Friday, February 10, 2017

Gettin’ Closer



It’s a beautiful day up here at the Old Place. Of course every day is a beautiful day.  People ask me all the time, “Col. Jim what is it about the Old Place anyway? It’s a long drive up there, there isn’t a movie theater and the phone reception is terrible.” I tell them, I just feel closer to my Lord up here. When the Our Lord raised his good friend Lazarus, the Gospels tell us that Jesus "groaned in spirit." Jesus' pain comes from his identification with his flawed, sinful, human brothers and sisters, us.  He goes all the way to the bottom of it, letting this truth deeply affect him. Jesus does not just love us abstractly or from a distance. He comes close to us.  So what’s it got to do with safety?

This groaning of Jesus is the pain of our own imprisonment, not within the tomb but within ourselves. When we risk injury or death by working in an unsafe manner or using unsafe tools, does Jesus groan any less for us?  It is the same groan made by our loved ones when we are injured or killed because we committed an unsafe act. "Why did he do that?  He knew better!"  Bringing this closer, Jesus wept for Lazarus. It is heartbreaking for it is the only time in the Scripture that Jesus is described as weeping. Whatever the result of the unsafe act: be it physical injury, death, psychological trauma or spiritual loss, it is something deeply troubling to our friends, families and to God Himself.

There is another telling moment in the story, when Jesus asks Lazarus’ sister, "Where have you laid him?"  Just as Adam and Eve hid from God, so Lazarus is hidden from Jesus, by the depth of his own grief. While sin alienates us from Our Father, making us strangers to Him, the unsafe act alienates us from ourselves and others.  We effectively move further away when we create the danger ourselves and in effect, hide it. Closeness comes when refuse to commit the unsafe act. The danger is removed by never having been created.

Finally, Our Lord walks up to the tomb. The stone is rolled aside and he shouts, "Lazarus, come out!"  Are there any more stirring words in the whole New Testament? When injury or death occurs due to an unsafe act we committed or failed to stop, we can become locked in the tomb of our own guilt, anxiety, sadness or fear. God, however, gives us a power, a divine power, sent into this world.  A power whose very purpose is to break the stones, deny the tomb. . . to save a life. We can say, “Lazarus, STOP, let me hold that ladder for you buddy; hey turn off that weedeater and lets get you some safety glasses; turn that pot handle in so it doesn't get knocked off the stove and burn someone.

"And the dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." So Jesus said, "Untie him and let him go." Unsafe acts bind us and blind us.  When we choose to work safe, our work brings us closer to God. 

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, I am Col. Jim.

Friday, February 3, 2017

It Follows

The Old Place is known for its blood pressure lowering qualities.  The calling of the birds, the gurgle of the creek as it tumbles over the weir and the gentle soughing of the breeze that wafts through the branches all combine, to create a symphony of peace. It is, the antithesis of Facebook. There is no need to tell anyone, "What's On Your Mind," because you are up there to get things Off Your Mind.  There is no need to "Comment" because there is nothing to comment on.  There is no need to "Poke" anyone because the one you want to be with is already there, yourself.  It is not even necessary to ask any of the other denizens of the lake what's on their mind or even their opinions on a topic.  It is not that we are iconoclast or anything; we have just known each other for so long that each pretty much knows what the other thinks.  So, what's it got to do with safety?  A well worn question, but no less valuable for having been asked a time or two.

There appears to have been a certain degree of displeasure recently over some of the actions of our newly inaugurated POTUS.  Now before you blow your stack, take a deep breath and think of Queen Ilsa or if you prefer, a mother giraffe.  Then, "Let It Go," or just Drop It!   If all the wealthy Star Chamber Illuminati Knights Templar Conservatives could not get rid of former president Obama, then what chance do you lot have?  All you are doing is embarrasing yourselves and establishing your reputations.  Remember your faces and actions will be out there. . . FOR-EVER!  The internet, never forgets.  It will be there when you apply to college and later when you apply for a job.  It will be there when you meet the parents.  It will be there when you try to adopt a child.  It will be there when you try to woo a new client or apply for a loan.  It will be there to ruin your credibility in court or when you testify before a Senete Subcommittee.  Finally, lest you scoff and think all this the ravings of another, "stupid" Conservative, it will be there when you run for POTUS yourself.  Don't believe me?  Just ask former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodam-Clinton. . .

(By the way, these points apply to all rablerousers, regardless of their political stripe.)

The old porch creaks as you rock, sure one nail would probably fix it but why?

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place I am, Col. Jim.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Good, Safe Change. You Can Do It.



Things don’t change much up here at the Old Place.  The fish bite in the same places on the lake, and the quiet honking of the big Canada geese is heard year round.  While the seasons do change, here in the South, that doesn’t mean much.  The great winter of 2017 will be remembered; after all it lasted what, three days?  That’s part of what we love about life at the Old Place.  In the outside world though, change is inevitable.  I grew up with change watching “Superman” on the old black and white Magnavox.  George Reeve would dash into the store room wearing his street clothes and leap out the window a moment later, changed, transformed from the mild manner reporter into the invincible Man of Steel. My grandmother, Nora taught me about change with stories of the mysterious east where the cunning horseman Rewagunga changed into the beautiful Afghan jihadist, Yasmini.  And who can forget how the leopard changed his spots with a little help from his Ethiopian friend who had, “just a little color left over on the fingertips of his fine new black skin.”  Yes, change is inevitable my brothers and sisters and just like the leopard and the Ethiopian, it is time for some of you to change as well. Change is never easy. Remember what the country just went through to get some change in Washington D.C.?  Sometime change is brought on by necessity, other times it is forced on us, at bayonet point!  Since the start of the New Year, I have noticed a change.  Every morning on the local news there are four or five ads for trial lawyers, some of them with jingles no less! These ads include lots of satisfied customers gleefully sharing stories of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they received from big truck wrecks and other targets of opportunity.

So what’s it got to do with safety?  Well you may ask, those employers who do not have proactive, preemptive and effective safety programs may soon be out of business.  It may say, “Joes Landscape Service” on the side of your truck, but what it really says is, “Please Sue Me.”  Transportation is your greatest potential liability.  Some thieves, that is what they are, will sometimes pull in front of your truck and hit the brakes, causing a crash!  I know a fella who has proudly and successfully sued and collected on no less than four wrecks with some company’s truck!  It has gotten so bad that companies like Walmart, Home Depot and others use independent trucking companies. Can you remember the last time you saw an Exxon or Shell tank truck?  Gone. . . Change!

First off, train your drivers what to do after a crash: call in immediately, if trained, give first aid, take detailed pictures of vehicles involved, take pictures of other drivers’ license and insurance card, but speak only to the investigating officer.  And never, ever apologize or admit guilt

"But I’m not a big company,” you say. “Sure I have a fleet of pickup trucks I need to do business.”  Okay, then ask yourself, do my drivers know how to maneuver a long trailer?  Have I checked their driving record and run a credit check?  Are they drug and alcohol free on the job?  Have I ridden with them on their rounds?  If not, maybe it is time for a change.  Training such as annual Defensive Driving classes, parking lot practice sessions, even operator rodeos build confidence and a sense of pride in driving skills.  Annual awards: best driving record, cleanest, best maintained truck and tool trailer can also improve driver safety and performance.  Good, Safe, Change!  You can do it.

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, I am, Col. Jim

Friday, January 20, 2017

Back Down

When a was a little chap, my Dad, Fred, made sure I would have a craft to fall back on if times got hard.  We built barns and fences for the 4-H project and did all the maintenance work at home and up here at the Old Place.  It was the best time of my life.  It wasn't work, I was just having fun with Dad. Now, regardless of where we were working, what we were working on or who we were working with safety was always there. Good, honest, safe labor, but what happens when someone is GUILTY, guilty of an unsafe act, like. . . Improper Lifting!  Sheriff, slap the cuffs on and Mirandise this poor person. . .

Sheriff - "You have the right to remain silent.  If you give up the right to remain silent (and you most likely will) anything you say while screaming from the pain will be heard up and down the street!  You have the right to an attorney, but even he will not be able to take your pain away.  Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?"

Okay, so I'm having a little fun with you folks.  Odds are you all know how to lift safely.  The challenge is actually doing it.  Most back injuries are not the result of trauma but rather from bending over or twisting while lifting.

The curious thing is, it doesn’t matter how much you are lifting.  Just bending over to pick up paper off the floor can cause an injury that could leave you debilitated for months.  Yes, months!

Rehabbing a bulging disc takes serious drugs, often several epidurals in your back and serious physical therapy.  This  Is  Going  To  Hurt. . . A  Lot!

That’s the bad news.  The good news is you can prevent back injuries by simply taking the time to lift correctly: bend your knees, keep your head up, put one foot slightly ahead of the other and (Wtih appologies to Chubby Checker) do not Twist for any reason.   Instead do a little Cajun Two-Step an' move you' feet yeah!

Do that, and always get help with awkwardly shaped loads, any load over 30 pounds or any time you are unsure. The most important thing to remember is to STOP and take a moment to assess the situation you are facing.  Ask yourself:
  • Is there a lot of stuff to handle?  The more you have to do, the more likely you will lose focus, become tired and forget to lift safely.
  • Is the work area congested?  Could you slip, trip or fall down?
  • Are there things in your way that you will have to reach over?
It only takes a second to injure your back so severely that your pain will be almost unendurable.  And remember, you will not be able to return to work for a while, especially if you sit at a desk. This  Is  Going  To  Cost  Money!

Oh and one last thing.  If you are the one who has to take care of the injured person:
  • You will miss work too
  • You will get very little sleep too, and to add insult to injury. . .
  • If you are not very careful, you could injure your back just helping out!  
Are you guilty of unsafe lifting?  Think about it. . .

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, I am Col. Jim.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Time Goes On


Up here at the Old Place it is as though time stands still.  Children still swing from a Tarzan rope and drop into the lake.  The Holdens still run a General Store, with feed n seed, heck they even have a pay phone over on the wall by the pickle jar.   (One day I will have to tell you Col. Eric Bertolet's "Pickle Jar" story; it is a good one.)  

As my 60th birthday started looming, (and has now past) I began to think more and more about time.  Today we are going to step outside the realm of our regular safety chats and into the world of quantum physics specifically tachyons and their theoretical ability to travel backward in time.  

Now hold on folks, before you all go asking, “what’s it got to do with safety," think of the classic paradox of time: What would happen if I traveled back in time and accidentally killed my father, before he ever met my mother?  Now, if that happened, how could I ever be born and if could never be born, how could I travel back in time and accidentally kill my own father?  

Of course since science has proven the existence of parallel universes and possibly even parallel realities, that paradox is no longer a concern.  Well terrific you say, let’s break out the beer n pretzels!  The parents and grandparents of the world no longer have to worry about homicidal offspring from the future!  Well, not exactly.  There are many differing views and opinions of time.

Here is an old favorite from Star Trek - Generations:  “Time, is like a predator, stalking you. You can try and outrun it with doctors, medicines, and technologies but in the end, time is going to hunt you down... and make the kill.”  Now that is creepy.

How about Albert Einstein, the fella who started all this time business in the first place.  He said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen all at once.”

The author Isak Dinesen said, “You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future.”  I like that one; people do that way too often.

Now, the inevitable Shakespeare quote, “Time is the justice that examines all offenders.”  Or be careful which selflies you post!

We safety professionals frequently use this Daymond John quote: “Time is the cruelest teacher; first she gives the test, then she teaches the lesson.”  Now that gets peoples' attention!

Getting back to tachyons and time, scientists are convinced that while people cannot physically travel through time we could sent messages using tachyon pulses similar to the old Morse code.  Ah, just imagine the wrongs we could right, the suffering we could prevent, the lives we could save!  Slow down Col. Jim, didn't we not just say that we could not affect our own past, only some alternate reality?   Hmm, we did say that didn’t we. . .

So what’s it got to do with safety?  Absolutely nothing.  I guess when it comes to accidents and injuries; there really is no going back.  

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place I am, Col. Jim.