by Phil La Duke
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business, Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence, and Blood In My Pocket is Blood On Your Hands
I work as a COVID Compliance Supervisor for a large entertainment conglomerate. When people hear this the conversation usually steers in one of two directions. Either people want an “insider’s view” of Hollywood film and television production, OR people want to rant about how COVID-19 is just a global hoax engineered by the Illuminati, Shriners, and Space Aliens. The sheer stupidity of some people is absolutely exhausting. Yes, I know, there are people out there who believe that the finest scientific minds of Alpha Centauri have traveled light years to come to Earth to create crop circles just to screw with our heads. I imagine the debate on AC going something like this: “listen, we waited way too long to get in on rectal probes, and we will be lucky to get a first look at the inner workings of a raccoon’s anus! If we don’t move on crop circles NOW the envelope will close!”) other dullards believe the world is flat, which I could get on board with if they meant flat as in tasteless…but they don’t.
But the blowback I have received from safety drones has really blown my hair back. One reader posted on a thread—interestingly a thread discussing the role that training had in safety—that (presumably because he saw my title) COVID is a global conspiracy whose purpose was to…I quit reading. This dumb-shit believes in global conspiracies but not basic (and I am talking high school biology level) science. I sit shoulder to virtual shoulder with some of the greatest scientific minds working today as a member of five Industrial Safety Review Boards. These boards oversee experiments involving Recombinant DNA, and now all but one includes at least some COVID-19 research, and one, in particular, is 100% devoted to studying the COVID-19 virus. By law or charter, each has to have at least two voting members that represent the interests of the community. I am one of the resident morons who ask dumb questions like, “if these mutated genes get out into the wild how many people will die horribly?” I joined my first board three years ago and I learn more in a single two-hour meeting than in a semester of college microbiology. I like it. It’s fascinating to be on the razor’s edge of scientific discovery. Unless you are one of the many pig-fuckers who believe that COVID isn’t real.
Before I get into the myths and sheer stupidity of not believing in COVID, or of thinking of it as just the flu, let me rant a bit about why we should tar and feather (I assume both are available from Amazon with Prime free delivery) the safety water heads who reject science in any form. If those of us working in safety don’t believe in science then what do we believe causes accidents? Magic? Ancient curses? An ancestor who spit on a witch? In a field where we struggle daily to be taken seriously, we can’t afford the marginally employed safety imbeciles to be given the same standing as the people who are looking for better, scientifically validated methods for lowering risk. The science deniers used to be laughable, akin to people who believe that mathematics was the work of a Chinese demon. We didn’t take them seriously, and yet now a considerable number have joined our ranks, and have driven people who know the value of scientific method from social media if not the field itself.
So back to COVID. I have several family members currently infected with the COVID virus and several others who have died from complications from the life-altering effects being infected and recovering had on them, so if you are tempted to ask me to prove it to you, I am more likely to prove that the repeated slamming of my fist into your head may not kill you or leave you blind, but you will wish to whatever sewer-spawned god to which you pray would have killed you. This I solemnly swear— one day you fuckers who write to me, or call me trying to intimidate me, or make me think you’re crazy are gonna push me to the point where I make Charles Manson look like Mr. Rogers on too high a dose of lithium; I shit you not. But until then let me dispel some of the dim-witted myths about COVID-19:
“It’s Just the Flu”
In the interest of full disclosure, when COVID came on the scene I was in the “it’s just the flu” camp. I was wrong…no it’s not. Covid is a contraction of CoronaVirus Disease in 2019. (Don’t get me started with why they felt the need to a) capitalize the “V” in CoronaVirus or b) add “disease” afterward; they just did. The “flu” is short for influenza. Influenza is a completely different virus and just like HIV and the common cold are also different viruses. One can be excused for confusing COVID-19 with influenza±are both contagious respiratory illnesses and neither have any highly effective treatments (doctors tend to treat symptoms and side effects—like bacterial pneumonia—rather than the disease itself. Despite the obvious similarities, there are significant differences. Let me break this down for all you Social Media Constitutional scholars turned budding armchair epidemiologists; COVID-19 is not “just the flu” in fact, it’s not the flu at all. Asking “what’s the difference?” is like asking the difference between being run over by a speeding car and being nudged by a mouth-breather with a shopping cart—both involve being struck by a vehicle, both vehicles have a human operating them, and both vehicles have wheels. So you are just being hit by a vehicle so you shouldn’t worry, right? But even if COVID was “just the flu” it wouldn’t be any joke. Experts estimate that over 65,000 people (that you probably don’t know) in the U.S. alone die from “just the flu” and those that survive it feels as if they barely escaped the grim reaper. Having “just the flu” sucks and it can lead to other life-limiting conditions as well.
Just as a side note, there is no such thing as “stomach flu” (although the term is widely used, influenza is a respiratory illness, not a gastrointestinal illness.) More accurately, a “stomach bug” is caused by a completely different and non-influenza virus and while it’s damn unpleasant it isn’t typically life-threatening. In many cases, what people describe as “stomach flu” is low-grade food poisoning. Wash your hands before you eat and you might want to choose a different restaurant.
So why worry about COVID? Well, I am not for worrying period, but on the other hand, I am a huge supporter of taking reasonable precautions to prevent myself from getting ill or being a selfish prick who blithely infects others with a potentially life-threatening illness. A lot of dimwits who feed on the fears of other dimwits compare COVID-19 to The Spanish Flu, I will address the fallacies one at a time later, but for now, let’s talk about how deadly the Spanish Flu was versus COVID. According to an article in “Smithsonian Magazine” Ten Myths About the 1918 Flu Pandemic The ‘greatest pandemic in history’ was 100 years ago – but many of us still get the basic facts wrong (which should be required reading for all the chowderheads who still want to perpetuate the crap they heard from their neighbor who read it on a dubious website written by a paranoid schizophrenic), The Spanish Flu killed about “25 million people in just the first six months” and ultimately killed between 50 and 100 million people. You have to admit that is a pretty impressive body count, particularly when you consider that there were less than 2 billion people on Earth at the time. Even so, experts in epidemiology now believe that contributors like close contact in the trenches of WWI, squalid living conditions in urban population centers, malnutrition, and general poor health of many of the people who died played major roles. In the same article mentioned above, scientists now believe that the treatment may have significantly increased the fatality rates—doctors were prescribing as much as 30 grams (not milligrams) of aspirin a day to patients (in case you’re wondering that is an order of magnitude above what is now considered the safe dosage). What is truly remarkable is how many people survived the illness but, unlike COVID-19, the flu has been around for a very, very long time and most of us have at least some immunity to it. No one is immune to COVID, some people are just fortunate not to get it and some get it without developing symptoms but still remain contagious.
CoronaViruses are nasty; typically originating in animals and jumping species. Contrary to what you may have heard, one need not eat or have carnal knowledge of an infected animal for the virus to infect you (but then again I am not recommending unprotected sex with animals either. I joke about this, but a fair amount of people actually believe that these diseases were the result of bestiality.)
So why do so many people dismiss COVID as “just the flu?” Because the symptoms are virtually identical so it is difficult for physicians to distinguish between the two, but it is important to remember that while influenza may not be a barrel of monkeys, COVID is far more likely to kill you or cause you life-limiting conditions, which leads me to my next point…
“A Lot Of The People Who They CLAIMED Died of COVID Really Died of Something Else”
In this case, people who make this claim may be right, but it falls into the “no shit” category. This statement is one of those things that people say that is technically correct but makes absolutely no difference; it’s like saying that the 911 terrorists didn’t kill anyone, the flames and the sudden stop after jumping off the roofs of the towers is what ACTUALLY killed them. It’s a semantic argument that only know-it-all blowhards make. According to the CDC, COVID can cause other health problems. “COVID-19 can affect your nose, throat, lungs (respiratory tract); cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease”. So the point is if you “survive” COVID, but you die because of something that was CAUSED by COVID does it make a meaningful difference? Don’t bother answering, it was a rhetorical question. It’s like me asking whether it makes a difference if your dog was killed after being run over by a red car or a blue car? It’s a stupid point to make and it certainly doesn’t justify ignoring safety protocols.
“COVID Is A Global Conspiracy”
For a conspiracy to work secrecy is absolutely essential. There is an old Sicilian proverb that says, “how can three people keep a secret? When two of them are dead.” So for you to believe that not only is COVID a conspiracy, it’s a GLOBAL conspiracy you would have to believe that hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are in on this big secret, but you were able to find out about it from your Facebook friend who failed the eighth grade three times somehow caught wind of it (probably from a dying journalist who confided in him alone) and shared it with you. I can’t tell you how often I have been told this, not just by the part-time nut (and full-time turd eater) mentioned above, but by many mentally unbalanced people who pass among us unnoticed. You can believe this is a global hoax; stupidity and gullibility is a basic, inalienable human right. Alternatively, you can believe that were it not for the internet this yahoo would be sending out 34 newsletters (26 of which were going to various government agents.) Personally, I don’t know three people I would trust with a secret let alone three hundred thousand or more.
“Masks Don’t Work/Mask Cause Carbon Dioxide Poisoning/They Can’t Make Me Wear A Mask”
There is actually something to the claim that masks don’t work, but probably not the way you think. Correctly wearing an appropriate mask can significantly lower the risk of spreading the virus, but yeah if you’re wearing a mask around your chin, leaving your nose exposed, removing it when you are talking, wearing it as a jockstrap, or wearing a mask that allows exhaled air to escape through gaps between the mask and your face—in short, if you are too stupid to wear a mask properly—then yes, you are correct, they won’t work.
But let’s back up a bit, masks were never intended to protect the wearer from getting COVID rather, it is intended to lower the risk of infected people (you can have the disease and not know it and be contagious before getting symptoms) and for this purpose, masks work well provided you are wearing a proper mask and wearing it properly. If you can breathe through a mask you can catch COVID through a mask.
COVID is transmitted on water droplets that we exhale either through conversation, coughing, sneezing, or singing (or any combination thereof). All viruses are tiny—smaller than dust, bacteria, and germs—much smaller than the gaps in a mask that allow you to inhale air. While it is true that there are some masks out there that have their own air supply they tend to be reserved for medical professionals. But this isn’t a binary Protects/Does Not Protect scenario. A mask will shorten the distance that your breath will travel particularly when sneezing or coughing. And since water droplets weigh more than air the infectious droplets relatively quickly to the ground.
The purpose of the mask isn’t to stop COVID entirely, rather the masks are designed to reduce the distance that the virus can travel and of course they are most effective when you keep at least six feet of distance between people who don’t live in your household. You should wear a mask because you may be contagious before showing symptoms or you may never develop symptoms and still carry the virus. Again, it shortens the distance it doesn’t erase it, so remember to stay at least 6 feet away from other people, especially me.
As for carbon dioxide poisoning, don’t be a dumbass. According to an article on the website Scienceing.com “After a human breathes in Earth’s air (roughly 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen), he or she exhales a mixture of compounds similar to the air inhaled: 78 percent nitrogen, 16 percent oxygen, 0.09 percent argon, and 4% percent carbon dioxide.“ So we effectively exhale 400% more oxygen than carbon dioxide. The only ones who believe that masks cause CO2 poisoning are the people donning plastic bags on their heads—I’m not denying they are oxygen deprived, I’m merely pointing out that it probably happened long before they were told they had to wear a mask. Use your head people, if breathing exhaled breath would cause carbon dioxide poisoning given a person mouth to mouth would not resuscitate them; it would KILL them.
“I have a Constitutional Right to refuse to wear a mask”
Finally, I was recently in a tire store getting a tire repaired (I wanted to be clear that I wasn’t just hanging around a tire store) when the manager told an employee to put on a mask. The employee balked and said he had a constitutional right not to wear a mask. The manager reminded him that he DIDN’T have a constitutional right to a job at the tire store so he could either put on a mask or find another job. But do you have a constitutional right not to wear a mask? No, according to the National Bar
Governments have the power to regulate in the name of safety. In a pandemic, state governments really are the key players…Under the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment and U.S. Supreme Court decisions over nearly 200 years, state governments have the primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions. The 10th Amendment, which gives states all powers not specifically given to the federal government, allows them the authority to take public health emergency actions, such as setting quarantines and business restrictions.” So while the federal government has limited powers to enact requirements to spread the control of diseases, the States actually have quite a LOT of power to require you to do whatever they deem necessary to protect the general population from diseases. Even if the government didn’t have a right to order you to wear a mask your employer certainly does, so quit bellyaching.
Back To Safety and COVID
There is a lesson in here for all safety professionals: if we make the consequences too scary (death or a horrible life-altering condition) people will either suspend belief or will refuse to come to work because it’s just too dangerous. As I write this, the State of Michigan has set two consecutive records for the number of new cases reported and for the number of deaths. This is real, and the people who deny that it is real are chickenshit, just as the guy bitching about wearing a harness while working at height—it’s the rule so suit up and shut up or go find another job.
What we can learn from COVID is this? let people know the seriousness of the situation without making it seem hopeless. We have to communicate the risks and the rules in a language that people understand and to do that we have to understand that language ourselves.
About My New Book
In a couple of weeks my latest book, Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands will be available for purchase. Why should you buy it? Well for starters I have been providing blog posts, articles, advice, and speeches on safety for free since 2006. That’s my choice, but it consumes time and resources I could be using to have a lot more fun. But beyond that, some of you seem to think I am a millionaire because I have three books published; I am not. I am the quintessential fool and his money, which doesn’t help. All of my book revenue funds more books, Even though I am published by an actual publisher, I pay the initial start-up costs to get the book from my computer to (hopefully your hands). These costs are not insubstantial—$100 an hour for an editor (which I finally broke down and paid for this book) even more an hour for a graphic artist to clean up the images and put the book into its final size, fees for getting the book an ISBN number, and the physical printing of the book (all told around $4,000) For this initial payment I get a substantially higher % of the royalties, but since I use that to pay my PR Manager $250 an hour to promote the book it’s fair to say that writing books is not a money machine. Oh and advertising, $50 bucks a month for Vertical Response to send out email blasts that less than 10% of you even open, $100 bucks a month for Shutterstock—absolutely overpriced in my opinion, and sundry books sent to book club organizers, libraries, and thieves who promise to either give the leadership of their book club with promises of hundreds of purchases likely to follow or to people like the leadership of ASSP who read both my books which I sent to them free of charge and hated the tone and lack of scholarly form so much that they didn’t even bother to return the books. Oh, and postage is an absolute bitch. So buy my books or don’t buy my books, but don’t think I’m getting rich off them. They are selling well, but I need to sell a lot more to stay ahead of the money pit.
WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?
Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets. Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.
Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)
Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:
What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
What can I do to prevent workplace violence?
If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble
I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights. The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence. But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is peppered with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) You should buy it.