By Phil La Duke,
Reverend, Shaman, Grand-Master Psychic, EIEIO and Author
There are people in safety with letters after their names and those who don’t and the two groups seem to hate each other. I get it. For years safety was the place in the organization where you put the people so useless that they could even work in HR. The reasoning seemed sound at the time: even this dope can’t foul up this job. Then somewhere along the way safety got…complicated. The safety occupation got organized into safety organizations that warred on each other like the Jets and the Sharks—that’s right, like two nerdy gangs that didn’t fight so much as dance around singing—but gangs of oafs none-the-less. I recently severed ties with all Safety Organizations and don’t feel any less informed than when I was active as a member. I’ve eaten the garbage omelettes that are the National Expos. Each year the same omelette and more-less the same garbage with only the most cosmetic changes to ingredients. So why do people go? Well for starters it’s a boondoggle—the locations are in Orlando, San Diego, Chicago, New Orleans, but you don’t see many in Little Rock, or Oklahoma City, or Parma.
But if you were to ask (or read the requests to attend that are made to the attendees’ bosses) you are likely to see the rationale for attending is simply to retain the precious certifications by getting Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
The idea of certifying safety professionals grew out of the perceived need to differentiate between safety professionals who were good at their jobs from those who were as useless as the nipples on the tits on a ceramic bull. Ostensibly this is a good idea, and kudos to all those who have earned those letters at the end of their names, I have my own certifications, albeit none conferred by the shadowy body that churned out over 100,000 safety certifications since 1969!
It took me considerable time to find much information about the Board of Certified Safety Professional, a not-for-profit organization that sets the criteria for ten different safety certifications. I don’t particularly have any issue with this or any other certifying body—most of my presentations have been eligible for CEUs. But here again we have a relatively small group of people controlling what safety personnel learn and are able to demonstrate; they define for many what holds value in the world of safety.. The board is composed of a small cadre of safety personnel, some academics and some who hold leadership positions on the largest safety organizations in the U.S. (which strikes me as something as a conflict of interest) and still others who sell safety products or solutions. So what’s the problem? CEUs..
Most, if not all, require the people holding these certificates to get more education yearly. This makes sense in some occupations, for example teaching. Teachers have to obtain CEUs to keep their teaching certifications. You may not realize it, but science, history, and other courses can change a lot as new discoveries are made. We don’t want teachers who received their certifications 45 years ago and have not kept up with advances in education.
None of that matters, and I don’t give a hoot about whether someone has letters after his or her name. I have advised several young safety personnel to get certified just to make themselves more marketable, I have advised others not to pursue said certifications because they have distinguished themselves with a storied career full of achievements.
So what am I wound up about? Safety personnel have gotten so engrossed and obsessed with getting Continuing Education Units that they have completely lost track of the intent, which, at the most superficial glance, is to keep up with advances in the field.
Let’s examine the great advancements in the field of safety? Heinrich’s Half-witted Pyramid? Behavior Based Safety (which is just a rehash of the aforementioned pyramid), I don’t think there has been a truly significant advancement in safety since the introduction of the Hierarchy of Controls. So what in the ever living name of crap are we expecting safety professionals to learn? Maybe we should re-brand CEUs as Continuing Expense Units. Think about it, it’s accurate—the conferences you go to and pay (or have your employers pay) to attend cost money. This is just another meaningless requirement that forces people to jump through hoops to retain a certification that they have already fulfilled the requirements (arbitrary as they may be) and demonstrated through testing mastery of an arbitrary topic deemed by the few to be important to the many.
So what should be done? If you want a certification (especially those who don’t have a college degree in Industrial Hygiene, Worker Safety, Organizational design or with limited work experience) get one, but if you have a resume rife with accomplishments that demonstrate true application level knowledge of important elements in safety I say, SCREW renewing your certification. Spend your money learning things that are useful to YOU.
Don’t waste your time sitting in a conference room listening to a speaker who is only doing what you are doing (credentialing as its known on the speaker circuit). As much as the certifying bodies and professional organizations desperately want you to believe that you MUST keep that certification, give it up. We need to stop letting a handful of pompous cretins control this whole occupation. People bemoan the lack of professionalism in the field of worker safety well quit bitching and DO SOMETHING end this parasitic relationship between maintaining certifications that don’t mean anything to most people. If you are struggling with getting a job without one sure get the certification, but otherwise ask yourself why you feel the need to let a group of less than 20 people dictate what you should know and what has value. We have to throw of the yoke of the Safety Thought Police (trademark pending, get certified today!) and start acting like grown ups.
I am not advocating that you stop learning, nor am I advocating for you to stop trying to find innovative approaches to safety, but your certification is only as good as the body that conferred it and your CEUs are only as meaningful as the education that your receive—the tools and practical solutions you gain. I used to work in training I have a number of dubious certifications: I am reverend and shaman in the Universal Love Church of Michigan, Eastern Rite, Trenton Synod, Lake Erie Monarchs chapter, council of 1997 (I had a schism with the Universal Life Church of Modesto California) check out our Facebook page.
I am legally allowed to perform marriages (except in Florida because I am not a notary), affirmation of love ceremonies for those who cannot or wish to not marry legally (think marriage to a farm animal or a television set), damned people to hell for all eternity, baptize people, hear confessions (I can’t grant absolution but if you want to tell me your sins I will listen) but, and they were EMPHATIC about this, I cannot perform circumcisions. I made my own certificate. I am also a certified Grand Master Psychic (I know what your thinking, no really). Each of these are printed to look very official and I might add are much more professional looking than the fourth-grade art project that is my State of Michigan Certificate of Training Design & Development (conferred by the University of Michigan; it’s a completely legit AND I don’t have to jump through the CEU hoops to retain it. Apparently U of M decided I was smart enough, or at the very least they were done with me.
For God’s sake people read a book. Speaking of books…
WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?
Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.
Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)
Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:
- What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
- Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
- What can I do to prevent workplace violence?
I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights. The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence. But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is peppered with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) You should buy it. Seriously I’m not telling you how to live your life but you should buy it. Okay, I AM telling you how to live your life, just buy the damned book.
Of course, my first book is still for sale, and is ALSO available in the eBook format you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly. All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine are gone, and you can basically only go back two years on my blog (eight year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is newly written material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.
As always, Read. Learn. Live. Share. Inspire