Setting The Record Straight–How Your Job Will Kill You

Setting The Record Straight – How Your Job Will Kill You

After we published the article “How Your Job Will Kill You”, the author, Phil LaDuke, copped a bit of a barrage of flack from his fellow Safety Professionals. Here is his no punches pulled response – ENJOY!

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Recently I guest blogged a piece about if you were to die in a workplace accident what were some of the ways that you were more likely to die that might surprise you. I was taken to task in some LinkedIn group discussions for what some saw as gross inaccuracies, misleading statements, and a sundry list of complaints from the great unwashed. In some cases the criticisms were justified (I did tend to take a North Americancentric view of the world, which given that I was posting to an Australian blog site, one could be forgiven for getting a bit chuffed at my good old fashion American arrogance but then again since I do have a healthy dose of American arrogance, I have to confess that it doesn’t bother me all that much. But in the interest of fairness, I would like to take just a moment to set the record straight on a couple of issues that have come up in the LinkedIn forums.

1) While traffic fatalities are a top killer of workers in the U.S. this is not necessarily true across the globe, particularly in areas of the world where most business transportation is done via mass transit. So statistically speaking you probably won’t get killed in a car accident as a driver or a passenger, although a fair amount will still die on the job because you have been STRUCK by a car, taxi, bus, moped, motorcycle, etc. The point being is that while we tend to think of workplace fatalities as being the product of an industrial process gone wrong, the most dangerous activities might not be in the traditional workplace at all.

2) Even in the U.S. traffic accidents isn’t the top killer of workers. The top killer of workers is homicide, and this is typically in the course of a robbery and is typically a killer of sales professionals. I intentionally omitted this topic because, a) it is a deliberate act not an accident, b) it tends to disproportionately effect one profession (i.e. sales), and c) in most cases this isn’t considered a safety issue it is considered a security issue.

3) Several people wondered why I didn’t mention stress. Simple, it is impossible to say whether the stress that kills you comes from your job, your nagging spouse, your gambling addition, your bratty, spoiled, ungrateful kids, or any of a darned-near infinite number of other sources of stress. Because we can’t rule out these other sources of stress we can’t definitively say that job stress will kill you, hell it might make you stronger so stop whining about it and get back to work.

4) Exposure risks. Many readers seemed to miss the third paragraph that dealt with this issue. Reading comprehension people! Certainly exposure risks are a big killer of workers, and what’s worse, we often don’t know the full extent of the danger of exposure to a hazard until symptoms occur and it’s too late to do much about it. Today’s benign substance is tomorrow’s asbestos.

5) One sharp-eyed reader noted that “falls from heights” are far less common that “slip, trip, or falls”. If you take a look at the article I never delineated between a fall from a height or a fall that resulted from a slip or trip. Yes, I did mention that a quarter of fatal falls happen at heights from less than ten feet, but I think I am on safe footing (I couldn’t resist the pun) by saying that deaths resulting from “slips, trips, and (wait for it…) FALLS probably occur at less than 6 feet (assuming the person isn’t, you know, 6′ 8” tall).

6) Many readers also pointed to a lot of hazards that are far more likely to INJURE a worker and extrapolated that it therefore followed that it would be far more likely someone would die as a result. Don’t listen to them. They’re idiots. That’s not how statistics work, just because there are 10 times as many people getting a contusion from bumping their shins into a storage rack doesn’t mean that they are 10 times more likely to die from a contusion. And by the way, I made up that ration so if you are one of those people who says, “actually you are 11.45 times more likely…” you can shut your pie holes.

Overall, most of you got the point, and I appreciate that, but for you dullards who missed it the first time, here it is: PEOPLE TEND TO TAKE MORE CARE TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM THINGS THAT HAVE LITTLE CHANCE OF KILLING THEM WHILE THEY ARE FAIRLY CAVOLIER ABOUT THINGS THAT ARE LIKELY TO KILL THEM.

Authors Bio:

La Duke is the author of a weekly safety blog, and is a partner in the Performance Improvement practice at ERM

Phil LaDuke

Phil LaDuke

Principle and Partner at ERM
Phil LaDuke
Phil La Duke is a principle and partner in Environmental Resources Management (ERM) a leading global provider of environmental, health, safety, risk, and social consulting services. With over 140 offices in 40 countries and nearly 6,000 top professionals, ERM can help you wherever you find yourself doing business. At ERM we are committed to providing a service that is consistent, professional, and of the highest quality to create value for our clients. Over the past five years we have worked for more than 50% of the Global Fortune 500 delivering innovative solutions for business and selected government clients helping them understand and manage the sustainability challenges that the world is increasingly facing. Phil works primarily in the Performance and Assurance practice at ERM; a speaker, author, consultant, trainer, provocateur…Phil La Duke wears many hats. As an expert in safety, training, organizational development, and culture change, Phil and ERM can help you motivate your workforce, conduct safety performance assessments, help you to build robust training infrastructures, craft interventions to improve how your work place values safety, provide insights to your executive staff, and craft and execute business solutions. If you’re interested in what Phil La Duke and ERM can do for you, or if you would like to inquire about employment opportunites at ERM, contact Phil at

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