Yesterday was my deceased father’s birthday. He died 18 years ago and had he lived he would have turned 94 had he lived. His older brother passed away two or three years ago at the age of 95 so it is not out of the question that my dad, had he not been exposed to asbestos because the manufacturers of asbestos concealed the dangers of working with it from his employer. My father-in-law also died from mesiothema and was a contractor to my father’s employer. My father never blamed his employer nor did my father-in-law. My father was anti-litigious, In fact, when we learned that my mother died from a faulty pacemaker ten years earlier than he and we were asked to join a class-action suit, he told my siblings and I that he would not be suing and he hoped that we too would not join the suit. “We could each probably make a bunch of money from this,” he told us “but medical science gave us 30 years with your mom that we wouldn’t have had. (my mother was one of the first women to survive surgery to remove a tumor on her adrenal gland circa 1967) And where do you think this company will get the money to pay for this settlement? Profits? No, they will take it out of research, and taking money from them would potentially save lives.”
My dad was a good man. That’s what I remember about his funeral…people repeating over and over again that single and yet powerful phrase. The funeral parlor was so packed with people that we had to open not one but two extra rooms just to accommodate the many people who came to mourn him, to pay their respects, and to tell us about the many ways he had helped them. One grief-stricken old man had to be restrained by his friends because he was shaking my father’s corpse vigorously; refusing to accept his death. He was led away weeping openly, inconsolable in his grief.
People are using the word “hero” a lot these days. My dad was not a hero. He would have been the first to correct anyone who called him that. He helped people when he could. As a child, we lived next door to a house that looked like the Radley house. A woman who was eccentric to be polite, crazy as a shithouse rat to be accurate, owned the house, tired of it and abandoned it. It was one of five or six. When my dad met a man who was down on his luck with no place to go, he offered to broker a deal with the woman and help the man fix up the house so he would have a place to live. My dad told him that he couldn’t live with us as he had seven kids in a three-bedroom house and couldn’t have a stranger living there. The man moved on despite my father’s urgings. Sometimes a person has a journey to make and it’s his or her journey to make alone. My dad wasn’t much for second-guessing other people’s choices. My dad was, after all, a good man. In the end, he died a horrible death—between chemotherapy and the cancer that literally smothered him slowly to death, it was not the ending that a good man deserved.
The settlement we received was a pittance (not that any amount of money would be fair competence for the loss of my dad) because the government felt it was important to protect these companies from going out of business. In today’s world where privately held companies extort pay cuts from their workers to “share the pain” so they can keep their jobs, I am reminded all over again that some companies deserve to go out of business. To cry poor mouth in hard times by asking for donations from your workforce to save a company in which they have no equity is criminal. Before the plague the job market was very tight and it promises to be again. Don’t ask me to sacrifice for the good of the company in exchange for something I already have. Companies need to be held at least as accountable for their misdeeds and stupidity as individuals. So no, I won’t soon forget these companies who were spared a fate they deserved for killing my father. I will remember George W. Bush dismissing these lawsuits as frivolous and pray every day that DubYa is smote by God and given an agonizing, painful death, hopefully from something an employer hid from him. My father was a good man, he would forgive. I am n to a good man because I will NOT forgive.
People tell me I’m a lot like my dad, but we both would disagree. I suspect my dad would be deeply disappointed in how I turned out: foul-mouthed, mean, sarcastic, and belligerent toward my colleagues. I am NOT a good man. I am not passionate about saving lives or about helping safety personnel do a better job; I’m passionate about driving the soft-headed mouthbreathers out of a function that worships stupidity like a pagan idol. I’m passionate about ending ignorance in people who cling to a lack of knowledge like it was the only lifeline keeping them from plummetting to their death. I’m passionate about opening minds and challenging closed minds. But where my father was respected, I am dismissed or despised, and the more I am the louder I get, an ever-expanding windbag.
So what prompted all this? I am putting the finishing touches on my latest book this week. It’s less about how we as a function are doing safety wrong and more about how to do it right. A handful of you will buy it and really enjoy it. Most of you won’t. I don’t blame you, I have been telling you you’re stupid for a decade and a half. I used to think that book sales were slow because most of you are cheap bastards who won’t shell out $15 bucks for a book, but that’s not it. It’s because I am not a good man. This is isn’t self-pity, I’ve been on unpaid furlough for a week, but this isn’t self-revelation. No, when I sat down at the computer to write this week’s blog I had intended to write on a subject that will be included in the book: Continuous Improvement tools that are useful in Incident Investigation and in developing a Safety Strategy when I realized that I didn’t address the very real challenge in safety: industrial illness. Something that killed my dad, my brother-in-law, and my father-in-law, and yet in my arrogance, ignorance, or just plain stupidity neglected to address. Sorry, Dad. I am not a good man,=
Stay safe and stay healthy. The only one looking out for you is you.
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?
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