being an Operations leader and going to the COO with a budget with a line item that says, “machinery and stuff”. AND when the COO asks for more information you just say, “it’s the right thing to do”. You wouldn’t just leave the office with a boot in your ass, you’d also be handed a pink slip. And yet, “we fund safety because it’s the right thing to do” is a go-to argument.

Try telling a COO that you don’t know how much your scrap is costing you, or that you have no clue what your payroll costs, or that you can’t tell how much you’re spending on…virtually anything except safety and see how long you still have a job. And WHY is this the case? And why if safety so sacrosanct do we continue to kill and cripple people in the workplace? Because it’s hard to calculate the cost of safety? No, I’ve done it dozens of times. The answer is simple, because if we took a real hard look at how much we spend on safety, and the value derived from those expenditures we might just find we could do it cheaper, faster, and without all the convoluted processes.  In short, we don’t want an answer, just a bigger budget.

So I guess the real difference between a lot of us and that terrier with a rat is that the terrier cares that he caught a rat and can see that his efforts are paying off.  He can prove he did his job well, so I guess we’ll just let him shake that rat a little longer. He’s earned it, and the thought of a dead rat makes me smile and all warm inside.

I am proud to announce that Marriah Publishing has published my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. While homicide accounts for 10% of workplace fatalities this is a problem that can be easily prevented. Victims of domestic violence are disproportionately affected. Of women murdered in the workplace, 48% will be killed by a family member or domestic partner, while only 2% of men are killed this way.  I wrote this book at the request of my publisher, as there are growing numbers of “experts” who are treating random mass shootings (where the goal is usually a high body count) the same as single shooter events in the workplace (which tend to target a specific individual.) The research I did was eye-opening for me as I expect it will be for you too. This is one of the most powerful things I have ever written so I hope you will find it useful.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon (US and Canada) or Barnes & Nobel (as it stands now B&N is only listing the hardcover but I’m told the paperback will be on sale this Monday.  It’s an important book on a serious topic as seen through my bleary-eyed lens.)

Of course, my first book is still for sale…

Did you like this post? If so you will probably like my book which can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Nobel.com.

Did you hate this post? Did it offend you deeply? Maybe you should organize a book burning (minimum of 150 books) but be sure you are only burning my book, I don’t want you to go to a used book store and buy a bunch of cheap books and stack mine on top.

The book is a compilation of blog posts, guest blogs, magazine article (from around the world) and new material. Much of it is hard to find unless you know where to look. A second and third book has already been green-lighted by the publisher (expect fewer reprints and more new material).

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for free (without sponsors or advertising) clearly damned near zero moral support from people who could and do benefit from my notoriety for over 11 years and I think I have earned a bit of revenue so buy a damned book.