Smells Like A Safety Meeting

shutterstock_157734158By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and
Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

Dark House Brewery, a microbrewery based in Michigan has a beer that is called “Smells Like A Safety Meeting”.  You might think that this is a compliment to all the hard working men and women in the safety field; if you do you would be dead wrong.  In many workplaces, sneaking off to smoke marijuana is referred to mockingly, as “going to a safety meeting.” Given that a brewery would name a beer after the practice one can logically assume that this euphemism is not uncommon.

Sadly, the fact that people mock safety people isn’t shocking. I get derisively called, “Mr. Safety” by family and friends more often than I would like, and as a good friend of mine offered during a discussion about how a group of us hate strangers talking to us on a plane, “I don’t have that problem. As soon as I sit down I tell the person next to me that I am a safety consultant and that shuts down any further conversation.”  It’s good that we can laugh at ourselves, but too few of us can, and even more of us provide continually fodder for mocking, ridicule, and even out–and–out hostility toward us.

Ostensibly it doesn’t make sense. Why would people mock and ridicule a profession whose sole purpose is to reduce the risk of injuries; in effect, to ensure that whenever possible people won’t get hurt? Unfortunately, in a practical sense we make it easy to see why many people hold us up for ridicule.

“I Save Lives”

In my book, I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business, I reprinted a post that I posted on my blog. The post was a fictional letter from all the workers who died on the job to safety professionals. I also wrote a fictional letter from the safety guy to the dead workers in response.  My intention was to post the former the first week and the latter the following week. Well the uproar that ensued from the first post was truly shocking. Safety professionals told me they hated me, some threatened violence, some just lobbed insults. I was so ticked off that I toyed with the idea of not posting the response, but I hate being manipulated so I decided not to change my plans. When my publisher told me that my book was too long, I cut out the response to the letter. I am petty, and this was my pathetic revenge. 

The whole intent of the exercise was to demonstrate to our shared occupation that if we say we save lives we must hold ourselves culpable for the deaths of the people on our watch.  We delight in saying that we save lives but recoil at the slightest hint that we are in anyway responsible for the deaths of workers. We can’t have it both ways.

I take on some of the Myths (or lies if you prefer) that we safety folks tell ourselves and each other and the biggest one has to be that we save lives. I for my part do not save lives.  I provide workers (at all levels) with the information that they need to make informed choices about the risks they take and their safety. In other words, I help people save their OWN lives.  I have skills, and training, and experience on which to draw so that I can have conversations with individuals to help them make their own decisions. I hope what I have to offer, but I also LEARN from these conversations. 

Ridiculous Precautions

Everyone working in safety has their pet peeves when it comes to a hazard.  As I have explained to people who ask about the origins of the title of my above mentioned book safety professionals—particularly those who learned it on the job—there are some pretty dopey things safety professions insist people do.  My favorite is “use the handrail, always maintain three points of contact on a staircase.” Well….as I learned while working in healthcare, having continuous contact with the handrail spreads germs and poses a health threat. The proper way to ascend or descend a staircase is to keep the hand closest to the rail hovering above the rail so that if you trip you can quickly grab the rail and prevent yourself from failing.  Anyone who has seen the (often remarkably gruesome injuries) from people cut from splintered wood or jagged metal on handrails can attest to the fact that in many cases the practice of glomming your hand onto the rail is anything but best practice. I speak from experience. I was once seriously cut on my hand from a handrail, so I’m not prepared to argue the case. There are plenty of trivial, ridiculous things that we require people to do and they KNOW that there is not a good reason for them to do them. Furthermore, there are often arbitrary requirements that we impose out of ignorance (something that LOOKS dangerous but in actuality is less dangerous than the requirement—think wearing cotton gloves around a spindle.  In other cases we make a rule that is more about ease of enforcement than it is about safety. Take for example safety glasses. Too often the rule is everyone must where safety glasses when in this area, but the law doesn’t dictate that requirement, the organization decides that it is too difficult to suss out which employees are doing what activities and who are legally required to wear safety glasses and who are not. We simplify things by saying everyone must wear safety glasses. We justify it as for everyone’s safety but if we are truly being honest it is for OUR convenience. Don’t get me wrong, I support this approach, but we should at least be honest with people and tell them that it’s too tough to get people to wear safety glasses depending on each person’s individual activity situation. Instead we dig in our heels and try to defend the rule. We also don’t do a very good job of explaining why the rule exists sometimes just because we don’t think it’s important and other times because we just flat out don’t know.  But a fundamental tenet of adult education is that you have to provide them the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) or the learner will tune you out. And what we do, or should be doing, is teaching people to make informed choices about their safety. And this may startle you, but “you won’t get killed or maimed” isn’t enough of a WIIFM for most people. We should we not speed? Because it decreases our reaction time and when some idiot does something stupid you have more time to react. When I tell someone to drive safely I usually add: there are a lot of idiots out there on the road. Taking a moment to explain WHY a rule is in someone’s best interest is your best bet for getting them to comply.

Soft Headed Parenting

Years ago I was working safety on a construction site, and one guy kept announcing my arrival in a mocking tone with “OK everybody the safety guy is here. We better all follow the rules so we don’t get in trouble” or something similarly belittling.  After about three times I approached him when he was alone. “Writing anybody up today?’ he asked through the kind of smug smirk that makes you want to slap him so hard that his mouth ends up so far behind his head that it requires plastic surgery to ever get it back into position.  I told him, “I don’t know what your problem is and I don’t care. But you need to know, I aint your mama, I aint your daddy, I aint your boss, and I aint your friend. In fact, I don’t even like you, not even a little. If you were to die on the job today it wouldn’t affect me in the least. BUT, I won’t have you undermining the advice and notification I am giving the other people who value their lives and safety, so you can knock off your bullshit.” I walked away and, being me, realized that while the guy was a complete waste of skin who was more valuable to society in parts (a cornea transplant here, a kidney transplant there, you get the drill) he was still my customer and while the customer isn’t always right, the customer is always the customer.  So when he approached me the next day and asked to talk to me privately I was more than a little filled with dread. He said, “look, I’ve never had a safety guy talk to me like that, and I want to apologize. I realize what I thought was just joking around was really hostility toward safety. You have a job to do and I think you really want to do it well so I would like to just start over.” We shook hands and from that day on he was a huge safety advocate. Too many people feed into this parent-child dynamic and it gets in the way of our jobs. We come to represent every authority person that people hate and they respond accordingly. Treat people like grown ups even when they act like children and you will soon have a more functional relationship with your contingency.

Pretending We Have Authority and Power We Don’t Have

Safety cops complain that they “catch people in the act” and nobody supports them. That’s because we don’t have the authority or power to fire anyone and we have overplayed our hand. The offending person has called our bluff and we had squat.  What’s worse is many of us think that we have power and authority that we don’t have. The best we can do is be tattle-tales and run to their bosses, who like as not will only tell them not to do it again. These are grown people and they know far better than many safety professionals that there is nothing we can do to them.  Remember screaming, “You’re not the boss of me as a kid?” well that’s what their thinking if not outright saying it.

We Can Do Better

I am hoping that all of you reading this and see some element of yourself in these archetypes that you will do your best to break out of that mode and become something that people won’t make fun of and mock.  We need to be the resource that we always have claimed to be; we need to be coaches and mentors and evangelists for safety, not in an abstract way, but in a practical way. We need to teach people to question what they are doing and why, we need to persuade people to forget about the easiest way to do the job but the safest way to do the job.  It won’t be easy, but if it was than any idiot could do it.

This morning I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons. It made me sad, and then it made me angry. There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets.  Purveyors of hate need to feel real world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  • What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
  • Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
  • What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights. The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is peppered with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) You should buy it. 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 newly written material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. 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

 

#consulting, #culture, #i-know-my-shoes-are-untied-mind-your-own-business, #lone-gunman-rewriting-the-handbook-on-workplace-violence-prevention, #peace, #repairing-the-reputation-of-safety, #safety, #training, #violence

You Haven’t Said Anything Worthwhile Until Someone Tries to Silence You 

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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 don’t usually post more than once a week, but I was just informed by WordPress that today is the 10th anniversary of my blog. (Completely coincidentally, it also happens to be the one-year anniversary of Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence). I guess a decade of blathering should make me at least partially introspective and cause me to reflect on what the blog has meant to me, so here goes:

First of all, it’s not really the anniversary of my blog.  I first started blogging, under protest when the owner of my place of employment insisted that I blog. I told him blogs were, in my opinion, for people who could write well enough to get published. He was listening to a sneaky, know-it-all who insisted that all companies needed to have a blog. Since I was, at the time, one of the top purveyors of safety he made it clear that my having a blog was a condition of employment. I reluctantly agreed but added that I would only do it if there was no censorship. That was somewhere around June of 2006, and the blog has brought little more than grief ever since. Almost every employer since has taken issue with something I said at one time or another, but as of my current employers observed, “You can’t be a thought leader by telling people what they want to hear.” 

Things got so bad by June of 2009 that I finally scrapped the blog and erased my account. Close to 500 blog posts were lost forever, but fear not, I’m sure I’ve repeated myself numerous times. And I decided to say “fuck it” and restart the blog in 2010, but my employer insisted that I allow him to edit my blog so I didn’t write anything until I was summarily dismissed in October of 2010. The company is out of business now, good riddance to bad rubbish.

How do I feel about the blog? Well…ambivalent. On the one hand, it allows me to explore topics within the Safety function and rile up the establishment, but on the other hand, it’s a legitimate pain in the ass to come up with topics to explore.  If I really try to drive innovative thought or share a best practice, people don’t read it. But if I dare say anything remotely disparaging about Bullshit Based Safety (BBS) people flock to the site in droves just to work up a froth and get mad at me.  I really don’t care if a bunch of dim-witted mouth-breathers hates me, the more emotional someone becomes about an issue the more likely they are to internalize it. So I have been a safety subversive for almost 16 years.

Biting the Hand that Feeds Me

I have two things that I have traditionally despised: a safety practitioner and a consultant. I have always said that consultants are people who give you an unworkable solution and then blame you for its failures, and safety folks, well…let’s just say that before I was dragged kicking and screaming into the field most of the safety professionals I met were dullards who were too stupid to be useful but were either related to a big shot or well-liked numbskulls that were put into the role of safety supervisor because the big shots figured they couldn’t do much harm there. 

One such numbskull was the inspiration for the title of my first book,  I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business.  I used to be a consultant for a large manufacturer and every time I would enter the production area I seemed to have my shoes untied.  The safety cop would threaten to write me up and “put me out of the plant for good” if he saw me with my shoes untied again, so that night I went out and bought loafers.  The next time the goofball saw me he seemed genuinely disappointed that I was in full compliance. What made his insistence on my shoes being tied was that he invariably would bust me several feet from an electronic induction hardening machine. For those of you who may not know what that is, “Induction hardening is a type of heat treatment in which metal parts are heated by electromagnetic induction and then quenched.”  I walked past that machine for years wearing a metal belt buckle, watch, and ring until one day the operator was killed when by an arc flash that connected to his wedding ring electrocuting him to death. Yes, I could have tripped on my shoelaces, but I ALSO could have been the victim of that arc flash. The simpleton of a safety cop was so focused on the obvious that he overlooked the much more serious threat. As far as I am concerned he is complicit in that man’s death, but by God, he may have saved me from a nasty spill.

Over the last 29 years, I have met, and continue to meet, sharp, effective, and conscientious safety professionals, but I continue to have the sub-simian asshats crawl out from under their rocks to give me what for because I questioned one of their simple-minded, but cherished traditions.  I remember some fossil chewing me out because I questioned the kind of psychopath that introduces the idea that a parent could get killed while at work. This jerk made a point of defending the practice because a) he had worked in the field for 50 years and b) people liked the contests. I countered that a) a person who has spent 50 years sucking at something isn’t as valuable as someone who has spent three years doing a job competently and b) there are people who like fornicating with pigs, but that’s not really something we want to encourage now is it? He spat back a death threat. 10 years later I’m still waiting for his wrinkled old ass to show up.

Since I started this blog, death threats and threats of violence have become commonplace.  I don’t give them much credence, only the most ineffectual murders announce their intention to kill you before making an attempt, but every once in a while I have to call the police—like the time a woman called me up, confirmed it was me, read me my address, and told me that she would be delivering a bomb to my house the next day. I told her that she better detonate it fast because I keep sundry swords, knives, and cudgels on hand and would beat any suspicious character to a bloody pulp and hung up.  Then I noticed that the imbecile had not blocked her number on the caller ID. I called the police and the officer using my phone called her back. He told her that it was up to me whether or not she would be arrested for making terrorist threats. She was dumb enough to have called me from her employer’s business and the officer then called her boss and that if I chose to I could sue him and he would likely lose. Before he hung up he said something similar to what a friend of mine said to me when I was dealing with a deranged stalker, “have you met this guy? He doesn’t strike me as a restrainer order kind of guy, he strikes me as more of a lure you to a secluded area with a shotgun kind of guy. Tell her if she comes looking for him she better get fingerprinted because dental records weren’t going to be enough to identify her body.” I still find it ironic that safety people threaten to kill me or in some other way inflict violence. But I grew up in the Detroit area and we’re not easily scared. My only regret is I never found out what bug had crawled up that woman’s ass. I mean, it’s not like I would stop saying it, but I would like to explore the topic further. Before the officer left he told me that if someone came at me I had the right to kill them; it’s a legal theory I don’t believe is accurate, and not something I’m likely to pursue more out of an aversion to the mess and paperwork than any real moral center on my part.

So looking forward I can foresee a day when I give up blogging, but for now, I will still be the fly in the ointment, challenging, pushing, irritating, and insulting, all to make you think and question your opinions. If what I am saying isn’t pissing someone off, it probably isn’t worth saying.  

Thanks to all of you who have read my words and telling me that while you don’t always agree (you shouldn’t) I always make you think. Thanks for all the death threats and hate mail as well, my life wouldn’t be fulfilled without it. 

Almost a month ago now,  there were three workplace shootings in five 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  • What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
  • Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
  • What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights. The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is peppered with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) You should buy it. 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 newly written material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. 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

 

 

 

#i-know-my-shoes-are-untied-mind-your-own-business, #lone-gunman-rewriting-the-handbook-on-workplace-violence-prevention

Safety is Bunk

This is the first post I made in my relaunched blog 10 years ago via Safety is Bunk

Behind Blue Eyes

shutterstock_185093693By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

But my dreams they aren’t as empty as my conscience seems to be—Pete Townsend

As many of you already know, this week I learned that a Russian website is bootlegging my book Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Some would be outraged, but not me.  I won’t get any money for the books they’ve stolen, but at least it is bootlegged in its entirety and credited under my name. So while ASSP thinks my tone is too tough for you to handle and that you will only buy nice sycophantic crap that validates your own world view. At least the pirates think my book is worth stealing. And I know this in all certainty: pirates don’t steal things they don’t think hold widespread appeal and intrinsic value. So spasibo comrades, enjoy your ill-gotten gain.

I asked my former editor, Peter Page, a man of exceptional vision who was summarily dismissed, in part, I’m convinced because of my contributions, from Entrepreneur, about my books.  To whit: why do the intellectual excrement of the likes of Scott Gellar sell so well while my books languish around average. His answer was characteristically curt and to the point, I’m paraphrasing but he said, “You preach change to a bunch of people who don’t want any part of changing. You need to ask yourself if you want to write about how you see the world or do you want to write pablum to people who only want to read what they already believe.”

Obviously, I am not in this for the money; I have had umpteen offers to commercialize this site—from ads to product placement. I’ve turned every offer away because even if a sponsor doesn’t put pressure on me to support what they sell, the pressure is always there. So I guess for better or for worse I want to expose the world as I see it through my own eyes. We can argue about it, but it won’t change anything. I can only speak from my perspective. 

It’s not always easy describing the world from my perspective. It’s safer threatening a man’s child than his livelihood and every criticism I lob is perceived to be a full-frontal attack on the new pair of jet skis and the better life some snake-oil salesman lusts after. But therein lies the problem, as I see it, and it’s a problem that worsens every day: Safety isn’t some intellectual argument that we can idly and pedantically debate on LinkedIn. While we treat Safety like an academic exercise, people DIE. Real people are crippled, and maimed; they lose life and limb, while we construct an ever more complex way to make ourselves look smart even though for the most part they fail.

So many of the safety pundits have never turned a wrench on an assembly line, hauled in a catch on a commercial fishing ship, plowed a field, driven a tanker, or done anything approaching manual labor. In fact, the safest thing in most workplaces is the safety guy’s ass. Too many people in safety are so worried about an injury not being their faults that they spend ours covering their asses and wearing an ever more comfortable ass-grove in their chairs.

So here is my challenge: Inspire someone.  Inspire an executive into realizing that “safety” isn’t philosophic it’s operational and it’s good business. Inspire a middle manager that blood spilled in the furtherance of business is immoral and on his or her hands, inspire a front-line worker to stop work when they see an unreasonable risk or merely to second check the safety of a task. Inspire another safety practitioner to do his or her job in accordance with his or her values.

“Everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it”—Mark Twain

Safety is, with the possible exception of Adult Learning, the only profession I can think of embroiled in an identity crisis.  It’ like the Mark Twain quote above. We talk about this theory or that, or the best way to do this, but unless someone is making a buck off it scarce little is done about it.  It reminds me of the time I designed an organizational structure based on democracy instead of the current state that is based on a monarchy. I proposed that leaders—from front-line supervisors to executives—would be elected by the entire workforce and these leaders would be servants of the corporate population, the executives too would be elected and face reelection after a fixed term, and finally, a board whose sole purpose would be to determine if the policies enacted were aligned with the values and mission of the organization. I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was when my boss (an executive) read the paper with enthusiasm and excitedly asked me who else was doing this? When I told him no one, I watched as his eyes went dim and his body language sank, it was like witnessing the death of a loved one. I knew in that instant that my idea—no matter how good, or how loved it was—was dead.

We have to stop arguing over the niggling points of safety and get out there and DO SOMETHING. We are so busy polishing various turds that we have lost sight of the two basic truths of safety: nobody wants their job to kill them and no job is designed to kill the worker. So if you do nothing else, inspire someone to look at the basics of safety: hurting workers is bad business.

Almost a month ago now,  there were three workplace shootings in five 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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  • What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
  • Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
  • What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is peppered with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) You should buy it. 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 newly written material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. 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

 

 

 

Looking Back, Looking Forward, Looking Around

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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

This is the time of year for introspection﹘we look inwards and take stock of our lives. We concentrate on the things we have done and the things we wished we hadn’t done. This is also the time of year for looking forward. We make resolutions, we hope to improve our lives, hopefully we view the future with renewed hope and an invigorated sense of purpose. And yet there is a third thing that we seldom talk about but can’t help but avoid, taking a look around.

Looking Back

In 2019, I was a production safety consultant on three major motion pictures, I conducted a massive global survey for suppliers of one of the world’s largest oil companies, and did a couple of safety projects for tech companies and startups. The entertainment industry isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds, but it is immensely gratifying﹘unlike many industries where people pick up safety here and there, there isn’t a ton of workers in that business that are aware of the big picture of safety.  That’s not to say they don’t work safely (remember my credo: Nobody wants to die at work, and your processes aren’t supposed to hurt them), in fact, many of the trades are so wrapped up and focused on the job that they have to have done in a couple of minutes that they often lose situational awareness. The work on a movie set is akin to Sim Ops in construction where you have multiple trades doing discrete tasks in a congested area. It only takes one variable to go wrong and you have a catastrophe.  It’s like being responsible for an orchestra where if someone plays the wrong note multiple people die. 

What’s even more dangerous than having multiple people doing different things in close proximity to one another is that in entertainment, the operating conditions are in continual flux.  Something as simple as cloud cover can send the schedule into a tailspin. To say this work is stressful is to under sell it﹘you really don’t know what to expect. My approach to safety here is to correct people who say, “you’re here to keep me safe”.  I would put it to you soft-hearted naive beginners in the field, and you delusional old coots who think you are doing God’s work, that we NEVER save people’s lives, or at least seldom, and even then that’s not our jobs. What we do, if we are really doing our jobs, is to provide good information so people can make informed decisions about their risks.  If you ascribe to the former mindset, then people can only be safe when you are there to make their decision for them, but the latter mindset helps you teach people to consider the risks they are taking before they take them. I’m never a safety cop, although I have seen plenty in safety, because I know that as soon as I am out of sight the people are going to do what I told them not to do.  The entertainment business is the single most challenging work I’ve ever done, and I have worked in mining, Oil & Gas. manufacturing, construction, and maritime. Someone on set told me that to be effective in the entertainment business one had to have a “love-hate” relationship with “the Business” as they call it. I’m inclined to agree﹘you never know the challenges you will face and you have to constantly work to enable safe production.  Looking back it has been a good year for me work-wise since I learned an awful lot (the best way to truly internalize knowledge is by teaching the subject to someone else.

What else did I do this year? I spoke and retired from speaking from any conferences that require me to jump through hoops for no pay (which is in no way the same as retiring from speaking.  I started the year in March, at the Michigan Safety Conference, a huge local conference that is unaffiliated with either ASSP or the NSC. This is a conference that I will continue to participate in as long as they will have me. They generally will work with me to find a topic that is relevant and also something I have something to say about. As for the rest? I am tired of spending my own money on travel and expenses only to be treated as if I owe the organization at which I am speaking money or that they are doing me a favor.  This year saw me travel to Grand Rapids, New Orleans twice, Dublin, Ireland for a total of five speeches. Two of these I took vacation time and paid out of pocket because my employer hadn’t budgeted for this many trips (and the Ireland trip cost a pretty penny for a disastrous, pipe and drape, 15-minute speech (this was NOT what I signed up for) but it was good press and I was able to promote my books.

Speaking of books, the sale of both my books have remained strong. Big thanks to those of you who have bought them and said nice things about them, and well…as for the rest of you, what the Hell are you waiting for?  Use that Amazon gift card to buy a couple of copies. They are a bargain at half the price and both are now available in eFormat. I’ve also written 319 articles for Authority Magazine, around 30 for Thrive Global, two for HSI/HSME, and one for Entrepreneur. The Authority articles are divided into two tracks: Interviewing Powerful Women CEOs (I was assigned this beat and didn’t think much of it until I rewrote the questions and it became a hit series) and Avocation to Vocation: How I turned my hobby into a career, which was my idea and took off like a rocket.  As I interviewed these 319 people I started to see commonality among the responses and am intending to write two books on what I have learned. They aren’t about safety, but being the good safety people I know you are, I’m sure the lessons won’t be lost on you.

So that was last year, and looking back, I feel like it was a good one, I lost some family and friends and I have gained some more.

Looking Around

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have anything to grouse about and looking around I see plenty.  We have become more and more decisive; not just in the U.S. but worldwide. My siblings and I don’t dare talk politics lest it become a shouting match.  Brexit has half the world wondering what the aftershocks and ripple effects will mean to them. We live in a state of constant anxiety while pundits and our employers tell us to be optimistic. Neville Chamberlain was an optimist and we can all probably remember how that worked out for him. Irrespective of your politics you have to concede that this is not a great time for workplace safety.

The U.S. trade war with China has had the unintended outcome of closing U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes Works plant in Metro Detroit, permanently dismissing 1,545 workers in a move likely to devastating Detroit’s local economy. Detroit is on the rebound, but the manufacture of steel largely has not.  I have mixed emotions about this, on the one hand, as I stated this is a catastrophic blow to the local economy of the region informally called Downriver but on the other hand Great Lakes Works has not had what anyone would call a stellar safety record. I guess in the final estimation, it’s better to lose your job than to lose your life (as have many people at the facility, including my brother-in-law who died from an industrial illness he contracted by working there). The company said it only that it was a tough decision, but it had to do what was in the stockholders best interest  This raises the larger question of whether or not a company’s only responsibility is to safeguard the best interests of its stockholders, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Looking Forward

In a couple of days we will enter a new year and a new decade and I am optimistic. More and more companies are coming to the realisation that killing and maiming workers is unsustainable. I believe that the purveyors of bullshit and snake oil who﹘lacking any education or real field experience﹘will retire or die or otherwise leave the field.  With the people who were put into safety because they were well liked but essentially useless gone it will allow a new generation of educated and energetic safety professionals, TRUE professionals, to throw of the yoke of superstition, junk science, ignorance, and stupidity promulgated by their bosses and apply real science and research to our field.  This won’t happen overnight, but it will happen rapidly as the old guard and the academics fade into the pages of history and become a footnote to the rudderless days of safety. In little more than a decade from now I should be financially able to realize my retirement goal of being found dead in a rental car at some airport, but hopefully something I said somewhere in my articles, blogs, speeches or books, will have inspired someone young or old to take up my mantle and carry on.

Almost a month ago now,  there were three workplace shootings in five  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.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  1. What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
  2. Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
  3. What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is peppered with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) You should buy it. 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. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. 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.

 

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?

shutterstock_1359419732

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.

 

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