I Broke Into My House … Safely

I Broke Into My House … Safely

Sometimes it helps to be vertically challenged.

I’ll get to the B&E in a bit. This story popped into my head yesterday as I was conversing with a contact of mine in Ireland. Among other things, he and I were talking about the recent trend around mental-health first aid. I’m not going to get too deep into my thoughts about that topic. For one thing, it terrifies me to think that a safety cop barely qualified to access risk would be given licence to start poking at people’s brains. I do, however, think that mental health is a huge issue. One that should be addressed… by experts. (Safety & Health is too broad, find a specialty)

What he and I did agree on was that safety professionals take on a lot of pressure and stress. He said, and I agree, that his observation of those in our field is that we’re not nearly as guarded as we should be. We care (at least some of us), but we also set ourselves up for extreme loneliness and anxiety.

That’s what reminded me about my house

If you’ve been a reader for a while, you may recall that my wife left me to go be with her parents (on a trip… back in October, relax). For those who’ve been around even longer, you know that I don’t like clutter in my pockets. It’s for that incredibly petty reason that I don’t typically carry my wife’s car key on my key ring.

The day my wife was set to return, we came up with a brilliant plan. I was going to drive her car to work, take it to the airport, and then ask one of my friends to drive me back home at the end of the day. So, that morning, I grabbed her lone car key and rushed out with the kids in tow. We were running late, of course. All of that worked fine until I got home and realized my house keys were locked inside. My only option would be to have my friend drive me back to the airport to get my garage door opener.

I don’t like putting that much on others, so I sat and scratched my head about what to do. The crazy thing is that my friend Jake had just given me back the extra key I had loaned him when he checked up on the cat a few weekends prior. We sat there parked in my driveway for a few minutes until he asked if there were any open windows.

There were… I fixed it though so don’t get any ideas

Jake boosted me over the 6′ security fence that surrounds my back yard and then I let him in. That was the first step. Then we went to the small bathroom window that I remembered leaving open that morning after I had yelled at the dog to stop barking. Jake and I made a nice little step with some bricks the previous owner of my house had left and I stepped up onto it and peered into the bathroom. The floor on the opposite side of the window did not have a convenient brick step.

I considered my options and then squeezed into the opening. Reaching out, I braced against the pony wall that segregates the toilet from the rest of the room. Using that leverage I was able to pull one leg through the window and then sit mostly upright to pull the other through. My concern was falling onto, and breaking the toilet. That didn’t happen though. In the end I was able make it look somewhat gracefull (if I do say so myself).

So how are the two stories related?

The morning of the break in was a stressful one for me. I was going through some personal stuff, I missed my wife, my kids weren’t listening, and on top of all that I had to go to work and be a “safety guy.” If that description doesn’t resonate with you, just recall how you felt the last time your phone rang at 2:13am. Nothing good happens at 2:13am.

In spite of my detailed plans, I made a critical mistake when I grabbed the lone key instead of my ring with the house keys attached. Then I left the house via the garage and closed that same garage with an opener that I would later leave parked at the airport. None of those small details were a conscious choice. They were the result of my operating within a system I had designed without consideration for the diminished state I would be working in that morning.

We’ll all be there at some point, though. It will always serve you well to consider how you’ll act on a bad day. That’s one side of the solution for sure. The other part is guarding yourself as I mentioned at the beginning. At the risk of ruffling a few feathers I’m going to suggest a few brainshifts for you safety professionals:

  • Stop saying your job is to “save lives.” It just isn’t, none of us wear capes. Your job is to educate, learn, and provide tools and programs that will allow people to to do their jobs safely. No one needs the mental anguish that comes along with thinking their “job” is to prevent everything bad that could ever happen from actually happening.
  • Don’t take things personally. You’re going to see all kinds of crazy things if you stick around this profession long enough. Some of them are stupid, some of them are ignorant, a few are even malicious. But people aren’t doing those things to spite you. Many of us could benefit from being a little less self-important. Just spread your message. What people do with it is not your burden to bear (because you can’t control that).
  • Go do something else. Aside from the fact that your friends and family probably don’t want to hear you drone on about OSHA and reflective vests all the time, you need a break too. Being “on” 24/7 is a prescription for anxiety (trust me). Loosen up and go laugh at some irreverent humor. Or eat a whole pie. Maybe go out on a date and have more than one glass of wine while talking about your favorite Netflix show. Let yourself experience some indulgences now and then.
  • Find some friends. Real ones. There are two sides to this issue. You need “safety” friends who you can bounce ideas off of. But you also need “normal” friends who will tell you to shut up and drink a beer.

The bottom line is that you need to take care of you. Miserable safety people are just miserable people. If you have any tips or tricks for keeping yourself sane, please share them. We can all use the help now and then.

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Safety Debates Are Pointless: Belief

The internet is easier to get lost in than my wife’s purse…

A few days ago I did some routine blood work. It so happens that my wife works for my doctor. That is both a blessing and a terrible curse, because I have taught her how to be mean and dark like me.

“Your blood came back positive,” I heard her say. Color rushed out of my face as my mind began to race.

“For what?” I asked, hiding my mounting fear.

“Cocaine,” she answered. I waited for her to break back in and tell me she was kidding, but she didn’t.

“HOW? That’s not even… How?” I asked. Finally she burst into laughter.

“I’m getting really good at that. I was convincing wasn’t I?” She chucked. “We didn’t even test for that, dummy. Doc want’s to talk to you about your creatinine levels though. I can squeeze you in at 4:30 today.”

In the end I was scolded for not hydrating adequately and given an otherwise good report. That didn’t stop me from going down the rabbit hole on Web M.D. and convincing myself that I was in moderate renal failure. By the time 4:30 rolled around I was actively talking myself off the ledge of panic by willing myself to “believe” there was nothing wrong with me.

Then enlightenment struck

Call it fatalist, but I suddenly realized that no amount of belief would magically change my test results. The only thing I was doing was raising my blood pressure and giving myself nausea. I’d had a really good lunch, too, so it would have been a shame to loose it.

In that moment it occurred to me that we do the same in the safety profession. Even to the extent that it causes physical stress similar to what I was experiencing. We passionately, vehemently, sometimes even harmfully proclaiming belief in things to the point that people’s perception of us (and the safety profession) becomes negative. In essence, we become radicals rather than resources. I’m sure you can sense where I’m going with this.

All accidents are preventable – no they aren’t – yes they are – no they…

I challenge you to find a safety forum on LinkedIn where that debate doesn’t come up at least 17 times. It’s rampant. There are two camps, they both have what they believe are logical arguments, and they will likely never agree. That’s fine. Ours is a philosophical field by nature. But often we forget that people come before philosophy.

Just consider this one question: If there is just one worker on your site who could never be convinced that “all accidents are preventable,” is that mantra even worth saying to him/her? I wonder how much more progress we could make if we kept our beliefs to ourselves and instead tried to demonstrate them through our actions.

What do you think?

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Rat Someone Out For Safety! (Good Stuffs)

Anyone who’s read my content probably thinks they know where this is going.

You’re wrong. To be fair I was too, but it’s a good story anyway. Sooooo, CELL PHONES.

I got a call yesterday from an old friend and former VP of a company I worked for years ago. He told me a story with a twist I wasn’t expecting.

“Jason, I’ve gotta tell you this story,” he began. “I know you’ll appreciate it.”

My friend, Mike, proceeded to tell me about his commute home the prior evening. He described looking into the next lane and noticing a woman in a Prius texting. But not just texting… TEXTING! She was “in it.” Both hands on the phone, eyes on the screen, car driving itself (they do that now… and people think Skynet is just from a movie).

Then he took his phone out…

I chuckled when he told me the next part (sorry Mike), but I get it. He’d noticed there was a company logo on the side of the car. So, he snapped a few pictures of it with his phone. That prompted him to send the following email later that evening (something he wouldn’t ordinarily do). If you saw the pictures you’d do it too. Even a Skynet Prius has it’s limits without a driver (for now).

This is the cool part

The next morning Mike received a phone call around 7 am. He answered and heard a woman’s voice.

“Mike this is _____. You ratted me out yesterday.” In my mind I imagine the seconds after that statement lingered for a while, but she continued. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m the Safety Manager!”

He told me that she sounded genuinely thankful. They found through their conversation that they are both motorcycle riders and both sensitive to the actions of other drivers. For me, though, the best part of the story was hearing about the woman’s humility and grace. We could all learn to be more receptive to corrections and criticisms. Many of them are done with good intentions even when they feel like you’re being dimed out.

And hey, even if the other person is trying to be a jackass and dime you out there is probably something worthwhile to learn from the situation. We’re imperfect beings. The best among us are the ones who learn from every opportunity. Plus, when Skynet does take over we can rest assured that it’s going to get the bullies first anyway (think about it… bullies probably aren’t the ones who are smart enough to build a computer with artificial intelligence).

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Razors Will Never Not Be Sharp

And risk will never not be risky…

A few years ago I was reading through some training slide decks for R&D (rip-off and duplicate) purposes. A HUGE, bold statement caught my eye and dropped my jaw. The statement was beyond asinine at first blush, but I wanted to test my opinion. So, I texted my friend Rich (who you may recall is much taller and MUCH older than I am). I saved the texts because I knew I would want to retell the story some day.

Me: Have you ever cut yourself shaving?

Rich: Of course.

Me: Did you CHOOSE to?

Rich: No, but I learned not to shave while drinking.

The texts went on for much longer and devolved into comments that I probably shouldn’t ever publish. I don’t need people knowing how twisted I am in real life. Suffice it to say that our friendship is partly predicated on an unspoken challenge to see who can say something so vile that the other can no longer reply. For the record, Rich is the only person who can beat me at that game.

The statement was… well… something

The slide that had caught my attention proudly (and boldly) read: If you believe all accidents are preventable, then you have to believe ALL accidents are a choice!

While I’m fully aware there are many who think things like that, I’m still amazed when people try to sell their non sequitur arguments to others as fact. The part that bothered me wasn’t the touting of the tired “all accidents are preventable” mantra (let me pause there while the pious among us stop reading). What bothered me was the second statement. I can’t wrap my head around any reason why it would be helpful to tell people that. It certainly won’t do anything to stop people from getting hurt. But it will offend those who have been.

No one goes to work to get hurt, right?

In my post titled The Dark Place I alluded to injuries I experienced while serving in the Air Force. That post described the resulting pain and my struggle with the medication. The first of those injuries began as a muscle strain and snowballed into nerve damage I still deal with daily. I can tell you categorically that I didn’t choose to injure myself. I absolutely made a mistake and put my body in a weak position, but not with the intent of causing harm. I did it because I thought my actions would accomplish the task without undue risk. I was wrong.

We are imperfect creatures who make decisions based on the information and experience we have at a any one moment in time. As I described in THIS POST, we don’t always have enough (or correct) information to avoid disaster. To label someone’s misfortune as a choice is not just offensive, it is outright dismissive of reality.

The razor is the key

When dealing with risk you have two basic choices: Remove it or Compensate for it. Removal is always preferable, but not always practical. So, we compensate. Compensation always comes with a chance of failure. When the failure results in injury, it doesn’t mean someone wanted to get hurt, it means their compensation wasn’t adequate. Our goal should be to learn that lesson and do better next time.

The only way to ensure you never cut yourself while shaving is to stop using a razor to shave. Switching to an electric may help, but as I see it, only growing a beard or electrolysis can guarantee no cuts. If you choose to grow a beard, get some Christmas lights to hang in it. ‘Tis the season:

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Let’s Give Back: MOVEMBER (Good Stuffs)

We may not have the answers, but lets find them

Back in May I was contacted by a reader with a blog topic request about mental health. It was a heavy one. His story was incredible, yet hard to process. Those who know me well, know that I’ve struggled through some dark times and dark places, but everyone’s experience is different and I have been pondering what I could/should add to the conversation almost daily since receiving his email.

I’m not a mental health expert by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. In some ways I feel unqualified to even broach the subject. In other ways I think that feeling is just selfish. Because if something I write encourages or motivates just one person to stay here and live, the words are worth it.

The email, as I mentioned, was heavy. In it, the reader recounted how struggling with depression, he was placed on a “work improvement” program by his employer. In the midst of that added stress he attempted to commit suicide. While recovering on disability his employer accelerated the work improvement timeline. Then, upon returning to work, he was terminated.

Thankfully, he is still alive and working things out. I know from being in my own DARK PLACE, however, that it’s easy to go back. It takes support, daily commitment, and knowledge we may not have yet.

Enter the Movember Foundation

My colleague Tim Sanken contacted me a few days ago with a great idea and proposal. Over the last few years, Tim has raised an incredible amount of money with the Movember Foundation to help end men’s suicide. I’m sure many of you are aware, as I was, that the month of November typically has an accompaniment of men growing terrible mustaches. What I didn’t realize is that there is a great reason behind the movement.

It all started with the Movember Foundation. Tim and his team (which I am now happily a part of) have set a goal to raise $10,000 this month that will go directly to support men’s health issues. Everything from prostate cancer, to mental health, and suicide prevention.

This is such a worthy cause when you consider the impact it can have. Consider these facts:

  • 6 of every ten suicides is a male
  • Globally, 1 man dies of suicide every minute of every day’
  • The Movember Foundation has funded over 1,250 men’s health projects in the US and around the world*

What if our contributions could end just one of those tragic, unnecessary deaths? I think it would be worth it.

Please consider joining Tim and myself on Tim’s Movember Stachers

To speak with someone immediately, contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) or Lifeline Crisis Chat.
If life is in danger, call 911 or go directly to emergency services.
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I Know Everything About Safety

Don’t you?

That’s a ridiculous statement, obviously. But, I’ve actually met people who would argue to the death that they know everything. I’m sure many of you have, too.

For example, I guy I knew once “grew” an Irish accent (a terrible one) every time he drank Jameson because he wanted to be Irish (unless I see 23andMe results stating otherwise I’m sticking with he most certainly wasn’t). This guy also claimed he was an ex-Special Forces Operator (trainee) who once ate a scorpion during a training exercise in order to avoid being caught. His training records and less-than-operator-status physique argued otherwise. But not everyone is pathological. Some people just… I don’t know.

I can’t really speculate as to why some people feel the need to overly embellish or seem all-knowing. Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s insecurity, maybe it’s peer pressure. I don’t know. I just know it’s wrong. People see through BS. In safety, too much of it will turn people off to the message.

Personally, I stop listening to the message and looking for the errors when I know people blow smoke. Even if they have something worth listening to I miss it. That’s a shame, and admittedly partially my fault. My point though, is that credibility is on the line every time we talk. Its been my experience that you can get a lot more of it by being honest about what you know. And what you don’t know.

I had some fun with this one

This past weekend I shot my second “Safety Snake Bite” video for safeopedia.com. Check it out below or on their YouTube channel. Give it a watch and let me know what you think. And if you’re interested in reading the original account of when this took place (I really didn’t make it up), check out this post: https://relentlesssafety.com/you-call-that-safety-training/

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

The video was a lot of fun, but I think the topic deserves even more attention. I talk with other professionals, read, research, and ponder safety just as much (if not more than) as anyone. This topic didn’t so much pop into my head as it has been sitting there waiting for years. It simply amazes me that there are so many who would rather wing-it than learn it. That’s a disservice for more than one reason:

  • As previously mentioned, people know when you’re full of it.
    • I once sat in a meeting in which a particular type of consulting was being proposed for a company. One of the participants chimed in and said “I’ve dealt with these types 8 specific times in my career. One was great, two were awful, and the other four were just so-so.” Anyone with basic math skills could tell he was making up his example. I don’t remember anything else he said and would wager no one else does either.
  • False information perpetuates itself.
    • Anyone who’s worked in the safety field knows it’s hard enough to get the right message to stick. Every time one of us makes up a rule or gives out incorrect guidance, it plants a seed that may grow into a mess people have to wade through on their way to safe work.
  • We owe people good information.
    • In theory, regardless of who the recipient is, the information a safety professional shares is going to be used to aid in safely completing work. If our guidance is faulty, so too might be the work plan.

If you’ve never thought about your credibility, maybe it’s time to consider what you say. Everyone will be incorrect at times, and that’s fine. Learning and growing should be our focus though. People who get stuck thinking there’s only one way to things have a hard time doing that.

On a side note, if you can do killer accents when you drink hit me up. I’m love hearing cool new stories. Maybe we can chat over a nice dried scorpion (affiliate link):

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