CEU-less and Clueless. Certified or Certifiable?

shutterstock_1156570792By Phil La Duke,
Reverend, Shaman, Grand-Master Psychic, EIEIO and  Author

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

There are people in safety with letters after their names and those who don’t and the two groups seem to hate each other. I get it. For years safety was the place in the organization where you put the people so useless that they could even work in HR.  The reasoning seemed sound at the time: even this dope can’t foul up this job. Then somewhere along the way safety got…complicated. The safety occupation got organized into safety organizations that warred on each other like the Jets and the Sharks—that’s right, like two nerdy gangs that didn’t fight so much as dance around singing—but gangs of oafs none-the-less. I recently severed ties with all Safety Organizations and don’t feel any less informed than when I was active as a member. I’ve eaten the garbage omelettes that are the National Expos. Each year the same omelette and more-less the same garbage with only the most cosmetic changes to ingredients.  So why do people go? Well for starters it’s a boondoggle—the locations are in Orlando, San Diego, Chicago, New Orleans, but you don’t see many in Little Rock, or Oklahoma City, or Parma. 

But if you were to  ask (or read the requests to attend that are  made to the attendees’ bosses) you are likely to see the rationale for attending is simply to retain the precious certifications by getting Continuing Education Units (CEUs).  

The idea of certifying safety professionals grew out of the perceived need to differentiate between safety professionals who were good at their jobs from those who were as useless as the nipples on the tits on a ceramic bull. Ostensibly this is a good idea, and kudos to all those who have earned those letters at the end of their names, I have my own certifications, albeit none conferred by the shadowy body that churned out over 100,000 safety certifications since 1969!

It took me considerable time to find much information about the Board of Certified Safety Professional, a not-for-profit organization that sets the criteria for ten different safety certifications. I don’t particularly have any issue with this or any other certifying body—most of my presentations have been eligible for CEUs. But here again we have a relatively small group of people controlling what safety personnel learn and are able to demonstrate; they define for many what holds value in the world of safety.. The board is composed of a small cadre of safety personnel, some academics and some who hold leadership positions on the largest safety organizations in the U.S. (which strikes me as something as a conflict of interest) and still others who sell safety products or solutions. So what’s the problem? CEUs.. 

Most, if not all, require the people holding these certificates to get more education yearly. This makes sense in some occupations, for example teaching. Teachers have to obtain CEUs to keep their teaching certifications. You may not realize it, but science, history, and other courses can change a lot as new discoveries are made. We don’t want teachers who received their certifications 45 years ago and have not kept up with advances in education.

None of that matters, and I don’t give a hoot about whether someone has letters after his or her name. I have advised several young safety personnel to get certified just to make themselves more marketable, I have advised others not to pursue said certifications because they have distinguished themselves with a storied career full of achievements. 

So what am I wound up about? Safety personnel have gotten so engrossed and obsessed with getting Continuing Education Units that they have completely lost track of the intent, which, at the most superficial glance, is to keep up with advances in the field.

Let’s examine the great advancements in the field of safety? Heinrich’s Half-witted Pyramid? Behavior Based Safety (which is just a rehash of the aforementioned pyramid), I don’t think there has been a truly significant advancement in safety since the introduction of the Hierarchy of Controls.  So what in the ever living name of crap are we expecting safety professionals to learn? Maybe we should re-brand CEUs as Continuing Expense Units. Think about it, it’s accurate—the conferences you go to and pay (or have your employers pay) to attend cost money. This is just another meaningless requirement that forces people to jump through hoops to retain a certification that they have already fulfilled the requirements (arbitrary as they may be) and demonstrated through testing mastery of an arbitrary topic deemed by the few to be important to the many.

So what should be done? If you want a certification (especially those who don’t have a college degree in Industrial Hygiene, Worker Safety, Organizational design or with limited work experience) get one, but if you have a resume rife with accomplishments that demonstrate true application level knowledge of important elements in safety I say, SCREW renewing your certification. Spend your money learning things that are useful to YOU.

Don’t waste your time sitting in a conference room listening to a speaker who is only doing what you are doing (credentialing as its known on the speaker circuit). As much as the certifying bodies and professional organizations desperately want you to believe that you MUST keep that certification, give it up. We need to stop letting a handful of pompous cretins control this whole occupation. People bemoan the lack of professionalism in the field of worker safety well quit bitching and DO SOMETHING end this parasitic relationship between maintaining certifications that don’t mean anything to most people.  If you are struggling with getting a job without one sure get the certification, but otherwise ask yourself why you feel the need to let a group of less than 20 people dictate what you should know and what has value.  We have to throw of the yoke of the Safety Thought Police (trademark pending, get certified today!) and start acting like grown ups.

I am not advocating  that you stop learning, nor am I advocating for you to stop trying to find innovative approaches to safety, but your certification is only as good as the body that conferred it and your CEUs are only as meaningful as the education that your receive—the tools and practical solutions you gain.  I used to work in training I have a number of dubious certifications: I am reverend and shaman in the Universal Love Church of Michigan, Eastern Rite, Trenton Synod, Lake Erie Monarchs chapter, council of 1997 (I had a schism with the Universal Life Church of Modesto California) check out our Facebook page. 

I am legally allowed to perform marriages (except in Florida because I am not a notary), affirmation of love ceremonies for those who cannot or wish to not marry legally (think marriage to a farm animal or a television set), damned people to hell for all eternity, baptize people, hear confessions (I can’t grant absolution but if you want to tell me your sins I will listen) but, and they  were EMPHATIC about this, I cannot perform circumcisions. I made my own certificate. I am also a certified Grand Master Psychic (I know what your thinking, no really). Each of these are printed to look very official and I might add are much more professional looking than the fourth-grade art project that is my State of Michigan Certificate of Training Design & Development (conferred by the University of Michigan; it’s a completely legit AND I don’t have to jump through the CEU hoops to retain it. Apparently U of M decided I was smart enough, or at the very least they were done with me.

For God’s sake people read a book. Speaking of books…

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

#bbs, #bcsp, #board-of-certified-safety-professionals, #ceu, #continuing-education-units, #dumb-ideas, #dumb-ideas-in-safety, #safety, #safety-certifications

Smells Like A Safety Meeting

shutterstock_157734158By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and
Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

Dark House Brewery, a microbrewery based in Michigan has a beer that is called “Smells Like A Safety Meeting”.  You might think that this is a compliment to all the hard working men and women in the safety field; if you do you would be dead wrong.  In many workplaces, sneaking off to smoke marijuana is referred to mockingly, as “going to a safety meeting.” Given that a brewery would name a beer after the practice one can logically assume that this euphemism is not uncommon.

Sadly, the fact that people mock safety people isn’t shocking. I get derisively called, “Mr. Safety” by family and friends more often than I would like, and as a good friend of mine offered during a discussion about how a group of us hate strangers talking to us on a plane, “I don’t have that problem. As soon as I sit down I tell the person next to me that I am a safety consultant and that shuts down any further conversation.”  It’s good that we can laugh at ourselves, but too few of us can, and even more of us provide continually fodder for mocking, ridicule, and even out–and–out hostility toward us.

Ostensibly it doesn’t make sense. Why would people mock and ridicule a profession whose sole purpose is to reduce the risk of injuries; in effect, to ensure that whenever possible people won’t get hurt? Unfortunately, in a practical sense we make it easy to see why many people hold us up for ridicule.

“I Save Lives”

In my book, I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business, I reprinted a post that I posted on my blog. The post was a fictional letter from all the workers who died on the job to safety professionals. I also wrote a fictional letter from the safety guy to the dead workers in response.  My intention was to post the former the first week and the latter the following week. Well the uproar that ensued from the first post was truly shocking. Safety professionals told me they hated me, some threatened violence, some just lobbed insults. I was so ticked off that I toyed with the idea of not posting the response, but I hate being manipulated so I decided not to change my plans. When my publisher told me that my book was too long, I cut out the response to the letter. I am petty, and this was my pathetic revenge. 

The whole intent of the exercise was to demonstrate to our shared occupation that if we say we save lives we must hold ourselves culpable for the deaths of the people on our watch.  We delight in saying that we save lives but recoil at the slightest hint that we are in anyway responsible for the deaths of workers. We can’t have it both ways.

I take on some of the Myths (or lies if you prefer) that we safety folks tell ourselves and each other and the biggest one has to be that we save lives. I for my part do not save lives.  I provide workers (at all levels) with the information that they need to make informed choices about the risks they take and their safety. In other words, I help people save their OWN lives.  I have skills, and training, and experience on which to draw so that I can have conversations with individuals to help them make their own decisions. I hope what I have to offer, but I also LEARN from these conversations. 

Ridiculous Precautions

Everyone working in safety has their pet peeves when it comes to a hazard.  As I have explained to people who ask about the origins of the title of my above mentioned book safety professionals—particularly those who learned it on the job—there are some pretty dopey things safety professions insist people do.  My favorite is “use the handrail, always maintain three points of contact on a staircase.” Well….as I learned while working in healthcare, having continuous contact with the handrail spreads germs and poses a health threat. The proper way to ascend or descend a staircase is to keep the hand closest to the rail hovering above the rail so that if you trip you can quickly grab the rail and prevent yourself from failing.  Anyone who has seen the (often remarkably gruesome injuries) from people cut from splintered wood or jagged metal on handrails can attest to the fact that in many cases the practice of glomming your hand onto the rail is anything but best practice. I speak from experience. I was once seriously cut on my hand from a handrail, so I’m not prepared to argue the case. There are plenty of trivial, ridiculous things that we require people to do and they KNOW that there is not a good reason for them to do them. Furthermore, there are often arbitrary requirements that we impose out of ignorance (something that LOOKS dangerous but in actuality is less dangerous than the requirement—think wearing cotton gloves around a spindle.  In other cases we make a rule that is more about ease of enforcement than it is about safety. Take for example safety glasses. Too often the rule is everyone must where safety glasses when in this area, but the law doesn’t dictate that requirement, the organization decides that it is too difficult to suss out which employees are doing what activities and who are legally required to wear safety glasses and who are not. We simplify things by saying everyone must wear safety glasses. We justify it as for everyone’s safety but if we are truly being honest it is for OUR convenience. Don’t get me wrong, I support this approach, but we should at least be honest with people and tell them that it’s too tough to get people to wear safety glasses depending on each person’s individual activity situation. Instead we dig in our heels and try to defend the rule. We also don’t do a very good job of explaining why the rule exists sometimes just because we don’t think it’s important and other times because we just flat out don’t know.  But a fundamental tenet of adult education is that you have to provide them the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) or the learner will tune you out. And what we do, or should be doing, is teaching people to make informed choices about their safety. And this may startle you, but “you won’t get killed or maimed” isn’t enough of a WIIFM for most people. We should we not speed? Because it decreases our reaction time and when some idiot does something stupid you have more time to react. When I tell someone to drive safely I usually add: there are a lot of idiots out there on the road. Taking a moment to explain WHY a rule is in someone’s best interest is your best bet for getting them to comply.

Soft Headed Parenting

Years ago I was working safety on a construction site, and one guy kept announcing my arrival in a mocking tone with “OK everybody the safety guy is here. We better all follow the rules so we don’t get in trouble” or something similarly belittling.  After about three times I approached him when he was alone. “Writing anybody up today?’ he asked through the kind of smug smirk that makes you want to slap him so hard that his mouth ends up so far behind his head that it requires plastic surgery to ever get it back into position.  I told him, “I don’t know what your problem is and I don’t care. But you need to know, I aint your mama, I aint your daddy, I aint your boss, and I aint your friend. In fact, I don’t even like you, not even a little. If you were to die on the job today it wouldn’t affect me in the least. BUT, I won’t have you undermining the advice and notification I am giving the other people who value their lives and safety, so you can knock off your bullshit.” I walked away and, being me, realized that while the guy was a complete waste of skin who was more valuable to society in parts (a cornea transplant here, a kidney transplant there, you get the drill) he was still my customer and while the customer isn’t always right, the customer is always the customer.  So when he approached me the next day and asked to talk to me privately I was more than a little filled with dread. He said, “look, I’ve never had a safety guy talk to me like that, and I want to apologize. I realize what I thought was just joking around was really hostility toward safety. You have a job to do and I think you really want to do it well so I would like to just start over.” We shook hands and from that day on he was a huge safety advocate. Too many people feed into this parent-child dynamic and it gets in the way of our jobs. We come to represent every authority person that people hate and they respond accordingly. Treat people like grown ups even when they act like children and you will soon have a more functional relationship with your contingency.

Pretending We Have Authority and Power We Don’t Have

Safety cops complain that they “catch people in the act” and nobody supports them. That’s because we don’t have the authority or power to fire anyone and we have overplayed our hand. The offending person has called our bluff and we had squat.  What’s worse is many of us think that we have power and authority that we don’t have. The best we can do is be tattle-tales and run to their bosses, who like as not will only tell them not to do it again. These are grown people and they know far better than many safety professionals that there is nothing we can do to them.  Remember screaming, “You’re not the boss of me as a kid?” well that’s what their thinking if not outright saying it.

We Can Do Better

I am hoping that all of you reading this and see some element of yourself in these archetypes that you will do your best to break out of that mode and become something that people won’t make fun of and mock.  We need to be the resource that we always have claimed to be; we need to be coaches and mentors and evangelists for safety, not in an abstract way, but in a practical way. We need to teach people to question what they are doing and why, we need to persuade people to forget about the easiest way to do the job but the safest way to do the job.  It won’t be easy, but if it was than any idiot could do it.

This morning 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. It made me sad, and then it made me angry. 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

 

#consulting, #culture, #i-know-my-shoes-are-untied-mind-your-own-business, #lone-gunman-rewriting-the-handbook-on-workplace-violence-prevention, #peace, #repairing-the-reputation-of-safety, #safety, #training, #violence

Is Predictive Analysis For Safety Just the Next Big Thing?

By Phil La Duke

I’ve taken a fair amount of flack about being behind on the latest and greatest in Safety theory. I’m not worried about getting a little flack from pompous, over-blown, theoreticians who pat me on the head and patronize me for being the poor stupid author of an antiquated article filled with atavistic thinking. That’s fine, but keep it respectful or I will poor more vitriol and bile then you thought possible.

For starters I have been a proponent, advocate, and user of predictive indicators since the late 1990s. But I have to tell you that I think the theoreticians are jumping the gun in saying that we can predict fatalities, or even injuries, at least not without significant education in statistics and data analysis.

Predicting fatalities is a bit like predicting the weather; that is, difficult. The difficulty lies in the many variables that can influence the outcome, and many of those variables are unknown, making a precise prediction impossible.

There is a lot wrong with the average safety practitioner’s understanding of predictive (but fortunately there are a host of consultants out there to “show them the way”). Let’s start with the difference between “prediction” and “foresight”. Prediction implies that one can, using statistical analysis with a high probability of accuracy, a certain outcome. Statistical prediction is a recognized science and my point is not to belittle it; that having been said, it requires no small amount of expertise. Foresight, means that given a basic set of facts, a reasonable person can anticipate a likely result. Again, I am not belittling foresight, but even foresight requires no small amount of skills.

Using Statistical Analysis to “Predict” fatalities is not quite as pat as it seems. For starters, many are using the word “predict” when they mean “foresee”. I can foresee that someone welding on a gas tank could cause an explosion. I don’t need anything more than a basic understanding of the relationship between gasoline fumes and explosions to be able to foresee an undesirable outcome.

Prediction is more likely to use data to produce a fairly vague prognosis; the data may show that enough variables exist that a fatality (or serious injury) will happen in a given area and even the nature of the injury, but it’s difficult to say exactly when it will occur. There is also the problem of probability (each encounter has the same probability of causing an injury, so a lucky organization could have workers engaged in extremely risky behavior and never have an injury.)

In an article in EHS Today one of the leading proponents of predictive Safety offered four “truths” of predictive safety[1]:

“#1: More inspections predict a safer worksite.” This is misleading, because it assumes that the a) the inspections are effective in identifying the hazards that are most likely to cause an injury; b) the inspections cover the entire workplace, i.e. they aren’t conducted in the same place. It also assumes that all hazards create equal jeopardy, which we no Is not true.
“Safety Truth #2: More inspectors, specifically more inspectors outside the safety function, predict a safer worksite.” Here again this is fraught with assumptions. It assume that the more inspectors are adept at finding hazards and are judicious in containing and correcting the hazards in a timely manner; this cannot be assumed. Furthermore, more inspectors don’t “predict” anything necessarily, rather this statement flies in the face of sound statistical analysis. Where is the cause and effect of more inspectors (who may or may not have the ability to identify hazards effectively). This “truth” relies only on quantitative data and ignores any and all qualitative data.
“Safety Truth #3: Too many “100 percent safe” inspections predict an unsafe worksite.” Again, there is no basis for prediction. There are many, MANY variables that could create inspections that are “100 percent safe”. The author of this statement infers (and it makes sense to infer it) that the inspectors are either derelict in doing their duties, or are missing hazards. The author may be right, but makes no allowance for the improbable scenario that all hazards have indeed been removed from the areas inspected.
“Safety Truth #4: Too many unsafe observations predict an unsafe worksite.” Here the author is mistaking foresight for predictability. This entire premise mistakes correlation for cause and effect ignores the very real need for a sufficiently large sample size before any statistical inference can be made. Furthermore it ignores margin for error, the need for a normal distribution, and statistical outliers.

They are on the right track, but too many people moving to “predictive analysis” don’t understand the differences between being able to foresee and predict, correlation and cause, and science and snake oil—the bottle has changed but the poison is the same.

 

 

[1] http://ehstoday.com/safety/news/predictive-analytics-safety-truths-0222

#safety

If You Didn’t Come Here To Be Liked You Came To The Right Place

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By Phil La Duke

NOTE: If you are reading this, thank you. The fact that you took the time to read this and maybe even reflected on these points before making a comment either here or on LinkedIn means a lot to me. Maybe there’s hope for us all after all. Sorry for that interruption so without further delay…

We have a lot of disagreements in the world of safety, but the one I find most interesting is whether or not the organization likes the safety professional. For my part, I would like to think the population should like the safety professional. What’s not to like, this is a person whose job it is to ensure to the extent possible that the place where we work won’t kill us. To others, being hated by the population is a badge of honor; some so much so that they mistake hatred for respect.

Some time ago I sat through a course on hazard recognition, and while the content was very good the instructor well…at one point he turned to the plant safety professionals and said with a simpleton’s grin, “you will be the most hated men in the plant”. More recently, a safety veteran told me that he tried not to get too friendly with the workers because it could compromise his effectiveness when he had to “get on them about wearing PPE or some other rule infraction”.

It gets to a “chicken or the egg” situation, do people dislike the safety professional because he or she does his job well, or is the safety professional able to do his or her job more effectively because he or she is disliked.

There are two ways to look at the job of safety professional: as a key resource for making the organization more effective, or as the hammer that enforces the rules.

At the heart of the argument is this: are safety practitioners little more than safety cops—jack-booted thugs doing the bidding of Human Resources? Or is there job to focus not on rules and enforcement but on making the company better, not just at safety but overall.

I don’t think a person can be effective in the safety role without being three things: liked, capable, and fair. If I am hated for these things, and I’ve worked for a couple of places over the years who thought I was too friendly (no I wasn’t dragged into HR, get your mind out of the gutter) but I have always put myself in the worker’s shoes and when some puffed up, self-important safety goof drunk on his supposed power told me to do something I would ask myself two questions: 1) can this ass-clown fire me? And 2) does this drooling idiot have my best interest in mind or is he just trying to show me he’s the boss? Well guess what, you can’t MAKE me do anything. I’m an adult and I will decide what I do and live with the consequences. Write me up? I’ve been written up before—it doesn’t mean squat. Fire me? Well then you just went from a guy with some meager financial control over me to a man I intensely dislike and who fired me. Just a guy. A guy I might meet at a gas station, or a supermarket, or a bar. Just a guy who took pride in the fact that people hate him, and now he’s face to face with a guy who hates him. Or maybe he won’t be face to face, maybe he’ll be jaywalking and someone he was once so proud to be hated by will be driving down the road. Just a guy. Or maybe I’ll just hate you, do EXACTLY what you say in my finest passive aggressiveness and patiently undermine everything you try to do until they fire you and can go find a job and make a whole new workplace hate you. Either way what have you accomplished besides being thought of as various body parts to which people don’t like being compared? Nothing. You have done nothing but puff up your ego. You can tell yourself you saved lives but we both know you added more risk than you subtracted.

Personally, the best safety professionals I’ve ever met, (and for the record I have met many exceptional, dedicated, fun, and all around great human beings who work in safety, but just like the chocolate covered roach in the box of Raisonettes all it takes is one to make you view the entire population with a hint of suspicion and distaste) tend to be liked and respected by the population; they’re not seen as tyrants or cops, but as pretty cool people who are watching your back and making sure (as best they can) that you work you do doesn’t kill you or make you sick; they’re the guys[1] who are there for you. If I like the safety guy and he or she knows me I am more likely to listen to what they are asking me (not telling me) to do. They will tell me why I need to do it, what the potential risks are for not doing it, and often ask me to help them out by complying. If I have a friendly relationship with the safety guy I am likely to comply just because I know that at least in his or her mind they only want what’s best for me. And if by chance there comes a day when he is just a guy I meet in a bar, well chances are pretty good I’m going to be glad to seem him and buy that man a beer; because he’s just a guy who spent so much time looking out for me and I appreciate it and I like him.

Now, which guy do YOU want to be?

 

 

[1] The word “guy” is a gender neutral term; look it up.

#attitude, #behavior-based-safety, #culture-change, #phil-la-duke, #safety, #worker-safety

True Or False: Your Evaluation of Training Doesn’t measure Jack?

true or false

Phil La Duke

OSHA requires that workers be provided training and that the results of this training be evaluated. Unfortunately most safety professionals who design training don’t know squat about designing quality evaluative tools.

For reasons I’d rather not get into, I am taking an on-line safety-training course and it is awful. Apart from the six factual errors in the first nine lessons the methods they use to evaluate training are abysmally bad. For starters, the course designers use far too many true and false questions. What do I have against true or false questions? Plenty.

I read somewhere that the odds in favor of correctly guessing the answer of a true or false questions is 63% (don’t quote me on that since I don’t remember the source or the context) but even if we assume that the true or false question is perfectly constructed the probability of guessing correctly is 50% and so few questions are perfectly written that its safe to say that the probability of guessing correctly is much higher.

True or false questions are generally the result of lazy course development. It’s seems easy to right a good true or false question but it is surprisingly difficult to so. Authors of true and false questions tend to provide clues to the answer by using absolutes, like “must”, “always”, or “never”; if you see these clues you can almost always bank on the answer being false, because one only needs to produce a single exception to the absolute rule set out in the questions. Even something like “all giraffes have long necks and spots” is probably false since if one has enough time and energy one could probably find an example of a malformed or mutated giraffe that didn’t have a long neck and the question becomes false.

Beyond the simple-mindedness of true or false questions there’s the uncertainty of just what the true or false question is evaluating. These questions cannot measure anything beyond the memorization of facts. In her book (the best book on designing training I have ever read and I have read scores of them), Design For How People Learn, Julie Dirksen distinguishes between recognition and recall. Recognition questions are the ones that we with which we are most familiar; they test whether or not we can recognize a true statement versus a false one or if we can correctly choose a correct response from a list of possibilities. Recall questions are more open and may contain numerous correct answers—essay questions. Of course essay questions may not be correctly assessing the learner’s ability to synthesize information and or apply complex concepts in the workplace. Plus they are a pain in the ass to grade and all but the most sophisticated eLearning is unable to process a recall question. So what do we do? We take the easy way out. This is fine if we are trying to teach someone trivia, but for crying out loud we are trying to evaluate whether or not someone can safely drive an industrial vehicle or work in a confined space? Forget whether or not this is the BEST way to evaluate learning and consider if it is even a responsible way of testing these skills. When we provide ineffective training—whether it be in core skills or in safety—people are injured, crippled, or die.

The only way we can truly hope to understand whether or not a worker has sufficient training to safely do his or her job isn’t to write better true or false, or multiple choice questions, it is to be on hand to demonstrate the skill and provide a safe opportunity to practice and fail. By providing this kind of training and evaluating this kind of training can we really be sure that the people we train can do the job relatively safely.

So the next time you find yourself taking a quiz, evaluation, knowledge check, or test and you are asked a true or false question, you can hold in the utmost contempt the lazy or inept developer who took the easy way out.

I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Julie Dirksen’s Design For How People Learn; it’s truly a magnificent work that is meticulously researched and cites other great books. In addition to having a lot a great advice for both neophytes and experts it’s an easy and enjoyable read. I found profound applications to safety (as I have been on about so much lately, I truly believe that if there is one element that stands above all others in providing a safer workplace it is training and competency.)

If I can just rant a bit, the only field besides safety that organizations assume any dolt can do it’s training. You got PowerPoint? You got a projector? Well then pull together a deck and train us on that stuff you know. It’s an absurd proposition. I have a degree in training, and three separate certifications in training methodologies, but in the eyes of a lot of business leaders all that means nothing—since apparently the ability to train is imprinted on us at birth like ducklings taking to water.

Never mind that the training combines graphic arts, an understanding of how people learn and retain information, the ability to quickly build a classroom rapport, and other skills too numerous to mention, in the minds of many leaders all anyone needs to be a trainer is a slide deck an audience capable of being bored to death. Things are getting so bad that we know have “webinars” where the first thing the speaker does is mute everyone’s lines so they can pontificate like a bi-polar preacher on acid while people literally work on other things, but don’t worry if you can’t make the meeting the slide deck is available on the k:/drive.

 

 

#attitude, #attitudes-toward-safety, #behavior-based-safety, #behaviour-based-safety, #culture-change, #fabricating-and-metalworking-magazine, #increasing-efficiency, #loss-prevention, #phil-la-duke, #process-safety, #safety, #safety-culture, #stop-trying-to-prevent-every-possible-accident, #variability-in-human-behavior, #worker-safety

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

Boxing Kangaroo2

By Phil La Duke

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

It all comes down to competency.

imbecile

By Phil La Duke

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

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

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

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

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

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