I don’t mean to pick on you - not much, anyway - but "posing a risk to its
membership"??? How did we get from "Honey, where's the Bactine?" to
"Warning, Will Robinson! Danger! Aspergillus!"
While I would support a session at the ARMA conference on botanical
hazards in the workplace, I probably wouldn't go to it. I'd also support
a session on why eating three double cheeseburgers a day was bad for you,
but I wouldn't go to that one either; unless they were handing out free
double cheeseburgers. The one on why you shouldn't test for natural gas
leaks with a flaming torch would have to get along without me, too. I would
go to the one about Here's Twelve Videos About Why Bathing Suits Shouldn't
Be Made Out Of Crackers. I'd go twice.
If ARMA announced that it was hiring an epidemiologist to produce
scholarly booklets on why certain molds are bad for you, but also
announced that it was raising the annual membership dues by $20 a year to
pay for the chap, the resulting hue and cry would be deafening. Besides,
from time to time one needs to remember that ARMA is not a union, it is an
Association, not unlike the Jolly Brotherhood of Guys with Similarly
Appointed Warts; and as such, while it may and does speak authoritatively,
it does not speak with the sort of authority that compels. I'm sure ARMA
would like to see all of us making $80,000 a year, but don't think they
could make it a reality no matter how many statisticians, demographers and
accountants they hired.
And in any event, what would be the point? Everyone in the biz already
knows that certain things are bad for you, or at least suspects that certain
things are bad for you, and knowing that a certain flavor of aspergillus
caused liver dysfunction in white rats in laboratories isn't going to make
any difference because everyone's innate sense of the Icky is already
sounding the alarm; it is, paraphrasing you, Nature's way of saying "Ewwww!
Yuck!" or "Dammit; just look what I stepped in!" You don't seriously
suppose that collecting mold samples in petri dishes is ever going to become
standard operating procedure - at least not in Knowledge Management (KM:
"[Winston] had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother" ... but
that's another story) - and for that matter, why stop there? I can see it
now: "On Wall Street today, brisk trading in Orkin propelled the Dow-Jones
to the 15,000 mark". If one's only choices are a mycotoxin sammitch or
vermin that can pole-vault, I'll take some cheese and yogurt and truffles
with the sammitch, and we'll have a mold family reunion inside the
Gastrointestinal Hilton; and I do not think I would be alone in that regard.
I'm not wild about immobile fungi, but I REALLY don't like ambulatory
spiders and snakes....
But of course, those are NOT the only choices.
Knowledge Management is no more fraught with life-threatening scenarios than
any other occupation, and as is the case in the others, common sense counts
for something. More people died at Chappaquiddick than have died from
exposure to records; and more blood will be shed by people cutting
themselves on broken petri dishes than at the hands of the Teenage Mutant
Ninja Mycotoxins. More Knowledge Managers have been injured by dropping
boxes on their footies than have been harmed by exposure to uranium
isotopes, and I would bet that at no nuclear power facility in the country
will you find posted signs advising the employees to not fiddle with the
radioactive material; nor will there be signs saying "Do not drop box on
your foot" in the Knowledge Management Department. I will accept the
suggestion that I alone will be laughing when that Australian moron who
persists in antagonizing crocodiles and venomous adders finally gets his
comeuppance, but it won't be true, and you know it; a whole lot of us will
be delighted. And you see the connection: there are some things you just
KNOW to not do. Don't drop the box on your foot; don't touch the uranium;
don't stick your head in a crocodile's mouth; mold is icky. The Little
Voice might whisper in the normal course of a day; but you have to concede
that occasionally it just simply SHOUTS. It shouldn’t take a White paper
from ARMA to get a person to listen to it.
I am not a CRM, and unlikely to become one. If being able to determine
which floor tiles contained asbestos was made a part of the curriculum, or
if I was to be graded based on the neatness of my science project on
"Penicillin: You Just THINK It's Your Friend!", then "unlikely" would give
way to "fergit it".
In spite of my little bit of poking at you, I do think that you have,
however inadvertently, raised an extremely important issue. It is not,
alas, the toxicity or ickitudinosity of various fungi, for that is a given;
or should be. No, the excellent point which you have uncovered is that,
since so many of us have had these unsavory experiences with real-time
biology, we will no doubt have learned that our respective staffs are not to
be blithely subjected to such vile working environments; that not only will
we readily agree to requests for protective masks and gloves and clothing,
but will in fact proactively insist on them; that we will not send our
troops where we would not ourselves agree to go; that equipment - ladders,
lifts, carts, etc. - which helps to ensure the health and well-being of our
subordinates is every bit as important as the latest version of a database
program or newest model of a scanner; and that we must at all times when an
employee's health is at stake err on the side of caution, and not on
expediency, frugality, or even on service to our respective organizations.
Harry F. Paget
>From: Hugh Smith <[log in to unmask]>
>Reply-To: Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Has ARMA concerned itself with health risks to RMs?
>Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 06:11:24 -0800
>Based on comments from Diane and others on the List as well as some horror
>stories sent via email, I was wondering.....Does ARMA put out educational
>documents and guidelines on this type of risk to its members? Shouldn't
>there be an annual seminar at ARMA International to discuss health risks,
>discuss safety procedures, alert you to the different types of dangers that
>It would seem that a simple testing kit could be used to determine what we
>are dealing with. A series of small petrie dishes touched to the various
>types of suspect molds and mailed into a testing lab would do it.
>Also, I am surprized by the number of times I come across asbestos in old
>warehouses and the RM and staff are unaware what it is.
>Is this kind of knowledge part of the CRM educational program? The
>mycotoxins I have read about are life threatening. Many times allergic
>reactions are natures way of saying ....DANGER! In two days of posts we are
>learning that something that we were just curious about is posing a risk to
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