Phil La Duke Is A Has Been

has been

by Phil La Duke

I missed last weekend’s deadline by a fortnight.  I just got caught up in other things and had taken the red-eye home from Portland and was exhausted, as time pressed on I remained too busy to put my thoughts to paper.  Then I got all my abstracts rejected by the National Safety Council for its 2016 Conference and Exposition in Anaheim.

I had submitted 26 individual abstracts and received 26 individual rejection form letters.  I admit it was a blow. This would have been my tenth speech delivered at the conference and while I hadn’t yet come to expect a guaranteed slot I had come to think that my chances were pretty good.

And before you think, “what an arrogant jerk, maybe they just wanted a new voice, someone with a fresh perspective let me remind you that this is the organization that trots out Scott Gellar to spew out the same schlocky malarky he’s been shilling for 20 years along with Charlie Moorecraft, who, while a hell of a nice guy, has told his story so many times to so many safety professionals many believe he’s an urban legend.

While it’s true that I have been an outspoken critique of the the Behavior Based Safety quasi-religion, and the NSC has been painfully slow in denouncing it, or even postulating that said approach might be out-dated or even dangerous despite OSHA’s condemnation of BBS programs for promoting under-reporting and questioning its overall efficacy I still have a soft spot for the National Safety Council so I was more than a little disappointed when I was shut out of both the NSC’s regional Texas Conference and Expo AND it’s National Conference and Safety Exposition. I did write to the organizers and ask for feedback (not an explanation, one is neither owe nor expected) as to how I might do better moving forward (the reviews from the audience were consistently positive, very positive in fact.) But these emails were not answered so I can only assume that the 26 topics were not as thought-provoking as the other 300 or so abstracts they received. At any rate as it stands right now, the only public appearance I will be making will be at the Michigan Safety Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan in April.

It’s unfortunate, I turned away other venues in the naive belief that I would as likely as not be speaking in October.  It’s not just the NSC.  Early last year, Mike Riley, the editor of Fabricating and Metalworking notified me that he would be discontinuing my column, The Safe Side saying that I thought I was becoming repetitive. C’est la vie I guess, but a troubling trend since I have 46 articles that were published in the magazine and had hoped that I would make it to 50 before being put out to pasture.

Over the past ten years I have made 20 or so public speeches and published 96 articles and posted  over 200 blog articles, all for no compensation.  I didn’t do it for the fame, glory or notoriety either—of all the things I would have love to have been famous for, worker safety doesn’t rank in the top million. Trust me, the quickest way to shut down unwanted airplane chit chat with a gabby passenger is to tell him or her that I work in worker safety.  No says, “wow, that sounds really interesting” or “wow that sounds like a lot of fun”; as soon as possible they read the book or magazine they brought with them, or lacking that read the emergency evacuation instructions over and over again.

So why did I do it? Why do I continue to do it? To give the field of safety metaphorical intellectual enigma it so richly deserves and in which it is in so dire a need. We still have too many people suffering crippling injuries because their only choices are to either listen to some water-headed simpleton who was put into safety because they were literally too useless for any other job or to figure things out for themselves.  Sure there are some great safety professionals out there, but our whole profession has been sullied by well-meaning mouth-breathers who take a make-it-up-as-you-go approach to safety who have never seen a stupid idea they didn’t immediately love.

So am I washed up? Perhaps, but like so many blasé fads I will continue to go on and on and on. I will continue to question the dubious practices of the Safety fields and the even more ridiculous claims of the snake-oil salesmen.

I’m disappointed to see the end of my 15 minutes of fame, who wouldn’t be, but what is a deeper disappointment is that I don’t see anyone picking up where I left off.  It takes courage—when one puts one’s opinion out into the blogisphere and questions the establishment one risks losing that big promotion, blowing that career making sale, or just in general having strangers adamantly dislike you.  All I can say is that for me it has been worth it, in my own small way I have shaken things up and who knows what the ripples from my tiny contribution to the field of safety will ultimately make.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my latest published article

appearing now in Entrepreneur Ever go into a pitch wondering what the customer is thinking? http://entm.ag/1PmQCwF 

Who Knows What Ineptitude Lies in the Hearts of Workers? Doing Shadow Training Right

Boxing Kangaroo2

By Phil La Duke

“That bear kicked my ass, but that was nothing compared from the beating I took from the kangaroo” —Randy Perry

I had about six topics that I wanted to bring up this week, but in last week’s post I threatened to take on shadow training, so for good or for ill here I sit whacked out of my head on caffeine (interesting side note, I just read that more people are addicted to caffeine than any other drink, of course my source for this is the internet so who the hell[1] knows if it’s true or not. I would have picked refined sugar or narcissism as the source of most addictions but what do I know?

The problem with a lot of shadow training is that it would be more effectively taught by an actual shadow. Companies expect that workers will learn the subtle intricacies of a job simply by watching someone who would rather be doing the job to which he or she has been recently reassigned as if the new employee is a duckling imprinting to the veteran employee. When I worked in a crumbling auto assembly plant (assembly plants were known in some auto plant circles as “slave plants”)  I received shadow training.  My supervisor, Leonard asked me if I had ever worked with air tools, when I said “no” he then asked if I had ever worked with power tools and I said, “yes, but not extensively”. “Good” he said, “if it’s a recliner this sheet (a ratty dot matrix print out) will have a T right here and you put on this part and drive one of these bolts here and here, and one of these bolts here.  If it’s not you put on one of these parts on and drive two of these bolts here and here.  Do the same thing on the other side. Got it?” he asked. “Not really,” I told him. Don’t worry if you get into trouble Randy will help you out.  Randy was a burly veteran who stood nearly a foot taller and outweighed me by a good 150lbs.  Randy was fueled by a dangerous energy of a type you only truly see in the kind of self-destructive adrenaline junkies, tempered by a drug cocktail consisting of copious amounts of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and whatever his dealer had on hand.  Randy took an instant liking to me, which was good.  Despite his size and sometimes murderous drunken temper, Randy was good natured and when I would get into trouble he would bail me out. (As a complete aside, Randy loved to fight although owing to his tendency to get into fights only after he was so chemically altered that his blood could have required a safety datasheet he usually lost.  He once unsuccessfully boxed a kangaroo, wrestled a bear, and was eliminated from the first North American tough man contest by the man who would ultimately win it.  He would gleefully recount story after story of being beaten senseless in bar brawls.) So it ultimately it fell to Randy to teach me how to safely do my job, not exactly the ideal candidate it’s fair to say.

Shadow training doesn’t necessarily have to be crap. In fact, getting trained by actually doing the job under the tutelage of watchful veteran is arguably the best way to gain new skills, but the training has to be well designed, competently delivered, periodically reinforced, and professionally evaluated. To do that we need to:

  1. Clearly define and document the process. Okay defining a process sounds like a no brainer, but in far too many cases many of the tasks are left to “common sense”, not because people should be expected to know how to do a task, but because breaking down a task into steps can be challenging. A colleague and I are working on a “hazard book” for a client. One would think that two safety professionals could explain why certain conditions constitute a hazard, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty it gets tough. It becomes a bit like explaining something to a three year old who keeps asking why, after a while you get stumped and all you can say is “because”. But you can’t leave out steps because either you think people will “get it” or because you’re having trouble explaining the minutia.
    Defining a process is relatively easy in industry, but give it a try when you are dealing with tasks associated with jobs like accounting, sales, or customer service and you will be surprised at how quickly your skills seem to degrade.

 

  1. Validate the process. The shelf-life of a process is very short. There’s the way it is done on paper and the way it’s really done. This can be dangerous or even deadly. If there is a legitimate reason for changing how a task is really done than change the process and if not, coach the worker on why the process must be performed as documented.
  2. Develop a task list with a sign-off for both trainer AND learner.   A task list is different than Operator Work Instructions or Standard Work Instructions. A good task list will include safety information and contingency actions if things straw away from process. Perhaps more important is the learner sign-off. It’s one thing to have a veteran sign-off that the learner can do the job safely, and quite another for the learner to assert that he or she feels fully capable of doing the tasks safely while unsupervised.
  3. Augment the training with job aids. Each task should have a corresponding job aid that provides step-by-step instructions on how to safely complete a task. The veteran can then use the job aid to guide the training and to assess the learner’s competency. The learner for his or her part can refer back to the job aid to ensure he or she has not forgotten a key step or task.
  4. Reinforce the Training. Too often shadow training is treated as one and done, even in cases where the new worker spends a week or two with the veteran. A smart organization will conduct the same shadow training once or twice a week after the initial training for the first 90 days just to ensure that the new worker hasn’t drifted from the standard. Additionally, the newly trained worker will likely begin to have questions about the process and have the confidence to ask them.
  5. Evaluate the Training. Evaluating the training seems like a pointless step, but it’s actually one of the most important parts of the training process. By evaluating the training you will gain insight into the accuracy of your task lists and job aids, have a better understanding if the training actually succeeds in building skills, and if this training improves the safety of doing this job.

I understand that this is an awful lot of work and trying to do this for every job (particularly non-standard work) will be time consuming and labor intensive, so you will have to do it like you’re eating an elephant, one-bite at a time. I’ve found that it seems to be less work if you redo the shadow training as you introduce new jobs or hire new people, but that might just be me.

Of course there’s nothing forcing you to do shadow training correctly, many of you will still insist that the best way to ensure safety is to have someone watch someone work and point out there shortcomings; my way is better, but keep doing what makes you feel important, smart, or whatever it is that drives people to stick with doing stupid things.

[1] I recently got called unprofessional for using slang and curse words like “hell” in my posts, as if somehow that undermined the message and that anything I said from that point on could not be taken seriously.  If you are one of those people, let me just invite you to go to hell and rot there.

#boxking-kangaroo, #competency, #effectiveness-of-training, #phil-la-duke, #safety, #shadow-training, #worker-safety

It all comes down to competency.

imbecile

By Phil La Duke

In any opinion piece, it’s only fair that the author begin by disclosing his or her bias. It’s something I seldom do but I should.  I didn’t start out in safety, I earned my degree in adult education (I was under the mistaken impression that the term “adult” meant X-rated—hey I was 18) and organizational development. So it is through this lens that I see the world of safety. I think we should all be leery of any article that claims that safety all comes down to one thing, but, that having been said, I am beginning to think that selecting the right people, appropriately training people not only in safety but in the core skills they will be using day in and day out.  Unless you have people who know how to do the job you can’t expect them to do it safely. I should say, that in the many years I worked in training I would get frustrated because executives and managers would come to me demanding me to produce magical training that would get people to do their jobs.  I would explain that I could help them if the workers weren’t doing their jobs because they didn’t know how; I dealt in “can’t” behaviors, not “won’t” behaviors.  Hell I didn’t even deal in all the possible “can’t behaviors”. I once had a dullard of a director of sales tell me he wanted me to put all his staff through ACT! (a computer software that I believe has gone if not the way of the dinosaur, the way of the bison).  I asked him a couple of irritating questions: 1) why do they need it? Because I want all sales activities managed through ACT! 2) Why aren’t they doing it now? Well they don’t even have computers let alone the software.  He was, and probably remains a clueless dumbass, and I have dealt with many equally soft headed mouth breathers who believe that training, ANY training, will solve any issue. I’ve also dealt with my fair share of let’s use training instead of discipline. These cowards want training to get people to do things like follow the rules, do their job properly, and or somehow get the people to knuckle under because they’ve attended training.  I was the oddest training guy out there, here all the other people couldn’t wait to do training I was hung up on whether or not people really NEED training and will the training do what the sponsor wants and expects it to do. In short, I wasn’t prepared to do training simply for training’s sake.

And yet I sit before you today preaching that training is the key (or at least a very important part of) a successful safety management program.

I came to this conclusion not because I started out working for 10 years designing, developing, delivering, and evaluating the effectiveness of training; rather it came out of a convergence of events: 1) a colleague asked for help putting together a list of recommended readers for developing non-safety consultants familiar enough with key topics (leadership, training, communication, planning, etc.) 2) I read Julie Dirksen’s Design For How People Learn and 3) I agreed to take the OSHA 30-hour course to evaluate it for widespread use at a client.

While it makes sense that a person cannot possibly be expected to do his or her job safely if he or she has not been properly trained in the job. There are a lot of good reasons for companies doing a less than stellar job of training workers:

  1. A lot of training is just garbage; it teaches pointless trivia, is boring as watching paint dry, and is knowledge-based not skills based. Let’s take that OSHA 30-hour class I am laboring through (what a great way to spend a Saturday). I don’t know who over at OSHA (which is more protective of the content of its training than medieval father was of his daughter’s virginity) but I’m just curious here. What the hell were you thinking when you put together the OSHA 30-hour on-line course? As much as it much stroke your ego to force me to listen to the history of OSHA do I really need it? I mean if you have to grab me by the nape of the neck and force feed me the mission of OSHA can we at LEAST the facts straight—for example saying that it grew out of Triangle Shirtwaist fire is like saying food regulations grew out of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Sure people were outraged, but nobody went to jail, and according to the course it was another 20 years before Roosevelt authorized the government to “advise industry about safety matters” and it was another 60 odd years before Nixon signed OSHA into law. Dirksen has a simple test for whether or not something should be in a training class: a) ask what do they actually need to DO with this? And if the answer is “they just need to be aware of it” then ask yourself “Yeah, but what are they actually going to DO with this again (p.21) b) Ask yourself if the person would be able to do something if they wanted to badly enough. If the answer is yes, it’s not a knowledge or a skills gap (again page 21). c) is there anything, anything at all, that we could do besides training, that would make it more likely that people would do the right thing? (p.21 if you want more reference read the book, it should be required for everyone in safety.) d) and I’m paraphrasing things here, but what bad things would happen if the person didn’t learn this particular point. If the answer is nothing than you are teaching your ego and not skills.
  2. Training developers are afraid of safety. When I was developing safety training I went out and bought a series of pretty crappy safety training kits. You know the style—pop in a video, administer a quiz and viola, your people have met the OSHA regulatory standard for training in a given subject. It doesn’t matter that they are no more skilled then they were before the class but the company is protected. Internal training departments don’t want anything to do with safety because they figure (as I did) that it’s better to have crappy training that meets the regs and gives you someone to sue if it isn’t right than it is to make a mistake and either no longer meet the OSHA reg or worse yet get something wrong and lead to the injury of a worker. All and all it’s better to put up with bad safety training than risk it.
  3. Safety training is, as I said, boring. So boring in fact that it bears repeating. Julie Dirksen has all sorts of cool information on why boring training is something that we seldom retain—for the how and whys order the book you cheap bastards you get my book reports for free at least help her make a living. And no, I have never met the woman, but I hope someday I get the opportunity, she taught this smug old dog some tricks.
  4. But if we don’t fix our safety (and more important largely nonexistent core skills training) we are doomed to a workplace fraught with ignorant people trying to figure out how to do the job correctly. It’s like having the Three Stooges fix your plumbing. Next week… I’ll tell you how to do shadow training effectively.
  5. I posted a link to IMPROV training’s latest course that turns the idea that safety training HAS to be boring on its ear. IMPROV training: Making Safer Choices Excerpt I’ve seen the entire collection of micro lessons (2-3 minute lessons that teach a single point used singularly as safety messaging or combined into a class) and I’m impressed. I voted for it in the ISHN reader’s poll and I hope you will consider doing so as well http://awards.ishn.com/readers the material is good, it’s an amusing if not funny look at some serious topics and since the company is just starting out, it could use your support if not your business.

#attitude, #attitudes-toward-safety, #culture-change, #design-for-how-people-learn, #improv-training, #julie-dirksen, #osha-30-hour-construction, #pam-anderson, #phil-la-duke, #safety, #worker-safety

Just A Quick Note On A New Article I penned

Just wanted to let you know that the digital edition of Health & Safety International is now available on the Bay Publishing website in the flip book: http://www.bay-publishing-magazines.com/hsi-magazine/HSIFeb2016/ and as text: http://www.hsimagazine.com/article.php?article_id=1211.  I wrote an article on confined space safety that I hope you enjoy.

Is Treating all Hazards the Same Endangering Lives?

By Phil La Duke

This blog started as an exercise in intellectual pursuit. A purely academic pursuit. You see I discovered that (as I’m sure that most of you have) that there are different categories of hazards and these different categories of hazards represented a distance from an injury.  I’m not talking about probability or even severity, more like proximity to an injury.  I realized quickly that there may be no practical use to these categories, but just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. Some hazards are in the immediate vicinity of an injury.  You reach too far for a tool and fall to your death.  The hazard isn’t that you weren’t wearing your fall protection; the hazard is that you are working at height and given the right catalyst could fall.  Then we have hazards that are one step removed, in this case not wearing fall protection.  As I write this I am not wearing fall protection and since I am not working at heights am not at risk of falling a from a distance that fall protection would do anything of value, in fact WEARING fall protection might actually pose a threat.  The further you move from the injury the less the risk of an injury.  Think about the hazard of “fire extinguisher inspection out of date”. Is it a hazard? Yes. Is it likely to kill someone?  Well to do so we first need a fire, a person who is authorized and trained to use the fire extinguisher, the fire extinguisher needs to be the proper type for the fire at hand, the path to the fire extinguisher must be unblocked, and even then, just because the fire extinguisher’s inspection isn’t up-to-date doesn’t mean the extinguisher isn’t completely capable of extinguishing the fire.  The hazard in this case is so far away from the possible injury it’s almost pointless to consider.   Then it occurred to me that Root Cause analysis does just that; it takes us to a single cause (relax Taproot and other systems I know there’s more to it than that) and eliminating that root cause hazard  is meaningless.  Did the lack of inspection CAUSE the fire? No. So why then do we chase hazards so far removed from an injury?

The secret to eliminating injuries lies in removing hazards (whether behavioral, system, or procedural). This is in my mind an absolute; I’m not going to argue the point.  But in too many workplaces we find two or three hazards and we pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.  Heck we may even achieve zero injuries for a time, and then disaster strikes leaving workers dead or gravely injured.  It leaves us scratching our heads in disbelief.  How could this have happened when we did everything right?  Simple: we didn’t do everything right.

Any safety management process worth its sand begins by picking the low hanging fruit. Given that the average safety practitioner literally doesn’t have time to take a restroom break or a lunch unless he or she elects to do the two at the same time, it’s not surprising that they do one of two things: 1) Pick low hanging fruit, or 2) Slaying dragons.  For those of you perhaps new to the terms, let me explain.  Picking low hanging fruit is the practice of addressing the hazards that are easy to spot, easy to correct, and easy to get people to agree to fix (housekeeping comes to mind).  Over the years we’ve done an excellent job of picking low-hanging fruit and it shows: relatively minor injuries are down.  Unfortunately, fatalities remain flat and in some sectors are trending upwards. Why? Simple, poor housekeeping (in and of itself) rarely harms people.  To be sure it can, I for example live in squalor and may stub my toe on a box that I should have put away, cut myself on a knife left to soak in dishwater, or tripped over some peace of clutter.  I have rarely injured myself to the degree that—were it in the workplace—the injury would have risen to a recordable injury. Again, the defenders of the face are likely to argue for the value of picking low hanging fruit, but I won’t be baited.  You can’t tell me that you don’t have a minute to breath and then argue that you need to go pick more fruit and convince me that you are doing much to lower the risk of fatalities and life-changing injuries; I just don’t buy it.

The second term, “chasing dragons” is where a safety practitioner hears of a serious injury and springs superhero-like into action doing everything in his or her power to ensure the barn door is firmly and securely locked once the cattle have left the barn.  Don’t get me wrong, when there is a serious injury we have a lot to do—-from ministering to the injured, to making sure the regulatory paperwork is done, through case management—but the cows are already gone and all we can do is design a better barn door to ensure that the new cows never escape in the same way.

Both these activities have value and are to some degree necessary, but are we giving them too great a priority. The only way to make the workplace safer is to predict and reduce risks, but not all risks. The risk of slipping and falling on an oil leak is substantial and important that we get it corrected, but is that as risky as a person smoking a cigarette around explosive vapors (yes, I have seen this; right below a sign that said “No smoking.  Highly flammable materials in the area”.  When I approached with the site safety manager the smoker hastily through the lit cigarette in a trashcan full of flammable solvent-soaked rags.)?

Isn’t it better to calculate our most critical risks first? Of course, but this can be tricky because low hanging fruit can conceal much greater risks and so we definitely have to address them. Sadly I have seen too many organizations who stop there; too many safety practitioners who measure their value because no one has died recently.  In fact, there are still too many of us who think of safety as the absence of injuries.  They count the bodies and when the body count goes down they look at their bosses and ask, “do you see what a great job I’ve done here?”  Conversely, if the carnage continues they dodge any culpability by claiming the injury was an act of God, or the victim’s stupidity, or a voodoo course, or…well you get the picture.

In too many environments we are hung up on linear causation of injuries:

critical injury path

Naturally it makes sense to focus on hazards, because without them the chain never begins. But we can’t be fooled into thinking that hazards are always the result of the Domino Effect.  In some cases, many cases in fact, injuries are caused by multiple causes, contributors, and catalysts without a single proximate cause.  That doesn’t mean that many aren’t the product of linear causation, but what it DOES mean is that simply by removing a contributor, hazard, or catalyst we haven’t eliminated the risk.  Many of us are fooled into thinking that by finding the “root cause” we can relax, that the danger is gone, when in fact if another catalyst should later come into play an identical (or very similar) injury can occur.

sethMulticause Injury

In fact, the shear noise involved in this situation can seem to calm down once you have removed the catalyst that set the proximate cause in motion.  So maybe before we charge after the next dragon we should consider whether or not we are using the right tools.  More importantly, we should be looking at our greatest risks and asking ourselves, what hazards, contributors, and catalysts need to be present to kill a worker.  The answer will likely shock and frighten you.

Calculating the Cost of Nothing

Hundred dollar bill fade

By Phil La Duke

I’ve been writing this blog for almost 10 years (I started in July 2016) and during a decade of writing it, I haven’t said much about what I do; that is to say, I don’t share much about my day job. In part that’s to protect my client’s confidentiality, and partly because I don’t want to lose credibility by turning this into a weekly commercial. If I’m quiet about my work, mostly it’s because I want to explore and debunk the cherished truisms of safety. But today I have to explain a little of what I do to provide a context for the topic d’jour.

So what is it that I do? Years ago, working with a team of system management and OD experts I developed a revolutionary approach to worker safety for a major manufacturer (even though what I am about to divulge has been made public by the company I’m not going to mention the company for the sake of professional decorum and for all intents and purposes it doesn’t matter.) By the companies own calculations the new system had lowered its Incident Rate from 17.5 to 3.5 after five years, its severity rate had fallen over 90%, and by its reckoning, it had avoided over 14,000 injuries and reduced its Worker’s Compensation costs by over $55 million. We were all pretty pleased with ourselves, when the old school defenders questioned if we really saved any money or did they just get lucky. I devised a way to determine if it was because of the organizational changes using statistical analysis. It was crude by mathematical academic standards (there was a lot of “noise” in the data) but it was enough to determine, statistically speaking, where the company would have ended up had it done nothing (standard progression) and where it did end up after the engagement (logarithmic progression). In simplest terms we took ten years worth of injury data and identified the trend, then we took that same data and compared what actually happened. In the case of this company it was trending downward but slowly and relatively flat compared to the rapid improvements we saw. By comparing the difference between the trend and the actual costs we were able to prove (within a minute margin of error) the savings. Fortunately for us we calculated the savings at $54 million (which was well within our margin of error).

One would think that would be enough to convince the most ardent skeptics that the process works, and yet when (after designing and building—with the company’s permission our own propriety version) the company for which I worked at the time got even better results from a new client (this time saving $5 million in Workers’ Compensation claims in only 8 months, and saving $15 million when doing the statistical analysis) the client was incredulous; they claimed it just wasn’t possible, that we somehow must have manipulated the data (eventually they realized that the numbers were true). Eventually we saved the company $12 million in quantifiable cost reductions, and then it was on to the next company only to face the same incredulity. It’s exhausting.

The difficulty is always the same: people don’t want to believe that they actually saved money because saving money means that you used to be wasting money and when the figure is in the millions of dollars it implies that the company has been wasting millions of dollars, often without even knowing it.

Cost Avoidance Versus Cost Savings

There’s a difference between cost avoidance and cost savings and there’s a difference in the emotional charge each term carries. Cost savings: you reduce one fixed cost, for example you pay $.20 less per safety glove and you used 10,000 safety gloves so you saved $2,000 (10,000 x .20). Cost Avoidance: you pay less for a variable cost then you did historically, you “avoided” incurring a cost that you had every right to expect to pay, for example getting regular oil changes and avoiding paying for costly repairs. Most of us don’t see a meaningful distinction—and frankly without statistical analysis cost avoidance doesn’t mean that much—between cost saving and cost avoidance for a good share of us money is money and if at the end of the day we have more of it, so much the better. But for a lot of business people, particularly at the site level, cost avoidance is trivial and not something you can use to calculate return on investment. The idea being that maybe the company would have spent that money and maybe it wouldn’t, maybe we got lucky; coming back to our regular oil changes example one could argue that maybe if we didn’t change the oil in our car we might have a break down and we might not, and the cost of the oil change can be calculated but the return on investment cannot because we don’t know what the cost of repairing the engine would be, if anything. We can’t even calculate the reduction in the life of the engine (car companies can by conducting studies of numerous engines and by varying the frequency of oil changes).

Card Tricks For Dogs

Reducing costs, whether through saving or avoidance means a lot to us in safety, because we are so often seen as burdensome costs that return very little value. Like most of you I resent this and can point to a real, quantifiable statistical value to cost avoidance. For me, it shouldn’t matter if I return hard saving or true cost avoidance, if, through my efforts I am able to keep more money in the corporate coffers it positively impacts the bottom line, but when I make this argument to people who dismiss millions as “cost avoidance” it’s like doing card tricks for a dog. For me, as I’ve said above, money is money. I live in Detroit where my natural gas and electric bills are combined. In the winter my gas costs are naturally higher because I have a gas furnace and in the summer months my cost for electricity goes up if I use the air conditioner. If I invest in energy efficient appliances, insulate or replace my windows, and change my behavior to reduce usage I will save money, but if we have a mild winter my costs will go down naturally as I will require less energy to heat the house. Since there is no way to say how much of the money I didn’t pay out is because of the changes I made and how much is because of the weather I can’t calculate exactly how much of the savings is because of what I did. When you apply this to safety and the cost of injuries, and have this argument with some business leaders it’s a bit like doing card tricks for a dog, no matter how many times you make the argument and how carefully you explain statistical analysis they just won’t get it.

I had a Vice President of Human Resources of a Fortune 500 company tell me that “unless I can eliminate bodies” (directly reduce labor cost) he would never be interested in what I have to sell. “It’s just cost avoidance” he said dismissively. It was in that instant that I knew that despite my ability to save companies tens of millions of dollars in sustained annual costs for more than just a few trying to help them save money by literally saving lives I would never be able to persuade them.

 

 

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