The Shadow Of The Leader Can Be A Cancer On The Organization

shutterstock_1025080732By Phil La Duke

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

Let me make this as clear as my meager writing skills an make it: if you can’t lead then you put yourself, your workplace, and your organization at risk. If people can’t trust you to watch out for your best interests then what would make you think they would consider for a second looking out for you or the company’s best interests?

Leadership is perhaps the most important element in creating a safer workplace.  We don’t talk about it much, but beyond physical safety, don’t organizations have a vested interest in providing more than just physical safety. What about emotional safety—the safety where you are free from worrying about losing his job, or where you don’t feel that you can be frank with your boss without repercussions? Or the safety of having your boss stand up for you and defend you from unfounded attacks instead of throwing you under the boss? In other words, doesn’t an organization have the responsibility to respect and value its employees enough so that the employees work for more than a paycheck?

If your boss isn’t looking out for you, how can that boss expect you to do anything more than to look out for your own interests?  Too many leaders in too many organizations are stuck in a 1982 mentality where the economy was so poor that if workers didn’t like the job they had the very real decision as to whether or not to quit and risk not being able to find another job or just stay in a toxic work environment and put up with the crap.

In military conflicts, there is the concept of “fragging”. Typically fragging refers to deliberately killing an officer or leader while in a firefight so that it looks like an accident.  Why do troops kill their own leaders? Self-preservation; the troops come to believe that the only way to survive is to kill off the ineffectual leader. The troops lose confidence and respect for the leader and for a few, they see this as the only way out of harm’s way.

So what is the equivalent of fragging a leader in the corporate world? Well, actually there are more than one equivalent. One is to undermine your boss’s decisions by second-guessing him or her at every step. Another is to poison the well through gossip and innuendo. I once worked for a completely and utterly incompetent boss who would give ridiculous direction that was truly detrimental to the company.  Here is how the staff followed her instructions. One was completely passive-aggressive, making her second guess every bit of                  

How does respect work? It’s not a trick question. Respect is, in my opinion, one of the key elements in engagement, and by extension, a key element in safety. It’s tough to be engaged in your work when you are treated with contempt and you know by the way you are treated that your boss or your colleagues don’t respect you.

Recently a friend confided in me that he told his boss that he believed that he was not treated with respect by him.  “Respect has to be earned” he snarled back. My friend is literally weeks from retirement with a full pension and is probably a little looser with his language than someone more junior.  He responded, “You have that backward. The way I was raised is that you respect people until they say or do things to you that takes away a measure of that respect. I have been respectful to you, but for whatever reason, you seem to believe that I have to give you a cause to respect and value me.

So there you have it: some people believe that you don’t have to value or respect someone unless they earn it and others believe we should respect people based on their humanity. I happen to believe we should be respectful to people until they show themselves unworthy of that respect.

The funny thing about respect and value is that you don’t have to VERBALLY tell someone that you respect them. The way you feel about someone is pretty difficult to conceal, and if you don’t value and respect someone telling them that you do makes you a hypocrite. So what does all this have to do with safety? A lot.  If your supervisor makes you feel like your opinions don’t matter, that you’re too stupid to contribute anything important, or generally treats you like something he scraped off the bottom of his shoe, it makes it tough to focus on your work. And when you aren’t focusing on your work you are more likely to be injured or to injure a coworker.

I’ve said it so many times that I feel like I am getting blue in the face. While it is important for safety personnel to respect the population for which they are advocates, it is far more important that the executives, partners, department managers, and line managers respect the workers. Little slights, like telling someone to shut up, whether you use those exact words, or marginalize an employee by scheduling meetings and then canceling or rescheduling them, or failing to follow up on an issue, or just plain ignoring the employee.  All of these things are disrespectful and demonstrate that you don’t value the employee.  

When it comes to valuing an employee it should be pretty simple, after all, you must have seen some value in him when you hired him, right? At what point did you take it for granted that this person would just come in and do his job and be happy with the paycheck.

So what does this have to do with lowering injuries in your organization? Everything.  Think of the damage the disrespected employee can do to your organization? Everything from absenteeism to out-and-out sabotage is often rooted in an employee’s opinion of his or her boss and the relationship the employee has with the employer as a whole. But beyond everything, who cares what their bosses think when their bosses have no regard for the person as an individual?

How many of us working in safety get push-back from workers who say, “This company doesn’t give a hot, runny, steaming, pile, of goose crap about my safety? What would motivate them to feel that way, much less say it? Most of us working in safety care about the safety of the workers and most that I have seen have a great rapport with the safety group, so where is this coming from? Leaders. Leaders who belittle. Leaders who think that because they are white-collar workers that they are somehow better and of greater value than the “great unwashed” or whatever name they give to those they perceive to be their intellectual inferiors.

This is no great revelation that incompetent and indifferent leaders make the job of the safety personnel more difficult—hell we feel it more acutely than anyone.  How anyone can respond to  “my boss doesn’t care if I live or I die” with a straight face when we know that what the worker is saying is true?

WARNING: What follows may just teach you something but you won’t get any CEUs for it, you’ll just be better educated and informed but seriously who wants or needs that?

 

Some time ago, I read an article in the Metro Times (a Detroit Weekly) about a Facebook group essentially dedicated to encouraging attacks on women, Democrats, Muslims, and LGBTQ persons.  There were hundreds of specific threats of violence. You don’t have to buy my book, but I wish you would. But if you want to help follow this link. Search LinkedIn to find out where these people work and encourage their employers to fire them. This isn’t a political statement, I would react the same way if people were saying that White Heterosexual Christian Men were the targets.  Purveyors of hate need to feel real-world consequences. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing.

 

Violent acts begin with violent thoughts that turn into violent posts on social media. How long are you going to continue to throw your hands up and say, “what can I do?” My second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. answers this question. This is all new material that cannot be found anywhere else. In light of all the talk and panic around gun violence, and the shamefully bad advice some “experts” are giving I hope some of you will read it and pass it along to your executives and HR leads (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.)

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  • What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
  • Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
  • What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 newly written material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

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

#business, #feedback, #safety-leadership, #toxic-leadership

You Haven’t Said Anything Worthwhile Until Someone Tries to Silence You 

shutterstock_463401833

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 don’t usually post more than once a week, but I was just informed by WordPress that today is the 10th anniversary of my blog. (Completely coincidentally, it also happens to be the one-year anniversary of Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence). I guess a decade of blathering should make me at least partially introspective and cause me to reflect on what the blog has meant to me, so here goes:

First of all, it’s not really the anniversary of my blog.  I first started blogging, under protest when the owner of my place of employment insisted that I blog. I told him blogs were, in my opinion, for people who could write well enough to get published. He was listening to a sneaky, know-it-all who insisted that all companies needed to have a blog. Since I was, at the time, one of the top purveyors of safety he made it clear that my having a blog was a condition of employment. I reluctantly agreed but added that I would only do it if there was no censorship. That was somewhere around June of 2006, and the blog has brought little more than grief ever since. Almost every employer since has taken issue with something I said at one time or another, but as of my current employers observed, “You can’t be a thought leader by telling people what they want to hear.” 

Things got so bad by June of 2009 that I finally scrapped the blog and erased my account. Close to 500 blog posts were lost forever, but fear not, I’m sure I’ve repeated myself numerous times. And I decided to say “fuck it” and restart the blog in 2010, but my employer insisted that I allow him to edit my blog so I didn’t write anything until I was summarily dismissed in October of 2010. The company is out of business now, good riddance to bad rubbish.

How do I feel about the blog? Well…ambivalent. On the one hand, it allows me to explore topics within the Safety function and rile up the establishment, but on the other hand, it’s a legitimate pain in the ass to come up with topics to explore.  If I really try to drive innovative thought or share a best practice, people don’t read it. But if I dare say anything remotely disparaging about Bullshit Based Safety (BBS) people flock to the site in droves just to work up a froth and get mad at me.  I really don’t care if a bunch of dim-witted mouth-breathers hates me, the more emotional someone becomes about an issue the more likely they are to internalize it. So I have been a safety subversive for almost 16 years.

Biting the Hand that Feeds Me

I have two things that I have traditionally despised: a safety practitioner and a consultant. I have always said that consultants are people who give you an unworkable solution and then blame you for its failures, and safety folks, well…let’s just say that before I was dragged kicking and screaming into the field most of the safety professionals I met were dullards who were too stupid to be useful but were either related to a big shot or well-liked numbskulls that were put into the role of safety supervisor because the big shots figured they couldn’t do much harm there. 

One such numbskull was the inspiration for the title of my first book,  I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business.  I used to be a consultant for a large manufacturer and every time I would enter the production area I seemed to have my shoes untied.  The safety cop would threaten to write me up and “put me out of the plant for good” if he saw me with my shoes untied again, so that night I went out and bought loafers.  The next time the goofball saw me he seemed genuinely disappointed that I was in full compliance. What made his insistence on my shoes being tied was that he invariably would bust me several feet from an electronic induction hardening machine. For those of you who may not know what that is, “Induction hardening is a type of heat treatment in which metal parts are heated by electromagnetic induction and then quenched.”  I walked past that machine for years wearing a metal belt buckle, watch, and ring until one day the operator was killed when by an arc flash that connected to his wedding ring electrocuting him to death. Yes, I could have tripped on my shoelaces, but I ALSO could have been the victim of that arc flash. The simpleton of a safety cop was so focused on the obvious that he overlooked the much more serious threat. As far as I am concerned he is complicit in that man’s death, but by God, he may have saved me from a nasty spill.

Over the last 29 years, I have met, and continue to meet, sharp, effective, and conscientious safety professionals, but I continue to have the sub-simian asshats crawl out from under their rocks to give me what for because I questioned one of their simple-minded, but cherished traditions.  I remember some fossil chewing me out because I questioned the kind of psychopath that introduces the idea that a parent could get killed while at work. This jerk made a point of defending the practice because a) he had worked in the field for 50 years and b) people liked the contests. I countered that a) a person who has spent 50 years sucking at something isn’t as valuable as someone who has spent three years doing a job competently and b) there are people who like fornicating with pigs, but that’s not really something we want to encourage now is it? He spat back a death threat. 10 years later I’m still waiting for his wrinkled old ass to show up.

Since I started this blog, death threats and threats of violence have become commonplace.  I don’t give them much credence, only the most ineffectual murders announce their intention to kill you before making an attempt, but every once in a while I have to call the police—like the time a woman called me up, confirmed it was me, read me my address, and told me that she would be delivering a bomb to my house the next day. I told her that she better detonate it fast because I keep sundry swords, knives, and cudgels on hand and would beat any suspicious character to a bloody pulp and hung up.  Then I noticed that the imbecile had not blocked her number on the caller ID. I called the police and the officer using my phone called her back. He told her that it was up to me whether or not she would be arrested for making terrorist threats. She was dumb enough to have called me from her employer’s business and the officer then called her boss and that if I chose to I could sue him and he would likely lose. Before he hung up he said something similar to what a friend of mine said to me when I was dealing with a deranged stalker, “have you met this guy? He doesn’t strike me as a restrainer order kind of guy, he strikes me as more of a lure you to a secluded area with a shotgun kind of guy. Tell her if she comes looking for him she better get fingerprinted because dental records weren’t going to be enough to identify her body.” I still find it ironic that safety people threaten to kill me or in some other way inflict violence. But I grew up in the Detroit area and we’re not easily scared. My only regret is I never found out what bug had crawled up that woman’s ass. I mean, it’s not like I would stop saying it, but I would like to explore the topic further. Before the officer left he told me that if someone came at me I had the right to kill them; it’s a legal theory I don’t believe is accurate, and not something I’m likely to pursue more out of an aversion to the mess and paperwork than any real moral center on my part.

So looking forward I can foresee a day when I give up blogging, but for now, I will still be the fly in the ointment, challenging, pushing, irritating, and insulting, all to make you think and question your opinions. If what I am saying isn’t pissing someone off, it probably isn’t worth saying.  

Thanks to all of you who have read my words and telling me that while you don’t always agree (you shouldn’t) I always make you think. Thanks for all the death threats and hate mail as well, my life wouldn’t be fulfilled without it. 

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

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  • What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
  • Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
  • What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 newly written material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

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

 

 

 

#i-know-my-shoes-are-untied-mind-your-own-business, #lone-gunman-rewriting-the-handbook-on-workplace-violence-prevention

Safety is Bunk

This is the first post I made in my relaunched blog 10 years ago via Safety is Bunk

Behind Blue Eyes

shutterstock_185093693By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

But my dreams they aren’t as empty as my conscience seems to be—Pete Townsend

As many of you already know, this week I learned that a Russian website is bootlegging my book Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Some would be outraged, but not me.  I won’t get any money for the books they’ve stolen, but at least it is bootlegged in its entirety and credited under my name. So while ASSP thinks my tone is too tough for you to handle and that you will only buy nice sycophantic crap that validates your own world view. At least the pirates think my book is worth stealing. And I know this in all certainty: pirates don’t steal things they don’t think hold widespread appeal and intrinsic value. So spasibo comrades, enjoy your ill-gotten gain.

I asked my former editor, Peter Page, a man of exceptional vision who was summarily dismissed, in part, I’m convinced because of my contributions, from Entrepreneur, about my books.  To whit: why do the intellectual excrement of the likes of Scott Gellar sell so well while my books languish around average. His answer was characteristically curt and to the point, I’m paraphrasing but he said, “You preach change to a bunch of people who don’t want any part of changing. You need to ask yourself if you want to write about how you see the world or do you want to write pablum to people who only want to read what they already believe.”

Obviously, I am not in this for the money; I have had umpteen offers to commercialize this site—from ads to product placement. I’ve turned every offer away because even if a sponsor doesn’t put pressure on me to support what they sell, the pressure is always there. So I guess for better or for worse I want to expose the world as I see it through my own eyes. We can argue about it, but it won’t change anything. I can only speak from my perspective. 

It’s not always easy describing the world from my perspective. It’s safer threatening a man’s child than his livelihood and every criticism I lob is perceived to be a full-frontal attack on the new pair of jet skis and the better life some snake-oil salesman lusts after. But therein lies the problem, as I see it, and it’s a problem that worsens every day: Safety isn’t some intellectual argument that we can idly and pedantically debate on LinkedIn. While we treat Safety like an academic exercise, people DIE. Real people are crippled, and maimed; they lose life and limb, while we construct an ever more complex way to make ourselves look smart even though for the most part they fail.

So many of the safety pundits have never turned a wrench on an assembly line, hauled in a catch on a commercial fishing ship, plowed a field, driven a tanker, or done anything approaching manual labor. In fact, the safest thing in most workplaces is the safety guy’s ass. Too many people in safety are so worried about an injury not being their faults that they spend ours covering their asses and wearing an ever more comfortable ass-grove in their chairs.

So here is my challenge: Inspire someone.  Inspire an executive into realizing that “safety” isn’t philosophic it’s operational and it’s good business. Inspire a middle manager that blood spilled in the furtherance of business is immoral and on his or her hands, inspire a front-line worker to stop work when they see an unreasonable risk or merely to second check the safety of a task. Inspire another safety practitioner to do his or her job in accordance with his or her values.

“Everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it”—Mark Twain

Safety is, with the possible exception of Adult Learning, the only profession I can think of embroiled in an identity crisis.  It’ like the Mark Twain quote above. We talk about this theory or that, or the best way to do this, but unless someone is making a buck off it scarce little is done about it.  It reminds me of the time I designed an organizational structure based on democracy instead of the current state that is based on a monarchy. I proposed that leaders—from front-line supervisors to executives—would be elected by the entire workforce and these leaders would be servants of the corporate population, the executives too would be elected and face reelection after a fixed term, and finally, a board whose sole purpose would be to determine if the policies enacted were aligned with the values and mission of the organization. I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was when my boss (an executive) read the paper with enthusiasm and excitedly asked me who else was doing this? When I told him no one, I watched as his eyes went dim and his body language sank, it was like witnessing the death of a loved one. I knew in that instant that my idea—no matter how good, or how loved it was—was dead.

We have to stop arguing over the niggling points of safety and get out there and DO SOMETHING. We are so busy polishing various turds that we have lost sight of the two basic truths of safety: nobody wants their job to kill them and no job is designed to kill the worker. So if you do nothing else, inspire someone to look at the basics of safety: hurting workers is bad business.

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

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  • What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
  • Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
  • What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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 newly written material that cannot be found anywhere else. So buy it. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

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

 

 

 

Looking Back, Looking Forward, Looking Around

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

This is the time of year for introspection﹘we look inwards and take stock of our lives. We concentrate on the things we have done and the things we wished we hadn’t done. This is also the time of year for looking forward. We make resolutions, we hope to improve our lives, hopefully we view the future with renewed hope and an invigorated sense of purpose. And yet there is a third thing that we seldom talk about but can’t help but avoid, taking a look around.

Looking Back

In 2019, I was a production safety consultant on three major motion pictures, I conducted a massive global survey for suppliers of one of the world’s largest oil companies, and did a couple of safety projects for tech companies and startups. The entertainment industry isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds, but it is immensely gratifying﹘unlike many industries where people pick up safety here and there, there isn’t a ton of workers in that business that are aware of the big picture of safety.  That’s not to say they don’t work safely (remember my credo: Nobody wants to die at work, and your processes aren’t supposed to hurt them), in fact, many of the trades are so wrapped up and focused on the job that they have to have done in a couple of minutes that they often lose situational awareness. The work on a movie set is akin to Sim Ops in construction where you have multiple trades doing discrete tasks in a congested area. It only takes one variable to go wrong and you have a catastrophe.  It’s like being responsible for an orchestra where if someone plays the wrong note multiple people die. 

What’s even more dangerous than having multiple people doing different things in close proximity to one another is that in entertainment, the operating conditions are in continual flux.  Something as simple as cloud cover can send the schedule into a tailspin. To say this work is stressful is to under sell it﹘you really don’t know what to expect. My approach to safety here is to correct people who say, “you’re here to keep me safe”.  I would put it to you soft-hearted naive beginners in the field, and you delusional old coots who think you are doing God’s work, that we NEVER save people’s lives, or at least seldom, and even then that’s not our jobs. What we do, if we are really doing our jobs, is to provide good information so people can make informed decisions about their risks.  If you ascribe to the former mindset, then people can only be safe when you are there to make their decision for them, but the latter mindset helps you teach people to consider the risks they are taking before they take them. I’m never a safety cop, although I have seen plenty in safety, because I know that as soon as I am out of sight the people are going to do what I told them not to do.  The entertainment business is the single most challenging work I’ve ever done, and I have worked in mining, Oil & Gas. manufacturing, construction, and maritime. Someone on set told me that to be effective in the entertainment business one had to have a “love-hate” relationship with “the Business” as they call it. I’m inclined to agree﹘you never know the challenges you will face and you have to constantly work to enable safe production.  Looking back it has been a good year for me work-wise since I learned an awful lot (the best way to truly internalize knowledge is by teaching the subject to someone else.

What else did I do this year? I spoke and retired from speaking from any conferences that require me to jump through hoops for no pay (which is in no way the same as retiring from speaking.  I started the year in March, at the Michigan Safety Conference, a huge local conference that is unaffiliated with either ASSP or the NSC. This is a conference that I will continue to participate in as long as they will have me. They generally will work with me to find a topic that is relevant and also something I have something to say about. As for the rest? I am tired of spending my own money on travel and expenses only to be treated as if I owe the organization at which I am speaking money or that they are doing me a favor.  This year saw me travel to Grand Rapids, New Orleans twice, Dublin, Ireland for a total of five speeches. Two of these I took vacation time and paid out of pocket because my employer hadn’t budgeted for this many trips (and the Ireland trip cost a pretty penny for a disastrous, pipe and drape, 15-minute speech (this was NOT what I signed up for) but it was good press and I was able to promote my books.

Speaking of books, the sale of both my books have remained strong. Big thanks to those of you who have bought them and said nice things about them, and well…as for the rest of you, what the Hell are you waiting for?  Use that Amazon gift card to buy a couple of copies. They are a bargain at half the price and both are now available in eFormat. I’ve also written 319 articles for Authority Magazine, around 30 for Thrive Global, two for HSI/HSME, and one for Entrepreneur. The Authority articles are divided into two tracks: Interviewing Powerful Women CEOs (I was assigned this beat and didn’t think much of it until I rewrote the questions and it became a hit series) and Avocation to Vocation: How I turned my hobby into a career, which was my idea and took off like a rocket.  As I interviewed these 319 people I started to see commonality among the responses and am intending to write two books on what I have learned. They aren’t about safety, but being the good safety people I know you are, I’m sure the lessons won’t be lost on you.

So that was last year, and looking back, I feel like it was a good one, I lost some family and friends and I have gained some more.

Looking Around

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have anything to grouse about and looking around I see plenty.  We have become more and more decisive; not just in the U.S. but worldwide. My siblings and I don’t dare talk politics lest it become a shouting match.  Brexit has half the world wondering what the aftershocks and ripple effects will mean to them. We live in a state of constant anxiety while pundits and our employers tell us to be optimistic. Neville Chamberlain was an optimist and we can all probably remember how that worked out for him. Irrespective of your politics you have to concede that this is not a great time for workplace safety.

The U.S. trade war with China has had the unintended outcome of closing U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes Works plant in Metro Detroit, permanently dismissing 1,545 workers in a move likely to devastating Detroit’s local economy. Detroit is on the rebound, but the manufacture of steel largely has not.  I have mixed emotions about this, on the one hand, as I stated this is a catastrophic blow to the local economy of the region informally called Downriver but on the other hand Great Lakes Works has not had what anyone would call a stellar safety record. I guess in the final estimation, it’s better to lose your job than to lose your life (as have many people at the facility, including my brother-in-law who died from an industrial illness he contracted by working there). The company said it only that it was a tough decision, but it had to do what was in the stockholders best interest  This raises the larger question of whether or not a company’s only responsibility is to safeguard the best interests of its stockholders, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Looking Forward

In a couple of days we will enter a new year and a new decade and I am optimistic. More and more companies are coming to the realisation that killing and maiming workers is unsustainable. I believe that the purveyors of bullshit and snake oil who﹘lacking any education or real field experience﹘will retire or die or otherwise leave the field.  With the people who were put into safety because they were well liked but essentially useless gone it will allow a new generation of educated and energetic safety professionals, TRUE professionals, to throw of the yoke of superstition, junk science, ignorance, and stupidity promulgated by their bosses and apply real science and research to our field.  This won’t happen overnight, but it will happen rapidly as the old guard and the academics fade into the pages of history and become a footnote to the rudderless days of safety. In little more than a decade from now I should be financially able to realize my retirement goal of being found dead in a rental car at some airport, but hopefully something I said somewhere in my articles, blogs, speeches or books, will have inspired someone young or old to take up my mantle and carry on.

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

Before you dismiss this as yet another shameless plug for my book I want you to ask yourself these questions:

  1. What if anything is my employer doing to reduce its risk of a workplace attack?
  2. Do the people who are doing the hiring at my workplace know the warning signs of a workplace attack?
  3. What can I do to prevent workplace violence?

If you don’t have the answer to any of these questions, use your Amazon gift card to buy the book. 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. People who have read it say that it belongs in everyone who works in safety’s library. It will teach you, entertain you, and make you want to read more it can be ordered here I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business or on Barnes & Noble.com.

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

 

Normalizing Risk: What Could Go Wrong?

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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’ve written ad nauseum about the biggest threat to safety. I have to admit after 13 years me screaming my chicken-little, “the sky is falling” shtick is tiresome even to me, so I won’t assert this week’s topic is yet another “greatest threat to safety” but I think it is a grave threat to our safety and that is the normalization of risk. This practice goes far beyond the Safety function and none (and I mean none) of us are immune to it.

When tragedy strikes and a coworker dies we shake our heads in bewilderment and ask why would someone do something so reckless? How could someone be so stupid? Why would someone risk his life to save a few seconds.  But then, let he among us who has never normalized risk throw the first stone.

Normalizing risk, to a large extent helps us to function. If we didn’t normalize risk we could never cook, eat in a restaurant, or drive.  In all these cases we have to normalize risk to place ourselves in close proximity to a hot stove, frying pans, sharp utensils, or hot oil. Do you doubt me? Consider restaurants. We eat food raised by strangers, harvested by strangers, processed by strangers, transported by strangers, inspected by strangers, cooked by strangers, and served to us by strangers on plates washed by strangers, all in a building built and inspected by strangers. I’m not going to continue with the car example, because the smarter among you get the point and the dumber among you never will.  Besides, the people who routinely read this blog hoping to find something to outrage them have probably gotten bored and stopped reading.

I do think it’s worth considering that the single largest cause of death in the workplace falls under the (in my opinion much too broad to be useful category) of transportation accidents.  This could mean anything from someone struck by a car crossing a street to dying in a over-the-road tanker explosion. We don’t count deaths commuting to or from work as “work fatalities” but they do in most parts of the world, but the sheer number of highway deaths should give us pause, “ 1.25 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day.” of course that is world-wide and with almost 8 billion people this an infinitesimal percentage. I point out that because since I wrote Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention  a wormy little clod who gets an erection every time he thinks about a woman dying takes every opportunity to point out that despite what the Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Safety Council says, homicide, in his completely subjective opinion, is NOT the number one cause of death for women in the workplace. Frankly I will take my facts from the BLS or NSC than some water-head who wants to see women murdered in the workplace. I can only guess at his motivation—maybe he is planning to kill a woman—but in any case, here we have a man deliberately normalizing an extreme risk.  I should point out that violence against women in the workplace is not yet at epidemic levels. I get reminded of this a lot. This is how we normalize risk, we rationalize it by comparing it to other risks. Let me give you an example that is a little less emotional and alarmist: hippopotami kill more people each year than sharks do. This is a facile argument, it reminds me of a Willy and Ethel cartoon by the great Joe Martin.  Ethel says to her husband, “Mr. Johnson takes his wife out to dinner every Friday,” Willy, unmoved continues reading his paper. Ethel continues, “Mr. Johnson takes his wife out dancing once a month” again Willy says nothing. Ethel persists with, “Mr. Johnson helps his wife with the dishes everyday” to which Willy responds, “hon, why don’t you do us both a favor and stop comparing me to Mr. Johnson and start comparing me to some of those guys on death row?” I apologize to Mr. Martin if I got the dialog wrong, but the point remains, Willy is trying to deflect Ethel’s points by introducing a completely different and at best marginally related point.

We live in a world where there are no lies, where world leaders dismiss the irrefutable “as fake news” and where Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram posts are asserted largely unchallenged as fact. Normalization of aberrant behavior from grabbing a woman by the genitals to failing to vaccinate your children because an ex Playboy centerfold says it causes autism is running rampant.

So what can we do about it? Well I don’t have the answer but awareness campaigns aren’t going to help. Awareness campaigns are growing in importance in the battle against ignorance, but we KNOW that normalization of risk isn’t smart. We KNOW it can get someone killed (but probably won’t) until we normalize it to the point where it almost certainly will end in mayhem, at which point the culpable party will blame everyone but him/herself. Have you ever run a yellow light? My ex brother-in-law did, as did the car that turned left in front of him.  It wasn’t the first time either had engaged in this behavior; both had normalized and trivialized this risk. When the Bronco struck the Ford Fiesta in a thunderous crash it wasn’t speeding, the driver wasn’t drunk. When the dust settled the driver of the Fiesta’s girlfriend lay on the front seat bleeding and dying while her eight week old baby (who was in an unsecured child seat) lay dead on the backseat floor. Both drivers were charged although the prosecutor dropped the charges against the driver of the Fiesta because he was convinced he could not get a conviction. My brother-in-law was sent to prison for 11 years and he did every penny of it. I have never run a yellow light since (unless it was unsafe to stop).

We are so content with normalizing risk that if someone is terrified to leave the house (because they haven’t normalized risk) we brand them crazy agoraphobics and insist that they need psychiatric care.

Unfortunately, there is no way of telling how much we should normalize risks until the gruesome moment of no return. I didn’t invest this, but I will pass it along.  Before attempting any task ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have I been trained to do this task?
  2. Do I understand this task?
  3. Do I have the proper tools to do this task?
  4. Can I verify that I have done the task correctly?

These questions may not eliminate the normalization of risk, but it’s a start. Try it the next time you get behind the wheel of a car; the life you save might be mine.

I am proud to announce the release by Marriah Publishing of my second book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention.  in an eBook edition. 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.

 

#authors, #i-know-my-shoes-are-untied-mind-your-own-business, #lone-gunman-rewriting-the-handbook-on-workplace-violence-prevention, #phil-la-duke, #risk-management, #risk-tolerance, #survival

Why Even Bother With Safety Training?

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

Like most of you, I have to, as part of my job, periodically sit through grueling, excruciatingly dull, and completely worthless training. Training I don’t need. Training I don’t want on topics I don’t use on my job. I sit, my mind dulled and numbed with boredom because the law says that I must complete this training. So I watch as a disembodied voice reads insipid slides to me.  Computer-Based Training. This is not a shortfall of my employer, we produce excellent, forward-facing and innovative learning tools, and yet when it comes to regulatory training we fall into the same trap that so many other companies do.

So why do we do it? Because the law says I have to.  The law doesn’t care if I have developed courses—far better course in fact—on the subject. The law doesn’t care if this off-the-shelf dreck meets my objectives or needs. The law doesn’t even care if I learn anything from the “training”. In fact, in most cases, the law doesn’t even specify knowledge or skills the course has to cover; it just has to be done…or else.

I have written at length about what’s wrong with safety training and how to fix it, but there just isn’t any will to do fix it. It is said, “give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life” (which let’s face it, I need to eat more than one fish a day, but that is, as is so often the case, beside the point) but when it comes to the crap that we so frequently pass off as training the saying might as well be “talk about the theory behind fishing to a man who has no intention of ever going fishing and he will eat just fine.”

I suppose I should take a moment and shut the drooling maws of the mouth-breathers who have a problem with the term “training” because “you TRAIN dogs, you EDUCATE people”. Apart from being trite, this statement is just plain WRONG. There is a difference between “education” (teaching someone ABOUT something) and “training” (teaching someone to DO something).  I think the difference is best illustrated by the old, and brace yourself off-color joke, “you might not mind if your fourth grade daughter gets sex education at school, but you probably don’t want her getting sex training.” As for the term “learning” it too is a bit off the mark. Learning implies that one actually acquires knowledge or skills that he or she was lacking before the course and this isn’t always the case.  Ah well, back to the topic at hand.I am prepared to fully acknowledge that we have to do stupid and pointless things simply because the law says we must, BUT shouldn’t we aspire to do more than merely meet the barest of minimums of the regulation? Shouldn’t we ask what the spirit of the law is, and why the government thinks that this should be a requirement? Why do we do training that we know won’t make one whit of difference? Or more to the point why don’t we use the requirement as a justification for raising awareness, teaching skills, fomenting debate and discourse? I’m glad you asked…

 

  • Doing it Right Is Expensive. You can buy OSHA accepted training for very little, distribute it via your computer network and meet the requirement. The same course can be used to train iron workers and bull-semen collectors at a cattle breeding ranch.  Even if it violates one of the first rules of Adult Learning, “give the audience the WIIFM (cute speak for What’s In It For Me?” And despite the fact that people tend to tune out messages that they don’t believe apply to them (right or wrong) it is easier to get a low-quality low-cost solution approved by the people holding the purse strings than it is to pay to do it right, and depending on the size of the audience the cost difference isn’t inconsequential. Spending $100,000 to train 30,000 people  amounts to $3 per participant, but spending that Same $100,000 to train 30 people doesn’t make sense.
  • The Government Doesn’t CARE if you need it. I have been forced to take regulatory training on subjects in which I am well versed and even that I have developed and taught. Does this make sense? NO! But since when does the government make sense? The real danger here is that the average worker cannot distinguish between information they really need and the “nice to know” crap that a fraction of the population will ever use.  The result of this confusion is that people tend to treat it ALL as crap.
  • The Government Doesn’t Require Proficiency.  As long as you are able to check the box that someone completed training the government won’t hassle you if the person didn’t get a damned thing out of the event.
  • There Is No Provision In The Law For Testing Out of a Course.  When I was head of Training & OD for a tier-one auto supplier I made it a policy that anyone could come in and “test-out” of a course. I got a lot of cocky (usually engineers) who would argue indignantly that they had 126 years of experience and could probably TEACH the class.  Of that throng, only one hit the required 90% or better to be eligible to get credit for the class without taking it. To his credit he said, I know I know this topic but I would like to take it anyway. Taking this test reminded me that I might need to refresh my skills because it took a lot more thinking to answer some of those questions than I thought it was.  But even though many people were reluctant to test out, I would say approximately 20% of the posttests indicated that people didn’t NEED the course.but it didn’t harm them in anyway. Personally I think it’s insane to sit through courses that I have actually taught, but I am seemingly alone in that regard. Not only is this a waste of time it reinforces management’s idea that we are a bunch of soft headed imbeciles who don’t understand the basics of business.  We all understand we don’t have a choice. 
  • The Regulators Are Concerned With Course Completion Instead of Competence. Government regulators need to get out of the “training” business and instead a demonstration of competency.  What’s the difference? I I hire a journeyman electrician with 15 years experience I don’t need to train him as an electrician, but in the interest of safety I DO need to ascertain his competency before putting him to work.  So why doesn’t the requirement read “Employers shall ensure the competency of all employees in any and all tasks the employees are required to perform”? Because ensuring competency is hard. Think about it. When someone is injured the cause that so many training (and operations for that matter) personnel default to is that the employee was stupid, lazy, complacent, or careless. How often do we even consider that maybe the person never had the adequate skills in the first place.

 

I see a resurgence in BBS (Blame-Based Safety) where a new crop of snake oil salesmen proudly assert (without a shred of proof) that the workers’ behavior (and not the system inwhic the worker works) is the root of all injuries. None of them ask, or even seem interested in why an otherwise intelligent and grown-ass employee would choose to put themselves in the line of fire.  We are quick to blame but slow to examine the circumstances that we ourselves have created that encourage unsafe behaviors and poor decision making.

Recently the United States Senate failed to renew the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and last week the National Rifle Association announced its opposition of its renewal. My book, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention is not against gun rights in fact, I grew up around guns, know how to use them, and am a damned good shot (something you halfwits who send me death threats might want to consider) but it does detail the high  but it does address the profound correlation between domestic violence and workplace violence. 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,HR or your tyrant of a boss and it leads to substantial safety improvements (go ahead, expense it, they will be glad you did.) If you have a daughter, wife, girlfriend, or just care about people getting murdered in the workplace BUY THIS BOOK. It can be purchased in hardcover or paperback (and now as an eBook) at Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

As I have said, 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 many are saying that anyone serious about worker safety should have it in their library.  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 two years on my blog (eight year’s worth of my work that ranges in quality from magnificent to mindless dreck is lost forever save in the pages of my book.) 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. What are you waiting for?