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,
For more than two decades I have written this blog and railed against what I see as the greatest threat to worker safety—snake oil salesmen. For those unfamiliar with the term, a snake oil salesman was originally used to describe a fraud who traveled 19th century America selling potions that consisted of ingredients that ranged from the innocuous to the out-and-out lethal. The seller would claim that the exotic ingredients, for example, snake oil, would cure anything and everything that ails you. The snake oil salesmen were quick-talking swindlers who were long gone before anyone could hold them accountable for the damage they caused. By the time someone got sick, the snake oil salesman was off to the next town with the rubes lining up to be suckered.
I have encountered many a snake oil salesman in the world of Safety, from the ex-coworker who stole the intellectual property of my employer, swapped one word from the offering (even retaining the logo), and sold it as his own, to smug academics who wrote a book or two on how Behavior-Based Safety and blaming the injured was the way to a safer workplace, to the con artists who saw a speech on culture and rebranded themselves as cultural transformation architects. All made promises that they could not deliver, but hey, caveat emptor!
This week I received the following from a publicist trying to get me to write an article about a new shoe for healthcare workers. What follows is absolute, cut-and-paste truth, and it is terrifying that anyone—any person, company, or french poodle could ever present this as truth:
I won’t use the names of the person or company to abet the guilty. Please note the capricious boldface is all on her.
To: Phil La Duke
From: Unethical and clueless Public Relations Pukebag
Subject: New type of PPE: footwear protection that was needed even before the pandemic
Date: September 14, 10:02 a.m.
Healthcare workers around the US are have been waiting for a footwear solution to protect them from contracting diseases via their feet on the job: this was a danger to them even before the pandemic. The feet are the forgotten, disease entry-point.
Contaminated shoes transmit COVID-19 and many other diseases and infections–including HIV, Hepatitis B & C, syphilis, etc.–which result in illnesses and even fatal outcomes, for healthcare workers and their family members.
Consider this: After over 1 year in a pandemic, there has not been even 1 single provider of protective PPE footwear; but there is now.
Healthcare workers across the country and locally, and members of the National Association of Nurses and other nursing education foundations, are excited about (BRAND) and are wearing them.
(BRAND), is new PPE Footwear® that was created by (Name Drop), a former Hollywood luxury shoe designer who immediately pivoted from making A-list celebs shoes, after a family member of his almost died last year, from COVID-19.
Can I interest you in a conversation with (Founder) and nurses and doctors who are advocating for shoe PPE, about the issue of proper, head to toe COMPLETE healthcare worker protective gear?
When I challenged the efficacy of the claims that these shoes prevented people from contracting COVID-19 and/or syphilis the publicist sent me a follow-up email with a link to a study that essentially said that medical facilities floors were hotbeds of infectious bacteria (not for the record, viruses).
I worked in healthcare for several years and even wrote a course on infection control, so this is not a subject of which I am completely ignorant, so let’s apply our keen problem-solving skills and dissect this email, shall we?
- “Healthcare workers around the US are have been waiting for a footwear solution to protect them from contracting diseases via their feet on the job: this was a danger to them even before the pandemic. The feet are the forgotten, disease entry-point.” There have been footwear solutions that protect healthcare workers from contracting syphilis through foot contact for CENTURIES; they’re called shoes and healthcare employees are required to wear them in pretty much any hospital. Furthermore, in clean-room settings (intensive care, operating rooms, etc.) employees are often required to wear disposable booties over their shoes to further control the spread of infection.
This claim took me back to my high school days where I had a class called Sex and Human Relationships. The faculty always referred to the class as “Relationships” but the students dubbed it “Sex”. I would deliberately go to my next class late, burst in and say “Sorry I’m late, I was having sex with Sister Judith”. I did this at LEAST three times a week, and probably more. I still thought it was funny even after no one else did, but I continued doing it.
Only a nun can make a class on sex boring, but Sister Judith gave it her earnest best. One day I was talking about something completely off-topic (I want you to pause a moment and ponder the level of shear unadulterated boredom to which one has to sink to bore a healthy teenage boy with a conversation about sex) when an aggrivated Sister Judith, tired of talking over me, said, “Mr. LaDuke! True or false: you can get venereal disease from a door knob?” I smiled and slowly leaned back in my chair—I couldn’t believe my dumb luck at having been given the perfect straight line—and said, “well Sister…that depends entirely on what you’re doing with that door knob.” I was sent to the vice principal’s office to tell the simpering weasel in a bad suit and worse toupee my latest transgression. I started out by saying, “well I was in the middle of having sex with Sister Judith when…” just to make things worse. He stopped me and lectured me about something but his voice sounded like blah, blah, blah. I didn’t learn much in that class but I did learn that one cannot get a sexually transmitted disease without…well…having some form of sex. I am not in any position to lecture any of you on your prurient interests or sexual proclivities but let me just say this: if you are going to be touching the bottom of a healthcare worker’s dirty, dirty shoes in, with, or around your bathing suit parts, wear a condom.
- “Contaminated shoes transmit COVID-19 and many other diseases and infections–including HIV, Hepatitis B & C, syphilis, etc.–which result in illnesses and even fatal outcomes, for healthcare workers and their family members.” This is obviously a scare tactic cooked up to bolster the specious claims. For someone to contract COVID-19 from walking across a floor would require a person to cough virus laden water droplets and then have the healthcare worker walk through the puddle of mucus immediately remove his or her shoe and snort the bottom of it like a stockbroker snorting coke off an Vegas hooker’s ass. (Now THERE’s an untapped PPE market.) Even in this unlikely (I pray) scenario, the odds would be (according to a virologist who is on an oversight board with me) around 900,000 to 1. So I am not saying healthcare workers should engage in such practices (hey the odds are better of getting sick this way than the odds are of me winning a multi-state lottery but I still buy a ticket.)
I am equally incredulous about people catching HIV from foot to floor contact. The HIV virus is incredibly fragile outside the body and is transmitted through blood to blood contact, or a couple of other body fluids that I really don’t need to mention do I? Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t suddenly found religion or matured in anyway, but let’s just say when I say I am going to put my foot in someone’s ass: a) it’s just a figure of speech b) I most likely wouldn’t be doing it to a sick person, and C) I would definitely be wearing shoes (or more likely books because they would hurt more) when putting a foot in someone’s ass.
I won’t address Hepatitis B and C because I don’t know enough about the diseases to offer an informed opinion on the subject. I will however say that if a single person ever died—or even contracted—HIV, COVID-19, Hepatitis A–Z it would be the lead story of every news outlet in the world; color me sceptical.
- “Consider this: After over 1 year in a pandemic, there has not been even 1 single provider of protective PPE footwear; but there is now.” Okay, this is technically true but still a big fat lie. It is true that “there hasn’t been a SINGLE provider of protective footwear” but that’s because there are thousands. I did a google search and it returned a result of 853,000,000 in 1.04 seconds.
- “Healthcare workers across the country and locally, and members of the National Association of Nurses and other nursing education foundations, are excited about (BRAND) and are wearing them.” So what? Healthcare workers across the country and locally (um…local to where exactly?) are wearing Nike tee shirts, or baseball caps, or latex catsuits, what exactly does this prove. Also, if there is a “National Association of Nurses” (there are dozens of organizations that have some combination of those words in them) I couldn’t find it after an exhaustive web search (it’s probably one of those secret societies like the Masons—or the Mansons for that matter,)
- “(BRAND), is new PPE Footwear® that was created by (Name Drop), a former Hollywood luxury shoe designer who immediately pivoted from making A-list celebs shoes, after a family member of his almost died last year, from COVID-19.” How is footwear a registered trademark? And I don’t buy for a microsecond that so foo-foo luxury shoe designer from Hollywood was so moved because “a family member of his almost died…from COVID-19.” In my opinion, he was far more likely that his business was done and he moved vulture-like into a business niché that would return a fast buck. And there is NOTHING in the press release that would lead anyone to believe that he knows ANYTHING about making PPE or protective footwear. This is yet another case of someone solving a problem that nobody had. He didn’t find a need and fill it, rather, he invented a fake need and now is trying to sell his wares under false pretenses.
- “Can I interest you in a conversation with (Founder) and nurses and doctors who are advocating for shoe PPE, about the issue of proper, head to toe COMPLETE healthcare worker protective gear? Um…no, well not unless you want me to ream these people out for misleading people and coercing them into buying shoes that don’t really meet the OSHA standards for protective footwear. (no steel/composite toe or other appropriate protection). These shoes are coated with an “antimicrobial” coating. I suspect this is gobblety-gook since a microbe is microorganism too small to be seen with the naked eye and a virus is a submicroscopic organism that only reproduce inside the body of a living organism. Also, take notice that the publicist invites me to talk to nurses and doctors (not virologists) who are advocating for shoe PPE (a nonsense word combination I can’t believe anyone who knows anything about safety would refer to “shoe PPE”. What are we trying to protect shoes from? What’s next, glasses PPE? Hard Hat PPE?
Some people will dismiss me as an alarmist, or a crank, or just a jerk, but I am hard on snake oil salesmen—whether they promise to improve safety by blaming victims or through behavior modification or by magically changing the culture—because the money spent on this garbage could be spent on the basic things that make small incremental differences that eventually yield meaningful results.
If someone tells you that a safety solution is fast and easy, run as fast and as far from that person as you can. Remember the snake oil salesmen (and women—sorry ladies I don’t mean to insult you by not insulting you) will always tell you (or worse you’re company’s exec) exactly what you want to hear, but when the con comes crashing down it will be you who takes the blame.
I get four or five solicitations a week to plug a product in this blog or in one of my articles on safety. They offer substantial incentives, usually upwards of $100 for every mention, and up to $1,000 for a link to a website. I like money. But I resolutely refuse to compromise my integrity for a couple of bucks.
I wrote Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands so that people (those working in safety and those who aren’t) could implement a safety system that is about lowering risk and focusing on eliminating the things that hurt people. In my typical genius, I released my book in the middle of a pandemic so you can probably predict how well the sales went.
So don’t just beware of the snake oil salespeople. Challenge them. Shout them down. Demand proof of their claims and ask for references. It’s time to drive them out of our industry because at long last, they have gone too far.
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 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.