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?
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