The Dangerous and Irresponsible Resurgence in the Popularity of BBS

shutterstock_659858677By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

Unless this is the first thing of mine of which you’ve read, you know how I despise Behavior-Based Safety (BBS). It’s devotees are the simple and the greedy, repackaging a ludicrously stupid system year after year in hopes of continuing the swindle. Some may wonder why I am so adamantly against Behavior Based Systems and before I get into it YET again I will simply say this: getting safety right and implementing sound systems is the difference between life and death. Some of you may recall that I lost both grandfathers, a great uncle, my father, my brother-in-law, one of my brother’s best friends, a childhood acquaintance, and numerous coworkers and friends to either workplace accidents or industrial illnesses, so you will forgive me if my tone isn’t as warm as fuzzy as you might like.

So what’s wrong with BBS? A lot:

  1. It presupposes that all unsafe behavior is deliberate. Most of our behavior is not deliberate especially rote exercises (those tasks we have done hundreds of times). Tasks we have memorized become unconscious—we do them without thinking. 
  2. Many unsafe behaviors are taught and BBS does nothing to guard against a veteran employee passing along unsafe behaviors. I have first hand knowledge of how this can happen. When I worked the line EVERY new job I was taught had at least one task where the trainer told me “we’re SUPPOSED to do it this way but we actually do it THIS way.” Some of this was simple innovation, but even if it was it should have been added to the official Standard Procedures and it never was.
  3. It drives unsafe behavior underground
  4. It pits worker against worker
  5. It doesn’t allow or address behavioral drift
  6. It leads to blame and shame of the workers.
  7. It creates an incentive to hide injuries and under-report injuries.
  8. It flies in the face of Deming’s 14 points.

At this point, either some snake oil salesmen who has spent years making money off this excremental nonsense, or some earnestly ignorant who acts as if he walked out into the rain and discovered wet, will try to sway me that BBS isn’t flawed, I just haven’t seen it properly implemented.  I have used the analysis of fricasseed squirrel anus several times, I am going to use it again. If you offer me fricasseed squirrel anus,and after a quick nibble I say, “oh jeez this is awful”, I should be able to refuse to eat it again, and yet invariably someone will say, “oh, you have to try MY fricasseed squirrel anus,you’ll love it”.  How many times do I have to eat a squirrel’s ass before I can say definitively that I don’t like it? And it is similar to BBS. If the system is so routinely misused maybe—and I’m just spitballing here—there is a better way to reduce the risk of injury in the process.

So why, if this system is as dangerously flawed is there a resurgence in its popularity?

  1. We have been convincing Operations leadership that this is the only option for 40 years.
  2. Injuries are under-reported and therefore it makes the Safety Function look good.
  3. College professors who have never worked in industry continue to extoll the wonders of BBS.
  4. Snake-Oil salesmen make $100s of million selling it.
  5. It provides the illusion of doing something about unsafe working conditions without making any substantial investment in infrastructure.
  6. It’s easy to implement.
  7. It centers the conversation around the flaws of workers and their poor choices instead of examining WHY the workers made poor choices or put themselves in the line of fire.

You can make a lot of money selling this dreck, but continuing to sell BBS, push it, and extol its imaginary virtues makes you dangerous, and speaking for the dead and permanently disabled shame on you.

Last week there were three workplace shootings in 5 days. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is peppered with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) You should buy it. Seriously I’m not telling you how to live your life but you should buy it. Okay I AM telling you how to live your life, just buy the damned book.

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and is ALSO available in the eBook format you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine are gone, and you can basically only go back two years on my blog (eight year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

As always, Read. Learn. Live. Share. Inspire.

Never Trust Anyone Who Claims Safety Is Their Number One Priority

Safety Priority

By Phil La Duke

The following is a retooled, repurposed, and recycled post that was origionally made to the now decommissioned Rockford Green International blog. (Since renamed the Worker Safety Net)

There are things that need to change in safety and they need to change fast.  Safety is losing ground, no matter how hard we try, we are losing ground in the court of public opinion—public policies are softening on safety (Michigan recently legalized the personal use of fireworks and the practice of riding motorcycles without a helmet—effectively rolling back almost 50 years of safety regulations.  Michigan may be a long way from where you live, but believe me these kinds of rollbacks aren’t isolated to Michigan.)

One of the primary reasons safety professionals have lost credibility is the insistence that safety is—or at least should be—an organization’s number one priority.  This ludicrous claim sets safety at odds with operations, and makes the both workers and the general public view us as kooks, imbeciles, or hopelessly out of touch.

Let me state for the record that I remain completely devoted to safety, I believe one’s right to make a living without undue jeopardy of loss of life or limb is a basic human right.  But how we approach the achievement of a safe workplace will greatly shape the likelihood of our success.

It’s tough to visit any workplace without seeing a poster that says, “safety is our number one priority”.  It’s a crock; no company ever has gone into business for the purpose of keeping its workers safe. Companies exist to make money. No sane person would manufacture, ship,  process, or manipulate anything if his or her primary motivation was to ensure nobody engaged in these activities got  injured. When safety professionals perpetuate the lie that safety is the number one priority they lose credibility and are alienated.  People hear, “safety is our number one priority” and know it’s either a lie, or the pathetic simpering of a deluded fool, in either case the prudent move is to assume the person spouting this nonsense can’t be taken seriously or trusted.

Imagine a worker who has been told that “safety is our number one priority” following any advice the boob who said offered the advice has to say; why believe that tying off while working at heights is essential to safety when the person who told you so also told you safety is your first priority?  If safety truly is your number one priority, don’t work at heights, period. But safety isn’t our number one priority, getting the job done is almost more important than anything else.

The effectiveness of a safety professional depends on his or her credibility; safety professionals have to stop forcing people to choose between working safely and making a livelihood. One of the most frequent complaints about safety professionals from workers and business leaders is that safety professionals are obstructionist policemen who, however well intentioned, don’t live in the real world.  People gravitate toward the practical and tend to disregard things that don’t make sense, or where they see over whelming evidence to the contrary. Safety professionals have to balance safety against the practical requirements of a job.

I want to be clear that I am not saying that safety isn’t an important criterion for success but there is a difference between saying, “making money is our priority, but we can’t in conscience make money while hurting workers” and saying “safety is our number one priority”.  Hurting workers costs money and is poor business practice, but when safety professionals makes the claim that their function, safety, is the primary reason a company exists, nobody in their right minds can take them seriously.

Safety professionals need to shift their thinking when it comes to worker safety, away from “safety as the right thing to do” to “safety as a crucial improvement initiative”. It may sound like I am nit-picking but the words we use shape how our constituents view us and whether or not they find us credible.  A safety professional without credibility is worse than ineffective; he or she is taking a job that an effective safety professional could otherwise be doing.

Safety isn’t a priority; it’s a value and criterion for success.  Frankly, we don’t want safety to be a priority—priorities change and shift where values endure and guide our decision making.  The safe execution of work must be a core value and a guiding behavior in any ethical organization.  Treating workers like chattle, or fuel to be used up in the furtherance of business is morally repugnant.  Safety must go deeper than being a mere priority, it must be the cornerstone of any business that is serious about sustainable success.

Sadly, many of the companies that proudly boast of safety as a priority are some of the worst offenders for putting workers at risk.  In these cases, safety is neither a priority nor a value.  Safety at these hell holes only becomes a priority after catastrophe strikes and then only when the climate of fear and retribution is in full swing.  When the smoke clears and the blood is mopped up, these companies quickly revert to bad behaviors and more misguided behaviors.

#lies-about-safety, #organizational-change-2, #safety-as-a-priority, #safety-as-a-value, #safety-slogans

I Want Safety To Do Better

shutterstock_624832211

By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

I haven’t been on my soapbox much lately.  It’s not that I don’t have plenty to say, it’s just that so much of it makes me angry to write about I end up sounding like a troll who hates everything. Abby Ferri inspired me to write this post when she asked on LinkedIn a simple question to anyone who cared to answer: What do you dislike about your colleagues? (my apologies if I don’t have the exact wording down, but the point being, what is it about the behavior or some safety people that make you cringe?)

So I am going to flip the script a bit here and tell you what I would LIKE to see improvements in the Safety function.

Kill The National Safety Trade Organizations

This week I received my last rejection letter for a speaking abstract.  I know it is the last one because I sent two abstracts to ASSP Safety 2020  before deciding to give up speaking at trade shows, and while I submitted two in the typical manner bereft of any sort of decorum or class received one form-letter via email. The cheap bastards couldn’t even fork out the postage to send me a proper response. I actually breathed a sigh of relief.  I honestly don’t think I could stand seeing the smug money grubbing faces of people acting as if they were doing me a favor by allowing me to speak at my own, not inconsiderable expense.

For the record, I am not resigning from speaking—although after speaking at multiple trade shows every year since 2006, I think I’ve earned the right—I am quitting.

I understand that much of what you are about to read may sound like sour grapes, but I’m prepared to risk it to say some things I think need to be said.

I would love to tell you that I agonized over the decision to give up unpaid speaking engagements, but that would be an outright lie.  I made this decision after an epiphany brought about after ASSP condescendingly turned down my books for sale at the shows where I was speaking for free.  They didn’t like my tone. I didn’t really expect them to sell my books because, after all, what would be in it for them? I further realized that Trade Shows are dying if not already dead.  Yes, people who want to keep the alphabet after their names will always show up, but the rest of us gain very little from participating except to bear witness to the death rattle of the trade show.

Let’s take a look at the value proposition of trade shows, well at least the two big Safety trade show.  First, there is the cost of membership both a national membership and a local membership and neither of these fees is inconsequential. Sure they may entitle you to discounts but they are typically on things you wouldn’t ordinarily buy.  You get to go to meetings and to network, but couldn’t we organize that ourselves? Do we really have to pay dues to go to a happy hour and share ideas over a pint and some quesadillas? I don’t think so. And while my current employer is very willing to support my colleagues and I in our pursuit of professional growth, many of us have to fight and argue with our bosses just to have the company pick up the membership tab.

Then we have the national conferences which amount to a money grab. Do you doubt me? Consider this:

  1. Professional Development Seminars  These are great training programs on basic topics about which most of us already know. BUT they also give us CEUs so we can maintain the alphabet soup after our names. The price of these sessions ranges from a couple of hundred dollars to over a thousand. They are offered both before and after the main event to ensure maximum money-making potential.
  2. Technical Sessions.  These sessions are included in a full-price full conference admission, typically as much as $1,000 or more.  Conference planners LOVE technical sessions It’s a nice little money maker—the speakers aren’t compensated (except for full admission to the show) and the sessions are moderated by volunteers who are given a one-day pass for their services. So the conference organizers pay nothing but derive great benefits from having a wide range of speakers but really don’t pay anything to the speakers.
  3. The Exhibit Hall.  The Exhibit Hall is code for the big room of vendors where participants go to from booth-to-booth like trick or treaters collect useless promotional crap that they will likely throw away as soon as they return to the hotel.  If you have been to as many of these shows as I have you probably have noticed a great degradation in the number and quality of vendors. I used to wander the exhibit hall checking out new technology and talking to the vendors.  Now I see unattended booth after unattended booth. It seems like there are fewer and fewer companies are exhibiting, and those that are seem less and less enthusiastic about being there.

So what would I LIKE to see? 

 

  • More Information less “Infortainment”. “Infortainment” used to have a horrible connotation it was the worse thing an instructional designer  could say about a course. It was an ugly insult that meant the course had no substance. People had fun but didn’t learn anything of value.  And yet I have heard safety doorknobs openly demand more “infortainment”; we don’t.
  • Less “Here’s what I did” and more “Imagine the possibilities.” Not only are there too many infomercials at trade shows they are getting longer and they are the SAME five guys spewing the same crap.  Can’t we have more open forum discussions and less “I’m great, buy my book, hire me?”
  • More information exchange.  People complain that the sessions aren’t interactive enough, and yet whenever I try to create a dialog I stand before a 100-person jury.  They will gig me on my evaluation on the topic (seriously, are they too stupid to read the program, or are they just looking for something to bitch about?  The most powerful sessions I attended were when the audience was divided into groups and given a discussion topic. After a time spokespeople from the group would report out on their conclusions.  A group discussion would ensue and the “speaker” would facilitate learning.
  • More engagement from the exhibitors.  Exhibitors pay a pretty penny to showcase their wares, but over the years fewer and fewer quality vendors exhibit.  In my experience it’s because: a) the professional organization treats you like something it scraped of its shoe, b) the professional organization nickel and dimes you to death. (Need power? That’s $50) c) if the professional organization has a product or service that competes with you they will put its both right next to yours and compete openly with you.  What’s more not long ago, exhibitors would greet you as you went by ask what you did at your company and if you got involved with the purchase of whatever they were selling. Now you see empty both after empty booth interrupted only by exhibitors with there nose in their phone ignoring people as they go by.

 

Drive Safety Cops Into the Sea

There are two types of safety cops: “the thou shall nots”, and the grand inquisitors.  The thou shall not go around the organizations sniffing out rule breakers so they can report them to management. These safety cops are little more than capos in a death camp or collaborators with an invading force.  They crave power that they cannot obtain through skill or hard work so they seek to have it imparted on them by a higher force. Like the behavior of any other creepy little tattletale, these safety cops just drive unsafe behavior underground, they are the enemy of the worker.

The grand inquisitors fear change and they will malign and persecute anyone who thinks differently from them.  They know what’s best in safety and cannot stand anyone who dares to think differently. They shout down people on internet threads and complain bitterly about anyone who questions the theories of an insurance man who may or may not have made up his research.

There can be no tolerance or forgiveness for these people, because they make all of us the enemy of the worker when we should be the advocate for them.

Tar and Feather the Simpletons

While it’s true that many people are killed because they weren’t aware of the risks associated with a given activity, Safety Simpletons have an awareness campaign to suit ever occasion  even if the awareness campaign is completely pointless.  They will argue that the children’s safety poster awareness program is fun and people like it.  I would argue that only a sociopathic sadist introduces the idea that mommy and daddy might end up bleeding out on the shop floor into the mind of an 8-year old child. “I’m sorry Dylan, daddy died at work today. I told not to use the green crayon, but you didn’t listen and you killed daddy.” Show me one incident report that concludes that the root cause of a workplace injury was “his kid just didn’t love him enough” and I will show you a safety simpleton. And, if that is NOT a cause, why on God’s green Earth do we tout it as anything but a simpleminded waste of time?

More Emphasis on Risk Reduction and Less Body Counts

We still have a problem where we congratulate ourselves for killing and maiming less people than our competitors or than we did last year.  Can’t we do better? Shouldn’t we be striving every day to do better? I think so.

My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. is now available as an eBook (through Kindle or iTunes). This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)

Or if you prefer you can buy it in hardcover or paperback at Amazon, or Barnes & Noble  

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Photo by it’s me neosiam on Pexels.com

When it Comes To Safety There is No Room for Politeness

finger-gesturing-hand-1259327

By Phil La Duke

I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

It occurs to me that one or two of you might have actually noticed that I haven’t posted to my blog in a couple of weeks. I could claim that I have been busy (being a production safety consultant for two major motion pictures in the last month, speaking at VPPPA, and writing almost 100 articles for Authority magazine) but that would just be bullshit. (Pause a moment for all those uptight assholes who have never heard the word to exit in disgust,) The real reason is that since my books were rejected for inclusion in the American Society of Safety Professionals library, I have come to question everything that is safety.

To be fair, the ASSP has been nothing but good to me, and it is within their rights to not carry my book.  What has me troubled is that YOU, the people who ostensibly work in safety, who supposedly care about safety, are the ones who dictate what they sell. If you don’t buy it they don’t want to offer it anymore than the vending machine operator wants to be stuck with a gross of stale Zagnuts.  

I came from the world of Organizational Development. I am a change agent. But what are YOU? I have heard people bemoan the poor quality of trade organizations but with a couple of exceptions you either never got involved or you doing what I am considering doing…taking your ball and going home.

As Dr. Rob Long is fond of saying, and I’m paraphrasing, “Safety is not a profession”.  He won’t even use the term “safety professional”. For my part I don’t see much professionalism in safety.  Academic pendantics? You bet. Blowhards who talk a good game on discussion threads? We got them in spades. Snake oil salesmen? Too many to count.  We preach innovations and have lofty philosophical discussions about zero-injuries and other gobbledygook that makes us FEEL like we are advancing the function but in the end it’s just ones and zeros on an electronic display and it has about as much impact as one could expect, which is to say none.

We talk about lowering risk, without so much as a basic understanding of probability or statistics or even risks.  We make shit up and float it by an audience and if it finds it palatable it becomes part of the tool kit. We slap a new label on a defunct and debunked methodology and trot it out like  we went out in the rain and discovered wet.

Who are we? What is our role? I have always said my role is to help people from the C-suite to the “see? Sweep” to make informed choices about their safety. I go so far as to correct people who say, “you’re here to keep us safe”. I tell them that the best way they can lower their risk of injuries is to make better choices, and I am here to help guide them in those choices. Of course it depends on the situation, but in general that is my philosophy, Years ago, I had a nasty exchange with one of  the more belligerent workers (he always made a mockery of anything I said) I said, “I ain’t your mama, I ain’t your boss, Hell, I ain’t even your friend. I just met you and if you are harboring some half-baked grade-school grudge against authority take it somewhere else because if you ignore my advice and you end up dead I won’t shed a tear. But I WON”T have you undermining my advice to the other workers.” I stopped dead. I’m a hot head, but I generally don’t treat the people on a client site this way. I resolved to take whatever consequences came my way. He walked away, more embarrassed than angry. I felt bad. I wouldn’t have wanted to be treated that way and I don’t like to treat people the way I don’t like to be treated. The next day he showed up on site with a new lease on life.  He apologized in front of the same construction crew he so often had mocked me. When I started to reciprocate his apology he stopped me cold. “No,” he said, “don’t apologize you were in the right and I was in the wrong. I could have gotten someone killed.” He went on to tell the crew (who had no idea what had transpired between us) that I was a “wealth of information on safety and if they were smart they would listen to me.” I still feel ashamed of how I handled it and told him so. He responded that if I had responded to him in any other way it wouldn’t have had any effect on him whatsoever. That was the birth of my, stand-my ground, safety jerk, in-your-face style of which one or two of you are so fond, but at which so many more of you cluck tongues and shake your heads as you dismiss me because of my tone, or grammar (if you find typos feel free to cut/paste my blog into Gammerly and sit in smug satisfaction.

You people seem to forget that this is academic to me.  Both my grandfathers died from injuries sustained on the job.  They died a decade or more before I was born. Remember YOUR grandpa? Remember all the good times you had? Not me.  That was stolen from me. I have lost friends, a great uncle, neighbors, and coworkers to workplace injuries. How about your dad? Mine died from mesothelioma. Next time you barbecue with your dad think of what I wouldn’t give to have just one more barbecue with mine. Or my brother-in-law, part of my family since I was 8 or 9 who died of silicosis, the most gentle, generous, and goodhearted person I’ve ever known, killed by his job; I wouldn’t mind another conversation with him. So to those of you who think my tone is too harsh, or not academic enough, I ask you: What TONE AM i SUPPOSED TO TAKE?

I guess I’m just thick.  I used to think that people who were outraged by senseless, stupid injuries on the jobs that killed temp workers the first hour of their first day of their first job out numbered the smug asshats who referred to the people working in factories, and on oil rigs, or in mines, as yard monkeys, or factory rats, or whatever pejorative term your industry chooses to throw at them.  I have met some of the smartest (and dumbest) people I know when I was working the line. I WAS WRONG. I still here, “well if the imbecile would have just done the job like he was supposed to…?” Of course no one has the balls to say that to the next of kin. “I’m really sorry Mrs. Wiseman but your son just screwed up. When you think about it’s his own fault for not going going to college.”  

I have no desire to be a safety cop. I have no desire to protect the company by fighting workers’ compensation claims.  I just want to help people make informed decisions about their safety and I’m damned good at it. But as for continuing to spend money (I actually figured out how much it cost me to travel to conferences since my first one in 2006, and it came out to over $70,000 a lot of it subsidized by employers, but even that has its own costs—like them wanting to see sales come out of my appearance (which, given I am not selling gloves doesn’t happen). I am done with speaking for free and pretty fed up with writing for free.  Forget being a thought leader…there’s no money in it (or respect for that matter.).

Okay, it’s time to get off your asses and buy both my books. I have been writing this blog since 2006 and refusing ads (although WordPress my stick its own in) In January, 2019 I announced the release by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.) It’s important that you read it; if you’re not part of the solution than you ARE the problem.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble  Thanks to you who have already purchased it.

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

And if you still haven’t purchased first book, what the Hell are you waiting for? It is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

Is it wrong?

That I give less and less a shit about safety every minute of every day? Persist in your stupidity. It is your right.

I Don’t Even Know Who We Are Anymore

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Phil La Duke

Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

As many of you surely know by know, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) turned down the inclusion of my books in their library; I was disappointed—not just because that would exponentially increase sales, or even that in the case of Lone Gunman there is a real chance that it could save lives—no, what disappointed me the most was the response of ASSP.  I have a lot of respect for ASSP and the rebuff made me reconsider the role of professional societies and their purpose. That cascaded quickly into me questioning whether or not we as a profession (and I have to tell you that some of the thought leaders in Safety have taken me to task for even describing those who work in safety as “professionals”) have a unified view of the role of Safety in an organization, to whit: are we simply the people who enforce regulations and kiss boo-boos or are we people who challenge ourselves to do better? 

The actual rejection read:

“The primary reason was the overall tone. We know that you don’t pull any punches in your blog and presentations. The sometimes colorful language and in-your-face approach are contrary to the more neutral approach we take as a society. The other books we carry may not be as provocative as yours, but they are more traditional and what members expect from publications we publish or sell.” (Emphasis in bold is my addition)

Let me state for the record, ASSP and the National Safety Council can reject any work that they choose and I (and any others who have their work rejected) don’t have a write to complain about it. These organizations have a responsibility to their members and that may extend to politely declining to carry my book. I don’t get to be mad at the rejection and I am not. Truth be told I wasn’t really expecting that they would carry it, but figured it was worth a try. 

None-the-less I was deeply troubled by the response. Lone Gunman deals with the very real problem of workplace violence, which, a) differs completely from mass shootings and b) tends to increase as mass shootings are all over the news. In short, people right now are at risk and the risk is predictable and for the most part preventable.  What is the appropriate tone when talking about women being butchered by their estranged husbands and boyfriends? How can I adopt a more neutral approach to calling out the murder of employers by mentally unhinged homicidal maniacs? 

They also mentioned that the reviewers pointed to a lack of citation for fact-based conclusions. This is my fault completely, because although the citations for each of my facts are clearly labeled (albeit some are embedded in the chart titles and others are at the end of the book (my publisher’s idea, not mine)) they aren’t easy to find and don’t follow a conventional style guide. My only defense is that I am not writing text books and ostensibly that’s not what the organization is selling.  It is a valid reason for not including my books in their catalog, and again, I have no legitimate gripe.

It was the last line of the rejection that hit me like a gut punch: “The other books we carry may not be as provocative as yours, but they are more traditional and what members expect from publications we publish or sell.” WTF? Seriously? So because my book isn’t pablum that tells people in Safety that “all is well and stay the course” it has no place in the discourse in the safety community? The message I took from this is my books rock the boat and the people who buy from their library want upbeat, life affirming, books about all the good things that are Safety. 

This has me wondering whether or not I have a place in Worker Safety or at very least should I continue providing free reading material.  I have always viewed my role as providing workers, managers, and senior leaders with the information they need to make informed decisions about their safety.  I don’t delude myself into thinking that I am a lifeguard or that I am a policeman or that I am following some higher calling, and I will continue to call out in harsh tones and colorful language those who do. I am hated by some for it, but I don’t know these people and they don’t know me so hate away (chances are if I met you I wouldn’t like you much either.)

So again I ask, “WHO ARE WE?” Do we only read materials and listen to speakers who tell us things that reassure us that we are doing a good job? Do we only want to think about saving lives and getting a blue ribbon like a prize pig at the State fair? I spend hours writing blogs, articles, and books all on my own time and my own dime.  My employer doesn’t pay me to write these articles in fact, my employer should never be judged for anything I say or do in these areas because they neither commission my work nor see it before it is published, and most don’t even see it then. I have constructed a hard wall between my personal life and my professional life. I recently put in some long days working as a Production Safety Consultant on a major theatrical release film, and come Tuesday will be back on an equally exciting gig doing the same for another major film; in short, I have a rich and deeply fulfilling job working for a global company that I like and respect and for the most part that likes and respects me.  So why continue doing this? Why keep crashing a party where I am clearly unwelcome and uninvited. I feel like the guy who goes to the same restaurant every day and complains about the food—eventually the owner doesn’t want to hear it any more and will tell me not to come back.

My intent is not to single out ASSP either, after nine presentations in eight years the National Safety Council has decided that I am no longer welcome. The reason is one of the most simple-minded verbal drooling put to paper.  The NSC changed their selection process and began by looking at the evaluations of all the previous speakers. I scored in the top half of the evaluations of all speakers. They then divided the remaining speakers in half. I was in the lower half of this group.  Why? Not my presentation style which was scored as one of the highest, nor my knowledge of the subject, in fact nothing in my presentation style. How then could I score in the lower half of the top half you might be wondering? My topics. Really? I would send as many as 36 abstracts to the NSC and THEY CHOSE THE TOPICS. So I have to believe I am effectively black listed by the NSC for something other than what I have been told. To be fair, the NSC has never commented except to say I am welcome to submit abstracts for future consideration. (as if there was retroactive consideration) I was initially disappointed, but realized that unlike the ASSP who is generally gracious to its speakers the NSC always acted as if it was doing its speakers and vendors a favor by allowing them to participate (speakers are unpaid, pay their own travel expenses, and are given a free entrance to the event).

Yes I provoke. I irritate the establishment. I call ‘em like I see ‘em. But I don’t pick a fight just for shits and giggles. I don’t spend my weekends at my keyboard looking to irritate the more uptight and sanctimonious among our trade. I do it because I thought I made a difference, at least I used to think that. I used to do it because a handful of you would tell me that while you didn’t always agree with me, I always made you think.  Now I do it mostly out of habit.  What we do is too important for us to sit in our offices and argue about academic crap like is zero injuries attainable? I can tell you this, without a doubt we can never attain anything approaching zero injuries as long as we only seek out opinions that support our world view and get off our asses and engage with people.

So I am not angry with ASSP, although they might well black list me too, that’s their right, and if they do, well at least I understand why: because YOU have told them that you don’t want to hear about ugly topics like workplace violence, and YOU have created the impression in them that YOU don’t want to learn, that YOU are more interested in the alphabet after your name than helping people to learn to make better decisions about their safety, that YOU can’t handle a harsh tone or the merest insulation that you might not be doing a perfect job.  Professional organizations have a responsibility to their membership to provide what the members say they need and want, so if you tell them that you want a neutral tone on an ugly and urgent topic they don’t have a choice: they have to provide you with palatable crap that you will buy; that’s the job that YOU have defined for them and demand of them.

Recently I asked an editor who I respect greatly (and who has published 80-some articles I have penned) to tell me the truth about my books, specifically “is my baby ugly” (although both are selling well, so well in fact that Amazon and Barnes & Noble sometimes have trouble keeping up with demand), and here’s what he had to say: “You write like Hunter S. Thompson and people read his work for the love of the language. But while Thompson wrote on broad topics of interest to a large audience (Nixon, Hell’s Angels, Drug Use) you rewrite to technical professionals who are only interested in being told the procedure for doing x.  That’s why it was always so challenging editing your stuff—I was never quite sure if the piece was meant to be instructive or to share your view of the world. You need to decide whether you want to write staid, boring, technical/procedural stuff for an audience of technical people who lack taste or imagination, or share your twisted view of the world for intelligent, enlightened, and curious people who will love taking the journey with you.”

I am a firm believer in the second line of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If “if you can trust yourself while all men doubt you, while still allowing for the doubting too.” I have listened to my friend and editor/publisher and I reject the idea that all safety professionals are humorless drones incapable of taking the journey with me. It’s just a shame that the ones who are seem to be setting the agenda for the discussions around safety.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain-forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

 

Resilience Is the Only Way To Combat Fatigue

man in green jacket leaning head on blue case

Photo by Marcelo Chagas on Pexels.com

by Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted and no, I am not off somewhere pouting.  I just spent two weeks on a movie shoot in the capacity of a Production Safety Consultant. A lot of readers don’t really know what I do and assume I am either a full-time author or some academic who pontificates about safety but never gets in the trenches; nothing could be farther than the truth.

The truth is I am a consultant and am primarily focused on making large-scale organizational changes focused on safety, but even this doesn’t really encapsulate what I do. I can be on a movie set one day, in a mine the next, on an upstream oil & gas rig the next week, and in a factory or warehouse after that. I do everything from research to building organizational infrastructures, so that, in a rather large nutshell is what I do to keep my dogs in biscuits. In my free time, I write, tweet, and blog.  (I just published 8 articles in Authority magazine.) And I speak.

Last month I spoke at the ASSP Safety 2019 in New Orleans on Worker Fatigue, and while the reviews were generally positive, I had some people whine that I didn’t magically solve all their problems with a couple of slick bullet points.  What’s worse is they are right, there is scarce little that the safety profession can do about worker fatigue—it is simply outside their power or expertise.

Now I am feeling fatigued.

This isn’t going to be a whiny, “woe-is-me” post about how hard life is. Life IS hard. But, life is a damned-sight harder for most than I have it and to complain about just feels ungrateful and dare I say it? sinful.

I won’t go into the symptoms of fatigue but they are serious and they can cause long-term health issues from obesity to liver failure. All I will say is fatigued is more than being tired; it’s more than being exhausted. Fatigue is that bone-weary feeling accompanied by a vague feeling of hopelessness that you will know when you feel it.

Fatigue is caused by prolonged stress and  as I wrote some time ago, “(t)he link between stress and illness is scientifically well-established. Recent research into fatigue and sleep deprivation has found strong links between worker fatigue and injuries, impaired judgment, and at-risk behavior.  In a study 2007 conducted by Vegso et al researchers found an 88% increased risk of an incident for individuals working more than 64 hours a week. As employers try to do more work with fewer workers, workers are often forced to work while sleep-deprived. As workers tire they make more mistakes and riskier choices, are less likely to comply with rules, and may become combative.”

Resiliency Is the Answer

In layman’s terms resiliency is a person’s ability to bounce back from a traumatic event. Some of you may be thinking that describing one’s job as a “traumatic event” is just the melodramatic complaining of a malcontent, but that is precisely what many jobs are.  Despite all the research and findings that fatigue is a killer companies continue to literally work the employees to death.

More and more companies are implementing resiliency programs but it is too soon to see how effective these programs actually are.  To scientifically judge the effectiveness of a resilience program you would need a control group and most would agree that doing nothing to battle chronic fatigue would be immoral. So what can we say to our executive suites, how can we justify a resiliency program with no empirical evidence that such an approach would work.

At the risk of sounding soft in the head, we really need to take hard look at how we view workers and work.  When we put profit before people any money spent on the health and well-being of the people is considered waste as it consumes resources and does not add intrinsic value to the products or services delivered.

I am quick to criticize people for simple-minded solutions, so let me turn that lens on my self for just a moment and analyze what I wrote on the subject for OH Professional in 2018:

“Tips for building resilience:

  • Maintain an optimistic outlook.  No matter what the stress one is under the optimist can always see the silver lining.  Train yourself to avoid falling into the trap where you try to shield yourself from disappointment by focusing on the good in the situation.  Years ago I was a chronic complainer. I would gripe about poor service i restaurants and complain about long lines, and well…just about anything you can imagine. One day I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired so I made a commitment to myself: from that point forward I would compliment three times more frequently than I complained (and I still complain a lot) it was hard at first (especially because I decided that I wanted to compliment with as much ferocity as I did when I complained.  Soon I found myself getting better service and people treated me better. I approached situations expecting the best and when I did I generally got the best. When I complimented I started getting everything from a free drink to an upgrade on my hotel room or seat on an airplane. And most of all it allowed me to bounce back from a bad mood.” How much different is this than for the safety person to tell people just to cheer up?  This is great advice for safety professionals who are feeling fatigued, but for someone who is already fatigued it’s like saying, “look on the bright side…” or “it could be worse…” in my worst moments I never felt better after someone said these things to me. In fact, I resented it. I resented it a lot.
  • “Get in shape. Yes, I know I sound like your nagging doctor but it’s true. Eat right and maintain a healthy weight.  You need not run marathons or spend hours working out at the gymnasium to build physical resilience but a relaxing stroll in the evening air or the leisure activity of your choosing (provided that it provides at least some physical benefit). And don’t think of exercise as a punishment—think of it as an investment in your ability to avoid illnesses and injuries and to recover more quickly in those cases where you were unable to avoid the illness or injury.”  Did you ever try to lose weight when the stress in life was unbearable? Forget avoiding comfort food, there are physiological responses to stress that cause it to become more difficult to lose weight.  Simply telling people that they need to get into shape is like telling someone they need to be taller. Few people ENJOY being out of shape but what can we as safety guys do to get people in shape? If they won’t listen to their healthcare providers, and caring family members, 
  • “Build healthy and close relationships. Paula Davis-Laack J.D., M.A.P.P., in her article Seven Things Resilient Employees Do Differently: The important ways developing resilience helps you work better in Psychology Today, (October 2004)” One big building block of resilience is a connection, but not just any old connection. High-quality relationships are critical to resilience. According to business and psychology professor, Dr. Jane Dutton, there are four distinct pathways for building high-quality connections at work. The first is respectfully engaging others by communicating sportively and being an effective listener. Second, facilitate another person’s success with guidance, recognition, and support. Third, build trust, which can be done by relying on another person to follow through on projects and other commitments. Finally, have moments of play. Play evokes positive emotions and is often associated with creativity and innovation (Dutton & Spreitzer, 2014). Work can be a serious place, but so many workplaces take the world far too seriously.”” So you have me working 12 hour days, 7 days a week and I have a 90 minute commute  that leaves me 11 hours and I am tired, physically drained, and cranky. You also tell me to get a good 8 hours sleep, and assuming 30 minutes to shower and otherwise prepare to go to sleep, and add another hour for breakfast and dinner that leaves around an hour to get in shape and build healthy and close relationship. I don’t even have time to take a decent bathroom break and you want me to make new friends? Not likely.
  • “Stay away from mental “junk food’.  Instead of spending hours with your nose in your phone reading the latest trash talk on an anti-social network seek out quotes or stories that inspire you.  When you feel good mentally you tend to feel better physically.” This one is easy, if you have time to linger on social media you probably aren’t fatigued.
  • “Forgive someone.  Life is too short to carry around bitterness and hatred, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. So if you want to be truly resilient find a grudge that you have been carrying and let it go.  Remember sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.” Here again, we aren’t likely to be in the state of mind where forgiveness comes easily.  We are living in an id state, ready to snap at the first provocation.

So what’s the answer?
The time for building resilience is BEFORE you have a problem and that is a hard sell for many of us.  Everyone seems to believe they are one lottery ticket away from becoming a millionaire, and leaders of organizations are no different.  COOs don’t respond to “what ifs?” most are more of the “if it aint broke don’t fix it” school of thought. Unfortunately, once we’ve broken the worker, we can’t easily fix him or her.

I am proud to announce the hard launch by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Buy this book it may save your life or the life of a loved one. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.) It was recently turned down for inclusion by a major safety trade organization’s catalog because I didn’t take enough of a neutral tone. So apparently I should have tried harder to represent the pro-gun violence in the workplace point of view. Sorry I won’t do that.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

I should warn you, this isn’t a book that is pro- or anti-gun ownership rights.The book has extensive sections on spotting an unstable employee (some people’s lives will take a dark and desperate turn long after you have hired them but there are always signs), the types of work environments that tend to trigger these events, and I recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where I spoke on how companies can leverage technology to protect workers from workplace violence.  But all the books, and magazines, and speeches in the world won’t change a damned thing if you keep thinking that it can’t (or probably won’t) happen to you or someone you love. You can bet your life that we will see more similar shootings in the weeks or months as people who are currently at the brink of sanity see the news reports and think, “now’s the time”. WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!!! This book is pepper with the sarcasm, self-deprecating humor of the first book, but it also makes use of my extensive knowledge of violence prevention in the workforce (that I gained as head of training and OD for a global manufacturer.) 

Of course, my first book is still for sale, and you might rightly ask yourself, why on God’s green Earth would I read a book that contains previously released material? Simple, like the rain forest and the polar bears my work is disappearing from the web very quickly.  All but a handful of my works for Facility Management Magazine is gone, and you can basically only go back 2 years on my blog (8 year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck.) And besides, about a third of the book is new material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.