Stay In Your Lane

Photo by Domen Mirtič Dolenec from Pexels

by Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Contributor: 1% Safer,

In the world of Safety, but in other fields I would suppose, we get asked to do a lot that is not even remotely within our wheelhouse of skills.  We cheerfully accept whether to curry favor with our superiors, a desire to keep the peace, out of fear that if we admit that we don’t have the requisite skills to do the job we may find ourselves unceremoniously dismissed from our employment.

Think about it, once upon a time there was a Safety function.  It wasn’t really a department; its budget was set by legal or Human Resources.  It was more of a mascot than any sort of functioning activity.  The first people to staff the function were either injured on the job and had limitations so companies figured that it was logical to have the guy who got hurt talk to other people about how not to get hurt.  In other cases, the buffoons were given jobs in safety as political spoils—by both the Union and management. I remember one less than bright general manager getting his half-witted brother, a failed hairdresser, a job as the plant safety manager. I wouldn’t have taken this boob’s advice on safety if he told me not to run with scissors; he had the credibility of a magic eight ball without the charisma. I had no idea who my Union Safety Rep was, which speaks volumes.

Over the years the Unions championed safety and instituted training programs in safety regulations and compliance for the Safety Reps, and I’ve met a lot of good ones.  But some 40 years after OSHA became law, there still isn’t a universal standard for what specifically qualifies one to be a safety practitioner.

So here is the situation as of today: we have a dismally defined function that is asked to do more with less—fewer resources, fewer skills, less experience, less training, and less knowledge.  Somehow the Safety function became the organizational equivalent of a serial killer’s dumping ground. The engineers don’t (or more likely won’t) do Hazard Risk Analysis? No problem wrap it in a blanket and dump it in the shallow grave that is the Safety office. The accountant is whining about injury paperwork or case management? Dump it on safety.  Before long safety was doing everything from trending injury costs to planning the company picnic.  (You want a truly sick, out-of-control party, let Safety plan it.)

And then one day some genius decided to add “health” to the responsibilities of the already confused and adrift safety workforce.  Just as the Wizard granted the brainless Scarecrow a degree, someone decided that worker safety and worker health were the same things, or at very least required the same skill set.  And the world of Safety embraced it! More work to complain about! More reasons that we aren’t getting our work done.  But the organizational brain trusts didn’t stop there, no, why, the organization reasoned couldn’t Safety be given Environmental Compliance? I mean, they are protecting workers from getting hurt, or sick, why not have them protect the environment, and while we’re at it, let’s lay off some of those lazy Safety staff members because let’s face it, they never look all that busy. 

Then security was put under the Safety banner (not everywhere—no sense in giving those power-drunk safety managers any ACTUAL power.) And now employee wellness is rapidly being added to the Safety functions already overburdened sphere of responsibility.

As organizations, we give a function too much to do and blame them for not getting it done.  We give them responsibility for something they cannot be expected to know how to do and then we call them incompetent.

This is not an excuse to whine.  Too many people working in safety are too afraid or too proud to push back and say, “No, there are people who go to college and get masters degrees in employee wellness” or “I checked my resumé and it turns out I am neither a doctor nor a nurse—I know, I’m as surprised as you are.

Years ago I worked for a coked-out executive who would call me into his office about once a week with some delusional fantasy of a project that he wanted me to do.  I would calmly draw a circle on a piece of paper and say, “this is my plate. On it you will find all the things that you and others have asked me to do”. I would draw lines through the circle and tell him what the portion of the plate represented.  When I finished and the plate was overflowing I would look at him and ask which of these things he wanted me to remove from my plate so that I could accommodate his request. Invariably he would tell me to continue with my current work and he would find some sucker to execute his hair-brained scheme.

Safety practitioners need to stay in their lanes, that is, tell your boss what, given your skill set and workload you can reasonably be expected to complete.  I have become an expert in many things—it comes from hours and hours of researching topics for books and articles—but above all, I am the king shit expert of deflecting work.  I’m not lazy, but I have learned that a secret to success is to stay in my lane and to avoid things that I know with absolute surety that I will screw up, become overwhelmed, or take way too long to finish.

Today people working in safety purport to be experts in behavioral psychologists because they read a book by some BBS self-help cultist who couldn’t help himself at a buffet but was somehow able to convince them the mere act of reading the book they were somehow qualified to implement a largely unproven, theoretical, large-scale safety initiative that will look great on paper—lower reported injuries—but won’t lower the number of incidents that are impossible to conceal. The proponents of these incredibly irresponsible programs are puzzled as to why the number of non-life-threatening injuries is going down but the number of life-changing injuries and fatalities is either static or increasing. Their dubious conclusion? There must be different causes for these types of injuries! They will cling to junk science because they understand it and their bosses like it, plus you can have a safety BINGO! Dullards all of them.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, now we add the unqualified trying to change the cultures of organizations, despite not having a clue that there is no such thing as a “safety culture” rather it is a subculture. They speak to each other at conferences about “swiss cheese models” and “predictive analytics” with only the most superficial understanding of the underlying theory and no concept how to begin to even apply these theories in practice.

The safety field has become a function filled with jackasses of all trades and masters of none. We need to create safety specialists and deconstruct the safety generalist. There is no shame in not knowing everything. Far more educated occupations—doctors, lawyers, teachers, garbage collectors, and panhandlers just to mention a few—have long embraced specialization, so it is the height of hubris that safety folks refuse to do so.

Decades ago if you worked with electricity you were an electrician. Today the duties of an electrician have been splintered off into more than two dozen professions that I can think of off the top of my head.  Instead of becoming the organizational equivalent of stone soup, Safety should take its cue from electricians.  A boiler can only contain so much pressure before it explodes.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published versus self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn post and no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

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.

#attitude, #attitudes-toward-safety, #behaviour-based-safety, #culture-change, #phil-la-duke, #safety, #safety-culture, #worker-safety

The Universality Bias

Photo by Alex Andrews from Pexels

Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Contributor: 1% Safer,

Like any good Safety guy I am particularly adept at creating theoretical concepts of little value or practical application; it’s what we do.  So this week I would like to talk about yet another theoretical concept that I have encountered since I started writing professionally many, many years ago. I call this phenomenon the Universality Bias.  Zachery Shore explored cognitive biases (things we believe that prevent us from seeing things as they really are) in his book Blunders. Shore asserted multiple biases that predispose people to making mistakes by ignoring the fact in favor or belief the book is worth more than a read; it’s worth reading and contemplating it with an open mind.

Recently, I decided to write—after much soul searching and internal debate—an article for Thrive Global called “What Does It Mean To Be White In America?”. I know many people who read my work think I am a radical anarchist leftist, while others think I am an arch conservative grouch who hates everything—a screaming malcontent who hates anything new or different.  The answer not only lies somewhere in between, but depends on the time of day and its proximity to my next meal; hey what can I say? I’m complex.

Throughout the years I grew accustomed to disgruntled readers who would try to shout me down because my assertions didn’t ring true to them.  I have come to realize that these people are suffering from a cognitive bias, the Universality Bias.  The Universality Bias works like this: you don’t believe something because it is alien to your experience,  In other words my assertion can’t be right because it is alien to your experience.  

I am fond of saying that there are three things that I don’t believe in: atheists, bi-sexuals, and umbrellas (clearly I suffer from the Universality Bias as I am none of these things.)  This puzzles people a) because they look for a pattern while ignoring the most obvious one (things in which Phil La Duke  does not believe) and b) because they BELIEVE in these things.  Even after I explain why I don’t believe in them (in order, because I have never met an atheist who didn’t pester me into trying to convince him or her that God does indeed exist (as Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbs put it, “well somebody is sure out to get me”). Also, bi-sexuals well come on! Choose a side already. And umbrellas are pointless—you still get wet with the only difference is with an umbrella you get wet while holding a (probably broken) piece of crap above your head.  

A close friend of mind is an evangelical atheist.  Every once in a while he will (usually after a beer or two) challenge me with: how can you believe in God? That’s just a fairy tale.  Finally, after hearing it once too often I said, “IT’S NOT MY JOB TO CONVINCE YOU THAT GOD EXISTS”. Obviously he suffers from the Universality Bias: because he has never felt the presence of God, God cannot exist.

Once I countered his argument by pointing out that he believes in all sorts of stupid shit that I don’t believe. “Like what?!” he demanded indignantly. “Australia” I calmly responded.  He was incredulous? How can you not believe in Australia?!?! He demanded. I told him that I had never been to Australia therefore I had no basis to believe it exists.  He could let it go. “But you’ve met people from Australia!” He demanded that I believe in Australia. No, I told him, all I could swear to is that I have met people who CLAIM to be from Australia. He countered with maps, and globes, and Rupert Murdoch and Fox and Kangaroos.  I knew it would enrage him but I couldn’t resist. I told him that for all I knew all of the examples he gave me could have been made up.  I acknowledged that I was able to believe in Australia even though I hadn’t experienced it myself.

Within and without the world of Safety our Universality Biases screw up our world view.  How many times have the members of the Cult Of Zero tried to prove that Zero Injuries is possible by claiming that they have achieved this in their workplaces? By that reasoning, 154 injuries is also possible because I know of a company that had exactly that number of injuries in one year or they averaged 154 injuries over 5 years.   This logic is akin to the waiter, when I ask what kind of soup do you have answers, “we have chili”. CHILI IS A FUCKING STEW NOT A SOUP! You may well also have a dead cat’s eye floating in  vanilla pudding but I didn’t ask what kind of pudding you had and I didn’t ask about your fucking STEW. I grant you that it is a small point but it is a point that I cling to as I am a small, petty, angry little troll of a man,

Some readers and attendees of my speeches genuinely HATE that I reference personal anecdotes to illustrate a point.  They have openly state that “just because something happened to you doesn’t prove it exists.” That is a cowardly way (although probably the smart way) to call me either a liar or just plain crazy.  I am careful not to make sweeping generalizations where I claim that because something happened to me, or because I believe in something that is true for everyone. But that is the claim of those suffering from the Universality Bias. They think that I am speaking for all of mankind when I am clearly not.

Recently I had a clogged pore in my ear that became infected.  The infection spread to my neck and manifested in a burning sensation that radiated out from my ear into my neck and down my back.  I went to the doctor and told him that I think I had pulled my neck (my ear really hadn’t started to hurt until the clogged pore was lanced and then the pain was excruciating.  If you suffer from the Universality Bias you would argue that it was a pimple and not a clogged pore or maybe that it wasn’t a single ailment but two that coincidentally happened at the same time, you might even claim that it didn’t hurt.  Some people (do I really have to say, not every man, woman, child, and sundry mammals every time I assert something?) because of insecurity, the fragility of their conviction or faith, are so defensive of their world view that they cannot accept the merest possibility that something outside their life experience can exist. They will ignore the facts in favor of impossibility because they have not experienced or are afraid to believe these seemingly contradictory facts.  These are the sick bastards who slurp down chili and call it soup; they are insane.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

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.

Safety Soothsayers: Should They Be Burned As Witches?

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

By Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands
Contributor: 1% Safer,

The Spirit pointed from the grave to him, and back again. “No, Spirit! Oh, no, no!” The finger was still there. “Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at his robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse! Why show me this, if I am past all hope!” For the first time the hand appeared to shake.—Ebenezer Scrooge to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,

“A Christmas Carol” Charles Dickens.

Yesterday I was listening to the radio.  I tuned in in the middle of the show and someone was telling a story that I really couldn’t understand in anything more than the gist of it. My soon to be wife asked if I minded if I turned off the radio, but I said “no”; it was too late, I was hooked.  The part of the story that intrigued me was a discussion with a statistician about the probability of an event taking place at the same instant that a man was passing by in his car multiple times. What most of us would call a coincidence, or even ascribe a more metaphysical or even supernatural explanation. The statistician calculated the odds of this event—sorry, I missed the part where they explained the actual event; something about a guy on a bike overtaking the car as it was stopped for some reason.  None of that mattered to me as much as the explanation as to why this presumably oddball event kept happening to the driver of the stopped car.

The statistician said that to calculate the odds of a given event happening at a given time and place we have to consider all the other things that are going on—potentially hundreds of thousands of variables—and compare them to the frequency with which the “mysterious” event happened.  I was shocked to learn (after listening to a mathematical explanation that sounded to me like someone playing the trombone through a tube while standing in a tunnel) that the odds against this seemingly odd event weren’t astronomical rather the event happened approximately 30% of the time.

He went on to explain that in many cases the driver simply failed to notice that the event was happening (he was distracted, daydreaming, or simply looking in another direction. This got me thinking about the absurdity of predicting injuries and how much we miss simply because we haven’t considered all the possible outcomes and focus exclusively on causation.

We men and women of science, we self-proclaimed safety “professionals” have become obsessed with foretelling the future.  We pour over data that we have collected, pepper it with assumptions and disregard any and all facts that don’t fit what we want to see. In short, we fall far short of considering all (or most, or many, or  often SOME cases) the astonishing number of other factors that may have played a role.

This topic has fascinated me for some time.  My fiancé likes to watch shows about the paranormal (she says it’s because they go to cool places and travel the world over, but I suspect she likes a good old fashioned ghost story.) For my part I make the show unwatchable by blurting out  PARANORMAL! anytime literally anything happens, including during the commercials.  It’s not that I don’t believe in the paranormal, it’s just that—much like safety—the people involved in the show default to the least plausible explanation. 

Take crop circles.  For a decade and a half the paraphysicaligists and kooks (the Venn diagram of these two groups looks like a two dimensional drawing of a doughnut) believed that crop circles were created by extraterrestrial travellers. Their proof? They couldn’t explain how it was done (they never seemed to ask why it was done). I pictured the greatest scientific minds in Alpha Centauri arguing over whether or not to travel across the galaxy to make fancy patterns in wheat. “I’m telling you we waited too long to get in on the rectal probes and now it’s too late! Crop circles are the thing of the future! It was eventually discovered that two Scottish men, while drunk, started doing these as a prank.  They even showed the media the makeshift device that they fashioned out of barrel staves.  They even demonstrated how they made the circles and then walked away without leaving footprints. When confronted with this irrefutable proof that two drunk (too drunk? Either applies) Scotts were responsible, many in the kook community countered that these gentlemen could only account for ⅓ of the crop circles.  It never occurred to these water heads that two drunk Frenchmen, or Brazilians, or whoever might have mimicked the trick—the hardest part was coming up with the idea and actually making the crop circles while drunk, nauseated, and beset with an urgent need to urinate.  No. The idea of drunken extraterrestrials was just too intriguing to be ignored.

And so it is with Safety.  We too often fixate on predicting injuries and look for patterns in the data that just aren’t there. We are like children putting on lab coats, trotting out the chemistry sets (which now come with chemicals that aren’t the least bit interesting.  When I was a kid chemistry sets came with Uranium 235 (Plutonium if you went the extra $5 bucks but my parents never would) but now you’re lucky if you can find one that comes with baking soda and vinegar) and pretending to be scientists.

We don’t have enough data to make meaningful statistical inferences, but that doesn’t stop us from seeing patterns.  We misattribute correlation with cause (causefusion as Zachery Shore describes the cognitive blinds in which we mistake correlation with cause in his book Blunder.)

We make predictions that are simply uneducated guesses and if they come true we slap each other on the back and hail fellows well met.  If our predictions don’t come true we simply tell everyone that we need to wait—that as sure as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow or prediction will come true. We routinely ignore Ockham’s razor.  Ockham’s razor doesn’t mean what many people think (that is, that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one) rather it means that when offering a hypothesis or drawing a conclusion, one should choose the option with the fewest unknown variables. Ockham’s (the name is spelled a couple of different ways so I chose the most complicated just to contradict myself) razor should be the cardinal rule of safety. Instead too often we (as they say in medical school) see hoof prints and look for zebras.

So why are so many in safety in the field of Safety not only fascinated by the idea that all injuries can be predicted? Because it makes us look and feel smart when we misapply science and by sheer luck guess correctly. Identifying hazards that have a high probability of causing an injury and applying a high level control (engineering controls or above) and reducing the duration of exposure and probability of  both interaction and injury is a far better and more effective use of our time, but it just isn’t sexy, We can’t prove that sparks falling on a pile of sawdust will cause the mill to burn down so we get no credit.  Heroes only become heroes when someone is about to die and doesn’t; that’s why we call firefighters heroes but don’t even have a name for the people who design and install sprinkler systems and smoke detectors.  Who cares if we prevented someone from dying or suffering a life threatening injury if they eliminated the threat altogether? 

Too often in the minds of executives, the lack of injuries doesn’t mean the Safety Department is doing a good job, rather they wonder if the Safety Department is overstaffed, or even necessary at all. The kick in the pants is that they may well be right, the Safety Department might have gotten lucky.  That’s where standard progression and logarithmic progression comes into play.  With enough safety data one can statistically predict (and one Excel can do these progressions with a couple of keystrokes and no knowledge of statistics) how things are likely to progress if no changes to how business is conducted are made (standard progression) and how much of a difference a change has made (logarithmic progression). Of course you will have to filter out a lot of statistical noise (changes to the system that have nothing to do with the Safety Department) but if you can do that you can compare the logarithmic progression to the standard progression and demonstrate to the execs (in charts—executives LOVE charts) the positive or negative (so be careful) outcomes of your efforts.  In many cases you can actually quantify your results in terms of actual money wasted or saved.

So instead of trying to predict the next fatality, why not get off your ass and walk  through your workplace. In my experience a simple walk through is better than a dozen crystal balls (INSERT LUDE COMMENT HERE).

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

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.

Requiem For A Stranger

Phil La Duke 

Author: I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Contributor: 1% Safer,

“After a short struggle with cancer, and with his wife by his side, Alan David Quilley peacefully passed away at home, at 67 years old on April 24, 2021.”

Despite an on-line connection for more than a decade, I never really KNEW Alan Quilley. Sure we sparred, we argued, we provoked each other, and even supported each other, but saying I knew him is like saying I knew John Lennon, or Tom Waits or John Steinbeck (though I never corresponded privately with them as I had with Alan.)  I missed Alan on line right about the time he got sick.  I had no idea he was ill—Alan was one of those people full of life that the possibility that he might be terminally ill never even occurred to me.  I passed it off as merely retreating from writing and contributing to LinkedIn with a combination of pandemic lethargy (you probably haven’t noticed but I haven’t written anywhere near what I have in the past) and the overall falloff of contributions to LinkedIn which becomes less and less a forum for professional discourse in favor of a venue for snake oil salesman schilling their crap, or worse water-headed, puke bags who post “inspirational” messages better suited for a poster in a New Age Book & Crystal store (Mercury may be in retrograde, but their heads are firmly in their anuses. Just a bit more of a rant, are these addle-brained shitbirds banned from Farcebook? Or do they just lack the manners and social acumen of a constipated feral hog?).

I learned of Alan’s death through another disenchanted stalwart champion of common sense, Dave Collins, who has spent more time than anyone has a right to expect devoted to worker safety.  Dave has been so embattled with those who would complicate safety with their intellectual drool that I expect to hear that he’s finally bagged it any day now.

 But back to Alan. Alan encouraged me to speak my mind and was a regular reader of my (this) blog.  We often disagreed, but always in a respectful way.  Alan was the kind of a person who is all too rare these days—a person who argues with facts and not speculation or opinion. Someone who could separate an attack on his position from a personal attack. He could bust my chops and I could bust his, but there was never any acrimony between us. When I wrote my first book and was looking for the best way to promote it, Alan offered me advice (self-publish) which I ignored, but it was still nice of him to 

Alan joins the patheon of great thinkers who were either taken too young or who retreated from the endless waves of stupidity that permeates the discussion threads.  People who spent their lives trying to bring reason and respectability to the Safety Function only to feel as if they were trying to address a crowd at Bedlam.  Too many of those who remain merely parrot idiots who walked out in the rain and think that they discovered wet.  The loss of so many of these great minds have left us dumber as a community.

So what is Alan’s legacy? He published books, but if he died a wealthy man it was not by selling books—trust me on that, it’s a money pit. Most of us who write books do it because we have something to say and think that it’s important enough that we want to share it with a wider audience.  Writing a book is putting yourself out there and opening yourself up to everything from disdain and ridicule to deranged fans and death threats, so why do it? “Unless someone hates you for saying what you’ve said you haven’t really said anything at all”, Alan once wrote to me in response to some BBS blowhard’s attack on me.  It was a kindness given when I most needed it.

If you want some insight about Alan, ubt are too cheap to buy his books, do a Google search on images of him.  You will see a man who genuinely loved what he did, seemingly was born with grey hair and a beard, and had an awful lot to say.  I chose the picture above because it captures Alan as I always saw him—confident with a mischievous glint in his eye.

I would say more about Alan but I won’t unlike so many people who die because they lived too long not because they lived too hard (the way, I’m sure many of you will agree, I am almost certainly going to make the great departure). For most people death is more the end of a good run; they have contributed all they were likely to and given more life they would likely just be repeating themselves. Sure we may miss them, but as far as being able to continue making great contributions…well we can pretend.  With Alan, however, I think had he not become ill he would have continued making outstanding contributions to the field of Safety, but who knows?

As I write this, I am haunted by a line from the movie (though not the book on which it is based) when one of the villains Delroy Lindo as Bo Catlett gives a hard look at the hero, John Travolta before he became a department store manikin as Chili Palmer, and says defiantly, and maybe a little hurt, “You don’t know me; you just think you do.” As so it was with Alan and I. I didn’t know him, but I sure wish I had.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

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. More recently lone gunman attacks are so prevalent that it’s tough to keep track of them. 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.

#alan-quilley, #mass-shootings, #phil-la-duke, #workplace-violence, #workplace-violence-prevention

Earning Aint Learning

PHOTO BY ANDREA PIACQUADIO FROM PEXELS

 “…they think deep thoughts — and with no more brains than you have. But! They have one thing you haven’t got! A diploma! Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universita Committeeatum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th.D.”

—the Great And Powerful Oz to the Scarecrow

Phil La Duke 

Author: 

I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands

Safety training sucks.  That’s right I’m coming out swinging.  In 2006, I wrote What’s Wrong With Safety Training And How To Fix It.  The story grew out of my employer’s insistence that I write about safety.  We put it on our website where it was purloined by Fabricating & Metalworking magazine.  The editor contacted me after it was published (under my by-line) and since most magazines don’t pay much (if anything) for stories and the primary goal of most contributors is to boost the public perspective of the author as an expert, to attract groupies, and to go on Oprah I wasn’t angry truth is I kind of got a kick out of seeing my name in print.

I have said that this was my first published article, but it was, in fact, not the case.  I wrote for a small newspaper for a couple of years when I was also working the night shift at Taco Plaza, a fast food chain that predated Taco Bell but was so forgettable that it doesn’t even make the top 40 failed fast food restaurants and in between taught a course in board games on Saturdays for Flat Rock Schools  Continuing Education Department.

But back to the subject at hand.  I earned my degree in adult education and spent a solid 30 years developing courses designed around the adult learner’s learning preferences and styles.  My brief stint in continuing education taught me this: teaching children is completely different than teaching adults.  There are mouth breathing droolers out there who will argue this point but then mouth breathing droolers will argue just about any asinine point so why would this be any different?  

This won’t be a post about andragogy (look it up) but there is something worth mentioning that speaks to a big problem in the world of training.  First let me address those of you who John Lennon might describe as “uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites” who bristle at the term “training” I have had to stifle the intense, primal urge to throat punch the many people working in what’s now euphemistically called “talent development” who correct me when I use the term “training” with, “you train dogs, you educate people”.  I always respond with, “Oh really, so you would be okay with your fifth grade daughter getting both sex education AND sex training?”  I wasn’t taught not to drag things down to gutter, I was taught that the gutter is the best place to win an argument with a waterhead who is desperate to stay clean and not offend anyone.  But what is really important to remember is the difference between training and education is training is teaching someone how to DO something and education is teaching someone ABOUT something.

In my experience earning an OSHA certification, or CEU credits to maintain an arbitrary credential, or the least impressive “participation certificates” (and we whine about kids needing a participation trophy for everything) is worthless.  For the record I have never won a trophy for anything.  The closest I came was when I won a ribbon for perfect attendance (shit I need to put that on my resumé) because my mom wouldn’t let me stay home from school—she was no dummy, she paid my tuition and it was in her mind money well spent for making me the nuns’ problem 180 days a year.  Talk about a pathetic award! I got recognized for just showing up. If anyone deserved the award it was the nuns—I was an irascible, ill-behaved child who hated school and barely tolerated nuns.

The other ribbon I received was for citizenship. That was the year I got the measles, mumps, and chicken pox all within three months of each other. It’s tough to act up when you aren’t there.  They actually considered double promoting me (sort of an anti-social promotion) AND failing me at the same time because I had not attended (I sure as shit didn’t miss it) enough classes.  In the end they figured it all balanced out and passed me to the next sap who was so sure that she could be the one to make me straighten up and fly right, poor stupid bastards.

Alright, where was I.  Oh yes, OSHA training sucks.  Let me lay down some rules of andragogy (in no particular order):

  1. An Adult needs to know What’s In It For Me (WIFM).  When I am sitting in your class I need to know what value there is to be had in successfully completing the class; what will I learn that I will value? What knowledge will you impart that I can use outside this course? If you don’t have convincing answers to that question it’s game over. From that point on you will sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  Oh and guess what? Teaching me crap I already know just wastes my time and yours.  What’s more is there is scarce little that I as Joe Employee need to know in this regulatory self-soothing.  Just tell me where I can look up the information and shut up.
  2. An adult needs to believe you have the expertise or standing to teach me something on the subject.  In highschool I had sex with Sister Judy…well not really, although as close to actual sex as either of us had likely come at that intersection of our lives.  Sister Judith taught the class Sex and Human Relationships (apparently to distinguish it from a “how-to” course in bestiality).  Every day I would deliberately arrive at the class that followed 10–15 minutes late and loudly proclaim, “I’m sorry I’m late I was having sex with Sister Judy.” I didn’t get any funnier when I repeated it, but I delighted in saying it every day. At age 15 I didn’t (and still don’t) believe that a nun had much to teach me about making the beast with two backs.  Much to my dismay, the text was NOT the Kamasutra but some lame textbook with creepy looking people from various races. I remember they looked like they were in some cult of celibacy—for the record the absolute WORST cult to join and that includes the People’s Temple (hell, at least they got free Kool-aid). Now I ask you, which class on sex has more credibility: one taught by a nun using a weird celibacy cult text book, or Hugh Hefner teaching from the Kamasutra? Well at least now when a woman tells me that my sexual performance was less than satisfactory I have an excuse.  So in short, you can’t learn from someone you don’t believe they know what they are talking about.
  3. Adults want to draw on their and other adults’ life experiences to teach and learn.  There is a cutesy saying in training (for the record training is the career equivalent of a kitten hanging from a rope with the caption “hang in there” below it—trainers love cute and saccharine. The whole profession is like Mr. Rogers on too much Prozac. I had to get out while I still had an edge.) “Don’t be a sage on the stage, but a guide on the side.” As goofy as it sounds, this is the way training works.  The word “facilitator” gets bandied about  when we talk about training, but I can’t fault people for that.  To facilitate is to make things easier, and that’s what good trainers should do. Adults will learn best through self-realization that helps them to anchor the new concept with something from their experience.  I use a lot of my own personal experiences in my writing and my speaking.  The “I’m just here to earn my certificate and get the hell as far from you as I Possibly can” crowd hates this.  They don’t want to learn, they want to earn a participation trophy.
  4. Adults call the shots.  In my brief stint teaching children (mainly to light fires and to curse) I learned that if you turn your back on that pack of yowling demons they will come at you like rabid wolves.  In the classroom you have to assert dominance and maintain it (but don’t dry hump their legs—while effective, it is now gone the way of playing dodgeball—no one can ever give you a satisfactory reason why you can’t do it, you just CAN’T). When teaching adults they have the power.  They can physically and mentally leave the classroom and there isn’t anything you can do about it.  Adults will challenge you, threaten you, or leave nasty comments (did I tell you about the dumbass who complained that I wore a hat during one of my speeches? Guess what? The hat stays on!) You need to win over your audience and keep them engaged. And for the love of all that is holy don’t embarrass or humiliate an adult learner or the whole audience will turn against you. This is an issue I have with on-line learning or the horribly named “webinars”.  What is the first thing they do in webinars? Tell you to shut up.  “Okay we are recording this so I need everyone to mute his or her microphone.” That sure sounds like shut up to me, but that isn’t enough is it? They follow up with, save all your questions until the end of the session.  Whenever I attend a webinar I find myself wondering if this is about me or about them?  I don’t think I have ever made it through a single complete webinar.
  5. Adults resent being forced to “learn” something they already know.  Years ago I led the training department for a global, tier-one automotive supplier.  I wrote the rules so they were easy for me to follow.  Every course had a pre-test and a posttest.  The purpose of the pretest was to ascertain how much of the topic the people already knew and the posttest was to measure the extent that people learned from the class.  I would BEG people to test out—make an appointment and take the posttest.  If the person was able to score 90% or higher they received credit for having successfully completed the course. If not they really didn’t lose anything and had a pretty fair idea of what would be areas to which they should pay particular attention.  Few people even tried—they liked going to class because it was interactive, a chance to have targeted discussions with their peers, and there was always free food.

I’d like to think that there is a lot more to it than this—I mean I did put in the college and the University of Michigan isn’t cheap—but so many regulatory required classes miss these five basic points I think this is enough.  

I think I would like to close with the question: If training is more about earning a certificate to prove you know ABOUT something than it is about mastering the skills to DO something of value than what is the point of it all?

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

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.

#ceu, #learning, #osha, #safety-training

It’s Your Own Damned Fault

It’s Your Own Damn Fault

Phil La Duke 

Dear Readers

This is a first for me. Most of you who read me regularly know that I write stream of consciousness-still and often meander from my point never to come back to it. Most of you have come to accept it as just part of my writing. But today a reader, Gary Jones, made some comments that I would very much like to address. No I am not removing anything, Mr. Jones didn’t ask for that. Instead, he politely asked that I clarify (and finish) several thoughts. So thank you Gary, my edits follow in red:

Author: 

I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention

I started writing a blog post about the importance of empathy among safety practitioners but after what seemed like an eternity I gave up. I just don’t see empathy as the strong suit among people working in safety—people range from the case manager safety manager who sees his or her job as proving that whatever the injury it isn’t the company’s fault, to the safety supervisor who sighs when he or she gets the report of an injury. I myself, throughout my storied career, have been injured on the job many times—although I admit that I rarely report injuries (I’ve written articles about why people don’t report their injuries and in fact a book that most of you will never read on the subject, Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands.) But I will say this: whenever I have been injured it I almost always blame myself, and certainly I played a roll but if you do an injury analysis and find that my screw up is to blame you need to get out of safety. The average safety guy (this is a general neutral term, look it up) has the capacity for compassion and empathy as a serial killer with asperger’s syndrome. Doubt me? what is the first question you get asked after you get injured? Typically, you get asked, “what happened?” Not how do you feel about what happened, what do you think made you make the decisions you made, or even are you feeling okay. Most people are embarrassed about being injured, because they honestly believe it’s their own fault. And you know what? sometimes it is, but I have never once taken an ounce of solace in the knowledge that my suffering was brought on by my own actions. So I scrapped that and wrote the following instead:


This morning, while cooking my egg white veggie omelette with Detroit sausage cut up into it (what can I say? I’m complex) I burned my left hand not once, not twice, but three times in the course of the twenty minutes or so that I was cooking my breakfast, 

I should point out that I eat this breakfast darned near every day and cook it the same way, so what was so different about today? Not much actually, but I think it demonstrates how difficult it is to break the habits associated with rote tasks.  I cook the same breakfast virtually every day—although I occasionally mix it up by making stone ground oats with Detroit sausage cut up in it, but that is infrequently and usually because I’m out of egg whites—the same routine, day in and day out.

I don’t have to do a lot of thinking at 5:00 a.m. and it’s a good thing. I turn on a taped rerun of “Maverick” (I tape it because I hate that commercial where a drunk Joe Namath schills “the benefits that YOU deserve to ole people who should have done us all a favor and shuffled this mortal coil long ago, starting with Joe Namath himself; seriously when is he going to die?) and complete the same workout every day: 30 minutes on the elliptical, push-ups, the tower power, and weights.

When all this is done I cook breakfast, all pretty mundane and some of you are probably wondering where this story is going. So…today, I grabbed a small pan that my fiancé bought me as a Christmas gift.  It’s a great pan and perfect for making omelettes with one exception: the handle is metal and uninsulated.  Now to be clear, I worked as a cook in restaurants for over ten years and know my way around the kitchen, And yet I burned the same hand three times because I grabbed the hot handle without thinking. Nothing more, nothing less.

It wasn’t caused by any of “the four states: rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency” or any of the other horseshit that SafeStart sells for profit, or for that matter any of the other snake oil sales people eager to make a buck by selling a system that blames the worker.  

Let’s look at these one at a time.

  • Rushing.  Years of experience have taught me that unless you want to get sick you can’t rush the cooking process.  I wasn’t in any hurry, when cooking food each item requires a certain amount of time to cook, no more and no less. But let’s assume I was rushing; so what? Does rushing cause or contribute to injuries? I worked an assembly line at one of the Big Three (now sorta big 2½) where my job was to complete 12 separate tasks in 55 seconds) if that sounds easy you’re a fool.  It was tough enough when we were working in process, but we had to routinely have to call for a “line check” because managers would often secretly speed up the pace.  If you weren’t rushing you were behind, and if you were behind you made the operator’s next to you job harder. It would snowball and pretty soon you had 30 people pissed at you for messing with their routine.  Rushing was a cause of injuries; rushing was the norm.
  • Frustration. I have never in my long and storied career seen an injury that was caused because a worker was frustrated. “How’d you hurt your back Al?” “Ah you know I was frustrated so I jumped in front of a fork truck”. That doesn’t mean it CAN’t happen, unlike many of my detractors reading this, I don’t believe that my experience is universal and therefore somehow proof of my assertions, but the fact that I have never seen a grizzly bear in my backyard leads me to believe that said ursines are not indigenous to my neighborhood. At any rate I didn’t burn myself three times this morning because I was frustrated.
    None of this should be construed as somehow implying that workers don’t get frustrated, but frustrated workers are more likely to lip off to the boss, miss work, or leave early.  I believe that frustration should be addressed as a behavior, mental health, or a morale issue, not a cause of injuries.
  • Fatigue. While fatigue is what I describe as a “performance inhibitor” I most certainly wasn’t fatigued when I burned myself.  In fact, I was energized from the workout and caffeine, I had a good night’s sleep and I will say for the record I wasn’t fatigued. This is not to say that fatigue doesn’t contribute to injuries but everyone from nurses to over the road truckers routinely are expected to “tough it out”. We seriously need to address fatigue, but to paraphrase Mark Twain, “everybody talks about (fatigue) but no one does anything about it.”
  • Complacency. While I may have been complacent initially (having done the task so many times before) I would have to say that after the first incredibly painful burn to my palm and fingers any feelings of complacency (where I gradually came to view the task as less dangerous because of an absence of an injury or negative outcome) went out the window. I mean, really, how stupid does a guy have to be to grab the hot pan a second AND a third time? No, while like so many of the others mentioned above, we can jump to the conclusion that this factor contributed to the first injury, it strains credulity that after a second and third painful burn I would not be complacent (it really, REALLY hurt).

While all of these factors can inhibit performance and increase the probability of an injury to assign causation in this case or in our workplaces is a facile argument. What’s more it’s a dangerous position to take because if we decide that one of these is THE cause then there isn’t much reason for looking for other contributors or causes because continuing to look for causes is not unlike looking for your car keys for 15 minutes after you found them—it just doesn’t make sense. But few injuries have a single line of causation, which is too bad because life would be so much easier if they did.

So what caused my injury? A small change in the process. I used a different pan, the pan had a metal handle and even though I have written a text book on thermodynamics and another on heat transfer, the fact the pan never occured to me as even a remote possibility. (I learned weeks later that the pans came with heat resistant handle covers, but since these were a Christmas gift from my would-be wife and she didn’t tell me this, I can only conclude that she enjoys seeing me in pain.) Should I have known better than to grab a metal handle with my bare hand the first time, yes of course. Does that knowledge transfer to conscious thought? Not always. Was the first burn my fault? maybe not, but the second and third time I most certainly knew it would be hot but I tried to reposition the pan anyway.  Why did I try to reposition the pan after I had already burned myself? Because the habit was far more powerful than the visceral searing pain of the burn and the smell of my own burning flesh wafting up to my nostrils. Habits are hard to break, and when the habit benefits us it keeps us alive, but when we change even the smallest detail of our routine our habit will often prevail, even when the habit is not in our best interest. Joel Barker in his wonderful (albeit dated) video series, dubbed this a paradigm. The term wasn’t new when Joel used it, but it was a little known scientific term that referred to the very real (and dangerous) phenomena where scientists will discount a discovery because it flies in the face of a long held reality. The newly observed condition cannot exist because it is impossible. Paradigm has come to mean opinion, which is a shame (don’t you hate how if people use a term incorrectly long enough it becomes correct—damn you Noah Webster choose a lane!) Paradigms are a real problem when we are doing incident investigation, because if we start with a preconceived notion and believe it fervently enough then it becomes reality and opens the door to recurrence.

Was the pan poorly designed? I would have to say yes, but I am going to continue to use it because I like it and I feel like Kwai Chang Caine when it burns me. Thanks again Gary.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

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.

#blame, #injury-reporting, #workplace-safety

If You See Incompetence At the Bottom, The Fault Lies At the Top

“(A)s you work your way up the food chain of a dysfunctional workplace and you will find gross incompetence at all levels. “

The truth
Photo by Vlad Bagacian courtesy of Pexels

Phil La Duke 
Author: 

I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands  and contributor to 1% Safer, 

I’m sitting in a hotel room in New Orleans.  Most people immediately tell me how lucky I am, but I go to work, get some carry out, and live in the hotel room.  I haven’t had maid service for ten days which means that the hotel room is approximately about as clean as the average hotel room was prior to the pandemic. The only thing worse than going to a city that sucks for work is going to a really REALLY fun city and not only having to work, but having to stay in—even on the weekend. I can’t really talk about what I’m doing or where exactly I am working, but I can assure you that I am not a hired killer. 

It’s not that I don’t have the temperament for wet work—put me in a room with a bunch of drunken revellers and I’m morally ready to kill at least four of them within 15 minute—it’s more that I think I would suck at it.  I watch enough “murder television” to know that they will still be finding my DNA 100 years from now, and that’s just in this increasingly squalid hotel room.  In a word I would be incompetent.

Those of you who have read my work more than occasionally understand the importance I place on competence—a workers physical and mental ability to safely do a task—but what about incompetence? Where does it come from, and more importantly, why does it persist?

Many refer to a culture where dysfunction is rampant as a “toxic culture”, and I have explored in some detail the causes and often tragic effects of a toxic culture in my second book  Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention and the four of you who bought it and read it understand how ignoring dysfunction can directly lead to a deadly workplace incident.  I won’t say that the alpha dog executives are complicit in these deaths (but I’m not saying they are innocent either).  I also made my case for competence in Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands  and even wrote my chapter of 1% Safer, on the topic.  So it’s fair to say I think it is both a crucial element in keeping workers safe and a largely ignored and poorly executed activity in safety, but that’s not what I want to talk about right now.

A great friend of mine started a new job.  She is maybe my opposite; she is a glass-is-half full, there is good in everyone, and if only the top executives knew the gross incompetence of so many of the people who work in her office knew the depth of the problem they would do something.

I disagree with her.  In my experience—and Lord knows I have worked in my fair share of toxic workplaces—as you work your way up the food chain of a dysfunctional workplace and you will find gross incompetence at all levels. 

Have you ever had deplorable customer service? Now remember this is a job that exists solely to troubleshoot problems and make the customer, if not happy, at least satisfied.  And yet if you have a problem with a first line worker’s poor performance and call the customer service line you are likely to reach a subcontinental employee of a customer service firm. Danny, will read to you from a script with such a thick accent that he might as well be speaking Esperanto. There is no consequence for the incompetent employee(s) not for Danny and not for the person who wronged you. This is tacit approval of poor performance.  If you can do a job so far below the standard that you are driving away customers and keep your job it is an endorsement of your excremental performance. If you really push your grievance you will be told that the person will be “coached’.  What bullshit.  Incompetent supervisors hide behind labor laws so we never see or hear about what was done to remedy the situation.  I know of a case where a worker was caught in the act of stealing from a retail company, not once, not twice, but THREE times before they even thought about firing him. This is incompetent supervisors, shielded by incompetent managers, shielded by incompetent directors, who are shielded by incompetent Vice Presidents, shielded by incompetent executives.

Companies like this become a beacon for the lazy, uneducated, and unemployable dolts who probably don’t even interview well, but are hired by an incompetent HR person, trained by an incompetent trainer, and it doesn’t take long before the incompetence spreads like a cancer. Employees with good work ethics leave to employers who value them and their good work pays off with positive consequences.  

Meanwhile, safety professionals stuck in the quagmire of dysfunction of the organization are expected to do a good job? I know plenty who try to succeed in this environment but ultimately they burn out and quit.  You can set your watch by it.

I wrote an article sometime ago, I think it was for “Entrepreneur” magazine but I don’t remember. The title was You Get What You Put Up With.  In it I talk about the line of causation of incompetence and it all starts at the top. When you—whether as a manager or a consumer—accept unsatisfactory performance you normalize and endorse it as acceptable; it is the act of a coward.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

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.

#competency

First, Do No Harm

“First, Do No Harm”

—The Hippocratic Oath
Doctor injecting person
Phil La Duke 
Author: 
I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands  and contributor to 1% Safer, 

Safety personnel aren’t typically doctors, so it may seem odd that I would start a blog with a well-known quote from the Hippocratic Oath. But I had a troubling exchange on LinkedIn with a guy who runs a CNC shop—he made assertions relative to wearing a mask that were flat out inaccurate.  The more I asked him about his qualifications the more the boob sounded off with more dreck about what China was doing, the nature of bacteria and viruses, etc.

For the record I am a COVID-19 Supervisor. I write and edit protocols for a large, global entertainment corporation.  I need to keep up on the most recent developments and spend much of my time reviewing government regulations and reading the latest in COVID research on the Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical websites, as well as international sites. I eat, breath, and cough COVID facts. Add to that that I sit on five Industrial Review Boards where I sit virtual shoulder to shoulder with virologists, epidemiologists, biologists, and other brilliant people. One of these boards is dedicated solely to COVID research. Two of the others also oversee COVID research.

The dullard in question made the point that  masks protect you from bacteria not viruses.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was once under this same misconception, but here is why: when the COVID outbreak started scientists believed it was an airborne illness, in other words they believed that the individual virus particles travel through the air.  If that were the case, then wearing a mask to protect to block viruses out of your lungs is like trying to keep mosquitos out of your house with chicken wire; it won’t work.  

But researchers really didn’t KNOW whether or not the virus was airborne or spread by travelling on water droplets that are exhaled (or coughed or sneezed) by infected people.  Once it became clear that the virus travelled on water droplets (which are far FAR times larger than a virus) masks were determined to be an effective way of greatly reducing the spread of the virus. Now we do know that masks do reduce the spread of the virus, but this isn’t about me, or masks, or COVID; it’s about the harm people do by  spreading stupidity.  If you get your news from Facebook and spread that news as if you read it in the Wall Street Journal I am talking about YOU.

When you share things without researching them you perpetuate stupidity, and when you do it in a public health crisis you could end up getting someone killed.  It’s not hard to find some crackpot conspiracy theory online, but that doesn’t make it true.  As is so often said these days, you can have your own opinion but you can’t your own facts. What’s more, you can’t cherry pick the facts that support your lunatic fringe ideas and ignore the vast storehouse of facts that dispute your beliefs.  I’m not here to tell you what to believe, well at least not this week, but if you want to believe that the moon landing was fake, that the CIA is trying to steel your thoughts, or whatever other stupid global conspiracy you want to believe put on your tinfoil hat and go huddle in your panic room. BUT STOP TRYING TO CONVINCE OTHERS OF THE FOOLISHNESS YOU BELIEVE. 

We’ve seen an undermining of science for two long.  Does science have all the answers? No. But at least it is working on finding answers.  Years ago, when my daughter was young I took her to the pediatrician to get vaccinated.  This was when the anti-vaxxers were just building up steam.  My doctor was really angry (and I wasn’t suggesting that my daughter not get vaccinated) and explained to me that a) he questioned the validity of the research that drew a correlation between vaccines and autism (the study was later discredited because the researcher admitted that he had faked the results) and b) if that study was to be believed that the chance of a child becoming autistic because of a vaccine was 1 in 300,000 but the chance of getting the measles (now this is according to him and this was some years ago) were about 1 in 30,000.  

He went on to give me a litany of facts about the measles. He told me percentages of people who had complications from the measles ranging from deafness, brain damage, and even death. He said, and I confirmed this on Healthline.com that 90% of people who get vaccinated against the measles don’t get it, while only 2% of people who don’t  get vaccinated don’t get the measles. (I’m assuming he meant if exposed.)

To promulgate misinformation just because it fits your worldview is beyond careless and unprofessional it is depraved indifference.  So if you aren’t a constitutional scholar, feel free to read the constitution, but don’t publish your opinions as fact (or worse yet publish your brain addled buddy that you’ve never met’s brain addled opinion). If you don’t have a background and solid, scientific information then don’t post hearsay and speculation because it aligns with your politics or world view.

Even though we aren’t in the business of saving people’s lives, we can at least not put those lives at risk by posting theory and conjecture.

Dear Readers:

I have been writing this blog since 2006 and have been very resistant to accepting advertising revenue for it.  Some of you may think that I’m stupid for doing so, but I just don’t think I can remain impartial on the topics I address if I am receiving  revenue from advertisers that are selling something with which I am philosophically or fundamentally against. 

It gets to be a drag writing post after post week after week especially for no compensation—people tend to see things that they get for free as having no value.  So if you enjoy this blog I hope you will consider buying one or more of my books.  I don’t make much on these books (the perils of being actually published verses self-published) but I gauge my relevance (rightly or wrongly) based on my book sales.  If you have already purchased one or more of my books, thank you.  You have my heartfelt gratitude and what you hopefully see as at least a book that was worth the purchase price.  But even you can help me if you are so inclined by writing a review of my book (even if you hated it) on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, or even in a LinkedIn Post.

And no, I won’t hold it against you if you just continue to read the blog and occasionally find the opportunity to think about what I’ve written,

Thanks,
Phil

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.

#covid-19, #first-do-no-harm, #ignorance, #phil-la-duke, #worker-health

Risk Versus Uncertainty

Photo by  Rainer Puster  on  Scopio

Phil La Duke 
Author: 
I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands  and contributor to 1% Safer, 

I get a lot of heat—most of it richly deserved—for my largely negative view of safety.  All I can say is two things: 1) if I point out the many flaws in the Safety Function readers flock to my blog if for no other reason than to hate me (someone they never met, but let’s face it we probably wouldn’t like each other) and, 2) If you want a well-thought-out and practical approach to safety than buy and read  Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands.   

 But in the spirit of the season, I am going to once again buck the trend and avoid the schlocky “New Year’s Resolutions For Safety” and leave that to the feel-good safety folks.  Today I want to talk about risk versus uncertainty.  But first some background. I was listening to an interview on the radio with a woman who wrote a book about planning for uncertainty.  I don’t remember the woman’s name or the book (which I had intended to buy), but I do remember how deeply and profoundly what she had to say about risk and uncertainty as it pertains to safety.

According to this nameless author, risk can be quantified and one can easily calculate the risks before making plans and contingency plans, but it is ludicrous to think that we can plan for uncertainty. I like the idea of writing a book about planning for something and then telling people it’s impossible;  Hell I would do it if I thought it would sell more of my books.

So what does this have to do with safety? A lot actually.  We mistake correlation with cause all the time—we use body maps, and area maps, and all sorts of misleading indicators.  Author Zachary Shore’s outstanding book Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions calls this cognitive bias “causefusion” and I highly recommend his book. In other words, we see a connection (or correlation) and ascribe significance to this connection where one does not exist.

We do much the same way with uncertainty, we tend to see risk instead of a gap information.  Take for Root Cause Analysis for example.  We typically take a couple of minutes to brainstorm possible causes (all the while looking for that single string of causation) usually under a preconceived notion of what probably happened (if I have seen this once I have seen it a hundred times) and decide that x was the cause.  Unfortunately, we usually act on the information we know (or worse yet suspect) and ignore the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know.

Some may be bristling at the idea that we can’t quantify risk.  If you are one of those people, I dare you to say that in front of an insurance actuary or a Las Vegas oddsmaker.  The insurance professional—knowing as he or she does that accurately assessing risk and probability is the cornerstone of the insurance business model (smokers are more likely to develop respiratory illnesses than nonsmokers and drivers with a lot of traffic violations are more likely to be involved in accidents than drivers with no violations—they make their bets and set their rates based on these correlations without mistaking them for cause and effect.  In fact, years ago I read a study that said that many really horrible drivers believe that because they have never been in an accident that they are actually good drivers, when in fact, their poor driving causes other accidents as other drivers careen out of the way as some 88-year-old man blows through a stop sign and causes them to make evasive maneuvers.

We also ignore uncertainty when we are doing Risk Assessments. Ironically, we often don’t do enough research to determine precisely the risk factors involved in performing a task so we tend to ignore the more remote and move on to the next task.

We need to do a lot more research on the risks of our industries, our work sites, and our individual tasks. We have to, in so much as it is possible to do so, drive out uncertainty so that we can accurately assess the risks.

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.

Anyway a big thank you to those of you who have bought my books and/or have reviewed them. I appreciate you.

#causefusion, #cognitive-bias, #phil-la-duke, #planning, #risk, #root-cause-analysis, #uncertainty, #worker-safety

Six Things Everyone Should Do In 2021

Phil La Duke
Author: 
I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety.
Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention
Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands  and contributor to 1% Safer, 

As 2020 draws to a close there are many looking forward to “getting back to normal” well, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see things as all that great BEFORE the pandemic. Political circuses around the globe, racial tensions, the mean-spiritedness and petty arguments on Social Media, income inequality, wage stagnation, and a steady loss of jobs to automation is not something I want to become “the new normal”. But even if I did want things to go back to the way they were, we can’t.  The Pandemic was our generations, Great Depression and our WWII, but instead of coming together we came apart at the seams.

I typically blog about safety, but today I am addressing workers and businesses of all disciplines, geographies, and stripes.  I have developed a list of six things that everyone should commit to in 2021 and beyond.  For good or for ill here they are:

  1. Think Globally Act Locally.  In my locale we have been given mixed messages: “stay home stay safe” and “support local small businesses.” This led to a monumental rise in on-line purchases and a surge in the demand for delivery services.  I ordered Christmas gifts in October that are still sitting at a distribution center less than five miles from my house because—despite knowing about this surge in business—the dolts in charge did nothing to prepare for this holiday surge.  I won’t buy from China or India anymore, ever, no matter the item or the price. This isn’t me being jingoistic or xenophobic or just plain bigoted.  There are a lot of good reasons for not purchasing from countries that routine have sold me ill-fitting, poorly made, or low quality that arrived late or incorrect, with the supplier demanding that I pay an exorbitant shipping fee to get a refund.

    I encourage everyone to not only go on the websites to see where the item you are purchasing ships from but also where it is manufactured. There is an increasing trend to have foriegn governments have warehouses in your country, but still manufacture and ship from their home countries. For example, my books that are sold on Amazon in Australia are actually printed and shipped from the UK.  It essentially prices them out of the Australian market. If you live in Australia DON’T BUY MY BOOKS. If you are in Australia and want to find a local printer and distributor contact me. I would rather lose sales than have people half a world away buy books from companies that are a different part of the world.  In the long run it will be cheaper and probably higher quality than paying someone outside your country to make the products you buy.
  1. Keep following COVID protocols.  I am not saying you should wear a mask after they are no longer required, but I am saying that washing your hands, not sneezing into people’s faces, not picking your nose (why don’t the people who issues these warnings leave out this filthy, germ-laden practice out of the warnings? It is a lot more commonplace than coughing in someone’s face), disinfect frequently (years ago I was speaking at a Mining Conference in Lima, Peru.  The hotel at which I stayed disinfected the elevator buttons once every ten minutes. I was impressed, and now when airlines and hotels brag about cleaning their respective jurisdictions I ask myself, “what in the actual Hell were they doing before?!?” and that goes double for restaurants! As my late father used to say before dinner, “scrub up!”  No one should have to be told to do this, but apparently we do. And while we are on the subject don’t go to work sick and employers stop trying to limit sick pay.  I used to work at a company where the supervisors would bellyache about the lack of sick days or an absentee policy.  If these mouthbreathers had actually READ the policy they would have known that the policy said:  a) “do not come to work ill” and b) “your supervisor can at his or her discretion require a doctor’s excuses for your absence.”  At one point I had an employee who would routinely get migraines  on Fridays and Mondays causing her to either leave early on Fridays and or come in late on Mondays.  I saw a pattern and was immediately angry.  But then I decided to take her at her word.  I did some research and told her the exact number of days/parts of days she had missed because of migraines.  I told her that the next time she had one I wanted her to see a doctor and provide me with an excuse.  I explained that I thought there might be an environmental cause that could affect other staff members.  She was miraculously healed and the problem was solved.  Despite having a company-wide absenteeism rate of .05 days (less than one hour per person) the do-nothing supervisors persisted and everyone was given five days of sick leave.  As you might have guessed the absenteeism rate sky-rocketed to just under 5 days per person.  So what was gained? Nothing, in fact, people would come to work ill more often and joke that they weren’t going to waste a sick day being sick.
  2. Follow the law, and don’t patronize businesses that don’t. In my city and State, a prominent restaurant chain owner has decided to disregard the Health Department restrictions placed on restaurants and is calling on other restaurants to do the same.  I don’t like the restrictions placed on bars and restaurants but I abide by them. When I hear about businesses, particularly bars and restaurants, flouting this particular law I wonder what other health codes they chose to ignore? Is the meat rancid? Is the refrigeration sufficient to keep the seafood safe to eat? Do they serve food that is past it’s expiration date? Those of us who work in worker safety see companies who deliberately put workers at risk simply to make an extra buck; think of the illegal shortcuts that your local restaurant  that ignore the obvious code violations. Read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair before you go to eat there. I don’t like speed limits or Stop signs but I obey the law nonetheless.
  3. Create a five-year plan. Whether it be a Pandemic or a war or some other catastrophe—personally or globally—the one thing we can be sure of is that we haven’t seen the last of major disruptions in our lives.  Many people lack sufficient savings to weather even the smallest storms. Individuals and businesses need to develop five- and ten-year plans that have built in contingencies for major disruptions.  Make a plan that assumes that there is a strong possibility that something could go wrong (generally you know the categories at least: illness, financial setbacks, etc.) and have a contingency plan. Oh and businesses, don’t expect loyalty from workers you continually ask for sacrifices like deferred raises, unpaid furloughs, or layoffs; if you had the sense that God gave geese you would have a war chest that gets you through the tough times.
  4. Hold people accountable.  We have policemen who aren’t enforcing laws they don’t like, but whine that people don’t support them when they get into trouble. We have delivery companies that can’t deliver their parcels in a timely manner. We have businesses who provide low quality and worse service but we blithely go on with our lives as if this is acceptable.  I am not saying you crucify someone for making a mistake, in fact, I live by the personal credo that you don’t judge a person or business by whether or not something goes wrong; it will.  You judge a person or business by how they react to what goes wrong.  And while we’re at it, we need to do a better job of taking people to task when they spread their paranoid, science-denying crap on Social Media.  My step mother died of COVID (it’s okay she was old and I was only a couple of weeks away from pushing a pillow over her face).  Some asshat on LinkedIn demanded that I prove that she died of COVID. I disregarded his complete insensitivity and told him to prove that she hadn’t.  He went on a rant about a global conspiracy to get people used to getting under the government’s thumb. He lied and people died.  I even have family members who denied the existence of COVID…until they contracted it. Then it was “poor me I was so careful”.  Demand a source for dubious information, or better yet find a reputable source that refutes it.  And when a person or business wrongs you, hang on like a terrier with a rat in its mouth. People and businesses treat you better when you demand it.
  5. Learn from this.  As I said, 2021 isn’t going to be like Dorothy emerging from her house into the color of Munchkinland. (I met an old woman who was in the original cast, but that’s for another story.) Disruptions, even catastrophic and tragic ones, can teach us valuable lessons.  One lesson that we should all consider is that most people have an insufficient safety net and we need to make serious reforms in many institutions (and business policies) to remedy the egregious flaws in our policies, organizational structure, and even governments in some cases.  2020 showed us the cracks in the veneer of our society let’s focus on learning from this and work together to fix things.

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.