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Simple Sabotage: Basic Rules to Influence Productive and Safe Behavior By Brian McKay


subscribe to an email list service called Atlas Obscura whose mission is to send me interesting diversions throughout the week— every week—along with a bit of suggestive advertising. Topics may include anything from the best haunted houses to visit in Michigan, interesting places to take your dog, or any of a long list of important items, places, or occurrences happening in the world without me. One of these diversions recently piqued my interest more so than the others. It was a small offering about a declassified piece of World War II nostalgia called the Simple Sabotage Field Manual. The Simple Sabotage Field Manual, dated 17 January 1944, was written under the guidance of and signed by none other than William “Wild Bill” Donovan himself. Wild Bill was America’s first lead spy. He is known, according to Wikipedia, as the “Father of Central Intelligence” and during World War II ran the Office of Strategic Services, better known as the OSS. The job of the OSS was to coordinate the espionage activities between US Armed Forces and other allied powers, execute missions, and generally wreak havoc on axis powers. This manual was part of that havoc planning.

Intent is to Teach

The intent of the Simple Sabotage Field Manual is to teach a low level of “simple sabotage” to personnel across a broad range of activities, including personnel working “behind the lines.” Simple sabotage refers to acts or omitted activities that don’t require any “formal” sabotage activities such as the use of explosives or any other complex, multi-discipline operations. Simple sabotage is based on “universal opportunities to make faulty decisions, to adopt a non-cooperative attitude, and to induce others to follow suit” according to the manual. Simple sabotage acts are those that may not even be realized at first glance but will strategically lessen the overall effectiveness of opponents through decreases in efficiency, bottlenecks, worn out equipment, or incorrect field orders. These acts can be committed by the common man or the “citizen saboteur” with little preparation or tools, just the right havoc wreaking attitude which may, after all, be the “human element” in the overall act of sabotage “responsible for accidents, delays, and general obstruction under normal conditions.” My radar for “things that I can steal and use in safety management” pinged after reading that last passage in the manual. The “human element” responsible for accidents and delays? General obstruction and normal conditions? These are the bread and butter of my life’s work. The Simple Sabotage Field Manual would actually be a pretty decent safety manual if it were written in a “don’t” rather than a “do” frame of mind. The following passage from the manual illustrates 74

this point: “In basements where janitorial supplies are kept, allow oily and greasy waste to accumulate as this will sometimes combust.” For the simple saboteur, this is gold. Such housekeeping issues are routinely overlooked even in today’s risk-averse working conditions, but accumulating waste in an out of sight, out of mind utility closet is a recipe for a disaster for which little, if any blame could ever be assigned. For the simple saboteur, this is a good day’s work; although not as overt as blowing up a bridge, this kind of thing can still destroy an office or a manufacturing facility. The take-away for today’s safety professional or business owner is to open up those closets, review housekeeping, and review procedures for oily waste and accumulation areas before becoming the victim of the careless saboteur. Other activities identified in the manual brought more safety messages to mind. Activities: Let cutting tools grow dull. They will be inefficient and slow down production. Power driven tools are never efficient when dirty and electric contacts and lubrication points may be fouled by insertion of foreign matter. Safety Message: A good tool inspection program is needed to keep the process moving effectively. Activities: Allow engines to run with low oil levels for extended time, douse hot machines with cold water or other coolants, allow loose connections on hoses and clamps, do minimal inspections, don’t inspect tires or rims, don’t tighten all the bolts evenly on the rims, and mix light and heavy oils for increased wear and tear.

Alaska Business Monthly | March

Alaska Business Monthly March 2016  
Alaska Business Monthly March 2016  

“Forever Alaskan” Carol Gore, president and CEO of Cook Inlet Housing Authority, is a quintessential leader in creating affordable housing f...