Interview with Safety Leader Phil La Duke (Part Two)

Interview with Safety Leader Phil La Duke (Part Two)

Safety Leader Phil La Duke

Thanks for joining us for part two of our interview with Phil La Duke, partner at Environmental Resource Management and a thought leader in the world of workplace safety.

You can read part one here.


TalentClick: What are your thoughts on Behavior-Based Safety? Have you seen successes in organizations using it?

Phil La Duke:
BBS is antiquated thinking that produces short-term culture changes and builds a safety bureaucracy. As I stated, BBS ignores that fact that we have scarce little ability to change people’s behaviors using behavior modification. This is far less effective when we try to modify the behavior of populations. If even half the claims made by people who sell BBS were true, we would be able to eliminate crime, war, and a host of social ills.

Additionally, as we learn more about the physiology of the human brain—and in the past few years there has been some fantastic advances in our understanding of how the human brain works—we see that human beings are prone to make mistakes and often make poor judgements.

I have seen more and more organizations dump BBS systems because they don’t see the value. But when you have people who have spent their entire careers extolling the benefits of BBS they are going to fight like cornered rats to defend its effectiveness. Personally I just don’t see it.


TalentClick: There is a lot of talk about Online Safety Training becoming the next big thing. Do you see value in shifting training online?

Phil La Duke:
My degree is in adult education and for many years I have developed training for organizations so this is an issue in which I am keenly interested. Online safety training has its place, but let’s not pretend it is going to be a panacea.

The most effective way of training workers will always be a blended approach that employs a variety of methods depending on what is most appropriate. I think there is a real danger of providing training on some topics completely on-line and further there is a lot of poorly designed on-line safety training out there. On the other hand, I have had to complete regulatory training (for example before working for a given customer or industry) and I found online training to be a convenient and effective alternative.

I wouldn’t want to share the road with someone who learned to drive solely from an online course, or have heart surgery from a doctor who learned how to do by-pass surgery from an online course. Again, it has its place, but let’s not sacrifice quality in favor of convenience.


TalentClick: What is one of your favorite things to hear from your clients?

Phil La Duke:
By far my favorite thing I hear from my clients is that they are still seeing benefits from culture changes that I helped them make going back 5–10 years ago. I like hearing that they are continuing to succeed without me; I have always hated the parasitic relationship that some vendors cultivate with their clients.

I also had a client tell me that what he valued most about me is that I was an “executer”. When I asked him what he meant he explained that most consultants come in with big ideas that don’t work and blame the client for the failure, but I came in and helped them figure out what needed to be done and then I did it. He loved my turn-key approach.


TalentClick: If there was one strategy leaders could implement immediately, what would you recommend?

Phil La Duke:
Embed safety in every aspect of Operations and shift responsibility for safety to Operations.


TalentClick: Finally, anything exciting coming up our readers should know about?

Phil La Duke:
I think there are a lot of exciting things looming in safety, but in particular I like Rockwell’s 3Cs of safety. Rockwell believes that the best approach to safety is to attack safety on three fronts: Compliance, Capital, and Culture. I think we are going to see more holistic approaches like this, but I really believe a combination of compliance (the true foundation of safety), capital (let’s face it we need to engineer in more safety solutions, and Rockwell and others have made some amazing technological advances in this area) and of course culture.


Big Thanks to Phil La Duke!

We’d like to give a huge thanks to our guest Phil La Duke! Be sure to visit Phil’s weekly safety blog or check out Phil’s company, Environmental Resources Management (ERM).

You can also connect with Phil on LinkedIn and ERM on Twitter.