Bragging Ourselves To Death

LoudmouthBy Phil La Duke

“Who takes all the glory and none of the shame”—Tramp The Dirt Down, Elvis Costello

Yesterday I received two white papers forwarded. The crux of these papers was something that should surprise none of us: 1) Companies world wide are increasingly using the Safety Function as a dumping ground for everything from case management to organizing the company picnic and 2) Companies are actively looking for all functions to do more with less resources (and particularly less people).

It’s causing ugliness—like the boorish warthog who pushes you out a project to claim it as her own all the while besmirching your reputation—and this ugliness is likely to get worse. Competition for the rapidly evaporating big-ticket ($100K +) safety opportunities is getting brutal and when it comes to messing with someone’s livelihood quarter is neither asked nor given and viciousness becomes the rule of the day; like rats in a cage we turn on each other.

All over the world corporate leaders are asking have we gone too far with safety (and environmental protections). Someone once said that you can’t claim credits for improvements without taking responsibility when things go sideways, and when it comes to safety things ALWAYS go sideways eventually. Safety as a function isn’t yet dead, but it’s coughing up blood and we are treating it like it’s just a cold; it will get better with time. They say time heals all wounds; I say time eventually kills us all—if you live long enough you will die of something.

“And if I could chose a place to die, it would be in your arms baby”—Eric Clapton, (Derek & the Dominos) Bellbottom Blues. Nobody chooses to be cut in half by a sheet of freshly manufactured glass, or be buried alive because a supervisor was either too stupid, lazy, or greedy to dig a trench properly. I don’t know how or why I would chose to die (I assume I will eventually be gunned down by one of you nuts) but it damned sure wouldn’t be on the job.

The worst thing about the siege under which safety currently finds itself is that we the Safety community are responsible for our current state. We have been bragging for years about what a fantastic job we’ve been doing. We tell the C-suite that our injuries are down (even if its because we have set up systems that reward under-reporting or dubious case management) and make excuses (and even argue with alternate facts) for the fact that fatalities remain flat.   We have done such a great job convincing our bosses that we have won the war on injuries that the big bosses are deciding we can do with less troops, we can do more with less.

We conveniently convince ourselves that all the bullshit we’ve been slinging is true; we have done a great job, our snake oil really does work, and mostly if we don’t spend our budgets they will take it away. Ideally, a safety practitioner should work him/herself out of a job, but not like this. We should be out of a job when we have established systems that identify and mitigate risks and that give the highest priority to the most lethal risks, not as we have done by bamboozling the bosses that because we haven’t had a fatality in three years that we have cured cancer. Three years is not enough data to make accurate statistical inferences, but who gives a crap about that, our jobs are on the line and instead of demonstrating the enormity of the problem we talk about what a great job were doing not killing anybody lately. We have screwed ourselves: we’ve spent ten years convincing the organization that they NEED us to get to zero injuries, that without us there will be a blood bath. And when the injury rates were bad we simply excused it by telling the organization that we work in a dangerous industry and that compared to our competition…well we aren’t any worse. When things got better we ran to the bosses looking for a gold star; many of us didn’t have a clue why things were better except that we were doing a good job.

The problem we created is in the haste to cover our collective asses and save our jobs was that we avoided talking about risks and talked about injuries; body counts. The thing is, it’s tough to get people to care about workplace fatalities when more people are killed in traffic accidents. It will take a massive horrifying workplace catastrophe that kills a couple of hundred people before people will once again care about worker safety and even then I doubt it will be enough to save us, unless it is happens life on cable news. People have just stopped caring about worker injuries—hell when I hear someone is on medical disability my first thought is “this malingering bastard is probably faking it”, and intellectually I KNOW most people aren’t. So what do you think people who are outside safety are thinking?

As governments set out to gut OSHA and it’s overseas governments follow suit, as the National Safety Council looks for ever more simple minded safety issues to concoct (prescription drug abuse might well be a problem, but in all the incident reviews I have conducted not once has the misuse of prescription drugs been a problem) it’s chicken-little, “the sky is falling approach to safety” makes us look like water-headed dimwits who couldn’t pour pee out of a boot if the instructions were written on the bottom.

We have to immediately stop finding that little golden ray of sunshine in worker deaths and serious injuries (Our numbers are down!! Let’s get pizza!”) and start taking a hard and scientific look at the risks and hazards of our own house. I have been divorced for almost 30 years and live in squalor, but I never excuse the mess by telling visitors how much cleaner my house is than my next door neighbor’s house. WE are essential. WE are overworked. WE have to communicate that much as we may have claimed credit for the reduced injury rates we haven’t done much, or at least we don’t really know what we did that made the difference and we sure as shit haven’t done anything to quantify and mitigate our risks. A new day is coming and we had better stop bragging about improvements in safety until we understand WHY things got better, otherwise we might as well claim credit for a beautiful temperate and sunny day. We have bragged ourselves out of a job, and we are well on our way to bragging ourselves to death.

If I Had A Hammer…

By Phil La Duke

Last week one of my LinkedIn contacts posted a discussion regarding eLearning. Long before I started in the field of instructional design (when people still called it training—I remember being admonished by a fellow trainer who look at me disdainfully and said, “You TRAIN a dog, you educate people” without missing a beat I shot back with “you may not mind your fifth grade daughter getting sex education, but you probably don’t want her getting sex training”) companies and vendors have been pushing technology-assisted training. First it was video, than laser discs, then video conferencing, and so on. Based on the discussion it was easy to see that the principle advocates for eLearning remain the people who sell it and the people who have to pay for it.

If (as I firmly believe) training is about teaching someone skills, that is, to DO something, and education is about teaching information, that is, ABOUT something, then the limitations of eLearning become immediately obvious. For the builders of eLearning there is no down side, they are selling the figurative hammer and every opportunity looks all the world like a nail. They will make absurd arguments about the value of replacing almost all training with eLearning. On the other hand, professional instructors will argue that the best training is always an instructor.

The problem is that both groups are both right and wrong. eLearning can and should play an important part in any blended learning curriculum (where multiple techniques are used to train workers) and there is a simple rule for determining when each is appropriate: am I building skills or am I building knowledge.  The easiest example is Right To Know training, I mean the word “know” is actually in the course title.  Unfortunately, OSHA’s requirements for live instructions or onerous proctoring requirements make it too easy to say “the hell with it” and do it via live instruction.  The same is true with Hazard Communication (which is typically rolled into the same class) but regulations get in the way of common sense.  OSHA’s issue seems to be “how can a company be sure that the employee (and not someone else) took the course?  I say “who cares?”  As one of the discussion participants pointed out, at some point personal responsibility comes into play.  If you knowingly and willingly violate the law and company policy by cheating in an eLearning (or any training) course you should be fired for ethical violations and for putting yourself and others at risk.  These and other courses that are little more than a data dump should be presented using technology.

Another good use for eLearning is testing. People should be allowed to test out of training that they don’t need. The government, trainers, and even some executives I’ve met have taken the view of “what can it hurt to train everyone?” Well for starters, training the entire organization is costly and time consuming (and if you want to get the most out of training PAY people to go to training). Additionally, bored learners don’t learn and often can be disruptive preventing the people who need training from getting it.

Course evaluations should be done on-line—there is scarce little value in keeping people after class to complete the forms; you will get a more candid response by having them complete a time-sensitive course evaluation sheet.

A lot of eLearning is gawd-awful—the so-called interactions are trite and do little to advance the learner experience. Why? Because building good interactions cost money (not a lot actually, but money nonetheless) and the cheap bastards who are buying it typically don’t care if it’s of sufficient quality.  There are some people doing truly leading edge things with eLearning (usually around ensuring that the correct person is completing the course). Improv Driving immediately springs to mind. Better than half of driving is knowledge of the rules and laws governing traffic and Improv Driving hit upon the idea (which is based in strong scientific foundations) that learning is easier when people are laughing while they learn.  People even have been known to watch a course multiple times simple for the entertainment value, and yet the course integrity is very strong.  Now this alone isn’t sufficient to send a neophyte driver onto the road, but it provides a solid foundation.  This company has even used technology discovered in the development of the enigma code breaking in World War II to use the unique typing characteristics to verify identity. There are lots of good eLearning providers, but there are also a lot of real and true hacks out there that know as much about what constitutes a good training course as I do about heart surgery; what’s worse is they don’t even know how bad their courses are. The lion’s share of eLearning are what’s known in the trade as “page turners”. In a page turner if you’re lucky a narrator (and I’m not joking many don’t even bother with that) literally reads a page to you  and then you are eventually asked to complete a quiz (or in the nerdy parlance of the trade a “knowledge check”) which is typically a matching exercise or similarly lack luster and amateurish activity.  Some eLearning providers brag that you can’t just skip to the end—that you have to sit and listen to the garbage narration before taking the (usually poorly written) test. eLearning of this sort is a waste of time and money and yet it is far and away the most prevalent.

I was in charge of procuring training for a large (one of the largest in fact) hospital system when it moved from the coding system of International Coding for Diseases (ICD-9) to ICD-10 This involved training 85000 people in less than six months.  Instructor lead training alone was impossible so we selected a company that not only had exceptional on-line training, but included games designed to teach anatomy and physiology, basic coding structure, and several other topics.  The idea was that after completing the on-line training learners would play the games to retain the knowledge.  This knowledge was an essential prerequisite to the instructor led training that only a fraction needed. After the instructor led training, coders were put into a computer “sand box” where they could practice coding without fear of screwing up a patient’s file.  It was expensive, to the tune of about $3 million, but divide that by the number of learners and the overall effectiveness and it was an outstanding value.  But let’s face it, most eLearning sucks.

This is not to say that Instructor-Led Training (ILT) is all that great shakes. I have been subjected to some horrific ILT, particularly in college.  Were it up to me, most if not all, college would be on-line; think about it, name four college courses that taught you how to actually do something. Most are a professor spending 2 hours lecturing about crap that you could have learned on line.  What’s worse is that much of the safety training out there isn’t designed by instructional designers.  Trainers don’t want the liability of developing safety training, and most safety folks (while having years of experience conducting ILT) would know good training design (or even facilitation for that matter). So when it comes to safety training, arguably the most important training one can have, we have a preponderance of quacks and hacks selling inferior products at inflated prices to customers who either don’t care or don’t know any better.

To be sure, training, particularly custom training, is expensive, but—and this is especially true in worker safety—consider the price of poor training. And if we don’t care then why do we waste so much time and money on it.

A Complete Listing Of My Published Works

by Phil La Duke

For those of you interested in such things, here is an up to date (I shall endeavor to keep it such) list of my published work, speeches, and appearances.

  1. 10 Ways to Reinvent Your Safety Incentive Program (ISHN)
  2. 3 Ways That Success Can Kill Your Company  (Entrepreneur)
  3. 4 Things About Cultivating Thought Leaders The Company Might Regret (Entrepreneur)
  4. 5 Business Lessons I’ve Learned From Surfing (Entrepreneur)
  5. 5 Leadership Secrets Stolen From Other People  (Entrepreneur)
  6. 5 Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Launch (Entrepreneur)
  7. 5 Questions to Decide If You Need a Business Partner (Entrepreneur)
  8. 5 Surefire Ways to Wreck Your Social Media Network (Entrepreneur)
  9. 5 Things Presenters Usually Get Wrong (Entrepreneur)
  10. 5 Ways to Attract and Retain Millennials (Entrepreneur)
  11. 5 Ways to Avoid Cash Flow Log Jams (Entrepreneur)
  12. 6 Attitudes That Can Get You Killed At Work (Workers’ Compensation Institute)
  13. 6 Questions Customers Ask Before a Major Purchase (Entrepreneur)
  14. 6 Rules For Effective Feedback (Entrepreneur)
  15. 6 Simple Ways to Change Your Life   (ISHN)
  16. 6 Things Millennials Need to Know About the Modern Workplace (Entrepreneur)
  17. 6 Tips For Goal Setting That, Trust Me, They Don’t Teach You In College (Entrepreneur)
  18. 6 Tips For Reducing Time Wasted In Meetings (Entrepreneur)
  19. 6 Ways to Improve Workplace Safety Without Going Broke (Entrepreneur)
  20. 7 Easy Ways You Can Increase Safety On a Budget (Entrepreneur)
  21. A @#$# storm In Texas (ISHN)
  22. A Compelling Business Case For Safety (ISHN)
  23. A Culture Of Myths (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  24. A Day In the Life Of An Ergonomist (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  25. A Eulogy for Meetings (Entrepreneur)
  26. A Template For World-Class Safety (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  27. Adapt Or Die—Some Chilling Lessons From the Ice Businesss (Entrepreneur)
  28. An Obituary for the 40-hour Workweek (Entrepreneur)
  29. Anti-Social Networking  (ISHN)
  30. Applying Deming To Workplace Safety (ISHN)
  31. Applying Total Quality Management to Safety (The Compass Volume 10)
  32. Approaching Safety Holistically (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  33. Are Safety Professionals Obsessed With the Wrong Things? (ISHN)
  34. Are You Turning A Blind Eye On Safety? (ISHN)
  35. Asleep On The Job (Health & Safety International)
  36. At What Point Does Safety Become Overly Intrusive? (ISHN)
  37. Becoming a Billionaire in Six Insanely Simple Steps (LinkedIn)
  38. Before Offering Feedback Consider If You’re Trying to Teach a Pig to Sing (Entrepreneur)
  39. Behavior-Based Safety: A Critic Assesses Its Shortcomings (ISHN)
  40. Beware Common Sense Can Kill You (ISHN)
  41. Bleeding Money: How Much Does Safety Really Cost? (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  42. Bleeding Money: How Much Does Safety Really Cost? True Costs Go Beyond PPE, Wages Paid To Safety Dept. (ISHN)
  43. Breaking Down Resistance (ISHN)
  44. Bridging the Gap: Just Culture and Accountability (HR Pulse Journal)
  45. Changing Your Corporate Culture In Three Easy Steps (Entrepreneur)
  46. Chemical Hazards: Keeping The Workplace Safe (Health & Safety International (UK publication))
  47. Compliance Tool: Software Only As Good As Your Process (Facility Safety Management)
  48. Compliance With Rules Begins With Rules That Are Just (Workers’ Compensation Institute)
  49. Confined Space Challenges: The Best Defence is a Good Offence (Health & Safety International(UK publication))
  50. Corporations Just Want To Survive (ISHN)
  51. Crafting A Fierce Vision For Success (Entrepreneur)
  52. Creating Safety Cultures In Off Shore Operations (Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering)
  53. Crying Over Spilt Milk: Mistakes Are Inevitable Injuries Are Not (ISHN)
  54. Customer Service Representatives Are Your Public Face (Entrepreneur)
  55. Dear Victims Of Workplace Fatalities (ISHN)
  56. Deming: Culture Transformation Is Everyone’s Job (ISHN)
  57. Deming on Safety Pt 1 (QHSE Focus)
  58. Deming on Safety Pt 2 (QHSE Focus)
  59. Deming on Safety Pt 3 (QHSE Focus)
  60. Deming’s 14 Points for Safety Applying Total Quality Management to Reduce Workplace Risk (Facility Safety Management)
  61. Developing An Environmental Plan (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  62. Do People Really Care About Safety? Phil La Duke Says “No”  (ISHN)
  63. Does Your On-Boarding Process Give New Hires the Urge to Flee? (Entrepreneur)
  64. Don’t Sell Yourself Short In The Gig Economy (Entrepreneur)
  65. Don’t Get Zapped: Six Electrical Scenarios (ISHN)Co-Authored with Jack Rubiner
  66. Don’t Hurt Yourself (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  67. Don’t Wait Until The End of The Game To Start Keeping Score (Entrepreneur)
  68. Effective Feedback An Essential Part of Any Safety Incentive Program (Facility Safety Management)
  69. Electronic Performance Support: The Changing Face of Safety Training (Facility Safety Management)
  70. Ending Vestigial Safety Practices (HSE Now) The official publication of the Society Of Petroleum Engineers.
  71. Engagement: The Key To Changing Your Safety Culture (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  72. Fairness Is The Foundation Of A Safety Culture (ISHN)
  73. Four Excuses We Make To Ourselves When We Hire the Wrong People (Entrepreneur)
  74. Four Reasons, Eight Lessons (Facility Safety Management)
  75. For Your Consideration: 10 Resolutions For EHS Pros For 2013 (ISHN)
  76. Fraidy Cats: How Fear Affects Worker Safety Are We Too Afraid To Stay Safe (ISHN)
  77. Freeze! Should You Restrict Smart Devices in the Workplace? (Workers’ Compensation Institute)
  78. Goal-Oriented Training: Eliminate Lethal Knowledge Gaps (Facility Safety Management)Going From Failure to Failure Without Loss of Enthusiasm (Entrepreneur)
  79. Hazard Analysis: Working In A Perfect World (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  80. Here’s How to Determine If College Is Worth the Cost (Entrepreneur)
  81. Here’s Why Entrepreneurs Ought to Value Mainstream Media (Entrepreneur)
  82. How I Failed As A Mentor (Entrepreneur)
  83. How Your Job Will Kill You: Considering the Top Causes of Workplace Fatalities (ISHN)
  84. HR of safety who’s responsible for stopping workplace bullying (ISHN)
  85. I Never Planned To Grow Up Making Entrepreneurship Inevitable (Entrepreneur)
  86. I Used Social Media and Blogging to Become Famous For Nothing (Entrepreneur)
  87. I Would Never Belong To A Group That Would Have Me As A Member: The Rise Of The Self-Loathing Safety Professional (ISHN)
  88. If 80 Percent of Success Is Showing Up than 20 Percent Is Following Up (Entrepreneur\
  89. If A Temp Dies on the Job Does it Count (ISHN
  90. If The Middle Class Continues To Shrink Safety Loses An Important Ally. (ISHN)
  91. If You Don’t Have Something Important To Say About Safety Then Shut Up (ISHN
  92. If You Want To Change The Culture Focus on “Must Do” Behaviors Not “Don’t Do” Behaviors (ISHN)
  93. In Event of a Catastrophe, Are Mass Evacuations Practical? (Facility Safety Management)
  94. Is Social Media Dead for Safety Professionals? (ISHN)
  95. Is the Gig Economy Sustainable? (Entrepreneur)
  96. Is Your Personal Elevator Pitch Incoherent Babble? (Entrepreneur)
  97. Is Your Workplace Ripe For A Serious Injury? (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  98. Is Your’s A Fear-Driven Culture? (ISHN)Is workplace bullying a threat to worker safety? And if so what can be done about it? (ISHN
  99. It’s Sell or Die Because Sales Are the Lifeblood of Every Company (Entrepreneur)
  100. It’s A Cold World for Cold Callers (Entrepreneur)
  101. Just Culture (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  102. Keeping Temporary Workers Safe Isn’t Your Problem? Think Again    (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  103. Legitmizing Risk (ISHN)
  104. Let’s Get Out of the Blame and Shame Business (ISHN)
  105. Lone-Gunman Based Safety (ISHN)
  106. Loss of Net Neutrality Risks a Less Friendly Internet for Entrepreneurs (Entrepreneur)
  107. Making Safety Talks Better (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  108. Managing Conflict Is Essential to Success (Entrepreneur)
  109. Managing Your Career Like A Business (Entrepreneur)
  110. Manufacturing Engineers Holistics Heroes Of Safety (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  111. Mercurial View Of Safety (QHSE Focus Premier Issue)
  112. Mining Safety (HSME magazine)
  113. Misleading Indicators (ISHN)
  114. Mouthing Off About Safety (ISHN)
  115. Near Misses (Fabricating & Metalworking Magazine)
  116. New Year’s Resolutions for Safety Professionals (ISHN)
  117. OSHA Has No Regulation For Sleep Deprivation – But You Must Know Who Is Fit For Duty (ISHN)
  118. Playing It Safe Is No Path To Safety (ISHN)
  119. ‘PPE Doesn’t Look Good’: Six Attitudes That Can Get You Killed (Facility Safety Management)
  120. Preparing For An Uncertain Future: What Tommorow’s Safety Professional Should be Studying Today (Facility Safety Management)
  121. Proposed: Change Our Name From the Safety Profession to the Injury Prevention Profession (ISHN)
  122. Protect Your Dignity Cease And Desist These Four Misplaced Efforts (ISHN)
  123. Pulling It All Together (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  124. Pulling Safety Out Of Its Rut: the Value Of A Different Look At Safety (ISHN)
  125. Put Some Clothes On and Get To Work: Tips For Working at Home (Entrepreneur)
  126. Quacks shilling safety transformations (ISHN)
  127. Recruiting Hesitant Job Seekers: Today’s Economy Mixes Job Dissatisfaction And Fear (ISHN)
  128. Requiem For Prevention (ISHN)
  129. Risky Stunts, Skydiving And SFX: Movie Production Safety Supervisors (ISHN)
  130. Road rash: Business Travel & Injuries How Big A Problem Is It? (ISHN)
  131. Rules Only Protect People If They Follow Them (ISHN)
  132. Safety Aint What It Used To Be (ISHN)
  133. Safety As Sustainability (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  134. afety In the Digital Age: Regulating Worker Use of Distracting Devices (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  135. Safety Isn’t Immune To Hiring for Technical Skills And Firing For Interpersonal Skills (ISHN)
  136. Safety Pros are Obsessed About The Wrong Things (ISHN)
  137. Safety Slogans Don’t Save Lives (ISHN)
  138. Safety the New Competitive Advantage In A World Of Liability (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  139. Safety: Are You Good Or Just Lucky? (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  140. Scope Creep, the Killer of Projects (Entrepreneur
  141. Selling Safety To Alpha Dogs (ISHN)
  142. Selling Safety Revisited (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  143. Social Media Opportunities for Safety Professionals (Facility Safety Management)
  144. Speak Your Mind But Know Your Facts (Entrepreneur)
  145. Stereotypes Get A Bad Rap (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  146. Sustaining Culture Change By Building a Safety Infrastructure (ISHN)
  147. Taking A New Look At Safety (ISHN)
  148. Taking Control Of Your Career (
  149. The 14 Points of Workplace Safety (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  150. The Art of Screwing Up (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  151. The Basics of Safety: Behavior Based Safety vs Process Based Safety (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  152. The Basics of Safety: Continuous Improvement And Safety (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  153. The Basics of Safety: Process-Based Safety (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  154. The Basics Of Safety: What Constitutes A Safe Workplace? (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  155. The Bedrock of Performance Management? Communication of Acceptable Behavior (Entrepreneur)
  156. The Biggest Threat To Safety Might Just Be You And I (ISHN)
  157. The Changing Face of Safety Measurement   (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  158. The Danger of Body Counts And Shoddy Data (ISHN)
  159. The Death of the Safety Guy    (Fabricating & Metalworking Magazine)
  160. The Entrepreneurial Mystique: 5 Common Misconceptions About Starting a Business (Entrepreneur)
  161. The Folly Of Safety Reminders (ISHN)
  162. The Greatest Threat to Safety Might Be You and I (sic) (ISHN)
  163. The 6 Pillars Of Safety (ISHN)
  164. The Greatest Threat to Safety Might Be Your Safety Training (ISHN)
  165. The Imaginary Life and Wild Times of Milo Quaife (Entrepreneur)
  166. The Injury Continuum (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  167. The Last Eight Years Were Pretty Good For Many Entrepreneurs (Entrepreneur)
  168. The Myth Of The Perfect Process   (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  169. The Only 2 Answers You Need to Figure Your Next Move (Entrepreneur)
  170. The Rise Of The Safety Extremist (ISHN)
  171. The Role of Training in the Safety Process
  172. The Safety Generalist (Fabricating & Metalworking magazine)
  173. The Second Slowest Gazelle: A Success Strategy (Entrepreneur)
  174. To Get More Out Of People Hone Your Feedback Skills (Entrepreneur)
  175. To Punish or Not to Punish Just Culture and Accountability: Can They Co-Exist? (Facility Safety Management)
  176. Top 5 Reasons NOT to Become An Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur
  177. Tweet At Your Own Risk (Entrepreneur)
  178. Unions Go To War With Behavior Based Safety (Fabricating & Metalworking Magazine)
  179. Universal Ownership and Accountability (ISHN)
  180. Using Social Media for Business Without Bleaching Out the Social (Entrepreneur)
  181. Using Technology to Streamline New Hire Training and Course Evaluation (Journal of Applied Learning Technology)
  182. Values Are Learned In the Halls, Not Off the Walls (Entrepreneur)
  183. Voting Is A Right. Exercise It Wisely (Entrepreneur)
  184. Wake Up: The Life You Safe May Be Mine (ISHN)
  185. Wake Up: The Life You Save Might Be Mine (ISHN) different article same name
  186. Want To Change The World? Maybe Try Being An Intrapreneur? (Entrepreneur)
  187. What Being An Entrepreneur Has Taught Me(Entrepreneur)
  188. What Do You Owe Your First Employees: Is Joining A Start Up Worth It (Entrepreneur)
  189. What Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Worker Safety (Entrepreneur)
  190. What Exec Ever Said Lets Just Be Profitable Enough? (ISHN)
  191. What Happened? (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  192. What Should Tomorrow’s Safety Pro Be Studying Today? (ISHN)
  193. What Would Doris Do? (ISHN)
  194. What’s Wrong With Safety Training And How To Fix It (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  195. When Good Sales Promotions Go Bad (Entrepreneur)
  196. When it Comes To Safety, Fix the Problem Not the Blame (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  197. When It Comes To Unsafe Behaviors, There’s Plenty Of Blame To Go Around Too Many Safety Professionals Act Like Institutional Eunuchs (ISHN)
  198. When You Understand Stress You Can Manage It (Entrepreneur)
  199. Where’s the Value In Safety Day? (ISHN)
  200. Who Needs a Safety Guy? (ISHN)
  201. Who Needs An Environmental Hygienist? (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  202. Why Does Multi-Level Marketing See Millennials as Easy Pickings? (Entrepreneur)
  203. Why Housekeeping And Static Electricity Are No Longer No Big Deal (ISHN)
  204. Why Safety Fails: When Good Safety Systems Go Bad (ISHN)
  205. Why Smart Workers Make Deadly Decisions: Biases, Blunders And Cognitive Traps (ISHN)
  206. Why We Violate the Rules (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  207. Why We Violate The Rules Revisited (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  208. Why You Should Care About Student Loan Debt (Entrepreneur)
  209. Worker Safety Is an Entrepreneurial Imperative (Entrepreneur
  210. Working In the Line of Fire (Fabricating & Metalworking)
  211. Working In The Line Of Fire (ISHN)
  212. World-Class Safety (ISHN)
  213. You Want to be Published? Be Careful What You Wish For. (Entrepreneur)
  214. You Can Embrace Failure But Don’t Expect A Big Hug From the Business World When You Do (Entrepreneur)
  215. You Have to Bring More to the Table Than Your Bright Idea (Entrepreneur)
  216. You Shall Be Judged By the Company You Keep (Entrepreneur)
  217. You’re Not the Boss Of Me: It’s Not the Message It’s How It’s Delivered   (ISHN)
  218. You’re Only As Safe As Your Contractors (Worker’s Compensation Institute)
  219. Your Mother Doesn’t Wor

Speeches (partial list)

  • The Role of Safety In Operations Excellence, Automation Alley, 2006, Troy, MI
  • Not Just Average, Michigan Safety Conference, 2007, Grand Rapids, MI
  • You Get What You Measure, National Safety Council, 2007, Orlando, FL
  • Selling Safety In Tough Times, National Safety Council, 2007, Orlando FL
  • Six Secrets of the World’s Safest Companies: What They Know and You Should Too, Michigan Safety Conference and Expo, 2008 Lansing MI
  • Safety As A Competitive Advantage, National Safety Council, 2008, San Diego, CA
  • Taking Control Of Workplace Safety, 2009, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • The Role of Training in the Safety Process, Society for Applied Training Technology (SALT) Washington Summit, 2009, Washington DC
  • Leveraging Technology In The New Hire Orientation Process, Society for Applied Training Technology (SALT) Washington Summit, 2009, Washington DC
  • Using Safety To Drive Lean Implementation, Society Manufacturing Engineers EASTEC Lean and Green Symposium, 2009, East Salem, MA
  • Six Secrets Of the World’s Safest Companies: What They Know and You Should Too, Michigan Safety Conference, 2009 Grand Rapids, MI
  • Creating Safety Cultures In Off-Shore Operations, National Safety Council Texas Conference and Expo, 2009 The Woodlands, TX
  • Maintaining a Safe Workplace Despite Radical Downsizing, Michigan safety Conference 2010 Lansing, MI
  • Selling Safety In Tough Times, XIV Seminario Internacional De Seguridad Minera, in Lima, Peru. 2010
  • Challenging Safety Improvement Great Plains Safety& Wellness April , 2010
  • The Seventh Value, American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) , 2010
  • Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here: Why Housekeeping Matters National Safety Council Texas Exposition and Conferrence , 2010 Galveston, TX
  • Why We Violate The Rules, Michigan Safety Conference, 2011, Lansing, MI
  • Why We Violate The Rules, Great Plains Safety& Wellness Conference , 2012, Kearney, NE
  • A Culture Of Myths, Great Plains Safety& Wellness Conference, 2012, Kearney, NE
  • A Culture Of Myths, National Safety Council , 2012 Philadelphia, PA
  • Safety and Social Networking, National Safety Council , 2013, San Diego, CA
  • Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here: The Importance of Housekeeping and Safety, National Safety Council, 2014 Chicago, IL
  • Safety & Social Networking, National Safety Council Texas Exposition and Conference , 2015 Austin, TX
  • The 3Cs of Safety , National Safety Council , 2015 Atlanta, GA
  • The Importance of Compliance, EH&S Today Leadership Conference, 2015 Greenville, SC
  • It’s Not What You Do; It’s How You Do It, Michigan Safety Conference, 2016, Grand Rapids MI
  • Engaging HR and Other Employees In Safety, Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, Risk Management Workshop, Lansing, MI 2017





Appearances and Citations





Is It Morally Right To Sell Safety You Know Isn’t Sustainable?

By Phil La Duke 

I have spent twelve years yapping like a barking rat about the snake oil salesmen who sell crap they “thunk up” and started peddling like a 19-century travelling salesmen. I have often make them out to be bad guys or even evil. Most of the people shilling snake oil believe that they are doing right, in fact, many of them are honest-to-goodness zealots, practically cult members willing to kill anyone who dare propose a different methodology.

But there is another breed emerging; a new con: the safety culture change practitioners. Given that I sell a safety infrastructure intervention that has sustainable culture change as one of its outcomes I have to tread lightly, but there are a fair number of safety sales people who sell safety culture change but deliver a climate change (and as anyone who listens to politicians knows, climate change is a myth) instead.

I have been working in corporate culture change for almost three decades, and have been focusing my culture change skills on safety for the last 16 so I get a bit irascible when people who were slinging BBS five years ago have coopted my chosen career by taking one discredited methodology and repackaging it as the solution d’jour. They know that people won’t buy the crap they are selling but they sell it anyway. I understand it; everyone has to make a buck and they reason that if they don’t do it, someone else would; it’s understandable, but unforgivable. It’s the same argument that pimps and heroin dealers use to justify what they do. The top guys justify making big bucks by claiming that they are selling solutions that save lives despite having no proof beyond stats that say their customers haven’t killed anyone recently. The consultants in the field give use the Nuremberg defense that they aren’t guilty since they are only doing their jobs—that didn’t fly at Auschwitz and it doesn’t fly here. If someone dies because you are doing your job you are culpable for that death (assuming your job is selling unsustainable climate change as long-term corporate culture change that values worker safety.)

In China some business leaders were struggling to sell milk and baby formula with the sufficient percentage of protein required by law; if they met the government requirements their profits would sink and they would risk losing their jobs; indeed their very livelihoods. The business leaders hit on a simple idea—slip a small amount of a chemical, Melamine, to make it look and test as if it had the appropriate protein levels. Unfortunately, the scheme worked and the companies were able to continue doing business without being hassled by the government. Things were going so well that the businesses began adding more and more of this toxic chemical to their products. And then people started dying. According to The London Guardian, the scandal that transcended many companies, claimed 300,000 victims of which, six infants died of kidney stones caused by the toxic chemical and another 10 babies died from malnutrition (since what their parents thought was milk was essentially white paint). Arrests were made and an example was made of two businessmen who were executed, and in my opinion, more should have been.

Climate change is not unlike poison milk: it seems to work, at least for a while, but unless you keep upping the percentage of poison the climate change can’t last and in the case of safety people die. Climate change is like a speed trap, once people know that a cop is waiting with a radar gun and an empty ticket book you had better slow down. Speed traps get results: traffic slows as the ticket book fills up. Of course as soon as the trap is dismantled traffic resumes to it’s former state. Now an ambitious mayor can claim that he was successful but was he? Was he really successful? Would you pay him millions for his temporary results?

The difference between a climate change and a culture change is that in a culture change the shared values of an organization change. I’ve said before, and will say again, that there is no such thing as a “safety culture” what the uninitiated MEAN when they use the misnomer is a corporate culture that values safety as a core value, something so deeply entrenched into the collective mindset that it is a defining criterion for how decisions are made. In a culture that values safety the value placed on safety is hardwired into how people behave and what is acceptable or unacceptable.

Changing a culture takes its own skill set and requires professionals with experience and a proven track record; it’s more than adding more poison to the milk.


Evaluating Training Part 2

By Phil La Duke

I hadn’t planned on writing more on this subject—that is to say the evaluation of training. Not that I don’t have more to say, much more in fact; it’s just that I saw little value in exploring Level 3 of Kirkpatrick’s model of training evaluation when so few get the first two levels correct. Level 3, which measures whether or not the learning is transferred into practice in the workplace. To be sure this kind of measurement can be tricky, and based on some of the feedback I got from the first post, many of you are skipping the first two steps in favor of jumping into the third, not only is this short-sighted, it might just be dangerous.

I won’t revisit Kirkpatrick’s model except to say that it is important to measure the first two levels for the reasons I cited last week. But once we are assured that the learners understand the point and importance of the class they have completed, and we know whether or not they acquired skills as a result of the course, you have to determine whether or not they apply those skills in the workplace.

Correct application of skills is especially important in safety because it can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Before we get into that I should clarify something. While all training does not happen in a classroom (in fact while most does most shouldn’t) all training should be evaluated. I’m afraid I may have created some confusion with last week’s post when I introduced the concept of pre- and posttesting. Sometimes, for safety sake we have to assume the worker knows nothing when we evaluate whether or not non-classroom training is effective. In a particularly cost effective way of training is demonstration and practice. In this type of training a skilled trainer or veteran employee, using either a task list or a standard work instruction sheet demonstrates the correct way to do the task while the learner watches and asks questions until he or she is ready to practice the tasks under the watchful eye of the trainer. Obviously in cases where the worker could injure him or herself by operating heavy equipment or unfamiliar machinery so administrating a pretest where you let the learner jump right in just to see if he or she can operate a CNC machine or induction molder would be recklessly and provide no value except to determine if the worker already had the skills that the shadow training was meant to be imparting. In broad strokes, we don’t care whether they NEED the training we are going to err on the side of caution (not to mention avoiding legal liability and violation of the General Duty Clause) and give the training to the person.

The tendency of trainers and especially veteran employees to skip areas of the training or skimp on the demonstration and practice because the worker seems particularly adroit at the skills makes the level three evaluations critical. I tend to wait a month and ask the worker to basically perform those tasks in which he or she was trained to see if the worker is still able to perform the skills to standard. During this evaluation I would ask specific questions that align with the course objectives to see what, if anything, has been retained.

At this point, many of you are questioning, whether or not it’s even necessary that the worker retain the information presented in an orientation. The problem with an orientation is that the learners frequently lack sufficient context to synthesize the concepts presented. This may sound like psychobabble—after all what sort of context does one need to understand that fire can burn you, electricity can shock you, and chemicals can poison you? Unfortunately, after a month on the job a worker tends to start to feel invincible and the once terrifying becomes mundane and even acceptable. By conducting a level three evaluation you can both evaluate training effectiveness and provide context and much needed reinforcement of the critical safety points the training was intended to impart, and by repeated evaluations and reinforcement the training can ultimately become internalized and hardwired into the behavior.

There is a complex connection between evaluation and reinforcement, especially when we get to level 3 (and forget 4—leave that to the training professionals to argue over) evaluation this intricate connection is especially strong, which is why I didn’t want to get into it in the first place.


How To Evaluate Training

By Phil La Duke

Last week I stated (for the umpteenth time) that a worker’s core competency may be the best predictor of safety.  I went on to rant about how in many cases training is slapped together and shoddily delivered in an effort to check the almighty box. One of my readers asked how can one accurately assess the efficiency of training.  So here goes…

“The Kirkpatrick Model is the worldwide standard for evaluating the effectiveness of training. It considers the value of any type of training, formal or informal, across four levels. Level 1 Reaction evaluates how participants respond to the training. Level 2 Learning measures if they actually learned the material.”


¾The Kirkpatrick Model – Kirkpatrick Partner

The Kirkpatrick Model is a simple and fairly accurate way to measure the effectiveness of adult learning events (aka training), and while every six months or so, some Adult Learning theorist will come up with some other method the Kirkpatrick Model endures because of the elegancy of its simplicity.  The Model Consists of four levels with each designed to measure a specific element of the training.

Level One: Reaction

Kirkpatrick’s first level measures the learners’ reaction to the learning event.  There is a strong correlation between how much the learners enjoyed the time spent and found it valuable and learning retention.  Level one evaluations are typically completed immediately at the conclusion of the course using what trainers euphemistically call a “smile sheet” (a reference to how many smiles you counted at the end of a class.) but a good level one evaluation should delve deeper than merely whether or not the people liked the course (people like The Housewives of The Jersey Shore and Survivor but that doesn’t make it good television).  A good course evaluation will concentrate on three elements, the course content, the physical environment, and the presentation/skills of the instructor.  You can glean important insights into the quality of your course if you have constructed a good course evaluation.  Typically this means using a Likert Scale (asking participants to match their agreement with a statement about the course using a scale of 1-5 where one indicates strong disagreement and five strong agreement).  To build an effective level one tool, you should always have statements that are positive so that a score of one is consistently bad and a score of five is consistently good. Write the statements in complete sentences and don’t ask questions.  Also, don’t write more than 10 statements as people tend to want to get out of the class as quickly as possible and if you exceed one page your completion rate goes down exponentially.  I like to finish the one page evaluation with two questions: what did you like most about the course and what could be improved?

Level Two: Learning

The second level of Kirkpatrick’s model is learning, that is, how much of the content did the people actually learn as a result of the training session.  This evaluation is typically achieved through the use of a pre- and posttest.  This causes all sorts of consternation among people who don’t understand how to evaluate training. Many organizations flat out refuse to test the workers and even those who do balk at the idea of pretest.  Pre- and posttests are key to ascertaining whether or not the participants learned anything in the learning event.  Identical (we’ll get back to that in a moment) pre-and posttests are essential because the difference between the pre- and posttest scores indicate the amount of learning that actually took place.  Without a pretest you have no idea if they already knew the material before they came to session, and unless the questions are the same one can’t be certain if they learned the material  in the session.  Of course it is important to ask the questions in a different order and also have the answers in a different order to prevent people just memorizing  the choice without having to think about the information.

I have always preferred a 20 question multiple-choice pre- and posttest because the odds of guessing a single True or false question is 50% but that assumes that the question doesn’t contain any language that tips people off for example.

 True or False: It is never safe to work on energized equipment without locking out. I have seen variations of this question asked with one author of the question believing that the answer is “True” and another believing it to be “False”.  It is pretty easy to guess true/false questions that have absolutes like “never” in the question, because for the statement to be true it means that there is no possible scenario where the statement can true.  In other words, if I can find just one instance where it is safe to work on energized equipment (say during test mode, or other conditions that require power) I can be confident that the statement is false.  Conversely, we need to have a clear definition of “safe”; if by “safe” we mean the absolute absence of risk of injury (a circumstance that is all but impossible) we can confidently answer “True”.  Considering language ambiguity and tip offs, the odds of guessing a True/False question correctly is more like 65%.

Multiple choice (or as people who mistakenly think that they are witty call them, “multiple guess”) if well written provide us with a clearer picture of whether or not the learners actually learned.  For example a pretest question might read:

  1. The element with the lowest atomic weight is:

    1. Hydrogen

    2. Argon

    3. Helium

    4. I don’t know

I get laughed at for using “I don’t know” as a distractor, but you might be surprised how often people select that as an answer.  There are certain things that make this a good question and one is that there is only one correct answer, and the distractors (the wrong choices) are correct answers to other questions.  Here again good grammar makes a difference if I were to ask a question like

  1. An element whose oxidation number is 0 prevents gas from forming compounds readily, is called an ________________ gas:

    1. Inert

    2. Low reaction

    3. Non-reactive

    4. I don’t know

Since the word “an” is used directly before the blank, basic grammar tells us that the correct answer begins with a vowel, and if we have the brains God gave geese we can assume that d) I don’t know is incorrect and by processes of elimination conclude that a) must be the correct answer as all other possibilities are grammatically incorrect. Never use answers like “a) and b) only” or “all of/none of the above” because you risk testing reading comprehension skills instead of knowledge acquisition.

I also get some fair amount of guff for having 20 questions.  “It’s too many” “it takes too long”, fair criticisms I suppose, but also enough to be statistically valid (assuming a couple of variables) but let’s assume we have 20 people in a class and each is taking a 20 question test.  For a confidence level of 95% and a confidence interval of ±5 you would need a population of 19. Once you have validated the test you can then be reasonably certain that the difference between the pre- and posttests are the result of the learning event.

When analyzing the test scores you should see them skewed to the right (in other words you should see the test scores disproportionately high (indicating that most people mastered the content).

You can further analyze the data using µ scores a µ (pronounced moo) score is the average of the averages and if the scores go up it indicates that the instructors are getting better at their jobs, while if they are getting worse it means that instructors are getting bored, taking shortcuts or for some other reason failing to present the full content. Assuming the content and the test has not changed the µ score is an accurate reflection of the performance of the instructor.

The other two levels of Kirkpatrick’s model are a bit too complex for laymen to dabble in, but this is how you can validate whether or not your training is effective.




Safety In The Disposable Worker Economy

by Phil La Duke

I have been saying that training in core competencies is perhaps the single greatest determinate in lowering the risk of injuries for over 11 years. In fact, my first published article was What’s Wrong With Safety Training and How to Fix It. Unfortunately the message, after 11 years, still doesn’t seem to have sunk in.

It’s pretty simple: if a person doesn’t know how to do his or her job the probability that this person will make a mistake that will cause him or her harm goes up exponentially. This equation doesn’t change no matter how many times you observe him or her, how many cards you write, or how many times you congratulate yourselves on how infrequently you leave someone battered and dying in a pool of his or her own blood.

So why don’t we do a better job training workers in the core skills (as opposed to safety training, which—in my experience—is of equal poor quality, if not worse)? Here is where we trot out all the old convenient excuses: there isn’t enough time, we do “shadow” training, “this isn’t rocket science”, etc. But lately there has been a new excuse: we don’t want to waste training dollars on temps, contractors, or a workforce that turns over quickly. People speak of the new “gig economy” as if it is a new, innovative and tremendously valuable trend that give workers freedom and flexibility. I think the “gig economy” is better described as “the disposable worker economy”. I wrote an article for Entrepreneur on the gig economy Is the Gig Economy Sustainable that asked that very question. In response to this article, which I admit paints a grim picture of those forced into the gig economy, a publicist for a profiteering pig of a man wrote to me suggesting that I write an article on “How one entrepreneur is using the gig economy to help leading manufacturers”. What was alarming was that these temporary workers weren’t being fobbed off onto small sweat shops, rather onto Honda and Toyota, in fact, he brags that 20% of his customers are Fortune 500 companies, and “how he grew his $88M business by 87% in the last two years”. These people are being commoditized; it’s one step up from human trafficking, and I don’t know how familiar you are with human trafficking, but they don’t do a lot of core skills training or place a high emphasis on safety.

Companies are behaving reprehensively for preying on temps to avoid paying unemployment and other benefits (I asked this glorified pimp three times if he paid his workers benefits and received no answer). I can only assume that they receive the typical one-hour safety talk that contract service providers typically provide and I don’t see companies spending a lot of time and money training workers that they are going to wad up and through away like used Kleenex. I have actually had safety and (sub)human resources professionals tell me that it doesn’t make fiscal sense to train workers that won’t be around longer than 90 days.

Some of you may agree with this thinking, and that’s your right (not that you need my permission) but consider this: untrained temporary workers pose a threat not just to their OWN safety but also to the safety of other workers, including you. The more marginalized and neglected the temporary workers are made to feel the less likely they are to care about the safety of those around them, and what’s more, even those who DO care about safety cannot possibly work safely if they haven’t been properly trained in the core skills necessary to properly and safely perform the necessary tasks.

This lack of training isn’t the fault, at least not entirely, of the safety professionals. In many organizations it is the Training (or talent development if you prefer) function’s job to do core skills training, but too many of these can’t see beyond the classroom. Yes, the most effective core skills training is actually on the job, but that doesn’t mean that the Training Function should abdicate its responsibility in favor of having “Subject Matter Experts” develop and deliver training. I worked for several years in healthcare where clinical training was left to nurses. Adult learning is a highly complex process and requires expertise in how to develop course material and a robust instructional design and evaluation. In laymen’s terms, you got to know how to write and deliver training and make sure that it is effective before you turn the learner out into the world. This is as true for Safety as it is for healthcare clinicians; let’s face it, when a safety professional writes a training course without having had the benefit of any education or experience with Adult Learning theory, Safety is being completely irresponsible.

Neither Safety nor Core Skills training is just something we can check a box indicating that it has been done. We have to ensure that the training providing actually imparts the required skills workers need to keep themselves and others alive, and that applies to someone who will be in the job for a day or a career.