The Value Of Nothing

By Phil La Duke

We live in a post-Napster world where everything on the internet is believed to be free, or at very least that it should be free. It’s easy to blame lazy, self-centered, shiftless Millenials for this, but what then of lazy, self-centered, shiftless Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers? Everyone shares the blame of the lowering of the collective IQ of the blogosphere, and it’s because we place no value on something we get for free.

I’m as guilty as anyone of this. In this crap made in China world why have electronics repaired when it’s cheaper to through it out and buy a new one.  The less we pay for something the less we value it.

So what value do we place on safety advice given to us for free? Zero, zip, nil. Recently someone published an article I wrote, word for word (except for an opening paragraph advertising their crappy webinars. I sicked the lawyers from Entrepreneur on them, but the point remains that plagiarism isn’t even seen as wrong anymore.

One of the reasons I quit my writing this blog is that people don’t place any value on it. Maybe it’s not any good, but maybe that’s because it’s free. It’s not just free of cost, but it’s also free of corporate sponsorship, it’s free of an evangelical safety agenda, (although everyone who disagrees with my posts likely doubts that statement), it’s free of ads (one fellow blogger recommended a service that would increase my hits and therefore increase my nonexistent Google revenue), and mostly it’s been free of fear—fear of the violence the impotent goofballs who send me threatening emails (nice to see a safety professional threatening to kills someone), fear that people will read my work and not want to do business with me, or even fear that I might lose my jobs—hell if quit better jobs than this. Would I like it if someone read my blog and hired me to help improve safety at his or her organization? Absolutely, but apart from the odd speech here and there the closest I have come to deriving real business from this blog is having people want me to meet me, which I enjoy doing, but sometimes I feel I am being treated like a carnival geek.  You can’t imagine how many people are disappointed that I am not a ragging asshole when they meet me.

And because my blog is unequivocally free it is also unequivocally devalued. How do I know it’s devalued? In several ways.  When the National Safety Council blackballed me I asked my readers to email the organizers to explain why.  I was told that even though my evaluations were in the top half of the presentations, they were in the bottom of the top half.  Bear in mind that section on my performance and knowledge of the subject matter were always excellent the topics generally scored poorly.   These topics were selected by the NSC not me.  Not one person emailed the NSC leading me to believe that my blog was not even worth the 16 seconds it would have taken to support me.

On another occasion my ex-wife was found dead. She was destitute and my two daughters (both college students with minimum wage jobs) were left with the burden of claiming the body, making funeral arrangements, beyond all else raising a $3000 to have a funeral.  My in-laws started a Go-Fund me campaign and so I posted a link on this blog (since removed) reasoning that maybe, just maybe, someone who had found value in one post, or had been helped or encouraged might find it in themselves to donate $5 as sort of a gratuity for my ten years of writing this blog.  Of the thousands of you who read it not a single one donated even a single cent.  Not a single penny. My help, it would seem has not value. Don’t worry, me, my family and my Facebook friends picked up the slack and we barely made it.

What did I expect? Free equals valueless, and I don’t do this for the money, I certainly don’t do it for the fame—I get over 2.8 million readers from my Entrepreneur articles twice a week and frankly nobody threatens to kill me—and if I wanted to be famous for something it wouldn’t be

So why do I do this? Because maybe, just maybe I can change a single mind, improve a single practice, and even save a single life.

I want you think about this when you offer suggestions to your organizations about how to make the workplace safer, even though you collect a salary your advice is free to them and while they may thank you to your face, you advice will always be worthless.

So I am back writing this, but I am coming back with my eyes wide open knowing that I can count on each and every one of you for exactly nothing. I have asked people  to share the blog with others tweet it, post it on LinkedIn, and only a few true friends have ever made the effort. So read away, contribute nothing, and know that your reading means nothing to me.

All This Blog Has Brought Me Is Grief

By Phil La Duke

I’ve been writing this blog now for over 10 years and I have to say that while many of you believe I receive money for clicks or money for advertising or that this results in big-money contracts I just want to say all writing this blog has brought me is grief. Frankly I’m tired of it. I may write another post I may never post again; these posts don’t  seem to mean much to anybody, most of all me.  I found over the course of this these 10 years that safety people, while espousing the urgent need for change to are incapable of it and many and more will never ever under any circumstance change unless it’s some implement some hackneyed idea that they  themselves  came up with. I’m tired of people writing me lengthy  missives about my misspellings and grammar and my real need for an editor, I’m tired of people telling me how wrong I am about behavior based safety, I’m tired of halfwits who couldn’t put together a cognitive thought with a fucking gun to their head  writing me emails criticizing me. Two weeks ago I decided not to post; to take the weekend off.  It felt so good I did it again last weekend and this weekend this maybe my last post  forever.  If there’s a point in trying to improve the thought and theory of the safety profession I know longer see it. I’m sick of mouth-breathing imbeciles who routinely cheat workers out of their basic rights to a safe workplace simply to make a couple bucks.  For those of you could do, you sicken me. I will not be promoting this post nor any further if it is to be promulgated you must do it. That is all perhaps forever. 

OSHA To Ban Post Accident Drug Testing…Or Does It. 

By Phil La Duke

According to fellow safety blogger, Jon Hyman of the Ohio OSHA Law Blog “Buried in OSHA’s impending final rule on electronic reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses is this little nugget. OSHA believes that you violate the law if you require an employee to take a post-accident drug test. Let me repeat. According to OSHA, you violate the law if you automatically drug test any employee after an on-the-job accident.”

I’m not going to reprint all of John’s article but you should give it a good read. I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV and according to his bio he is, so if I say something that contradicts him his opinion trumps mine. 

That being the case, I don’t necessarily agree with his conclusion that OSHA forbids post accident drug testing in ALL cases, as I read through the article and the links provided I noticed that in all cases where OSHA was quoted it used words like “automatically” and “blanket” when referring to post injury drug testing. 

The repeated use of words like automatic and blanket would seem to me (again not a lawyer) to indicate that there still could be some post accident drug testing in cases where there is reasonable cause to believe that the person or persons involved in an injury was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs of some sort.

I was thought that post incident drug testing was shortsighted and reactionary the time to ensure that your workforce is drug-free is before someone is killed by some drug addled employee. Just as it is prudent to address workplace violencebefore somebody comes in and most everybody down with a machine gun.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize the soapbox I’m about to mount which is we’ve got to stop worrying about preventing injuries and start proactively causing safety call it “positive safety” if you prefer but as long as we tried for vent injuries with sensually count bodies. Personally I would rather measures to be taken before the fact to ensure that I am fit for duty.

I’m currently the production safety consultant two large major motion picture. People ask me what if people are following the rules, am I writing anybody up, etc. I answerthis way “I’m not your mother, I’m not your boss, I’m not OSHA, I’m not the cops. What I am is someone who can advise you such that you can make the best decisions and make informed decisions about your safety ultimately the choice as to whether not to follow the rules, observe safety protocols, wear PPE,and abstain from drugs or alcohol while on the job is yours and yours alone.”

We tend to lose sight of that when we get in the thick of things and where we are in the area where the workers are doing the actual tasks. It gets easy to see yourself is responsible for making sure that they work safely when in fact that is the job of their supervisor.  

What does all this have to do with the OSHA ruling? We need to ensure that organizations have policies and procedures for ensuring that workers are fit for duty. That could mean drug intoxication, it could mean impairment by prescription drugs,  it could mean sleep deprived, or simply physically or mentally  unfit for the duties required for the Job to which their assigned.

This new OSHA interpretation is a good thing it is meant to take the fear out of reporting injuries; the belief is if someone knows that they are certain to fail a drug test after they have been injured—even though they use those drugs rec room it recreationally on their off time— They are far more likely to underreport.

In my Pinyan under reporting and the self delusional attitude so many companies have regarding their safety records is the greatest threat to worker safety that we currently face. Pretending there is no problem when there is significant risk—the first aid kits are stripped bare, no near misses are reported, safety professionals worry more about Worker’s Comp. case management then lowering risk and no injuries are reported— creates an ideal climate for serious injury or fatality.

The fact that OSHA is forcing companies to rewrite arbitrary rules that would tend to cause a reasonable person to deliberately concealing injury means that we can have the opportunity to replace those antiquated rules with rules and procedures that are far more likely to reduce risk and cause safety. 

I Am Not Your Mother

By Phil LaDuke

For the last couple of months I have been working with various construction crews. Each crew is run by a different supervisor and/or Union leader. I am responsible for safety on the sites I visit and for the most part these crew members to an individual are professional, courteous, and compliant with the rules, but I have found that with many and most of them that I have to preface my interaction with them, with “I’m not your typical safety guy. I’m not here to protect you, to save your life, or to police your behaviors. My job is to give you the information that you will need to make safer choices, what you do with that information is up to you. I’m not your mother, I’m not your boss, and I’m not some crazy safety super-hero crusader. I’m here to have your back, not ride on it.”

This satisfies most of the workers that I am on their side; that I clearly don’t want to die, want them to die, or for me to go to jail because they did something stupid. I’ve built a rapport with these guys (which, by the way is a general neutral term: look it up) and they now feel comfortable with me as a trusted advisor and partner in making decisions that carry minimal risk. All this got me wondering how the world sees the safety guy and how we see ourselves. When our visions are in sync good things happen, or more accurately bad things don’t happen, but when our visions are misaligned—say when we see ourselves as the safety cop and they see us as people who have no real power or authority to discipline them in any way, never mind fire them.

I have openly criticized the old school safety practitioners, and I meant every word I said. I think a handful of narcissistic opportunists more concerned with selling their snake oil have done irreparable harm to worker safety. They have devalued the safety “brand” we all share and as a result companies openly laugh at OSHA, ask “what happens if we don’t?” when told that the law requires them to do this or that, and generally treat the safety practitioner as the village idiot.

We have created the impression in many industries that it’s safety OR production and that is a tough paradigm to break, but we have to. So let me begin by speaking just for myself, let me just say:
I do not save lives. I have never once saved someone’s life. Have I stopped someone from working on energized equipment because it wasn’t locked out? Numerous times, but that a far cry from running into a burning building and pulling an unconscious worker out of a burning building. If tell people that I save lives that makes me a liar and a delusional blowhard. I have helped workers to make choices that may or may not have saved their lives; I can never know for sure.

I have not prevented a single injury. The closest I have come to preventing an injury is removing the physical hazards I find in the workplace, and talking to people about ways to work more safely. I have designed entire safety systems that have greatly reduced the duration of exposure to hazards, and while there is a strong correlation between my work and strong safety improvement, there is no proof of a cause and effect between what I do and the results that the organizations have seen.

I am not the safety cop. It’s not my job to catch workers violating safety rules and tattle. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that the rules are followed and that there are appropriate consequences when they workers violate the safety rules. I have neither the authority nor the power to fire anyone, and in fact, firing someone often involves a complex chain of events that includes Human Resources, supervisors, and even executives.

I am paid to keep the show going. Beyond all the platitudes and sanctimonious bullshit I get paid by the company, not so much to protect workers from harm because it’s the right thing to do, as I am to keep bad things from happening to the company, its executives, and its shareholders. Worker injuries and their related costs are perhaps the biggest waste and impediment to success in business today, and the reason my job exists is to reduce that waste as much as possible and keep operations humming along efficiently.

I am only as good as the workers’ decisions. I can’t achieve a good safety record for the company unless workers at all levels want it. That means that my performance is only as good as the decisions made by front-line workers, supervisors, middle managers, and executives. I do my best every day to be there for the workers, to have their backs and to help them make safer choices, but if I fail to persuade workers of the importance of the decisions they make or if I fail to give them the tools and skills to make the smart choices the consequences may cripple their body but ultimately they cripple my soul.

There is No Room In Safety For Cowards

cowardice

By Phil La Duke

Cowardice is impotence worse than violence. The coward desires revenge but being afraid to die, he looks to others maybe to the government of the day, to do the work of defense for him, A coward is less than a man. He does not deserve to be a member of a society of men and women.”—Mahatma Gandhi

Today a watched one of the best produced, engaging and funny safety video, perhaps the best internally produced video I have ever seen; it was used by a major corporation to orient visitors to the dangers endemic to a manufacturing environment. That’s right, I said “used”. The video was killed by an executive, not because it wasn’t effective—quite the contrary, even with a running time of just over nine minutes the viewers were consistently engaged throughout the piece and what’s more they retained far more than is ordinarily the case. In fact, to this day people still talk about the video and its message.

The video wasn’t offensive—far from it—it employed the kinds of sight gags and ridiculous illustrations that Delta uses in its pre-flight safety videos. It )wasn’t offensive, anyway, to anyone who wasn’t deliberately looking to take offense, so why did the executive kill it? Because it was funny (not in poor taste, just funny) and perhaps more importantly because he was an executive and he could.

Forget for a moment the money spent to produce a polished video.   Forget that it was effective and got people talking about safety. Forget that people liked it. The executive, drunk on his or her power, just said “no”.

In another post I have openly promoting Improv Training which offers the same brand entertain to retain philosophy. Gary Alexander the genius (and I don’t banter that term around lightly) behind the traffic safety school that used humor to get the students to tolerate, and in many cases, enjoy something they would otherwise dread. But Improv Training still struggles with sales of its first offering—Making Safer Decisions—and I am at a loss to explain why. I’ve seen every moment of it and admire how he has taken micro lessons to the next level. They can be used as messaging, as a course, or as elements of a course (instructor-led or CBT).

I know as I write this that many of you will cite examples of how you have used examples of humor in your safety training. Some of it will be genius and some of it will be tripe, but those of you who do have one thing in common: courage.

What kind of stupidity and cowardice does it show when one will not do something that is far more effective because someone MIGHT be offended? The essence of humor (or writing for that matter) is risking someone offending someone. And that’s what safety is all about, taking risks.

Safety isn’t for cowards, and avoiding humor because it might offend someone because a flight attendant uses a ridiculous example, Pamela Anderson gives advice on how to make better decision, or because some power drunk executive doesn’t like it is the height of cowardice. We are overstocked with cowards in safety, and before you try to convince yourselves the bad pun you made as using humor in training I say to you that unless you are doing something that truly scares you in the attempt to help people make better, safer decisions you are a stinking coward. I’ve never regretted the times I’ve crossed the line and got my ass chewed out for taking a joke too far, but I still hang my head in shame for the times that I backed down from using humor that I knew would forever prove a point but was too chicken to tell the joke because I saw the reproaching face of someone I knew was looking to take offense. For example, I once got called into the executive’s over my department (when I worked in training) who didn’t like the fact that I had named my policy book “The Training Cookbook” and had a picture on the cover. The new, sub-human puss bag of a CEO who, I later learned was brought in to gut and sell the company, didn’t think it looked professional. This pile of human excrement expressed his disapproval by writing “What’s this ‘gobble gobble shit’?” on a PostIt note and sending it to my exec. My exec apologized and said that the new CEO was a bully and a body part most people don’t want to be called. (My secretary rightly observed that he looked like a fat Hitler (Hitler was a vegetarian and very health conscious,) and he did) Anyway, my executive suggested that it would just be easier to change it. I replaced the cover with a plain grey cover with the company’s name and the title Training Procedures.) I’ve always regretted knuckling under. I was afraid I would lose my job and as it turns out it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway—had I stayed until the sale my company would have cast me away anything. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes to be sure, but being too close to the edge in terms of humor isn’t one of them.

Monty Python legend John Cleese once said that (at the National American Society of Training & Development Annual meeting) “Training Need Not Be Somber” (to be effective)—years later I saw a very tired John Cleese speak at a Training Convention where he phoned in a very important message: that if what you are doing is fresh, and innovative, and important, the establishment will try to shut it down, but if it’s truly important and worth doing, it’s worth standing up and defending.

 

Luck: The Most Effective Tool In the Safety Pracitioner’s Toolbox

By Phil La Duke

First let me apologize for the late post. I wasn’t lollygagging on Holiday,  I am in the middle of two computer crashes and another that is coughing up blood.  I’m not sure this week’s post is worth the wait but here goes.

On Saturday there was one explosion particularly loud. Despite being the Fourth of July weekend this particular explosion wasn’t a firecracker or skyrocket, rather a natural gas explosion at a DTE (the company founded when Michigan Consolidated Gas and Detroit Edison merged to form DTE Energy) training center. For me it underscores what I have been preaching for the last three weeks: SAFETY ON PURPOSE.

I think most of us would feel pretty safe in a training center of a company of one of the safest companies around, but it underscores the point that things happen and I am not prepared to trace it back to the behavior that may have caused this explosion. My point is a major catastrophe happened (fortunately on a Saturday when the building was vacant) and there is no one to blame, not the workers, not leadership, not even the admiral’s cat, and certainly not the culture. It leaves me wondering what would have been the death toll (the building was a total loss) had this happened during a big training event. The only difference between this being a local inconvenience and a national headline is luck.  No one was harmed (as far as any news report can tell me) and nobody did a damned thing to prevent these injuries.

Zero injuries should be a wakeup call for company that has them, heck, LOW injury rates should alert us that we are doing something either very right or very wrong. On one hand we may truly have done something that has caused us to create a safe work environment, but without knowing what that is we can only sporadically repeat it, on the other hand we may have just been lucky and the results we are achieving are just are workers beating the odds or the works are so full of fear that they don’t report injuries

It’s Not the Crime; It’s the Cover Up

When we think of what I am calling “Safety On Purpose” I’m referring to an active approach to drive safety. Certainly, the idea that companies need to “drive safety” isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t original.  But I wonder how much we really drive safety instead passively waiting for safety (or injuries) to happen.  .  Invariably this kind of talk leads to a discussion of “culture”. I keep hearing people bellyaching about the culture, and the need to create a “safety culture”.  (The worst thing the great James Reason did, is coin the term Safety Culture, one of his steps toward what he described as a “Just Culture”.  Reason believed the key to successful ethical governance was through the creation of a culture of justice where people were only disciplined for truly reckless and criminal acts.  But before one can create a “Just Culture” organizations must create a “safety culture”, in other words, a culture where people feel safe admitting mistakes, can be forth coming with the details of the their mistakes. Reason once said, “Errors plus blame equals criminality”[1]  What Reason was saying, is that by creating a climate of fear—we all make mistakes, in fact one study suggests that the average person makes five mistakes a day[2]—people will not admit mistakes and will actively conceal them. In industries like the healthcare, aviation, or the nuclear energy concealing mistakes can be catastrophic and devastating, but in all other industries unless we create a culture where it is safe to tell the truth without fear or repercussion we will never get perfect—or even good—information on injuries.  So let us not forget that we all participate in the corporate culture and we all have to work to actively create a culture worth having.

One of the characteristics of a culture of fear is the blood in the pocket syndrome. This phenomenon is where workers will conceal their injuries from their employers either out of fear of discipline, or more likely out of the fear of the loss of some incentive, not just for themselves, but for their coworkers as well.  I have never visited a workplace where a culture of fear openly existed where the safety practitioners didn’t deny any possibility of under-reporting.

Creating the Desired Culture Takes Work

Some reading this will immediately point their fingers at leadership, and moan that if the leaders don’t support them then they can never change the culture. Leaders, for their part, wring their hands and scratch their heads and wonder why they can’t seem to change the culture no matter what they do. Workers for their parts wait patiently for the great change to come…but it never does. Culture exists whether we manage it or not; it’s that simple. The only question remains is “is this a culture we want?”

A Bit About Cultures

Cultures are (for those of us who have spent a fair amount time studying them) the shared values, norms, and belief about what is acceptable behaviors (I see this as different than norms, because something can be a norm but people can still see it as unacceptable behavior). Think of cultures of corporate habits.  All organizations of seven people or more have a culture, and those organizations place a relative importance on safety.  Think of a family with two parents and five kids; this family will have a largely unspoken code of behavior. In this family there are shared values (and just like in a larger organization these values lie somewhere on a continuum, with some things being more or less important to one member than to another) but there is a fixed line where all family members agree that should a member cross it, negative consequences must be imposed. Norms make behaviors predictable and predictable behaviors keeps populations from devolving into violence.  Norms are the basis for laws and the policies with which we govern our workplaces.  Unfortunately most norms are unspoken.

Superstitions develop when we have a norm but we no longer understand the “why?” that drives the norm. As cultures evolve the reasons for the rules become murkier and devolve into superstition. Do you know why in many cultures it is considered bad luck to put shoes on a table? Because an unskilled worker’s most valuable possession was his workbooks his friends would typically take the deceased worker’s shoes back to the widow and place them on the table while he gave her the bad news.  Several generations later shoes on a table developed into the superstition of impending death. Eventually the superstition is dismissed altogether and shoes on the table no longer carry with it any stigma.

Taboos are those activities that actively violate our expectations of acceptable behaviors, but we don’t know why; they’re just wrong. Everyone knows their wrong, but no one can exactly say why.

All this is a lot of background that I’m not sure you need, but I give it to you so that when you ask a worker “why did you do this?” and you get the answer “I don’t know” you may be getting more information than you think. Does the worker truly not know or is the worker afraid to tell you why he or she did what he or she did?

I write all of this about culture because so many reading this don’t have a clue what the word means as applied in the context of safety. Stop worrying about culture and start gathering data on why you don’t have more injuries than one could reasonably expect.  Until you do you are just sitting in a training room betting that it won’t explode.

[1] I attribute this to James Reason irresponsibly.  I have seen the quote and searched for the author and people have told me it was said by Reason, but if anyone has a better, and definitive source I would appreciate it.

[2] Another statistic that I picked up in a lecture at a medical safety conference but the author and the study were lost in a flood of my basement, if you know the source, please let me know. I trust its veracity but I don’t expect others to without science behind it.

Talking For the Sake of Making Noise

Safety talk

By Phil La Duke

Safety moments, Toolbox Talks, Safety Talks…whatever you call them they all amount to the same thing: discussions, often arbitrary, about safety. Conventional wisdom holds that raising awareness about safety concerns reduces the likelihood of worker injuries, but does it? And if awareness of safety concerns does indeed prevent injuries to what extent are safety talks effective in raising awareness.

Too often we in safety are Wikipidiots, we assert as fact that what is merely supposition. We accept more tripe as gospel than any other profession with the possible exception alchemists, astrologists, and professional psychics.

Is there anything wrong having a brief conversation about safety once a week? Yes and no. This is a bitter pill to swallow for some safety professionals who love to feel as though they are doing something even if that something is pointless. The major problems I have with safety talks or safety moments is that they are inconsistent, often irrelevant, frequently poorly delivered, lack context and in many cases poorly improvised.

Inconsistent

Safety talks range from safety micro lessons to a poorly written haikus about safety that get passed around the group who then sign off on them. This inconsistency isn’t limited to industry to industry or from company to company, rather I have seen inconsistencies in safety messaging from shift to shift and from supervisor to supervisor. With this kind of inconsistent message about safety can we really expect a consistent response to safety? We bear no small amount of culpability for the lack of consistency, after all, what training have we given supervisors not only in the delivery of safety talks, but in the purpose of safety talks. We need safety talks to be micro lessons about a specific safety topic, not a perverse version of children’s story hour.

Irrelevant

Relevancy of the safety talk might seem to contradict the need for consistency, but I really don’t think it is. If you are delivering a safety talk in the artic it’s probably appropriate to address the dangers of Polar Bear attacks but these dangers are less valuable in Equatorial Guinea. The topic is too specific and even though we want our messaging to be consistent, we never want to sacrifice relevance for consistency. Rather, we should strive for consistency in delivery while making it a point to ensure that the message is relevant to the population to whom we are talking.

Poor Delivery

The fact that many safety talks are poorly delivered is rarely disputed. Some of the best safety talks that I have seen were little more than a person reading from a sheet of paper and finishing with “any questions?”; either the message is important or it is not; if it is then we should do our utmost to deliver it seriously, deliberately, and articulately; and if it’s not important then don’t deliver it at all.

Lack of Context

Perhaps my biggest bone of contention is a lack of context. I have endured more safety talks on tick bites to last a lifetime. To be sure, tick bites represent a serious threat to many of my colleagues who routinely travel into tick-invested areas in the course of their jobs, but I don’t. Talks about ticks, while important to some, lack any context for me. Now I’m afraid to mow my lawn wearing anything less than a full Haz Mat suit. Does it hurt to warn me about ticks? Well yes and no. Yes, ticks are bad, they are blood-sucking parasites that carry Lyme’s disease, which is serious and hard to diagnose and requires lengthy treatment. (I’ve become something of both a tick expert and a tick neophyte—is there a word for knowing the all there is to know about a very vague topic?) Yet I had to do all my own safety research to work at the world’s largest abandoned factory. (Where I have been schilling safety for the last couple of months). Of course there is no value to have a safety talk to my colleagues (I work alone on this particular assignments) on asbestos, the dangers of packs of while dogs trained to fight to the death and gone feral, falling concrete, hidden tunnels that open up and swallow whole chunks of real estate, but THIS is what I needed. (For the record even ticks don’t live in this toxic wasteland, except for the feral dog and pheasants and garbage trees (poplars and cottonwoods) nothing seems capable of thriving here). So, because the context of my work differs so greatly from the context of my peers there is really no point in trying to find a common denominator between all of us. My experience is perhaps a bad example, since my colleagues and I have such diverse assignments, but what about a construction crew where the safety department compiles (and by “compiles” I mean slaps together from an online source) a serious of safety talks without considering context. Shouldn’t the circumstances of work dictate the content of the safety talk?

Poorly Improvised

Safety practitioners have to give their constituencies something to talk about otherwise production will improvise a safety talk. Meetings will begin with, “does anyone have a safety talk?” and after some awkward moments someone will sputter out something about school buses and the need to pay attention and be on the look out for school kids; not exactly what was intended when the idea of a safety talk was conceived.

I have mentioned in a couple of posts my tenure at a faith-based healthcare system and the values that were so overt that they shaped how everyone behaved, reacted, and to some degree thought. Every meeting was carefully planned and even the shortest meetings began with a reflection on one of the values, and for each meeting the organizer assigned someone to write and share the reflection. I think that companies should apply the same principles to safety. Instead of having a safety talk crammed down someone’s throat, or allow people to freewheel safety talks, why not implement the practice of safety reflections.