When the Bright Eyes of A Giant Grow Dim and Fade to Black

Grim reaper

By Phil La Duke

Just a quick postscript to this article: I’m indescribably disappointed with a) the stupidity in the threads of LinkedIn in response to last week’s post and b) the fact that nobody confronted the Crank Coxes who pounced on the post unwittingly proving my point.  Just when you give people credit for a modicum of intelligence you meet a handful that prove that LinkedIn is over crowded with mouth-breathing droolers with nothing to say but exercising there God-given right to scream it to the world.—Phil

Dedicated to Dave Collins for his years of service to the safety function.

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked… for an angry fix”

Recently the LinkedIn community lost yet another thought leader. After years of brilliant contributions to the many discussion threads of the groups to which he belonged one of the most important voices on LinkedIn was silenced. Dave Collins didn’t die, rather he was driven from LinkedIn by trolls who are, by an order of magnitude, his intellectual inferior. Dave, tired of being shouted down for having insightful views of safety and business, took his proverbial ball and went home.

Those of you who didn’t know Dave when he was a LinkedIn member really missed out. Dave is a true innovator who is not afraid to take on the most cherished sacred cows of safety. He does it with Aussie finesse to my crazed barbarian swinging a bag of broken glass but the trolls don’t understand civility. Barbarity is the only language they understand.

Dave is still maintaining his megablog, http://www.safetyrisk.net/ , which is the single most influential safety blog in the world. Sounds like someone we’d like to have in our community. Dave is a loss, but more importantly, Dave is emblematic of the downward spiral of LinkedIn. I have been a member for a decade or so and have seen both the structure of LinkedIn and the quality of the community.

In the words of Allen Ginsberg, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked… for an angry fix” but in my case I saw the best minds of my generation driven from the ideological threads of a once great social landscape. The golden age of LinkedIn wasn’t the wild west of America Online, or the banal photos of the “sick” brunch posted on Facebook; no, LinkedIn was a place where people could ask questions in good faith and get answers from legitimate experts. It was a place where one could talk shop with their peers, get advice and yes make friends. When I joined LinkedIn I did so I could stay in touch with colleagues with whom I had lost touch. I thought, “This is genius! Once I’m linked to my old friends and colleagues I won’t have all those dead emails.” Truth be told a friend and colleague called me at work one day and asked for me email. Exasperated, she asked me why I wasn’t on LinkedIn. “You’ll have 500 contacts by the end of the week.” She was wrong; it took two weeks. I joined groups and like many people stood on the sideline. I read the discussion threads and like most of us watched as two or more intellectual powerhouses slugged it out. I thought LinkedIn was incredible, it was one of the greatest things I had ever experienced—relative to what would later become called “social networks”.

When a troll would light me up for speaking my opinion or dare to question them, some wise LinkedIn veteran would come to my defense, point out the idiots and the crack pots (and yes even the mentally ill). There’s nothing wrong with silencing those who bully and attack, in fact, there maybe nothing more nobler.

Now all that is gone.

We all take some share of the blame from the bloated Crank Coxes  and Sparry Suckers that troll the discussion threads to all of us who say nothing as they destroy the community to those of us who whore our companies shamelessly to the water-headed imbeciles who post Facebook tripe to those who stand mute as it happens. In the words of Edmund Burke:

All it takes for Evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Dave Collins departure isn’t the death knell of LinkedIn; it’s its tombstone. Like all things once great that reach their nadir LinkedIn (recently purchased by the digital leprosy that is Microsoft) has been dead for a while but will continue for a decade as a place where the intellectually walking dead continue to feed on each other. And I will be there, not to bear witness to its painful demise, but because they are easy pickens.

 

Denial Isn’t Just A River In Egypt—You’re Employees are Probably Under-Reporting

bloody pizza

By Phil La Duke

Whenever I post a topic where I assert something to which some disagree invariably they attack me personally. Some mistakenly believe that I don’t work as a safety practitioner and will cease on the fact that I supposedly don’t work in the “real world”, as if writing a blog and published articles for free somehow pays the bills. Others will pay the card of self-righteous indignation, because I called someone a mouth-breather or described them as softheaded. Still others write me privately with threats of violence or even death (ironic, isn’t it? people who sanctimoniously praise themselves for saving lives and keeping people free from injury threatening me with violence.)  I might worry were it not for the fact that these water heads couldn’t kill a beer let alone me. Others fall into the calling me unprofessional for saying “shit, hell, or damn” or because I don’t worry too much about my punctuation or grammar. My point is, bring it on. If what you read here threatens you and you can’t construct a coherent counterpoint feel free to hone in on these things. Nothing amuses me more than a slack-jawed imbecile making a fool of themselves either here or in on-line threads.

Last week I committed hearsay, I said that zero injuries, without understanding WHY we had zero injuries—which is, let’s face it, zero reported injuries—was a pointless and simple-minded exercise. If that mad you angry, strap in, because this week I mean to take it even further.

I can only speak for myself; from my prospective. I started working when I was 13 as the clean up boy at the local Dairy Queen, violating damned (oooh he said a bad word) near every child-labor law. When I was 18 I was working three jobs simultaneously. I have worked as a day laborer, on the line at General Motors, a research interviewer, a reporter, a clown, an actor, a trainer, a copywriter, and a host of other jobs. I was injured on the job too many times to count and never once reported (until I became a safety professional) the injury. I am of the ardent belief that I am not alone in my situation. So here is why I said nothing:

  1. I didn’t know I was supposed to. This sounds like a cop out, especially to those who live in the insular offices and cubes where a lot of safety practitioner park their ample asses. In fairness to the average safety practitioner, he or she can’t be everywhere, and what’s more it’s not their job to sniff around like a Jack Russell on the trail of a rat soliciting injuries. My supervisor never told me that I needed to tell him or her that I needed to report injuries. I was oblivious to OSHA regs and what was a recordable and what wasn’t.
  2. If I reported an injury it pissed people off. I had seen what happened to my coworkers who reported injuries—they generally got the third degree about what they did that caused the injury and heaven help them if they had been doing something they shouldn’t have been. People got written up and even fired for getting hurt after doing exactly what their boss had told them to do.
  3. Reporting an injury was viewed as most likely a scam. As I said, I saw plenty of people who reported injuries and we would always roll our eyes—it was always the same people and they were so meticulous in documenting every detail that you just KNEW was going to come up in court (one woman in particular sued her own mother because she fell on her icy porch). Both management and hourly alike knew that if you reported an injury you were probably cheating the system in some way.
  4. I would just tough it out. The plant doctor was willing to take the enormous pay cut and work in a factory because (it was rumored, a rumor I believe) that medical malpractice suits made it too expensive for him to continue his practice—he once gave me a medication to which I was allergic to its main ingredient—and I just felt a lot more comfortable with my own doctor.
  5. Nobody cared. When, while working as a fry cook, I three fingers bad enough to require eight stitches I was allowed to leave work (after clocking out) and go to the clinic where I paid for my medical treatment myself. I could give 20 similar examples where I suffered recordable injuries that never saw an OSHA log.
  6. I didn’t think the injury was serious enough to worry about it. I worked sharp metal parts building 1600 seats a day. The company did not require safety shoes, eye protection, or Kevlar sleeves. Not a day went by where I didn’t have a cut, bruise, muscle strain, etc. You didn’t dare ask to go to medical because most of the time supervision couldn’t cover your job so you wouldn’t be relieved so you couldn’t go. The supervisor would never forbid you to go that would bring him or her real trouble, but the boss would always look at you with puppy dog eyes and ask if I could wait until break. In one case I was loaned out to the body shop, where veterans thought it was a real hoot to pull their welding guns (which were suspended on bungee cords) and let them go usually narrowly missing the new guy. I took a direct hit to the back of the head that not only knocked me out cold, but also forward into a three-foot pit. When I came too the foreman had lifted me up by putting his arms under my armpits and was putting the weld gun into my hands and kept saying “you’re okay, you’re okay”. I had a bump literally the size of a goose egg on the back of my head a deep scratch on my face and my arm was bleeding. I used an obscene simile in response to his contention that I was okay and told him I was going to medical. Medical gave me two aspirins and stitched my arm with butterfly bandages.
  7. Because it happened on a Friday afternoon. The plant I worked in had the old, oil-soaked wood-block floors and they were constantly coming loose, sticking up causing people to trip on them, or just plain missing creating a 5 x4 inch hole in the floor. Once on a Friday afternoon about 10 minutes from quitting time I stepped in one of these holes and wrenched my ankle pretty good. I could barely walk, but I managed to hobble to my car excruciating pain, but I wasn’t about to have our quake doctor spend an hour of my weekend trying to treat me in a way that would make sure it wasn’t a recordable.

I have more reasons for not reporting, but I’m already going longer than I like. But the point is when there is a campaign to stop me from doing something that, I can’t control— things that I either don’t want or intend to do; am unaware that I am doing it; taking what I think are harmless and innocent shortcuts; or from interacting with physical hazards that I don’t have the ability to fix on my own the campaign just further distances me from the people preaching it. Once the safety guy has shown me that he or she thinks that I am the problem (the one thing they can’t control) he or she become my enemy, and I lose all respect for the person, and all the pizza and candy bars in the world won’t change that. And if he or she is wrong about all these other things I become convinced that he or she is probably wrong about a lot more.

And yet every company I go into, every executive I ask, and every safety manager I seem to meet puffs up their chest at the merest suggestion that their might be under reporting until I do an analysis and find that 25–50% of the employees I talk to tell me they don’t report at least some of their injuries. In one case, an executive told me that not reporting an injury is considered an ethics violation and the person would be automatically fired. So maybe you have created a Utopian workplace where there are no under reporting of injuries, but isn’t it worth considering that you aren’t performing as well as you think you are?

“Zero Injuries” Is Nothing To Celebrate

blood candy

By Phil La Duke

I was checking out the discussion groups on LinkedIn this week when I happened across a very popular, and frankly very scary, thread. It involved a safety professional providing candy bars to the workers as a reward for a year with zero injuries.

I was alarmed at how many softheaded mouth-breathers chimed in about what a great idea it was, and what an accomplishment a whole year without zero injuries is. Before I continue this rant, I should be clear: I am not against safety incentives, but I AM against giving incentives because something didn’t happen. Rewarding your employees for zero injuries is like rewarding them when it doesn’t rain. Why not? The safety boobs ask, a day without rain is a GOOD thing, and if we want people to continue to do good things we need to reward them for it.

I think the rain analogy works pretty well—of course the workers don’t have any control over whether or not it rains, and they do have some limited—but certainly not absolute—control over whether or not injuries occur—because if we don’t understand exactly what conditions we created to achieve zero injuries it just leads to a blanket “well the recipe worked”; well maybe it did and maybe it didn’t.

The Dalmatian Effect

With all apologies to Dalmatian lovers out there, this particular breed is (at least according to my vet) notoriously difficult to train, tends toward violent outbursts, and can turn on the owner. This is not to say this is a condemnation of all Dalmatians, of course. In fact there is a darned good reason that Dalmatians have this reputation, you see, a disproportionate number of Dalmatians are deaf; it’s a congenital defect in the breed. People unfamiliar with Dalmatians get a cute little Dalmatian puppy and try to train it. They yell “no!” as it piddles on the carpet, they beat it with a rolled up magazine when it chews the credenza. The poor dog doesn’t have a clue why it’s being punished so it can’t be trained effectively. Likewise it doesn’t hear the “good dog” praising for getting things right so punishment and reward seem to be completely random and that makes the afflicted Dalmatians surly brutes waiting for some pay back. Not think about rewarding workers for zero injuries; is it so different from how we treat the deaf Dalmatian?

For many workers, rewards for zero injuries are considered patronizing and insulting. I once asked a tradesman if the company provided incentives for zero injuries and his answer was quite telling, “yeah these idiots buy us pizza at the end of the month if we don’t kill anybody as if we would deliberately get hurt if it wasn’t for their crappy pizza”. He went on to say that he and most (his words not mine) of his coworkers felt like management treated them like children and were insulted by it. “I work safely because it’s just the smart thing to do; they can shove their pizza.”

If You Reward Things You Don’t Understand You Can’t Reliably Repeat them

I used to teach problem solving techniques and one of the first steps in problem solving is to ascertain the structure of the problem: Broad, Specific, Start Up, or Positive. It was tough for people to understand the concept of a positive problem, so I would explain it this way: suppose you find an extra $50 on your next paycheck. Wouldn’t you want to know what caused you to have the additional money? (the answer was invariable a resounding yes!) So now you have a problem, right? You have a positive condition but you don’t know what caused it so you can’t replicate it.

So there you have it. Zero injuries is a positive problem that must be solved so that it can be replicated reliably and economically. Let’s face it everyone has zero injuries until someone gets hurt.

Simple (and Simple-Minded) Solutions To Complex Problems

Let’s say that instead giving adults candy bars for zero injuries we attempted to answer the question “why did we have zero injuries this year?” We might begin by brainstorming reasons that typically result in a reduction in reported injuries. Our list might look something like this:

  • Better housekeeping
  • Quicker response to physical hazards
  • Better training resulting in better decision making
  • Under reporting
  • Luck
  • Outsourcing the most dangerous work to suppliers
  • Better containment of physical hazards
  • Increased awareness of the risks associated with a given task
  • More skilled supervision (as measured by the completion rate of training
  • Higher quality training (as determined by sound course evaluation)
  • Improved case management
  • Increased scrutiny and data analysis of the risks associated with injuries
  • Reduced production
  • Higher machine reliability
  • A light winter that resulted in less slips and falls on wet or icy surfaces
  • Increased number of safety suggestions
  • Fraudulent record keeping
  • A climate of fear for reporting injuries
  • Disciplinary for being injured

These are just things off the top of my head that could cause a reduction in injuries and/or achievement of the goal of zero injuries. Which of these do you really want to reward? Aren’t there some of these that you DON’T want to reward? Aren’t some of these conditions unworthy of a candy bar? But when you give a blanket reward without understand what did and what did not contribute to an outcome you are endorsing every one of these things that are true.

Zeroes Aren’t Necessarily Heroes

What was most troubling wasn’t that a safety practitioner gave out an incentive for zero injuries, after all that IS what we want isn’t it? What was troubling was that the thread had several hundred comments praising the safety guy in question for giving out candy bars for zero injuries. I’ve asked the question before, but am compelled to ask it again, HOW STUPID ARE WE? One of my contacts challenged my assertion that maybe, just maybe, the zero injury accomplishment was because of under reporting by saying that he doubted that people would under report just for a candy bar. Okay maybe he’s right, but then rewarding them with a candy bar for zero injuries is even more pointless.

We have to stop acting like injuries are always a conscious choice to take an unnecessary risk and start acting more scientific. We have to understand the nature of the injuries that happen at OUR sites in OUR industries and stop listening to the snake oil salesmen. Only when we understand the things that people can actively DO to reduce the risk of injury can we responsibly reward them for doing so. But most of you reading this won’t do that. Why? Several reasons: 1) it’s hard 2) we like to give out trinkets and swag and 3) we don’t know how to establish and interpret good leading indicators. In the end we just take credit that is ours to take and ignore risks until someone dies.

Training Tips For the Cheap, Lazy, and Entitled

 

Lazy

by Phil La Duke

I was torn as I sat down to write this week’s post between following up with last week’s condemnation of the abysmal state of safety training and a rant about the ingratitude of the bitch and whine safety generation. I have chosen to write a follow up to last week’s post, but before I do I want to take on some of the ass-hats who emailed me or posted negative comments because I just complained about the problem but offered no suggestions as to how to improve things.

For starters, I am under no obligation to provide free consulting to a bunch of mouth breathers who acknowledge that they don’t have the requisite skills, ambition, or opportunity to DO quality training yet they continue to do so. I thank all that is holy that these people aren’t heart surgeons. I hear daily about the millennial attitude of entitlement; how participation medals and praise for mediocrity has fostered a sense that the world owes them. Before anyone jumps on this particular band wagon let me point out that the barrage of criticism came not from millennials new to the trade, rather people who had been in the profession long enough to know better. Personally I see this not as the millennial effect but something older and more loathsome—the Napster Effect. The Napster Effect works like this: why buy something when you can steal it, and if someone gives you something for free you have a God given right to complain and criticize it; well you don’t. If you don’t find value in my blog don’t read it. You have no obligation to save people from my hearsay or to shout me down—not because you disagree or that what I am saying isn’t factually correct but because I haven’t given you enough free information.

I continue writing this for the handful of people who have written to me and have told me that they found something I wrote meaningful, helpful, or inspirational. I don’t write this to be famous (trust me if I wanted to be famous it sure as Hell wouldn’t want to be famous for safety), or for money (nobody pays me for this), or for marketing (the only time I reference what I do in safety is to provide a context for what I am saying). In short if you want more than you get for free pay me or shut up.

Whew. Glad to get that off my chest. Okay here are some basic things that you can do to improve your training without spending a ton of money and without a whole lot of work ranked in order of impact (let’s call it tips for the cheap and lazy).

  1. Understand what people have to DO. Training is about providing people skills or improving their proficiency applying those skills. You have to ask yourself what skills do people need to successfully do the job. Most of the crap spewed in the name of training is actually education (teaching people ABOUT something). I was once told that the best way to understand the difference between education and training, is that you may not mind if your 12-year old daughter receives sex education but you probably don’t want her getting sex training.
  2. Recognize that much of the education you received was crap. Typically untrained trainers, or those who learned on the job emulate their teachers. What’s wrong with that? Plenty. There are two types of learning Pedagogy and Andragogy. Pedagogy is the practice of teaching children and unfortunately most college professors still employ those practices because they aren’t trained in Andragogy (the practice of teaching adults). Research has shown that children and adults learn very differently. Children are like sponges soaking up pretty much whatever they are told (which is why every college grad with absolutely no work experience KNOWS EVERYTHING), while adults come to the learning event with a lifetime of experience. Adults like to share their experiences, but more than that, it’s important for adult learners to tell their stories so that they can process the information and so that they can see how it fits into their worldview.
  3. Ask yourself what bad thing will happen if you DON’T provide the skill. Julie Dirksen, in her terrific book, Design For How People Learn, makes this point. We have a tendency to teach people how to operate a lathe by beginning with the discovery of lumber. We love to show off how much we know, it’s borne out of the insecurity of teaching adults; we feel a need to establish our complete and other command of a subject so that the adult learner will respect us and accept what we are telling them.
  4. Show; don’t tell. There is a book out there, Telling’s Not Training. The title says it all. Demonstrating the skills you are trying to impart and then allowing the learner to practice those skills is hands down the best way to provide training. Unfortunately, WE want to do the talking. Stop thinking of yourself as a teacher and start thinking of yourself as a coach and sensei. If you have to watch The Karate Kid over and over again until you get the message then do so, but whatever it takes learn to create situations where the learner experiences the lesson instead has it force fed the lesson. Adult learning should be guided discovery—there is nothing so powerful or enjoyable than the “aha” moment where you finally get it because you experienced it. This kind of learning is more meaningful, visceral, and lasting; it isn’t something someone said in a boring classroom, it’s something you experienced and discovered for yourself.
  5. Move to micro-lessons. Every so often the training profession trots out an old concept in a new package, and that’s how single-point lessons came to be called “micro-lessons”. The underlying theme between the two is that teaching someone a single point, one skill is more effective than trying to cram everything you think the learners need into a 1–4 hour block of time. Some of you are about to cry foul—how can you release someone to a job without giving him or her the full compliment of safety training. To that I would say, “follow the law, but where you have the discretion to spread training over time, do so”.
  6. Cut the time you currently spend training in half (or more). Take a look at your course and ask yourself what can I cut out of this in the interest of time. Before you shout “impossible” think of the times where you started your four-hour training 45 minutes late and still finished on time. What did you cut out? Did the world end? Did the moon fall out of the sky? Or how about the times you taught a class over and over again and the eight hour class eventually becomes a six-hour class because you recognize that the things that you thought were essential weren’t even necessary?

Is Your Crappy Training Killing People?

 tombstone

By Phil La Duke

As many of you read this, someone somewhere in the world is preparing to deliver a safety training. Maybe it’s the Monday morning new hire safety orientation, or maybe it’s something more specific on hazard communication or some other aspect of safety. What all these courses have in common is they do little more than to feed the instructor’s ego and deluded sense of self-importance.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of you reading this are familiar with the saying “death by PowerPoint” but for those of you who may not be, “death by PowerPoint” refers to the practice of sitting bored senseless while someone does a four to eight hour soliloquy about the minute (and let’s face it useless) details of a topic you neither need nor care to know. At first your just bored, and then bored and angry, and so on until you are completely checked out.

Having sat through eight hours of the crapiest safety training yesterday—training I neither needed nor derived from which I derived any meaningful benefit—I have come to the realization that when it comes to safety training “death by PowerPoint” is more than a mere figure of speech, it could be prophetic.

My first published article on worker safety was “What’s Wrong With Safety Training and How to Fix It”. That was 10 years ago and if anything the situation has gotten worse.

If training isn’t effective it heightens the risk that a worker will be injured or killed and yet scarce little is done to improve safety. A lot can be done to improve safety training starting with:

  • Needs Assessment. In some cases OSHA dictates that specific training be delivered to workers, but it very often doesn’t identify the objectives the training must have, rather it errs on the side of duration. This leaves the trainer a lot of latitude, but it doesn’t absolve the company from providing EVERYONE x hours of training on a given topic. So what ends up happening is that the trainers treat everyone the same—I have had to take courses of which I have literally written and facilitated a dozen times or more, why? Because that’s the rule. The government agencies of the world haven’t matured much beyond “training” as an abstract and don’t give a hoot whether or not the audience is more skilled in a topic than the instructor, so we are stuck with conducting the training, but we aren’t stuck with HOW we present the training, or even at what level we present it. ,
    If we were to do an accurate needs assessment and we found that most of the audience already know a fair amount about a topic we could, for example, develop a course that used case studies and small groups so that the veteran-experts could teach the novices. Granted that means less ego stroking for the instructor, but a cautionary tale from a veteran means infinitely more than a lecture from an overly earnest safety professional who has never set foot in the field.
  • Contextual Learning. Most of us don’t work in the classroom, and most of the learners don’t work in the classroom. Add to that, the fact that the further training moves away from the environment in which the skills are actually used the less effective the training is and we have an epidemic of dangerously bad safety training. When you select the location of training, ask yourself this: “would I feel safe as a passenger on a plane if the full extent of the training the pilot received was delivered in an equivalent method and location?” If you answer is anything but a resounding “NO” than you are probably snacking on lead paint chips right now. The reality is that people learn by doing, and by doing in as close an approximation to the actual circumstances in which they will use the required skills.
  • Testing and Evaluation. Okay, nobody likes tests, and most of the tests I have read really and deeply suck. I don’t remember where I read it, but in general, the odds of answering a true or false question isn’t 50:50 rather it is 63:37 so in other words just by guessing one has a 63% chance of guessing a true or false question correctly. The odds get even better when the person writing the test isn’t particularly adept at writing test questions and use absolutes (must, always, never, etc.) into the question. Since all I need to do to prove a question containing absolutes as false is to come up with one case where the statement could be true the odds are pretty high that question that contains absolutes is false, it’s pretty easy to guess correctly. So why are true or false questions so prevalent? They are easy to write.
    Of course there are the multiple choice questions that are so easy to rule out the wrong answers that one can guess the correct answer through process of elimination. What’s worse are the questions so poorly written (both c and a but not d and sometimes b or “all of the above” or “none of the above”) that the question is more a test of reading comprehension than it is of any skills supposedly imparted by the training.
    But safety people don’t like tests, particularly well written tests. It’s about checking the box. We should be evaluating people in their work areas by having them demonstrate the skills required.

The problem is we don’t really care about the quality of the training we do, or perhaps it’s better stated that we don’t really care if the training we do makes a difference or not as long as we can prove we did it.

It’s too bad because if safety teamed with the training function we might just have a big safety breakthrough, but it’s unlikely. Companies spend millions on snake oil designed to “change the culture” but bulk at the $10,000 between creating an effective elearning and one that is well…pardon the expression eCrap.

Too Sexy For Safety?

derk

By Phil La Duke

I’ve referenced before the innovative work being done by IMPROV SAFETY (an outgrowth of the driving school that has been successful for many years.)  The idea (supported by much research, by the way) is that things that make people laugh tend to stick with them longer than things that bore them. “We Entertain to Retain” is a popular way in which the concept is explained.

I’m prejudiced in favor of the company because I became friends with founder Gary Alexander who reached out to me on LinkedIn and wanted my advice about the feasibility of making funny safety videos that carried an important message. Gary and his team are a smart bunch and didn’t need a lot of advice from me (it was more of a confirmation that what they thought was a good idea was indeed a good idea.) What started out as being funny safety videos evolved into a series of micro lessons (one objective taught in less than 4 minutes) that could be used in safety messaging, in toolbox talks, as icebreakers in meetings, assets in instructor-led training, or even as part of a eLearning.

The first offering is titled “Making Safer Choices”—not exactly controversial, but when IMPROV SAFETY tried to buy an ad in one of the leading safety magazines he was told that the ad (pictured above) did not fit the editorial guidelines—effectively it was TOO racy.  The video series stars Pamela Anderson (who was selected chiefly because she was the original Tool Girl on the Tim Allen series Tool Time whose running joke was Tim getting hurt because he didn’t follow safety protocols.

The basic premise is that Pamela Anderson and the narrator set up content around decision making. Characters Victor (a worker that makes safer choices) and Derk (notorious in his own right, Kato Kaelin) who always seems to chose poorly act out a funny skit illustrating the point. And the scene is debriefed by Pamela Anderson and the narrator.  Each segment ends with some version of  the tag-line “Don’t Be A Derk”. Seems harmless enough, but perhaps some believe 50ish Pamela Anderson is still too sexy for safety.

I know Pamela Anderson was in Baywatch, but I have never watched an episode (who needs to see David Hasselhoff topless?) and posed for Playboy, but apart from her quasi-notoriety is there any reason that a photo of her fully clothed should be rejected as too provocative? As a professional provocateur myself I take no small umbrage at the fact that one’s past poor choices could tarnish one forever, but if your reasoning for thinking that Pamela Anderson is inappropriate is because of her past, let me ask you this: Who better to narrate a video on making better choices than someone who has made some bad ones?  But beyond that, what right does a magazine editor have to reject an ad as too provocative without being able to point specifically to what could be done to the add to make it more appropriate, apart from removing Pamela Anderson? Would the editor react the same way if instead of Pam Anderson the ad featured Bill Cosby?

I ran into Gary at the Michigan Safety Conference—the energy around his booth was electric. I very talented magician David Bondafini  entertained crowds with magic tricks that always seemed to have a safety message artfully entwined with the trick itself. Behind him was a large copy of the ad above, nobody seemed to have too much of a problem with it.

The conference had other booths displaying massagers that featured topless women (from behind) using self massagers.  I wondered if there adds would be rejected, were they to be submitted to a safety magazine.  Pick up a copy of GQ or Men’s Health or Cosmopolitan or Boys Life and you will find more provocative ads than this one.  Is the safety media so soft headed that they fear anything beyond ads for traffic cones and machine guarding will over stimulate safety professionals?  Let’s face it the LAST thing we need are over stimulated safety professionals. In an industry that is already nauseatingly over parental do we really need to censor this type of advertising? Isn’t this just a bit over the top? So much for advertising my blog with tastefully shot black & white photos of me nude.

I made my speech and afterwards a gentleman came up and said, “how do you make safety more exciting, you know make it sexy?” How indeed.

Interestingly enough, not all safety media outlets are quite as prudish, ISHN recently ran an article Pamela Anderson At Your Next Training Event (sans photo). It’s good to know one of my favorite safety magazines isn’t so hung up on Pamela Anderson’s past to know the value she can add to a boring safety event.

I Watched A Man Die Today

Grim reaper

By Phil La Duke

I watched a man die today. I was going to write this week’s post on ways to energize the workers around safety, but then I watched a man die today. I also considered writing about an ad that was turned down by H+S Magazine because it was too sexy (a safety ad that was too sexy?) but then I watched a man die today. I also considered writing some combination of the two topics, but then, as I said, I watched a man die today.

I didn’t see the accident that killed him, and truth be told I probably didn’t actually witness the 24-year old motorcyclist’s last moments. But I watched as police stood around helplessly walking in numb circles, two of them holding a large blanket in a vain attempt to block the gory view of the body from the slowly growing throng of gawkers.

I was gathering my phone, keys, and wallet and headed to get a haircut when I got a text from my stylist. There was something going on in front of the shop and traffic was a mess. So I left early to avoid being late because of the traffic. About 10 minutes later I noticed the police had stopped traffic directly in front of the salon so I took the back alleys behind the shops and wound my way to the shops parking lot. The entrance to the street was blocked with crime scene tape. I got out of my car and saw him. Sprawled on the street in a massive puddle of blood. Details are sketchy as they always are in this kind of a scene whether it be in the workplace or on the highway.   Some said the motorcyclist was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic when he struck a car that was pulling out of a private drive. Others said that the elderly driver pulled out without looking and struck the motorcyclist. Either way, two lives (and many more) were forever changed. The elderly driver will likely never drive again—in any of the scenarios I heard he will be judged at fault for failing to yield the right of way; he may even face vehicular homicide charges—but even if he is allowed to do so, he will live for the rest of his life with the knowledge that he took the life of a 24 year old.

“I was drinking in Havana, I took a little risk. Send lawyers, guns, and money; dad get me out of this.”—Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Warren Zevon.

It Only Took A Moment

The lives of two people on autopilot intersect only for a split second leaving one dying on the pavement and the other badly shaken and perhaps having a heart attack is speeding in an ambulance to the nearest hospital. Was this preventable? Was this predictable? What platitudes will ooze out of the mouths of safety practitioners in response to this? What lessons are there to be learned from this?

“Maybe you got a kid maybe you got a pretty wife, the only thing that I got’s been botherin’ me my whole life”—State Trooper, Bruce Springsteen

As I got my hair cut I my friend and stylist and I talked about the decedent; a person we didn’t know. 24 years old. Was he married? Did he have kids? What would this do to his parents? And we talked about the horror of killing him accidentally, and how we would feel if we were in his situation.

“Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave, no one was saved.”—Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles

By the time I left the salon the body had been removed, and a fireman began spraying a fire hose unceremoniously washing the copious amount of blood into a storm drain. The water quickly turned from clean white to a mottled dark red; not the crimson color you see in movies. I watched sadly for a long time, quietly mourning a person I never knew or would know.

I know that there is a lesson in all this about risk tolerance, and the fragility of life and the uncertainty of life for all of us. I wanted desperately for some good to come out of all this, something that I could share with each of you, but I just can’t summon the energy. In the days and weeks to come I will learn through news reports about the lives effected by this tragedy and maybe then I will have something meaningful to say about how all of this relates to workplace safety. But until then only one thing counts: I watched a man die today.