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.

 

 

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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.

Mass Shootings Aren’t the Same As Workplace Violence Events

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

I have been writing magazine articles and blogging for over 13 years and my tone has remained essentially the same: caustic, sarcastic, and angry.  My father died prematurely of mesothelioma. My brother-in-law (an integral part of my family for as long as I can remember) died of silicosis. Both my grandfathers died on the job, as well as a great uncle. My brother suffered a serious head injury which erased much of his memory of his childhood. My other brother’s best friend died after being scalded to death on the job. A childhood acquaintance of mine fell into a vat of acid and took over a week to die. My friend and colleague died after a surgery to correct an injury he had suffered thirty years prior, and I have lost count of how many people I knew who died on the job or from industrial illnesses.  

I have a right to be angry.  I am angry at middle managers who see dying at work as part of the job. I’m angry at the snake oil salesmen who see the death and misery only as a means of making a profit. They pollute the landscape of industry with convoluted theories and obtuse models. I’m angry at safety people who say they are doing the best that they can when what they mean is I am making a good living punching a clock. And I am angry at professional organizations that only want to promote the status quo.

I’m tired of people standing on the sidelines shrugging and asking, “What do you want me to do?” I want people to get in the game. Not just people with “safety” in their titles but the people who run the mills, and mines, and oil rigs, and warehouses. I want people to care about the fact that homicide has jumped from the ninth leading cause of death in the workplace to the sixth leading cause. I could scream at all the people rushing to provide training on how to survive a workplace violence event by telling people things appropriate to mass shootings.  Everyone of these drooling, greedy, slime-balls see mass shootings as a commercial for their snake oil, and giving people bad advice is worse than giving people no advice.

The conventional wisdom of protecting yourself against workplace violence is: run, hide, fight back.  While this might be good advice for a mass shooting it is stupid advice for a workplace shooter. Some smug turd might want to argue with me on this, but mass shootings are largely unpredictable and attacks on soft targets will remain attractive to domestic terrorists.  The mass shooter wants to kill many people and while they may espouse some ideology, the reality is that these people are just murderous scum who want to kill people.

The lone gunman in the workplace (over 80% are committed by men with guns) has a specific target or targets of his rage.  He is typically going to kill either his boss/HR manager or more likely kill his estranged wife or girlfriend. If you aren’t either of these people, and don’t try to intervene chances are you aren’t going to be harmed.  That doesn’t mean you can relax, however. Unlike a mass shooting, workplace violence is predictable and largely preventable, although it remains outside the purview of the typical Safety Function.

Here are some things companies can do to reduce their risk of a workplace shooting: (lifted from my book Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention )

Predict

Preventing workplace violence begins with recruiting, and it is easy enough to weed out those who are likely to lose it and shoot up the place. It is more sensitive, but no less important to identify and protect, potential targets of workplace violence.  These days the best place to figure out who someone REALLY is to go to their social media accounts. If a person posts, or allows his friends to post, hate speech you have to ask yourself if that is someone you want on your team. Another indicators is belligerence, I tend to prod and poke my audience in an effort to get them to think. It’s my job. But if you are considering someone to work in accounting, they probably don’t have to be a provocateur to make the math work.  Similarly, volatile posts where a person flies into a rage when someone disagrees with him or her can indicate someone who has a bad temper and you can extrapolate from there what they will be like when someone eats their tuna sandwich. There are a lot more predictors in my book, but I’ve learned that people today when they can steal, but I would like to give you one more indicator: no social media presence. Erasing your social media page, using a pseudonym (here’s a hint, look for someone’s name spelled backwards or someone using their middle name as his or her last name). In short, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to weed out the hot tempered and the crazies.  Speaking of that, an ex employer of mine has implemented a zero crazy hiring policy. He has all his key staff interview a candidate and if anyone smells crazy the candidate is not hired.

Prevention

Prevention does stop with a perusal of one’s social media, a background check (including a look at the national domestic violence database, sex offender registry, and active criminal tracking systems is important.  These are all free and all it takes is a couple of keystrokes.

The interview process has to change dramatically if you are going to weed out the predators and protect the prey, but if you want to know how, reach your grubby little hand into your wallet and buy the book.

The book contains a lot more—and given that I have written articles on this subject for Professional Safety magazine, ISHN, Entrepreneur, and Thrust Global—I think I have given you enough free advice for one week. I hope you will buy the book, it has become a passion project for me. It wouldn’t kill you to pick up a copy of I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business too, but after giving you free advice for 13 years for no compensation (except for some ice cleats for which I am forever grateful) I can’t honestly see anyone decided to pay for something for which they feel entitled.

I am proud to announce my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. has been released by Marriah Publishing. 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.) I’m proud of this book because it really can help you save lives, maybe even your own.

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.

Okay sorry I haven’t posted

I’ve been working long hours working production safety on a major motion picture and have a book signing Saturday.

Until then

My second in a series on Women CEOs. Read it. Love it. Share it. I am a needy, needy, little man. https://medium.com/authority-magazine/5-things-i-wish-someone-told-me-before-i-became-a-ceo-with-elizabeth-gerbel-of-eag-services-e67bbb061b41?source=friends_link&sk=24db096700186038be97297d9414babc

We Aren’t Gods; We Can’t Control Everything

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

Several weeks back I spoke at ASSP’s Safety 2019 on the topic of Worker Fatigue and Well-Being and today I got my reviews. They were mixed, but I am used to that—I have a polarizing effect on people and you either love me or hate me. But two things I found troubling: 1) While I listed the subject as advanced many found it too basic and 2) several found it lacking when it comes to takeaways.

Now I’ve always believed that there are two types of people who come to my sessions: forward-thinking professionals prepared to have their world view challenged and idiots who wandered into the wrong room, but in this case, some of the criticisms were right on the money. It was basic (mainly because the issue of fatigue is pretty basic: stop working your workers to death and then blaming them for dying) and I didn’t offer any quick fixes (because even if there were any Safety doesn’t have the power, influence, or respect, to implement them.)

I would like to address these here and a larger issue that is becoming a major impediment to working in the Safety Function. First, I rated this as “expert” because, realistically, what can a person with 1-5 years experience do to tackle a system issue—whatever it is? No, in my opinion, something that must be tackled by the C-suite is an expert level presentation, you may disagree, but you would be wrong. Secondly, when it comes to simple takeaways and practical solutions to worker fatigue there just aren’t any. (Again, you can disagree and also be wrong.)

Let’s get the fatigue issue out of the way and then get out of the weeds and look at the bigger problem. “Fatigue is a common problem involving a physical and mental state of being extremely tired. Physical and mental fatigue are different, but they often occur together. Long-term physical exhaustion can also lead to mental fatigue.”—Source Fatigue: Why am I so tired and what can I do about it? Medical News Today. It’s more than being merely being tired which until recent studies most people thought fatigued was synonymous with tired, and it’s cumulative which means that it will continue to build until something gives (usually the health and or safety of the worker). It may sound too basic to say that it is “a central cause of many injuries” but how many of you can honestly say that worker fatigue has shown up as a central cause or contributor in your incident investigations? Put your hands down, we both know you’re full of shit.

Of course, fatigue causes poor decision making, loss of manual dexterity, increased risk-taking, and many more underlying causes of traditional injuries, but we don’t call it fatigue, now do we? We say workers are complacent, or distracted, or even stupid or lazy, but if we say the workers are fatigued what solution do we have? There is a chasm separating fatigued workers and complacent, frustrated, or lazy workers. If we say the workers are any of these things be can blame the workers and we’re off the hook. WE didn’t hire them. WE don’t manage them. So how can anyone expect US to do anything about it? But if we say that the worker is fatigued, our bosses will want a solution, and there is no solution we can implement or even try to implement without looking like simpletons.

It gets worse. Fatigue has been shown to cause:

  • Acute liver failure
  • Anemia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Cancer
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic infection or inflammation
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Concussion
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) COPD
  • Depression (major depressive disorder)
  • Diabetes
  • Emphysema
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Medications and treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, pain drugs,
  • heart drugs, and antidepressants
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Obesity
  • Pain that’s persistent
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress
  • Traumatic brain injury

I’m the first to admit that my research turned up a fairly lengthy and perhaps alarmist (it would appear that fatigue plays a role in everything this side of impotence in sea urchins) but if it really plays a role in one-third of these things shouldn’t we address it?

Except we can’t. At least not at the safety level. A lot of fatigue is caused by things that people do OFF the job. Things like:

  • Sleeping to long
  • Not sleeping long enough
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Eat like a goat with the munchies
  • Live a sedentary lifestyle

What easy takeaway is there to remedy dangerous and potentially stupid things people do on their own accord? I guess a case could be made for awareness, but many of these people aren’t lacking in the knowledge that this type of behavior is bad for them.

A lot of you dough heads seem to think that organizations see safety as a sacred calling…well it aint. If it was there wouldn’t be so many empty suits running companies or safety directors asking, “what are you doing to make people care?” (By the way, if your boss asks you that answer, “ I push people down the stairs and scream ‘hanging on the handrail doesn’t seem so stupid now does it m@#$%!# f@#$%! now does it?’ and then I laugh maniacally”.)

So to those of you who bitched that my presentation wasn’t a panacea for “curing” fatigue let me just say this. There isn’t one. All we can do is sound the alarm, and that isn’t a very satisfying answer—not for me and not for you. That segues nicely into the bigger problem: we can’t control the bigger, uglier, and most dangerous problems we face in workplace safety. We can’t control workplace violence, high-stress environments, compensation systems that pit worker-against-worker at all levels. These are problems that the executives need to tackle and more importantly fund.  Companies make record profits while their workers jump out the windows.

You want takeaways for dealing with fatigue? listen up screw heads:

  1. Stop shift work. Studies have shown that shift work is a major cause of fatigue and literally takes years off people’s lives. Okay, so what are you going to do about it? Jack and shit. We don’t run the companies and trying to get Operations to refill the first aid kit takes an act of congress so what makes you think we can make a change that is so enormous and so costly? Seriously if you got an answer I’m all ears.
  2. Stop 12-hour shifts. Even a half-hour commute means that an employee is working 13 hours, add to that the time it takes to shower, shave and…pack a lunch and you barely have time to yell at your kid to turn down the music let alone decompress. Fatigue keeps ticking down like a time-bomb.
  3. Restore the five-day workweek. People need work-life balance and without it, they get fatigued and die horribly and prematurely, but before they do they get injured. I believe it’s a defense mechanism. If you drive the machine too hard it breaks down.
  4. Restore the 8 hour day. The pursuit of money has made us diabolical criminals. We are prepared to work people to death LITERALLY so that we can buy…what exactly? The managers blame the executives, the executives blame the stockholders. What happened to morality and decency? Companies make enough money to not only reduce the amount of time a person works but pay the workers MORE. Check your 401K’s before you react in self-righteous indignation you greedy bastards.

This isn’t the only systemic issue that we (and I am not excluding myself here) face in health and safety that we cannot control. But lack of control is no excuse for lack of trying to influence. Every day, nay—every word I write—I risk some impotent mouth breather complaining that I’ve finally gone too far. But at some point, someone out there will finally realize that THEY have to act, that THEY have to think, and THEY will have to screw down their courage and ACT. You can’t just read a book, or post online, or go to a conference you have to get off your lazy asses and DO something. I may not have all the answers, in fact, I DON’T have all the answers but at least I have the courage to ask the questions. This is real life. You can’t sit on the sidelines and cluck your tongues.

John Lennon, in the song, Girl said, “ Did she understand it when they said, that a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure? Will she still believe it when he’s dead?” Well we are facing this now and we have a bunch of lazy boobs looking for a quick fix, well there isn’t one and the Health and Safety function is becoming that in name only.

Alan Ginsberg said, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,” Well I’ve seen the most feeble minds of my generation rise to prominence in the field of worker safety selling snake-oil, while the greatest minds were chased from the field by close-headed, psychotic, drooling, clinical imbeciles who talk big from anonymous walls of the digital fog but shrivel when confronted in person.

We may not be able to change things with fiats, but we can fight the good fight and try to convince our leaders that working our people to death is wrong, and bad for business. Boss Tweed said, “you can always hire half the poor to kill the other half”, but we can prove him wrong, and I spit on all of you who are too cowardly to even try. Oh, and the hat stays on.

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 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.

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.