The Line Continues To Blur

Another Great Post From my good friend Phil La Duke

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By Phil La Duke

Two weeks ago I wrote suggesting that we in the safety community might want to consider putting aside all the models, and complexity, and theoretical excrement in favor of a simple safety model based on sense.  Not common sense, those of you who insist on believing in “common sense” had better stop reading this and start reading Risk Makes Sense Human Judgement  by Dr. Robert Long (No, I don’t have a financial interest in the book; I just happen to think it’s a great work and an important addition to any safety practitioner’s toolbox) but sense, good judgment, simple things that yield powerful results.

This column drew a fair share of criticism and praise, as many of my articles do.  I have a lot of people preference there comments with “I don’t always agree with Phil La Duke, but…” that’s good.  If you find yourself…

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Creating a Culture of Safety Excellence

Another excellent post by my friend Phil La Duke!

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by Phil La Duke

There’s been a lot of yapping in the safety community about creating a safety culture and some of it has merit and some of it is just yapping.  In fact, there are a lot of people working in the safety profession who know as much about changing a corporate culture as they do about building an aircraft carrier.

A note about the photos in this week’s blog, I took these photos at the Detroit Institute of Arts, they are images from the mural painted in the courtyard by Diego Rivera.  A masterpiece you can only see in Detroit.


Contrary to what many will tell you, a culture is more than just “how we do things around here” it’s the codified set of behaviors that keep us from killing each other.  People who study corporate culture and change talk about culture in terms of:

  • Norms. Norms…

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Changing Your Organization’s Safety Habits

Another thought-provoking post by my Friend Phil La Duke! 🙂



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By Phil La Duke

Happy holidays.  I would blame the lack of a post last week on a “holiday hiatus” but the truth is my idea for a New Year post kept bumping up against my ideas for last week until posting it on Thursday seemed to be kind of pointless.  Since this is a completely free blog, (I neither do it while on a clock of any sort nor do I receive any compensation (direct or indirect)) I guess we can chock it up to “you get what you pay for”.

New Year is a time for resolutions and people start thinking about making changes, primarily in those habits they find less than desirable.  Last year at around this time I posted my “New Year’s Resolutions for Safety Professionals” ( ) and for those of you looking for more of the same, I’m sorry to disappoint.  After reviewing…

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Mouthing Off About Safety

Once again, another thought-provoking and interesting post by Phil La Duke.

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By Phil La Duke

There’s a lot of talk about safety.  Safety talks, reflections on safety, safety reviews, safety observations, LinkedIn discussions, forums, blogs and…well the list goes on and on.  There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of talk about safety, but does talking about safety change anything?

In 2011, Harold D. Stolovitch published the book, Telling Aint Training a book that I confess to having not read—no judgment here, I read voraciously but just haven’t gotten around to reading this particular book. Why mention a book I haven’t read? Simple: the title intrigues me (apparently not enough to shell out $17.50 for the book, or even enough to drive the approximately one mile to the public library and at least ask about checking out a copy, but that’s neither here nor there.) I’ve known for years that people, at least adults, don’t learn from having things told…

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You Can’t Test Safety Compentency With Your Crappy Tests

Truer words were never spoken! Another good and thought-provoking post by Phil La Duke!

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by Phil La Duke

If you’re hoping to ensure that the people taking your safety training have learned the material , then you probably use a posttest (a test given at the end of the session), and if you wrote this test it probably sucks. I used to write tests for a living and I am continually disgusted by what passes for an evaluative instrument—even those that have been created by professional trainers. The problem stems from the fact that most of us grew up taking really poorly designed tests and when tasked with creating a test of our own we tend to emulate what we know.

Is it a problem that our tests suck? Yes (and to those of you who think my use of the word “suck” is crude, in poor taste, or unprofessional I say got straight to hell—when you start creating tests that don’t suck…

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Working In the Line of Fire

More great insight from Phil La Duke.

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By Phil La Duke

When someone dies in the workforce through no fault of his or her own it’s undeniably a tragedy.  But in many people’s minds, line of fire injuries—those injuries that result when a worker places his or her body in the direct path of  a serious hazard—the injured worker must bear at least some culpability for his or her injury. It’s especially easy to dismiss a line of fire injury as the worker’s “own damned fault”, but is it?

Before I continue I should disclose something about myself that could bias me on this topic: my grandfather died on the job from a line of fire injury.  In the case of my grandfather, he was driving a tractor (he was a farmer in the 1950’s having left a lucrative career installing conveyor belts—a job that required extensive travel—so that he could spend more time at home with…

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Safety Isn’t Immune to Hiring for Technical Skills and Firing for Interpersonal Skills

Spot on Phil. Knowledge of Safety and the Ability to work “with”, rather than against employees is essential to fostering a great safety culture and a great place to work.


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hire fired

By Phil La Duke

In my last column, The Safety Side, in Fabricating and Metalworking magazine ( I wrote about personality styles and understanding how a person prefers to be treated and tempering ones style of communication to meet another’s needs can make one not only a more effective safety professional, but a very effective professional of whatever career one chooses to pursue. I posted, as is my habit, a link to the article to the many LinkedIn groups to which I belong. The response was generally positive, but not universally so.  One reader posted”

“well i’m not quite sure to agree with what you are saying. i know first hand that most employers, supervisors, or just about most anyone does not like or like working with someone who speaks their mind. and i guess i fall under that category. i say what is on my mind…

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Another interesting post by Phil LaDuke!

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By Phil La Duke

scissors 2

If you’ve made even the most cursory read of my articles and blogs you probably already know that I don’t hold much stock in Behavior Based Safety (BBS).  I believe that except for the odd statistical outlier nut-job, nobody WANTS to get hurt and unless they were designed my the Marquis De Sade you processes aren’t intended to hurt people.  If those two things are true no amount of behavior modification—whether it be incentive programs or telling people to be more careful—is going to change much of anything.  But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe unsafe behavior is the single largest cause of injuries, and if so, we have to manage those behaviors.

Before we can manage unsafe behaviors we have to understand the context in which the behaviors occur.  We can’t take effective action unless we understand precisely why people behaved in an unsafe manner.  A couple…

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Another intriguing post from Phil La Duke.

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By Phil La Duke


On Friday, I left Toronto to drive back to Detroit in a blizzard that at least one weatherman described as “the storm of the century”.  As I headed out from the Toronto office to my car, several colleagues told me to “be careful” or to “be safe”.  While the sentiments were sincere and the intentions well meaning and heartfelt, I wondered how useful this advice really was.

I want to be clear, I value the sentiments that people express when they say be careful, but it really doesn’t change my behavior.  I had a lot of time to think during my five-hour sojourn home—my policy is no cellphone use in the car, but it didn’t matter since my service wasn’t working since I was out of my home country.  It occurred to me that better advice would probably have been “is it worth the risk?”


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More great safety thoughts from Phil La Duke. Good read!!


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By Phil La Duke

 “He’s as blind as he can be, just sees what he wants to see”—John Lennon, Nowhere Man

Hazards come in many shapes and sizes—from the physical to the behavioral and all points in between.  And the efficacy with which hazards are identified to a large extent shape the overall effectiveness of your safety management system. So what happens when your personal or organizational biases prevent you from seeing things accurately and honestly?

In broad strokes you tend to find the things for which you are looking and scarce little else.  If your organization, for example, gathers most of it’s information about hazards by watching workers perform their jobs they are likely to find a host of unsafe behaviors at the expense of other hazards that are equally (or potentially more) dangerous.  Think you are immune to letting your prejudices getting in the way of your observations…

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Another great post and read by Phil LaDuke!

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By Phil La Duke


It’s starts early in our lives: “Don’t be a baby”, “Stop crying, you’re all right”. It continues through our childhood, “Toughen up, you pansy” or “walk it off”. Even when we’re adults were told to “man up” or “play through the pain”.  At a very basic level we are conditioned to see injuries as weakness, as some sign of inferiority.  Heck even the dumbest predators target the weak and the injured among their prey. And yet organizations expect us to ignore a lifetime of conditioning and openly admit our mistakes, injuries, skills deficiencies, and weaknesses. We reward and revere the strong, the burly, the toughest among us.  They are the carry over from the warrior class, knights, samurai, and warlords.  For centuries a person’s power came largely from their physical brawn and his or her ability to withstand physical punishment and survive. This is the world…

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Interesting take on employee interaction with the safety professional. It kind of lends credence to my philosophy of working with employees, rather than against them or “The Cop on the Beat” approach. You can’t enact behavioral change in that manner. 🙂

Jack Benton

Phil La Duke's Blog

By Phil La Duke


We’ve all experienced this at one time or another: you point out an unsafe act or safety violation in good faith, only to have the worker shoot back some sarcastic, rude, or juvenile comment.  It wears on you, but you’ve come to expect, accept (and probably) resent it.  Why can’t people just grow up and let you do your job?  The answer might not lie with the people with whom you interact, but rather HOW you interact with them.

In 1964 Dr. Eric Berne wrote The Games People Play, to identify and address what he describes as functional and dysfunctional social interactions. The book is a fantastic guide for interacting with workers. In the book, which has sold more than 5 million copies, Berne introduces the concept of transactional analysis that he believed was the key to interpreting social interactions.  Transactional analysis is a method…

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