The Dangerous and Irresponsible Resurgence in the Popularity of BBS

shutterstock_659858677By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

Unless this is the first thing of mine of which you’ve read, you know how I despise Behavior-Based Safety (BBS). It’s devotees are the simple and the greedy, repackaging a ludicrously stupid system year after year in hopes of continuing the swindle. Some may wonder why I am so adamantly against Behavior Based Systems and before I get into it YET again I will simply say this: getting safety right and implementing sound systems is the difference between life and death. Some of you may recall that I lost both grandfathers, a great uncle, my father, my brother-in-law, one of my brother’s best friends, a childhood acquaintance, and numerous coworkers and friends to either workplace accidents or industrial illnesses, so you will forgive me if my tone isn’t as warm as fuzzy as you might like.

So what’s wrong with BBS? A lot:

  1. It presupposes that all unsafe behavior is deliberate. Most of our behavior is not deliberate especially rote exercises (those tasks we have done hundreds of times). Tasks we have memorized become unconscious—we do them without thinking. 
  2. Many unsafe behaviors are taught and BBS does nothing to guard against a veteran employee passing along unsafe behaviors. I have first hand knowledge of how this can happen. When I worked the line EVERY new job I was taught had at least one task where the trainer told me “we’re SUPPOSED to do it this way but we actually do it THIS way.” Some of this was simple innovation, but even if it was it should have been added to the official Standard Procedures and it never was.
  3. It drives unsafe behavior underground
  4. It pits worker against worker
  5. It doesn’t allow or address behavioral drift
  6. It leads to blame and shame of the workers.
  7. It creates an incentive to hide injuries and under-report injuries.
  8. It flies in the face of Deming’s 14 points.

At this point, either some snake oil salesmen who has spent years making money off this excremental nonsense, or some earnestly ignorant who acts as if he walked out into the rain and discovered wet, will try to sway me that BBS isn’t flawed, I just haven’t seen it properly implemented.  I have used the analysis of fricasseed squirrel anus several times, I am going to use it again. If you offer me fricasseed squirrel anus,and after a quick nibble I say, “oh jeez this is awful”, I should be able to refuse to eat it again, and yet invariably someone will say, “oh, you have to try MY fricasseed squirrel anus,you’ll love it”.  How many times do I have to eat a squirrel’s ass before I can say definitively that I don’t like it? And it is similar to BBS. If the system is so routinely misused maybe—and I’m just spitballing here—there is a better way to reduce the risk of injury in the process.

So why, if this system is as dangerously flawed is there a resurgence in its popularity?

  1. We have been convincing Operations leadership that this is the only option for 40 years.
  2. Injuries are under-reported and therefore it makes the Safety Function look good.
  3. College professors who have never worked in industry continue to extoll the wonders of BBS.
  4. Snake-Oil salesmen make $100s of million selling it.
  5. It provides the illusion of doing something about unsafe working conditions without making any substantial investment in infrastructure.
  6. It’s easy to implement.
  7. It centers the conversation around the flaws of workers and their poor choices instead of examining WHY the workers made poor choices or put themselves in the line of fire.

You can make a lot of money selling this dreck, but continuing to sell BBS, push it, and extol its imaginary virtues makes you dangerous, and speaking for the dead and permanently disabled shame on you.

Last week there were three workplace shootings in 5 days. 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.)

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. Seriously I’m not telling you how to live your life but you should buy it. Okay I AM telling you how to live your life, just buy the damned book.

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and is ALSO available in the eBook format you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine are gone, and you can basically only go back two years on my blog (eight year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

As always, Read. Learn. Live. Share. Inspire.

Normalizing Risk: What Could Go Wrong?

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By Phil La Duke
Author

I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

I’ve written ad nauseum about the biggest threat to safety. I have to admit after 13 years me screaming my chicken-little, “the sky is falling” shtick is tiresome even to me, so I won’t assert this week’s topic is yet another “greatest threat to safety” but I think it is a grave threat to our safety and that is the normalization of risk. This practice goes far beyond the Safety function and none (and I mean none) of us are immune to it.

When tragedy strikes and a coworker dies we shake our heads in bewilderment and ask why would someone do something so reckless? How could someone be so stupid? Why would someone risk his life to save a few seconds.  But then, let he among us who has never normalized risk throw the first stone.

Normalizing risk, to a large extent helps us to function. If we didn’t normalize risk we could never cook, eat in a restaurant, or drive.  In all these cases we have to normalize risk to place ourselves in close proximity to a hot stove, frying pans, sharp utensils, or hot oil. Do you doubt me? Consider restaurants. We eat food raised by strangers, harvested by strangers, processed by strangers, transported by strangers, inspected by strangers, cooked by strangers, and served to us by strangers on plates washed by strangers, all in a building built and inspected by strangers. I’m not going to continue with the car example, because the smarter among you get the point and the dumber among you never will.  Besides, the people who routinely read this blog hoping to find something to outrage them have probably gotten bored and stopped reading.

I do think it’s worth considering that the single largest cause of death in the workplace falls under the (in my opinion much too broad to be useful category) of transportation accidents.  This could mean anything from someone struck by a car crossing a street to dying in a over-the-road tanker explosion. We don’t count deaths commuting to or from work as “work fatalities” but they do in most parts of the world, but the sheer number of highway deaths should give us pause, “ 1.25 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day.” of course that is world-wide and with almost 8 billion people this an infinitesimal percentage. I point out that because since I wrote Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention  a wormy little clod who gets an erection every time he thinks about a woman dying takes every opportunity to point out that despite what the Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Safety Council says, homicide, in his completely subjective opinion, is NOT the number one cause of death for women in the workplace. Frankly I will take my facts from the BLS or NSC than some water-head who wants to see women murdered in the workplace. I can only guess at his motivation—maybe he is planning to kill a woman—but in any case, here we have a man deliberately normalizing an extreme risk.  I should point out that violence against women in the workplace is not yet at epidemic levels. I get reminded of this a lot. This is how we normalize risk, we rationalize it by comparing it to other risks. Let me give you an example that is a little less emotional and alarmist: hippopotami kill more people each year than sharks do. This is a facile argument, it reminds me of a Willy and Ethel cartoon by the great Joe Martin.  Ethel says to her husband, “Mr. Johnson takes his wife out to dinner every Friday,” Willy, unmoved continues reading his paper. Ethel continues, “Mr. Johnson takes his wife out dancing once a month” again Willy says nothing. Ethel persists with, “Mr. Johnson helps his wife with the dishes everyday” to which Willy responds, “hon, why don’t you do us both a favor and stop comparing me to Mr. Johnson and start comparing me to some of those guys on death row?” I apologize to Mr. Martin if I got the dialog wrong, but the point remains, Willy is trying to deflect Ethel’s points by introducing a completely different and at best marginally related point.

We live in a world where there are no lies, where world leaders dismiss the irrefutable “as fake news” and where Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram posts are asserted largely unchallenged as fact. Normalization of aberrant behavior from grabbing a woman by the genitals to failing to vaccinate your children because an ex Playboy centerfold says it causes autism is running rampant.

So what can we do about it? Well I don’t have the answer but awareness campaigns aren’t going to help. Awareness campaigns are growing in importance in the battle against ignorance, but we KNOW that normalization of risk isn’t smart. We KNOW it can get someone killed (but probably won’t) until we normalize it to the point where it almost certainly will end in mayhem, at which point the culpable party will blame everyone but him/herself. Have you ever run a yellow light? My ex brother-in-law did, as did the car that turned left in front of him.  It wasn’t the first time either had engaged in this behavior; both had normalized and trivialized this risk. When the Bronco struck the Ford Fiesta in a thunderous crash it wasn’t speeding, the driver wasn’t drunk. When the dust settled the driver of the Fiesta’s girlfriend lay on the front seat bleeding and dying while her eight week old baby (who was in an unsecured child seat) lay dead on the backseat floor. Both drivers were charged although the prosecutor dropped the charges against the driver of the Fiesta because he was convinced he could not get a conviction. My brother-in-law was sent to prison for 11 years and he did every penny of it. I have never run a yellow light since (unless it was unsafe to stop).

We are so content with normalizing risk that if someone is terrified to leave the house (because they haven’t normalized risk) we brand them crazy agoraphobics and insist that they need psychiatric care.

Unfortunately, there is no way of telling how much we should normalize risks until the gruesome moment of no return. I didn’t invest this, but I will pass it along.  Before attempting any task ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have I been trained to do this task?
  2. Do I understand this task?
  3. Do I have the proper tools to do this task?
  4. Can I verify that I have done the task correctly?

These questions may not eliminate the normalization of risk, but it’s a start. Try it the next time you get behind the wheel of a car; the life you save might be mine.

I am proud to announce the release by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  in an eBook edition. 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.)

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. Seriously I’m not telling you how to live your life but you should buy it. Okay I AM telling you how to live your life, just buy the damned book.

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and is ALSO available in the eBook format you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine are gone, and you can basically only go back two years on my blog (eight year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

As always, Read. Learn. Live. Share. Inspire.

 

#authors, #i-know-my-shoes-are-untied-mind-your-own-business, #lone-gunman-rewriting-the-handbook-on-workplace-violence-prevention, #phil-la-duke, #risk-management, #risk-tolerance, #survival

Why Even Bother With Safety Training?

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

Like most of you, I have to, as part of my job, periodically sit through grueling, excruciatingly dull, and completely worthless training. Training I don’t need. Training I don’t want on topics I don’t use on my job. I sit, my mind dulled and numbed with boredom because the law says that I must complete this training. So I watch as a disembodied voice reads insipid slides to me.  Computer-Based Training. This is not a shortfall of my employer, we produce excellent, forward-facing and innovative learning tools, and yet when it comes to regulatory training we fall into the same trap that so many other companies do.

So why do we do it? Because the law says I have to.  The law doesn’t care if I have developed courses—far better course in fact—on the subject. The law doesn’t care if this off-the-shelf dreck meets my objectives or needs. The law doesn’t even care if I learn anything from the “training”. In fact, in most cases, the law doesn’t even specify knowledge or skills the course has to cover; it just has to be done…or else.

I have written at length about what’s wrong with safety training and how to fix it, but there just isn’t any will to do fix it. It is said, “give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life” (which let’s face it, I need to eat more than one fish a day, but that is, as is so often the case, beside the point) but when it comes to the crap that we so frequently pass off as training the saying might as well be “talk about the theory behind fishing to a man who has no intention of ever going fishing and he will eat just fine.”

I suppose I should take a moment and shut the drooling maws of the mouth-breathers who have a problem with the term “training” because “you TRAIN dogs, you EDUCATE people”. Apart from being trite, this statement is just plain WRONG. There is a difference between “education” (teaching someone ABOUT something) and “training” (teaching someone to DO something).  I think the difference is best illustrated by the old, and brace yourself off-color joke, “you might not mind if your fourth grade daughter gets sex education at school, but you probably don’t want her getting sex training.” As for the term “learning” it too is a bit off the mark. Learning implies that one actually acquires knowledge or skills that he or she was lacking before the course and this isn’t always the case.  Ah well, back to the topic at hand.I am prepared to fully acknowledge that we have to do stupid and pointless things simply because the law says we must, BUT shouldn’t we aspire to do more than merely meet the barest of minimums of the regulation? Shouldn’t we ask what the spirit of the law is, and why the government thinks that this should be a requirement? Why do we do training that we know won’t make one whit of difference? Or more to the point why don’t we use the requirement as a justification for raising awareness, teaching skills, fomenting debate and discourse? I’m glad you asked…

 

  • Doing it Right Is Expensive. You can buy OSHA accepted training for very little, distribute it via your computer network and meet the requirement. The same course can be used to train iron workers and bull-semen collectors at a cattle breeding ranch.  Even if it violates one of the first rules of Adult Learning, “give the audience the WIIFM (cute speak for What’s In It For Me?” And despite the fact that people tend to tune out messages that they don’t believe apply to them (right or wrong) it is easier to get a low-quality low-cost solution approved by the people holding the purse strings than it is to pay to do it right, and depending on the size of the audience the cost difference isn’t inconsequential. Spending $100,000 to train 30,000 people  amounts to $3 per participant, but spending that Same $100,000 to train 30 people doesn’t make sense.
  • The Government Doesn’t CARE if you need it. I have been forced to take regulatory training on subjects in which I am well versed and even that I have developed and taught. Does this make sense? NO! But since when does the government make sense? The real danger here is that the average worker cannot distinguish between information they really need and the “nice to know” crap that a fraction of the population will ever use.  The result of this confusion is that people tend to treat it ALL as crap.
  • The Government Doesn’t Require Proficiency.  As long as you are able to check the box that someone completed training the government won’t hassle you if the person didn’t get a damned thing out of the event.
  • There Is No Provision In The Law For Testing Out of a Course.  When I was head of Training & OD for a tier-one auto supplier I made it a policy that anyone could come in and “test-out” of a course. I got a lot of cocky (usually engineers) who would argue indignantly that they had 126 years of experience and could probably TEACH the class.  Of that throng, only one hit the required 90% or better to be eligible to get credit for the class without taking it. To his credit he said, I know I know this topic but I would like to take it anyway. Taking this test reminded me that I might need to refresh my skills because it took a lot more thinking to answer some of those questions than I thought it was.  But even though many people were reluctant to test out, I would say approximately 20% of the posttests indicated that people didn’t NEED the course.but it didn’t harm them in anyway. Personally I think it’s insane to sit through courses that I have actually taught, but I am seemingly alone in that regard. Not only is this a waste of time it reinforces management’s idea that we are a bunch of soft headed imbeciles who don’t understand the basics of business.  We all understand we don’t have a choice. 
  • The Regulators Are Concerned With Course Completion Instead of Competence. Government regulators need to get out of the “training” business and instead a demonstration of competency.  What’s the difference? I I hire a journeyman electrician with 15 years experience I don’t need to train him as an electrician, but in the interest of safety I DO need to ascertain his competency before putting him to work.  So why doesn’t the requirement read “Employers shall ensure the competency of all employees in any and all tasks the employees are required to perform”? Because ensuring competency is hard. Think about it. When someone is injured the cause that so many training (and operations for that matter) personnel default to is that the employee was stupid, lazy, complacent, or careless. How often do we even consider that maybe the person never had the adequate skills in the first place.

 

I see a resurgence in BBS (Blame-Based Safety) where a new crop of snake oil salesmen proudly assert (without a shred of proof) that the workers’ behavior (and not the system inwhic the worker works) is the root of all injuries. None of them ask, or even seem interested in why an otherwise intelligent and grown-ass employee would choose to put themselves in the line of fire.  We are quick to blame but slow to examine the circumstances that we ourselves have created that encourage unsafe behaviors and poor decision making.

Recently the United States Senate failed to renew the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and last week the National Rifle Association announced its opposition of its renewal. My book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention is not against gun rights in fact, I grew up around guns, know how to use them, and am a damned good shot (something you halfwits who send me death threats might want to consider) but it does detail the high  but it does address the profound correlation between domestic violence and workplace violence. 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,HR or your tyrant of a boss and it leads to substantial safety improvements (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.) If you have a daughter, wife, girlfriend, or just care about people getting murdered in the workplace BUY THIS BOOK. It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback (and now as an eBook) at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

As I have said, 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 pepper 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.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and many are saying that anyone serious about worker safety should have it in their library.  You might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back two years on my blog (eight year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck is lost forever save in the pages of my book.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So BUY IT. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more. It can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com. What are you waiting for?

 

Fear the Reaper, Not the Safety Guy

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By Phil La Duke
Burnt Out Safety Consultant, Iconoclast, and  Author of I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

I’m a consultant  being a consultant means going to a lot of workplaces and meeting a lot of different people in a lot of different places. And even though I’m not an auditor (those hated safety cops who come in to bust you for the pettiest things) but nonetheless companies seldom call me and pay me to tell them things are great. 

People fear me. 

I used to say that a consultant is someone who spends three days in your company, gives you an unworkable solution to an ill-defined problem and then blames you when it fails. And the solution to fix the problem is always more money. I am not that kind of consultant. 

And yet people fear me. 

I’m in the advice business, you pay me for my expertise. I believe that workers don’t want to get hurt and your systems are supposed to hurt them. I look to find the system flaws that cause injuries and you’d be surprised how simple, obvious, and cheap they are to fix. 

But people fear me. 

When I arrive the reaction is either the disingenuous sickeningly welcome “gee whiz,boy do we love safety” or out-and-out hostility.  People hide things from me. People make lame excuses for things I don’t care about.

People fear me. 

Well…that’s not entirely true; people fear the safety interloper. It doesn’t matter that I am there to help them identify and mitigate risks that could maim, cripple, or kill them. They would rather dance a polka with the angel of death than cooperate with the safety consultant. 

It makes it tough to do my job. Many of you make it tough to do my job by being safety cops. 

When people hide from us we can’t do our jobs. Is this who we want to be?

It must be, at least for some of you, because so many of you reinforce the idea that the safety guy is the de facto parent for the orphan children laboring in malicious obedience waiting to be chastised by the stern taskmaster.

I never revealed this publicly, but the inspiration for my first book, I Know My Shoes Are Untied…Mind Your Own Business is from an incident that I experienced before I even got INTO safety. I was a consultant to one of the Big Three, (I won’t name names because even though it was over 30 years ago my boss tends to throw a hissy fit at the mere idea that I suggest that a customer or potential customer is anything less than perfect). I was tasked with transforming a failing plant into what would later be dubbed a “focused factory”.  So I walked out onto the plant floor, where an emotionally constipated safety man would look at me and give me a stern look and say, “the next time I see you with your shoes untied I’m putting you out of the plant.” I can clearly remember the exact location where he told me that, a scant six feet from an induction hardener. I went out that night and bought loafers (steel-toed was required at that point).  

I walked by that induction hardener wearing a metal watch and a metal belt buckle multiple times a day.  The safety bad-ass said nothing. He had won his war of wills by making me buy new shoes. I hope it made him feel tough, like the cop he always wanted to be. As I walked by the induction hardener I said hi to the operator, we were friendly but not really friends—we never had a beer together, and while I knew he was married with kids, I couldn’t tell you now or then their names or ages.  But I liked him, and I enjoyed passing the time of day with him several times a day (he was on the main aisle at the base of the stairs so our paths crossed a lot.)

One day, a couple of months after my untied shoes incident, my friend was killed when the high intensity electricity used in induction hardening arced off the machine and connected to his wedding ring.  I hope he didn’t suffer. He was likely dead instantly, but I always wonder about those last moments of his life. I also think that it could have just as easily have been me, the killer bolt of electricity could have just as easily arced to my belt or my watch.  This senseless horrific tragedy could have been prevented, but instead the safety cop was more worried about my shoes being tied. For the record, my friend died with his shoes tied; I hope that brings the stupid sonofabitch safety cop some peace, because it haunts me every single day for the last 30 years.

Some of you like the idea of being the tough guy, the safety champion, the person unafraid to get into a grown person’s face and tell them what’s what.  Get out of safety. People will only agree with you to your face and return to unsafe behavior as soon as you leave. You will have taught the person nothing more than that you are a self-important mouth breather who thinks you’re smarter and more powerful than him or her, and he or she will despise you. 

Unless you learn to respect people, treat them as equals, and persuade them by providing them good information that they can use to make better choices about the risks that they take you are doomed to fail.  Maybe people should fear us after all.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  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.)

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 pepper 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.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

 

 

Just Gimme Some Truth

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

 

One meets a lot of idiots in my line of work, and more than times than there should be those idiots work in safety.  From the idiot safety appointee when I worked on the line who was given this lucrative salaried position in safety because, if his impressive credentials as a failed hairdresser and the fact that his brother was a middle managers with cheese and sawdust in his head to the clinical imbecile who hounded me to tie my shoes but never once mentioned the hazard of me wearing a metal watch and belt buckle in an area ripe for an arc flash incident (which tragically took the life of a worker a month or so later.  He was fried to a crisp, but by God his shoes were tightly tied.)

Nowhere is the worship and promulgation of stupidity better exemplified than on LinkedIn. A contact posted a short video where a vehicle.vehicle left the road and struck the trailer of a tow truck.  People, many of them who work in safety, rushed to judgement admonishing the driver for not paying attention, none of them presumably guilty of ever taking their eyes off the road. Many and more posted supposition and facts not in evidence to support their contentions. When I pointed out that the tow driver bore some responsibility because while he was on the shoulder he was mere inches from traffic (and at one angle appears to be actually parked in traffic.)

My point was that a good incident investigation a) doesn’t seek to find out who is to blame (or responsible) rather why something happened; b) what factors contributed to the incident, and c) what can be done to mitigate the risk of a repeat injury.

This is a good point for me to interject that I wasn’t defending the driver, nor excusing distracted driving (we can’t be sure that this was even the cause, as the poster said, “homicide? Suicide?”, I see plenty of stupid drivers (many professional drivers) who routinely disregard Stop signs or traffic signals, and these people aren’t distracted, they are arrogant pigs who believe that there time is more important than the lives of pedestrians. No cop? No stop? And given that in the U.S.A. one is far more likely to die driving to work than while physically AT work, I think it behooves us all to slow down and obey the traffic laws.

So let’s take a look at the reasons why these yowling simpletons are so dangerous:

    1. Blame ends conversations.  When we investigate anything with the intent only to find who is responsible, we don’t learn much else.  Continuing to investigate once you know who’s at fault is akin to continuing to look for your car keys once you’ve found them (that’s why they are always the last place you look!) Worthwhile investigations seldom find a single root cause.  Let’s take the video (warning, speculation for the sake of example to follow) posted. The area between the lane marker (the solid white line) and the end of the pavement appeared to be a scant six inches or so—clearly not enough space for a vehicle to take refuge and forcing a driver to either park on the grave near a ditch or park in the line of fire; this is a poor design that constitutes a system flaw.  Also, there were no “rumble strips” which could have alerted the driver that he or she had left the road. The road was only two lanes and traffic was backed up before the driver left the road. Exactly if and how this contributed to the incident is impossible to say without interviewing the driver, but since when has a lack of facts stopped a safety guy from running his or her mouth? What I found most interesting was what we didn’t know: was the driver sober? Was the driver taking any medications? Was the driver drunk or stoned? Was the vehicle in good working order and free from a mechanical problem (front end out of alignment, low front tire on the right side, faulty tie rods, bad ball joints?) Without answers to these questions we haven’t really done an incident investigation.

 

  • Unless we know the contributing factors we can’t ensure the same (or similar) incident doesn’t happen again.  As I pointed out, there were many potential contributors but none of the sub-simian pre-apes who posted seemed seemed to care; they had their scapegoat and all others were blameless. The anatomy of an incident is both simple and complex. It is simple because essentially the formula for an incident is hazard + interaction + catalyst = incident.  An incident must have a source of harm, i.e. a hazard. If there is no hazard, there can be no harm and if there is no potential for harm there can be no injury.  Similarly, someone has to interact with the hazard in order to be harmed by it.  Think about it, hazards are everywhere, but we don’t interact with all of them so we can’t be harmed by them.  Right now I can hear a speeding car a block away from the safety of my office. I am not interacting with it so I can’t be harmed by it; another obvious and easy concept. Finally, there needs to be some sort of catalyst that causes the hazard to harm us when we interact with it, and here is where it gets a bit dicey.   The absence of a catalyst is why people say, “I’ve been doing this for 135 years and I have never been injured. doing it this way.” Catalysts tend to stack, that is to say, only when the catalyst reach a threshold (and it is difficult to say just what that threshold will be) will the contributors trigger the chain of events and cause an injury. In the case of the video, the tow driver is nearly hit by the car but jumps clear at the last second, had the driver been travelling at a greater rate of speed he may have been struck.  Near misses are good indicators of the injury threshold. So how long can you drive without paying attention? It depends on a lot of other factors, but as the mouth-breathers in the thread demonstrate, few people care about the behavior unless it results in a catastrophic outcome. Driving while not fully committing to the task increases risk and increasing your risk without sufficient value-add is just plain stupid. When one dullard asserted that the tow driver had the right of way (a true statement) I replied that they could put that on his tombstone. He went on to make an exceedingly lame pun about Tombstone pizzas and made much ado about the fact that there was no fatality. The only reason that there was no fatality was that the tow truck driver had sufficient reflexes to dodge a car, that the car didn’t strike the back of the disabled vehicle

 

  1. Behavior is never the proximate cause.  No matter what behavior you can conceive there is some antecedent that has caused or greatly influenced it. Watching a video and clucking tongues at how stupid the person was is the height of hypocrisy. We can’t prevent behavior without knowing the motivation and ignorance is seldom a motivator. Who among us can honestly say that we don’t know that multitasking while driving is stupid and dangerous? And yet the go-to move is an awareness campaign. Why? Do we think that people forget that taking their eyes (or mind) off the road while driving is anything less than potentially lethal?  

LinkedIn used to be a place where professionals would engage in intelligent discourse, but most of the people capable of doing so have been driven out by, as John Lennon put it, “short-sighted neurotic narrow minded hypocrites.” All but a few notable exceptions of the giants in thought leadership in safety have left LinkedIn and keep their well-educated, well-reasoned thoughts to themselves; and that is a loss that affects us all.

And as for risk, people engage in at risk behaviors because every time we do and suffer no consequences we teach ourselves that it’s safe to do it. Our risk tolerance continues to expand until we reach the fatal threshold or have a near miss that causes our tolerance for risk to shrink. As long as the human brain teaches us that the value of a behavior outweighs the risk we will not only continue taking this risk we will increase the risk because, as Dr. Robert Long (before he got so sick of the LinkedIdiots, pointed out, “risk makes sense”. 

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  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.)

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 pepper 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.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

 

Putting the “Health” in Health & Safety

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

Last week I went to urgent care.  Nothing too serious, I had an infection in my elbow that suddenly started to spread rapidly. I’m on antibiotics and things are improving just as rapidly as they went south. It was an unexpected yet completely predictable medical breakdown.

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for a while, and even though I am fully aware of the need to relax and slow things down I don’t seem able, or more accurately willing to do that. I wrote 100 articles for Authority magazine in just 50 days. During that same period I worked as a production safety consultant for two major motion pictures in 100° heat AND interviewed CEOs and Operations Executives in Europe (getting up at 5:00 a.m.) And my erstwhile wife finally took the plunge and moved in. (We had been maintaining separate residences for reasons that are none of your business) All this over and above maintaining a social life and all the minutiae of day-to-day life.

Many of you reading this may have been under the impression that I do nothing at all, or at least that what I do is easy. I routinely rise at 5:00 a.m. and work until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. Interviewing CEOs seems easy but between schedule changes, no-shows, subject running 30 minutes late for a one-hour interview, and deciphering accents can be incredibly draining. Even more people say, “Oh that sounds like fun!” when I tell them that I am working on a movie set. I do enjoy it immensely, but it is like simultaneous operations every day all the time.  For those of you in the construction or upstream oil and gas business you know how risk rises exponentially when there is SiOps going on. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, simultaneous operations is when multiple operations are going on in the same space or in close proximity to one another. In film you have gaffers and grips erecting lighting or camera stands while electricians are stringing power above or below them, through painters and set decorators into that same mix along with scores of other people all working at an accelerated pace and you have a recipe for potential disasters.  

Not that these aren’t highly skilled individuals, but they are focused on the task at hand and it is difficult to focus on what you are doing and remain situationally aware.  I am there throughout the whole affair to provide them with information so that they can make informed decisions about their safety and the risks they take. 12-hour days are the norm, not counting commute, before and after which I am doing the interviews and grabbing a quick workout. Oh and writing.  119 since July and counting. And, regrettably, the odd (in so many ways) blog article.

I’m fortunate for a lot of reasons. My medical issue started on Thursday when I mistook what turned out to be a cluster of in-grown hairs for a pimple.  On Friday my elbow was red and swollen and I knew it wasn’t an ordinary pimple. I called my doctor, but he was out of the country and wouldn’t be back for two weeks.  I turned to home remedies which mostly worked. On Monday the tell-tale red streak up my arm told me that the infection was spreading. I went to the urgent care (formerly known as the emergency room) got an injection and a bottle of antibiotics, and I’m feeling much better. 

There are many workers who aren’t so lucky.  Admittedly, my illness was not work-related—or was it? After all, what part of my routine caused me to become fatigued because of work and what part was a conscious choice to do something other than decompress? It really doesn’t matter because the law doesn’t recognize fatigue as an industrial illness. But as I say I am lucky because I work for a company that provides adequate paid sick time, excellent medical coverage, and overall, takes pains to ensure the well-being of its workers. I was able to seek medical attention without having to worry about losing my job, depleting my savings, or having to decide between risking my life or paying an exorbitant medical bill. 

In a world where safety zealots feel completely within their rights to preach safety at home, where are the voices for adequate base-line healthcare? I’m not arguing for socialized medicine nor am I arguing against it.  That having been said, no one should have to worry about his or her job because of their health. If the Health and Safety function is really concerned with worker health how does this concern manifest itself?

Recently I did a speech for a VPPPA conference on worker fatigue and in this presentation I outlined the many MANY physical manifestations and illnesses caused by fatigue, and yet we continue working our people LITERALLY to death. Do you, yourself, put in long hours? If so, how is it viewed by your company? Are you viewed as a go-getter and a loyal “company man”, or are you viewed as someone who is potentially putting his or her life at risk? Before you answer, go to your company break-room and look at the food options for sale in the vending machines.  The food is typically poison. It is full of food-like substances that are high in calories, high in fat, and low in nutrients. I have argued that the vending machine operators offer the foods that they do because that’s what people buy. Those of you who love awareness campaigns try this: put a sign on the vending machine that says, “eating this food will lead to morbid obesity and a host of other medical problems.” It is not likely to do any good as long as there are no healthy alternatives. 

Years ago, when the faith-based healthcare system at which I worked was moving its headquarters it conducted a survey of the employees asking what amenities they wanted at the new headquarters.  One of the top items was a place where people could purchase healthy meals. At first the organization worried that they couldn’t afford to provide restaurant that provided healthy meals and wondered openly how many people would actually purchase said health alternatives.  

When the restaurant opened I was delighted to find that I could get healthy meals both prepared on-site but also in the vending machines.  In fact, I soon realized that the restaurant was filled with all kinds of things to promote health nutrition from signs on the walls telling potential buyers of the calorie count and other nutritional information about the food for sale in the vending machines to the placement of the less healthy foods such that people wouldn’t be tempted to impulse purchase poisonous crap because it was “quick”.  Just an aside, but people who are driving themselves to the brink are often the same people looking for something quick to eat at their workstations. The organization didn’t stop there either. There were exercise classes, Weight Watchers meetings, reflection rooms where people could go and pray, meditate, or just enjoy the solitude. Flu vaccines (required by law for anyone actually visiting a hospital) were provided for free. There were mother’s rooms where women could breastfeed (an important feature for an organization whose workforce was 87% women. A walking path through a beautiful natural setting.  Healthcare is a high stress environment and these measures were taken to prevent illness and injuries and it worked.

Actions like these are good business and create a less stressed and more healthy workforce, but it can be a hard-sell to business owners more concerned about profits than people.  It’s our job to fight for these things. We have to be the voice of reason here. Benefits get more and more meager and workers are paid less and have to work longer hours just to survive.  If that isn’t our job, I don’t know what is.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  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.)

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 pepper 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.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

An Unkind Word Does Not A Bully Make

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

A couple of weeks back I witnessed an exchange that has stuck with me. A loudmouth blob of a man who looked to be one Whopper away from a fatal coronary called an equally fit man he obviously knew over to him to come closer under the guise that he had something to show him. When the second man approached the first man attempted to slap him. When the first man saw the reaction he whined “that guy bullied me on the last job!!! He called me names on the radio!!! He bullied me!

He looked at me for support. I looked at him and said “yes and you attempted to physically assault him. Bullying won’t get you put in jail, but assault will.”

I encountered the man several other times and he was always bellyaching about some perceived injustice he had suffered; always in that same whiny tone that made me want to choke him out. I know I shouldn’t admit to that but it’s simple biology his distress calls of a wounded animal triggered my predator instincts. I had the sense to avoid him. 

The whole experience got me wondering about the overreaction to workplace bullying. I am a product of playground politics and it served me well. I’ve been a brawler as long as I can remember, a farm kid with little adult supervision living by the “snitches end up in ditches” code. Whether with words, fists, or teeth I learned to fight back. Make yourself a target live as a target. 

But fighting, teasing, or name-calling isn’t bullying. Those of you were bullied know the difference. Bullying isn’t a single incident, it’s a pattern of behavior. So if someone asks you if they cut men’s hair (if you’re a man) at the place you got your haircut you’re expected to come back with a pithy response that shuts the person up; it shows you’re one of the gang. This isn’t bullying; it’s camaraderie. 

I suppose to some extent bullying is in the eye of the beholder…or is it?  I believe that for something to constitute bullying the same acid test—at least in part—that we use to determine whether or not inappropriate workplace behavior crosses the threshold and becomes sexual harassment. For behavior to be legally considered sexual harassment there are several tests. Quid Pro Quo harassment, where someone promises something in return for sexual favors is always harassment and to apply that to bullying is, in my mind, a stretch. But the other tests remain:

  1. Has the victim made it clear that the behavior is unwanted and unwelcome?
  2. Does the behavior continue after it has been made clear that it is unwanted and unwelcome?
  3. Is it a pattern of behavior?
  4. Has the bullied person done anything to invite the bullying (retaliation, obnoxious behavior directed at the alleged bully,etc.)?
  5. Does the person have a physical advantage or financial power over you that makes it impossible to fight back?

I’m not endorsing inappropriate workplace behavior, but PU-LEEZ can we just get over ourselves? If someone comes up to you and says something insulting you should just tell them that you don’t appreciate being spoken to in that way, and you want the other person to address you respectfully or not at all…and then let it go.  But that’s typically not what happens. When someone acts like a jerk to us, we tend to have a natural tendency to strike back and probably escalate the dysfunction. If two people are engaged in “tit-for-tat” dysfunction neither of the parties can cry “bullying” when by all reasonable measure both parties involved invited the behavior to some extent.

As a child, I was taught to fight back.  My parents would not condone bullying but they equally unsympathetic to a crybaby who didn’t fight back. I was a little guy with a big mouth (not much has changed) and fights weren’t just likely, they were inevitable. The playground is about pecking order, and if you allowed someone to pick on you, you were going to spend your life on the run. Or you could stand and fight back and even if you got your ass handed to you, you were generally left alone after that because the onlookers knew that while they may be able to take you, you were certainly going to get your licks in.

As I grew up I fought less and less physically and words became my weapons.  I learned how to get to the core of what really bothered a bully and would use that to make them feel bad enough so that they would leave me alone. Of course, there was always once or twice where the humiliated bully would charge at me, but by then I already had the upper hand and won the fight easily. It’s hard to win a fight when you are in a heightened emotional state.

But workplace bullying isn’t the playground, and too many people don’t know how to deal with aggressive behavior in an assertive way. Running to HR because a coworker calls you a name (excluding racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation remarks), but you should be assertive and let them know that you don’t like the way they are speaking to you. If they persist, ask them point-blank what is it in their fragile self-image that makes you a threat to them? I’m not saying that you should provoke them, rather, I am suggesting that perhaps moving beyond the hurt feelings of the seven-year-old child inside, you grow up and act like a professional.

It has come to my attention that some of you have not yet purchased a copy of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. What in the living hell are you waiting for? This book 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.)

Buy it. If not for you, then for someone you love.

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 pepper 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.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rainforest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.