How One Decision 50 Years Ago May Have Killed My Dad

LaDuke boysBy Phil La Duke

Today, in the US is father’s day. A day we honor our fathers or at least respect the fact that our fathers provided the sperm cell that brought us to life.  Some of us had great fathers, some of us had horrific fathers, but today is a day where many of us introspectively examine the relationship we have or had  with our fathers.

What does this have to do with safety? Well, Friday my daughter called and asked me how to choose a rod and reel as a father’s day gift for her step-father. I don’t fish and know (expletive) all about picking out a rod and reel. I told her to call her uncle and ask him.  I told her the best person to ask would have been my brother-in-law who was an itinerate sportsman and fisherman, but sadly he died some years ago of silicosis, an industrial disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust.  He was taken too young and too soon.

This brought to mind my own father, who died of mesothelioma, an agonizing way to die caused solely thorough exposure to asbestos. We didn’t get rich off what George W. Bush described as frivolous “asbestos lawsuits” (I pray daily that W. contracts something as horrible and dies as painful and terrible way.) In fact, my dad was so anti litigious that when my mother died at 60 from a faulty pacemaker, he refused to sue.  He spoke to his children, well at least to me (I can’t speak for my siblings) and asked me to joint a lawsuit.  “Medical science gave us 10 with you mother that we ordinarily wouldn’t have had, and any money we get will just come out of their research budgets; they aren’t going to take it out of their profits.”  In fact, my father refused to sue his employer over the protestations of his attorney, because he said that when his employers learned of the dangers they immediately took steps to protect him and his coworkers.  He did however sue the manufacturers who KNEW about the dangers and concealed them from the public and from his employer.  $100 bucks here or there split seven ways does not compensate me for the death of my father, nor does it seem fitting punishment for the torture they put my dad through, but it’s something, and sometimes something just has to do.

My dad would be 91 had he lived, and there’s a good chance he may have succumbed to something else had he not died of mesothelioma but given that his older brother is still alive and in relatively good health there’s at least a fair chance that he might be here today, telling his kids that they shouldn’t have given him gifts and to save their money instead. Anyway, it would be nice if he were still around.

My dad, and so many like him wasn’t just a tragic victim. He was murdered by heartless corporations. Corporations that are still around I should add, who, through depraved indifference to the health and wellbeing of the workers.  Murdered; one can’t help thirst for justice that will never come.  I expect the serial killer executives who murdered my father are enjoying their Father’s Day with their kids and grandkids and not giving their victims a moment’s pauses.

So that’s what this has to do with safety. But what I really wanted to do is to tell you all about my dad. (I’m not going to reveal too many personal details to avoid the possibility of identity theft—mine, not his). My dad was born on a farm in the 1920s one of seven sons of a railroad worker. I don’t know much about my grandfather (he too was killed on the job) or what he did for the railroad but I can only assume he did it all the livelong day.  My dad was all that was great about the greatest generation.  I used to spend Sunday afternoons at his house and once in a while we talked about what it was like growing up back then, particularly since he was old enough to remember and appreciate the gravity of the Great Depression.  I remember him telling me of the fear that gripped the nation.  “We didn’t know if it was ever going to end” he once told me.  Similarly, a Word War II vet he told me that “America wasn’t a superpower back then; we didn’t know we were going to win the war”. My dad and four of his brothers enlisted (one being too old to serve and another too young).  Miraculously all five came home unscathed with only two of them seeing anything close to action (on Okinawa but in a later wave in the invasion).  My dad was in the rarified condition of being fit for duty but unfit for combat (his horribly flat feet meant he couldn’t march).  He stayed stateside during the war; a self-proclaimed war hero who “dive bombed cigarette butts” on the base in South Carolina.  He told hilarious stories about his time in the army, one of my favorites was him telling me how terrified he was that they would shoot him, because they would read the troops the articles of war and each ended with “the punishment for which will be DEATH, or whatever a court martial shall decide.”  He served in both the army AND the army air corps when the army decided to trade him and two south Texans who spoke only Spanish for two young officers up on in subordination charges.

When he was discharged from the service my dad came home and took a job at Firestone. He didn’t like it and quit and lunchtime.  He walked across the street to a Ford plant where he was immediately hired and worked the afternoon, he didn’t like that either so he quit and the next day he took a job at the place he would work until he retired some 40 years later.  I often think of that fateful day and how his decision to quit either of those jobs might have changed the outcome of his life.  Rest In Peace dad, you sure earned it.

What Making Movies Taught Me About Safety


By Phil La Duke

Last year at this time I was sweating sweltering heat in a pile of rubble I was assured too many times wasn’t asbestos, cadmium, and any number of other toxins known and unknown.  I was helping a location manager determine the exact kind of garbage tree that had to be removed for a shot and the owner, a…what’s crazier than an eccentric? Oh yeah lunatic insisted be replaced.  He had big plans to make an outdoor beer garden directly adjacent to one of the dirtiest, most polluted areas on earth.

This was part of my daily routine as a Production Safety Consultant for a major blockbuster about to be unleashed on the public this week. It should be good, at least for those of you who love action films.  I learned a lot from this gig—not about making movies, I have worked in the entertainment business long enough to know the monotony punctuated by sheer terror that is making a movie. No, the important lessons I learned were more about safety overall.  I should note that it takes a special breed of safety practitioner to work in this business; that’s not me bragging, I have seen many production safety people burn out, freak out, and generally leave the field screaming in fright.  Production safety is a bit like waiting tables—everyone THINKS they can do it until they try.  So without further ado is what I learned about safety from the set of a movie:

  1. Forget glitz and glamour. Working safety for a movie is mostly about building sets and tearing them down. Workers can labor for months to build a set that is used for 30 seconds in a film. So in this way, working production safety is a lot like working on a construction site. Just like working on a construction site you have all the same hazards and all the same attitudes you have on a construction site, both good and bad.
  2. You need to part of the solution not the problem. Imagine a world where traditional safety just doesn’t exist. Case in point, imagine workers installing a window frame in a building so old that LITERALLY the concrete isn’t failing; it’s ceasing to be concrete. That’s right the cement and gravel are so old that they are separating. Now, the average safety guy (a gender neutral term by the way) will look for something form which the team can tie off. Lacking that the next best solution is to drill anchors into the pillars and ceiling and provide tie off points there. But given that if one drilled anchor pins into this building and fell the result would be a worker falling to his death and half a ton of concrete would fall on top of things. Too many safety guys would just shrug and say, “the law says…” and “I don’t care HOW you do it but you can’t do it that way”. Just like construction, this approach leads to driving unsafe practices underground. The job has to get done and the workers are on a deadline so the safety guy and his or her opinion mean less than nothing.
  3. Safety is about problem solving not preaching. So many times I had to intervene and suggest a safer way of doing something. I never used the words “you can’t” rather I would help the crew work through the risks and potential consequences and help them make informed decisions about their safety. I had one obnoxious ass who every time he saw me felt the need to work out some deep seated hatred of authority figures. When I would arrive he would yell with the obnoxious overly dramatic tone that “the safety guy is here you all better have your safety gear on”. At one point this jerk saw me and asked in a mocking tone, “hey Mr. Safety, is everyone following the rules?” I told him that it wasn’t my job to make sure people follow the rules, and that frankly, since I’m neither his boss nor his mother I couldn’t care less whether or not he followed the rules. I went on to tell him that if he deliberately acted recklessly and ended up dead, after I had carefully articulated the risk I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep, I went on to say that I am a resource for people who care about their safety and the safety of those around them, and furthermore I neither knew nor particularly liked him so his death wouldn’t have the slightest effect on me. This startled him. It was obvious that nobody, at least not a safety practitioner, had ever laid things out for him in such harsh and stark terms. After that the loud obnoxious announcements and snide comments stopped, and he eventually approached me a bit sheepishly and apologized for giving me a hard time. He then told me that I was like no other safety guy he had ever worked with (noting, among other things, that I wore full safety gear even in the miserable 100 degree heat) and that he got a sense that I was looking at the big picture because the crew tended to be task oriented and might miss some things. And then he did something that most safety people will never experience; he thanked me.
  4. Safety has to have the workers’ backs not be on them. From day one I approached each worker and introduced myself. I told them that I had their backs and wouldn’t be on their backs. I always made it a point to tell them that my job was to help them make informed decisions about their safety. I believed that, and after a short time they believed it too. It wasn’t long before I would arrive on set (I travelled to 20 odd sets in a week depending on what was going on and how risky an activity might be) and walk the perimeter completing the required paperwork. Eventually people would come up to me and ask me to be part of the planning process. They would say things like, “I’m not sure this is safe enough, can you think of anything we can do to make it safer?” For me that is the greatest thing a safety practitioner can experience, I wasn’t their enemy, I wasn’t a cop, I wasn’t even a neutral nuisance. I was an integral part of the crew; someone who had their backs and a fresh set of eyes that might pick up a life threatening hazard and maybe help them to save they’re own lives.

Safety and Training Shouldn’t Be Treated Like Luxuries.

Dublin 285

This picture has nothing to do with the content of this article. I took this in Dublin after my speech last week.

by Phil La Duke

Okay, my weekly blog post is late again. C’est la vie.  My trusty laptop got it’s screen smashed and I have been left hunting for my spare a newer, smaller and wholly less satisfying version of my mac power book.  Plus I went to Dublin for the better part of a week to speak at the Business Ireland Techconnect Live Conference.  There were some technical glitches but I can assure you that I will have a link to a video of the speech up soon.

This week I was thinking about politics; it’s hard not too when you spent the better part of the week apologizing or at very least looking sheepishly at someone asking about the latest gaffe the world’s favorite politician has made. It got me thinking back to the Clinton years.  This isn’t an endorsement of either Bill or Hillary, just eight glorious years when I had a good job with good security, I was optimistic about my future and I didn’t have to worry about my job.  You see, I live in metropolitan Detroit, where, as most of you know, cars are king.  The problem with being part of the Detroit economy is we are one of the first areas to be effected by an economic downturn and the hardest hit.  We feel the pain before the rest of the world, but we also feel the recovery.

I was talking to friend who works making the king-shit (I’m too tired to worry about those of you who are going to be offended by a bit of course language…drop me an email to complain and I will send you a response that will have you looking up words for the next 18 months and will make you blush every time you think of their definitions) of luxury items: hot air balloons. As we talked I realized that Safety (and training too for that matter)are treated like corporate luxury items; things that you spend money on if you have it, but the first thing you cut out of your budget when you tighten your proverbial belt.

I have been harping on and on about the fact that the best way to ensure a safe workplace is to have a well trained workforce for months. Training always draws the short end of the stick: in boom times we’re too busy to do training correctly; we can’t spare our crew and lose four hours of production and in bust times we don’t have the money to train our workers and we send a good share of them packing.  We either too busy to invest or too poor to invest.  It’s the same deal with safety.  We either don’t have the money to do things right or we don’t have the time.

The problem is that like it or not both training and safety are discretionary expenditures. The people holding the purse strings know that even if we have to spend money on training/safety, we don’t have to do it right now.  Yes of course there are exceptions, especially in situations where there is a regulation that is driving the training, but even then I have been asked point blank, “what is the financial penalty for not doing this assuming we get caught?”

I can no longer see safety and training as anything but intrinsically linked and I am deeply troubled that both are seen as expendable budget dross. Just because something is discretionary in nature doesn’t make it less essential.  Food is technically a discretionary cost but even in lean times I manage to find funds to feed my cram into my maw and feed my ever expanding ample belly.  When we cut funding to safety and training because we haven’t had a lot of injuries it’s like cutting your food budget because you aren’t hungry at the moment.

Phil La Duke Live

A week from Wednesday I will be speaking at the Office Expo in Dublin, Ireland. I hope at least some of you will be able to attend. If you are unable to attend, but would like a link to my speech on YouTube please post a comment and I will send you the link. Of course I will also post it here but you may miss it. Wish me luck, I’m paying my own travel expenses.

This is from their website

The Speaker line up is now live for Ireland’s largest SME Expo, Grow SME . You can view the 350 agenda speaker line up here . The event is being held in the RDS on May 31st If you have not already registered, I would like to offer you complimentary delegate. Over 7000 delegates are registered to attend the event in the on 31st may in the RDS. Furthermore, Grow SME is also collocated with the following events. Tech Connect Live The National Sales and marketing Summit Grow your Business Online Expo IT, Software, Data Summit Grow SME The office expo The Blockchain Summit The GDPR Summit Delegates are free to move within events. You simply need to register online and there will be a delegate badge waiting for you. Feel free to pass on the invitation to colleagues, clients etc. that you believe may wish to attend any of the events.

Death from Above

“Maybe you got a kid, maybe you got a pretty wife”—Bruce Springsteen, State Trooper

By Phil La Duke

Every month a colleague sends me the butcher’s bill; a list of the people killed on the job. To a person the death could have been prevented without any notable expenditure. Roofers are frequently the victim slipping and falling from a roof to the ground or concrete below. This happens a lot. In part because one doesn’t need an education to be a roofer or laborer, and in part because in the US and many parts of the world small businesses are except from most of the protections afforded to workers in larger firms. In the U.S. small businesses are sacrosanct; with the possible exception of the elderly, politicians value the voting potential of promising to help small businesses than any other group. The rights of small businesses are political gold, but what about the rights of workers? Roofers, tend to be some of the most poorly trained and take more risks than just about any other small business employees that I can think of, they aren’t even treated as human beings rather they are seen as commodities to be used up. But even if small businesses were (and in some cases they are) subject to safety regulations, most countries lack the resources to focus on small businesses and prefer to go after  bigger companies

What’s worse than the fatalities are those who get injured but take years to die. I am reminded of a dear friend and colleague, Bill Sagy Sr. who decades ago when working as a steel worker he hurt his back. It wasn’t bad enough for him to go out on Workers’ Compensation or Social Security disability, he continued working. And then nearly 40 years later, after increasingly frequent spells where his “back went out”. Almost two years ago he went for a new form of laparoscopic surgery. He was skeptical but by then the pain was unbearable; I spoke to him two weeks after he had the surgery. He was almost euphoric; wistfully telling me how he wished the surgery had been around decades earlier. That was Thursday. On Sunday I received word that he was dead. It seems that Friday he developed a fever, it got worse until his wife rushed him to the emergency room where he collapsed. He was taken to intensive care where he died sometime Saturday. His routine surgery came with a free infection that killed him. Now there are water-heads among you will argue that the back injury so many years ago wasn’t the cause, that it was the infection and the infection alone that killed Bill. I’m not going to argue with those who feel that way, an idiot who enjoys arguing with people who put the time and effort into blogging and arguing an academic point aren’t worth my time.

But let me pander to that thought process for a while, and talk about my ex-father-in-law. He was injured when despite safety rules, Union rules, and common sense was working above me ex-father-in-law when he dropped what was described to me as an angle iron. It free fell three stories and struck my ex-father-in-law in the neck shattering one vertebrae and driving the second into a third. He had what was at the time experimental surgery, and had a cow bone fused into his neck. The surgery was successful and while he couldn’t lift more than 50lbs and was therefore judged permanently disabled. At first his life was pretty good, sure his activities were limited but he wasn’t a guy who golfed, or bowled or did much highly physical stuff. He came to grips with his limitations quickly and with aplomb. The doctors warned him that the cow bone would degrade and he would eventually have to undergo the surgery again. But when that day came he was diagnosed as having mesothelioma and the doctors advised against the surgery. He got addicted first to pain-killers and eventually to heroin he died from the mesothelioma before the heroin killed him. Heroin ate through his family like cancer, eventually my ex-wife got hooked and last year about this time she died of an overdose. If you find it hard to summon sympathy for another dead junky that’s none of my business, but it crushed my daughter and her sister who, while estranged from her at the time, prayed for the day she would straighten out her life. Like most of us, they thought they had more time than it turned out that they did. As Tom Waits wrote in the song Walking Spanish “Even Jesus wanted just a little more time, when he was walking Spanish down the hall”. For me those injuries so long ago caused those injuries and fatalities, but they won’t appear on any chart or make up any statistic. So as safety people slap each other on the back and praise themselves for a job well done, I’m out here watching in disgust. OSHA estimates that half of all injuries go unreported. We can do better.

Shut Up and Let Me Think: The Dangers of Cognitive Overload

Phrenology copy

By Phil La Duke

A good friend of mine and ex-colleague, Scott Studier, recently posted an article he had written for a publication on LinkedIn. The article was on cognitive overload, something that many and more of us are guilty—stuffing the proverbial 20lbs of meat sweepings into the five pound sausage casing. Okay, okay, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Cognitive overload is where you get either too much information or you get information to quickly to accurately process it.  When we hit cognitive overload we experience concentration fatigue and we are far more likely to make mistakes.

This subject is germane to safety in two ways: 1) we routinely develop courses that last eight hours long knowing full well that cognitive overload starts to set in at about the four hour mark, and 2) we are seeing longer and longer takt and cycle times.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term takt time is the length of time (originally in manufacturing) it takes to produce one product.  It has informally come to mean how long it takes to complete one job from start to finish, so for example the takt time for oil and gas would begin at the start of the drilling and end when the oil/gas is read for sale. Takt time can be applied to almost any industry.  Cycle time on the other hand, is the time it takes for one person to complete all the tasks on his or her job before it is passed down stream.

Time is money, and the longer a takt time the more costly it is to produce a product or deliver a service, so in the interest of productivity we want continually look for ways to shorten our takt time by eliminating waste. If we can reduce cycle time we typically (provided we just don’t move the work to someone else) have a corresponding reduction in takt time, and we become more profitable and faster.

Long cycle times are the result of one of the seven muda’s (I am convinced that the Japanese are slowly trying to teach us Japanese to make an invasion more efficient) or just plain too many tasks on a single job. Muda doesn’t just mean waste, it means futility, pointlessness. The seven forms of muda are:

    • Overproduction. You make too much and have to store it or it might go bad, it’s particularly bad if there is a change order or you just plain screwed up the batch.
    • Waiting. You ever see your tax dollars being wasted as a construction road crew is standing around? Well guess what? They aren’t just goofing off or on break, but generally waiting for someone or something usually materials or equipment to arrive. But we have no right to expect them to do that for nothing.
    • Transporting. Moving materials or people from point A to point B adds no value to the customer. Ever tried working on a plane? I’m too worried about getting choked out by a flight attendant trying to remove me from a plane to work. Rodney King didn’t take half the beating that some passengers are getting and I’m not taking any chances. I might read on a plane but the fact of the matter is you’re not gonna get much work out of me on a plane or in an airport.
    • Over Processing. Over processing is a step in the process that really isn’t necessary but you do it anyway because that’s what the SOP says to do. Pointless.
    • Unnecessary Inventory. Do you keep extra parts squirrelled away so you don’t run out. It cost money to hold inventory, if stuff isn’t moving through the system it’s wasting money.
    • Unnecessary / Excess Motion. Surprisingly this doesn’t refer to flash mobs that do elaborate dance numbers in the workplace (although I guess technically it could if that becomes a problem) rather, it’s the practice of setting up a work station that causes the worker to walk too much, bend over or awkwardly reach for a part. Motion doesn’t add value
    • Defects. Here I would include injuries. Your customer is not likely to pay you extra because you screwed up and produced below standard or injured a worker. In the view of the customer that’s your problem. I remember I had Lowes (a national US home improvement retailer) install a garage door which they did so poorly and the key broke off in the lock. Neither Lowes nor Pella (the door manufacturer) really cared too much they off-loaded all the blame on the husband & wife and presumably brother & sister who owned the half-assed door installation. When I insisted they send someone out to at very least unlock my garage door the Husband/Brother got indignant and said, “my guy broke his back installing a door, so what do you expect me to do?” I said, and in the interest of decorum I will sanitize this: “I don’t care if you killed a guy, in fact, I hope he sues your ass off. But until he does get your lazy, inbred ass out here and fix my door.” After three weeks of hassling with them I finally got the door unlocked but now cannot lock it. Don’t worry I have three angry badgers trapped in there so I worry more about the safety of a burglar than of being burgled. Moral: Don’t buy from Lowes or Pella.

All of these in and of themselves have the potential to cause injury, but cognitive overload is a BIG waste and in safety is potentially dangerous. Consider shadow training.  We have a slap-dash demonstration of the 86 tasks associated with a specific job and we wonder why people miss a step and get hurt.  Our solutions are as elegant as they are dopey. We sponsor a children’s poster contest. We offer pizza parties. We write people up for not getting it right.  We do everything but redesign the job to eliminate waste.

Cognitive overload is a big problem that is getting bigger. The people we hire aren’t any dumber than the ones we used to hire, but you can’t add more and more tasks onto a job and expect that nothing will break.

So what do we do about it? Well in addition to teaching engineers about designing using the engineering controls we need to teach them to reduce both takt and cycle time. If they do, we can have a faster, more nimble, cheaper, more efficient and most of all safer workplace.

Ten Years Later and We Still Haven’t Changed.

by Phil La Duke

I couldn’t sleep last night.  Either to much Diet Dr. Pepper or not enough booze.  Either way I wrote the blog early so I figured why not publish it?

Last week I tweeted, “people don’t get hurt because they do stupid things, people get hurt because employer fail to protect them when they do stupid things”. I have been writing this (and another safety blog) for over 10 years and including articles in safety magazines I believe I have probably written close to a million words on the subject, this on top of working a full time job. What struck me is how little things have changed in safety over the last 10 years.  We safety professionals are still essentially clueless.

How clueless are we? Let me count the ways:

  1. We still insist that safety comes down to behavior (and yes I supposed if you view it broadly enough that’s true) but we still delude ourselves into thinking that we can somehow reprogram the human brain into doing anything meaningful about it. I still have to argue with colleagues who are enamored with snake oil celebrities who have churned out a bunch of quasi-scientific dreck that miraculously supports the same crap they have been selling for two decades.
  2. We love the culture of blame. I can’t even count how many safety people bemoan the fact that workers wouldn’t get hurt if “the idiots would just follow the rules!” I always suggest that they stop actively recruiting idiots and they tell me, that they don’t pay enough to get good people. I believe in bad people. People who rape, murder, and assault people for sport. Would those of you who have told me that you don’t pay enough to get “good people” have me believe that you have instead got some discount murderous thugs on the payroll? If so you got deeper systemic issues then safety. No, I suspect by “good people” they mean “smart people” from “good homes” and as we all know smart, well-educated workers are worth more to society than the baboons we have working for us, right? Wrong. I didn’t grow up poor—I had enough to eat, clothes on my back, a warm place to sleep, indoor plumbing, and while I had to pay for a portion of it a parochial school education. When you consider how MOST people on this planet live I was extremely wealthy. But as farmers in a family of nine, all of these things were never guaranteed to us. I grew up in a climate of incessant worry over how we would replace the washing machine or where the money for car repairs would come from. There was a feeling that at any moment all this could come crashing down and my life would spin off into anarchy. I had friends who couldn’t afford clothes that fit, or who went to school hungry. To paraphrase Ginsberg, I watched the greatest minds of my generation destroyed, not by madness, but by resignation and desperation. We worked because we needed to survive, not because we could buy a fancy car or the latest smart device. We weren’t college bound, not because we weren’t smart enough, but because most of us hated authority especially that wielded by self-important bookworms. I did go to college, because it was either that or the military and nobody, myself included saw me going into the service and not either being kicked out outright or moldering in a military prison. So I went to community college and dinked around yet another directionless kid set loose on society like a mental patient released from the hospital and put on a bus to the next nearest bus station. Eventually I hit the Detroit lottery: I got a Union job at General Motors working the line, I screwed for a living and I came home dirty and sore. It was as close to hell as I ever hope to see, but it was money. BIG money. I figured I could continue my education using GM’s tuition assistance plan but soon learned that humping an assembly line for 8 or 9 hours was unconducive with going to college at night. Safety in the plant was a political job given to brother’s-in-laws of the petty despots who ran the plants. In my case the management safety appointee was a hairdresser turned safety specialist. No training, no experience, no real brains, but MAN could he cut hair. After two and half years I was, along with 50,000 other workers, encouraged to explore other career opportunities. I wasn’t worried, I had five or six really good prospects. As they dried up one by one, and my wife left me to pursue a life of sex, drugs, and really awful music, I worked odd jobs, went back to school and eventually got a job that paid $19K a year. I took it because I was desperate and had a kid to care for. Throughout these jobs I took throughout that period, (adjunct delivery worker for a major shipping company, a demolition worker who tore out stores in malls so a new crop could be built, ) safety was nonexistent. For instance the boss in demolition told the workers to remove the drop ceiling by cutting all the wires supporting it. It naturally fell on those of us working below. If only we idiots would have followed the…wait a minute, WHAT rules. Despite being flat-assed broke if we wanted PPE we had to buy our own and injuries were common. I wasn’t alone. All over Detroit (and presumably elsewhere) desperate people took horribly unsafe jobs because we didn’t have a choice. Contrary to blowhards at the end of the bar, welfare isn’t easy to get unless you have completely destroyed yourself financially—lost your home, behind on all your bills, car’s been repossessed; at least it was when I tried desperately to get help.) I watched as childhood acquaintances died on the job—my brother’s best friend, a friend of a friend, the list goes on. What all us injured and killed imbeciles had in common was we listened to our bosses and did what we were told to do.
  3. We think we’re indispensable and whine because no one listens to us. Some of you just took offense and are knitting your brows in preparation for an angry missive reminding me that there are a lot of good hard working dedicated…safety professionals and how dare I…Save your breath. I know there are a lot of terrific safety people. I also know that there are a lot of useless mouth breathers with the IQs of a jar of peanut butter working in safety. If you think I am talking about you let me save you from expending any further thought on the matter. I AM TALKING ABOUT YOU. We whine because no one listens to us or respects us, but nobody listens to us or respect us because we say and do stupid things. We don’t partner with the population, we see ourselves as the thin red line between them and death and dismemberment; we expect a little gratitude a little respect. Safety is a thankless job, what were you expecting to get tips? In fact, most jobs are thankless jobs. We get paid to do our job and unless you want to get paid in compliments suck it up.
  4. We’re still looking for that magic bullet that will make our jobs easier, even simple. Safety will never be simple. The human brain is too complex and there is far too much variability in human behavior for our jobs to be easy and stress free. Last week I harped on about the impossibility of truly calculating probability an argument I am not going to have again. The conscious, deliberate choices that people make are difficult enough to predict, but add to that, behavioral drift, human error, uninformed decision making, and a host of other irrational factors and you have a mess that is impossible (for all practical purposes) to predict. The best we can hope for is to protect people from their mistakes and poor choices. Most of us have been injured at some point in our lives and most of those injuries were probably our own fault. We have to stop assuming it’s different for other people then it is for us.

#2, #3