EHS on Tap: E69 Star Wars Day: On May the Fourth, a Look at EHS (or Lack Thereof) in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

May the 4th image credit: forestgraphic /

Today is May the Fourth, Star Wars Day, and to celebrate the occasion we’re joining forces with fellow Star Wars nerd Jim Davis, host of our sister podcast, HR Works, and editor of the HR Daily Advisor for a couple of episodes focusing on human resources and environment, health, and safety (or, as is often the case, a conspicuous lack thereof) in the Star Wars universe. After you take a listen to this episode, be sure to check out some more Star Wars Day analysis from a human resources perspective over at HR Works.

Justin Scace: Hello everyone, and welcome to EHS On Tap. I’m your host, Justin Scace, Senior Editor of the EHS Daily Advisor. Today is May 4th, Star Wars Day. And to celebrate the occasion, the EHS On Tap Podcast is joining forces with our sister podcast, HR Works, for a couple of episodes focusing on human resources and environment health and safety, or as is often the case, a conspicuous lack of thereof, in the Star Wars universe. And so after you take a listen to this episode, be sure to check out some more Star Wars Day analysis from a human resources perspective over at HR Works. And there’s a link to that episode on this podcast episodes EHS Daily Advisor web page. So, I’m joined today on the show by my colleague and fellow Star Wars nerd, Jim Davis, host of the immensely popular HR Works Podcast and editor of the HR Daily Advisor. So, thanks for hopping over to EHS On Tap today, Jim, and this is sure to be a fun discussion.

Jim Davis: It’s truly my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Justin Scace: Hey, it’s great to have you. So, health and safety in Star Wars. I almost don’t know where to begin. I guess that where I would start off is just trying to imagine being an EHS professional who works for the Empire and especially on the Death Star in the first movie. So, the thing that immediately jumps out to me is, and it’s been widely parodied elsewhere, is when they fire the Death Star Laser, there are those two guys that are just standing next to the laser on a platform next to a little control panel. And do you even know what they’re doing there?

Jim Davis: I mean, not planning their families anymore, I imagine.

Justin Scace: So, I could just imagine the EHS professional, he goes down there and he’s talking to these guys. He’s doing a walkthrough of the Death Star and he’s like, “so you guys don’t have a railing. What comes through this big tunnel?” And you’re like, “oh, you know, a giant laser beam.” “But you’re not wearing any goggles. What do you do?” “Well, we just kind of turn to the side and shield our eyes.” So that, to me is one of the biggest health and safety things that just jumps out at you and in especially the first Star Wars. Have you ever given any thought to that?

Jim Davis: Yeah, I believe in the industry they’re known as safety squints. I know it’s not exactly the same, but it seems if you’re going to stand anywhere, you probably don’t want to be within a couple of feet of something that has the ability to destroy an entire planet. And it’s experimental technology, so who knows what kinds of radiation it gives off. And wouldn’t it be pretty hot? I don’t know how they’re not burned to a cinder, immediately.

Justin Scace: I guess it’s because of a technology.

Jim Davis: Yeah.

Justin Scace: Something. So, the EHS professional, he sees this and it’s like, well, something’s clearly got to be done about it, but now we’ve got to talk about the safety culture of the empire. So this EHS professional, he’s like, “I’ve gathered my data. I’ve noted these I’ve observed these hazards and I’m going to report to my boss.” And so he goes up to Darth Vader’s office and he walks in and he’s force choking another manager who has displeased him, turns to the door and says, “what do you want?” And the EHS professionals going to be like, “nothing, everything is just great.” So that’s clearly a horrible safety culture.

Jim Davis: Yeah. It invites Death Star in a completely different way. It’s supposed to be a menacing word, not something that demoralizes your entire working population.

Justin Scace: Yeah. It’s certainly a lends to an atmosphere that where psychological safety is clearly not taken seriously, multiple incidents of workplace violence, bullying on the job, all of those sorts of things. And we discussed this a little bit over on the HR Works podcast as well. It’s just the overall culture is not conducive to safety that’s for sure.

Jim Davis: Yeah, it absolutely isn’t. Even those measures that they do take, and forgive me if I’m getting too far ahead, but you look at the armor that the stormtroopers have, they know they’re going up against laser weapons, right? And yet one child’s laser weapon kills them while their armor restricts their movement. What’s that all about?

Justin Scace: That is an excellent point. I mean, clearly there, if you could even call it personal protective equipment PPE, it’s clearly just for show, it clearly has not been stress tested in order to be determined to be effective against the various hazards that they’re going to experience out there in the real world. That’s an excellent point there. And another thing with the Death Star, as long as we’re… the place is just a hazard death trap, essentially. What is it with the Death Star and why did they not like railings? They don’t like railings on their bridges. They don’t like railings on their tractor beam devices. What’s up with that?

Jim Davis: I’ve given some thought to this, and I think that it’s just that they don’t like spending money on construction supplies. I mean, for one thing, you have those deep chasms everywhere, right? I mean, it doesn’t even seem like you can hardly go through a room without there being a 10,000-ft fall, and then no railing. They clearly didn’t want to spend the time flooring over it. So why are they going to bother with railings? Got to save that money. And plus, they got to get on schedule, because they’ll get forced choked if they don’t. So…

Justin Scace: Yeah. Excellent point, and that’s another thing that too often, we see that misinterpretation of safety in industry and construction, where they think that cutting corners on safety is going to save money. In the end, in the real world anyway, it’s going to end up costing you money. A little bit of extra fall protection, a little bit of due diligence when it comes to safety. Maybe if they had made that effort, they wouldn’t have created a huge space station with a little womp rat sized hole that could destroy the entire structure. But that’s neither here nor there.

Jim Davis: Well, it happens over and over again. In fact, if you think of when Darth Vader throws the emperor into that other chasm, was that on a Star Destroyer? I forget what… or was it, it was on the second Death Star?

Justin Scace: That was on the new Death Star.

Jim Davis: Right, right. I mean, clearly, they spend even less time on construction resources for that. But maybe if they had floored in that chasm, Darth Vader wouldn’t have had an opportunity to throw the emperor down there and it stopped the empire. So, it just, it really bit them in the face.

Justin Scace: Yeah.

Jim Davis: I guess that’s not really the phrase. Right.

Justin Scace: And now, well, it’s the one that we can use on this podcast. But, while we’re talking about that, even though he could pick up the emperor and throw him over, that is one of the few moments in the Star Wars universe, where there is actually a railing around the holes. So I guess they thought the emperor was big enough to like, “yeah, we’ll put a railing around this, at least. Hey, it’s more than everybody else gets on this space station.”

Jim Davis: Yeah. Maybe he just wasn’t aware of the lack of railings overall. Because he’s like, “well, I got a railing in my room.”

Justin Scace: Yeah. He’s good to go. So, we’ve got all these examples on the Empire side, and we talked about this a little bit on the HR Works episode, that our listeners can go to after this one as well, there’s safety issues on the Rebel Alliance site as well. We talked about the organizational culture where it sort of promotes people to really sort of sacrifice themselves in the name of the cause. And that’s not necessarily a great safety culture either. You don’t want people who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way, just because they believe in the organizational mission. That’s for sure.

Jim Davis: Agreed. I think of so many instances. I mean, Hans Solo flying purposely into an alien with the Millennium Falcon just to get away. After flying into an asteroid field, also extremely dangerous. And at least in that case, there was a high-ranking officer on board, Princess Leia, who was trying to at least get him to change his behavior, but he also just ignored her.

Justin Scace: Yeah. That’s always a big problem. And I mean, as long as we’re talking about Han solo, ignoring safety things, I sort of thought, before we were talking about what it would/might like to be… what it might be like to be an EHS professional for the empire, but what about for the Rebel Alliance? And the Empire strikes back when Luke is lost out there because he’s been smacked in the face by a Wampa. Han solo is like, “I’m going back out there.” And in that movie, there is this guy who’s following him around and he’s saying, “dude, the temperature is dropping really fast out there.” And he says, “yeah, I know I’m still going out there.” And I’m like, “that’s probably the safety guy.” He’s following him around. He says, “your tauntaun is going to freeze by the time you reach the first marker.” And Han solo just turns to him and says, “well, then I’ll see you in hell.” And I could just see the EHS guy going, “that was uncalled for. There’s no need to be mean to me about it.”

Jim Davis: This is neither here nor there, but how do they even know about hell? Doesn’t matter. I guess we inherited that from them, too, after all these years. And then that place got attacked. Who knows what that one safety officer that we’ve seen, the whole movie, all the movies and series even made it out of there.

Justin Scace: Yeah. Because you know that he was probably sticking around until the last transport left, making sure that everybody was getting away safely. Absolutely. And then there’s there’s one more thing in The Empire Strikes Back that, so Cloud City up in Bespin, it’s a mining facility, but clearly there is no mining safety and health administration MSHA on Bespin. You’ve got folks breathing in carbon freezing fumes all the time. You’ve got employees participating in horseplay around blast furnaces while they’re playing with parts of droids. All of this sort of stuff. So there’s another thing where, take for example, the carbon freezing chamber, it’s like, well at least Darth Vader has some built in respiratory protection, but nobody else seems to be terribly concerned about it. So there’s another safety culture failure right there.

Jim Davis: We could give Darth Vader a couple points there though, because he wanted to trap Luke. And instead of just throwing Luke in there right away, he tested it first on Han Solo. So unethical, yes. But I mean, I guess he might be the only other person I’ve actually seen test one of these crazy ideas that they regularly employ. And it worked, too. You might add, so.

Justin Scace: That is true. Very unethical test of a hazard, but a test of a hazard, nonetheless. That is an interesting point. And I never thought about it that way before.

Jim Davis: He probably, just because of his history with safety, faux pas, like when he got all of his arms and legs burned off on Mustafar, he probably just has an appreciation. Plus, he’s got the respirator, right? Like you mentioned that no one else has on a city of made out of toxic poison clouds. Yeah. But clearly, he doesn’t extend that, those ideas and beliefs to the people around him, he keeps it close to the chest plate.

Justin Scace: So, we see a lot more environment, health and safety failures than we do successes. That’s the bottom line, kind of, in the Star Wars universe. But I don’t know if you’ve noticed any other things that come to your mind, Jim, about over years of watching Star Wars, movies, and properties. Are there any other safety things that jump out for you?

Jim Davis: Well, not so much in the movies, but because in the movies it’s like that one person pulls out a, what do you call it? Thermal detonator. And everyone’s like, “oh my God, it’s thermal detonator.” And apparently no one ever uses them ever again, but in the TV shows and series, people are just running around with explosives all over them, all the time. Pulling up this and that, and these explosives make noise, have a light and a button on them. So, you just press the button. I mean, ease of use is great, but I mean, there’s kids running around. You could have the enemy recover the explosives easily just by seeing or hearing the sound. So not a lot of safety considerations around carrying incredible amounts of explosives on you and the application of those explosives. I mean really should be done in a more rigid and a secure kind of way. Right?

Justin Scace: Yeah, absolutely. They need more chemical safety on these various devices and products.

Jim Davis: And then environmentally, obviously the most egregious violation of environmental standards is the empire because they blew up an entire planet. And later on a whole solar system, I think? In the newer movies. So, they really don’t…

Justin Scace: They do go around blowing up big parts of the environment without particularly caring about the consequences. That is very true.

Jim Davis: Clearly there’s no galactic OSHA. Because you got to figure there could be some violations.

Justin Scace: Yeah. Well, the thing is, even if there were a galactic OSHA, they’re too afraid to go in and say, “hey, we need to talk to your manager.” And then Darth Vader walks out and they’re like, “oh, I mean, nevermind, bye.’

Jim Davis: Yeah. Could you just try and destroy like slightly less populated planets in the future? I mean, if you can. Don’t go out of your way or anything. And then of course you’ll probably see them if they ever did get any charges levied against the empire, they just slapped them like a thousand credit fine. No jail time or anything like that, so.

Justin Scace: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim Davis: It’s a real problem for sure.

Justin Scace: It is, it is. It would be very interesting to see what the health and safety apparatus would be like in the Star Wars universe. But since we so rarely see it in the movies, all we can do today is speculate.

Jim Davis: Absolutely.

Justin Scace: Well, I think that we’re running close to the end of our time here today. Jim, I’d like to thank you for stopping by today and talking about Star Wars and all of the environment, health and safety implications here today on EHS On Tap. It was great to have you.

Jim Davis: Absolutely. It was my pleasure. Thanks so much for thinking to include me.

Justin Scace: Absolutely. So we’d also like to thank our audience for tuning in this May the fourth. And if you’re looking for a little more Star Wars Day fun, be sure to catch me and Jim talking about some human resources aspects of Star Wars over on today’s HR Works Podcast episode. So, as we wrap up a reminder to keep an eye out for new episodes of EHS On Tap and keep reading the EHS Daily Advisor to stay on top of your safety and environmental compliance obligations, get the latest in best practices and keep your finger on the pulse of all things related to the EHS industry. Until next time, this is Justin Scace for EHS On Tap.

James Davis is a Content Specialist with Simplify Media, where he is the editor of the HR Daily Advisor and host of the HR Works podcast.

EHS on Tap is an environment, health, and safety podcast by BLR’s EHS Daily Advisor. On each episode of EHS on Tap, our host will discuss emerging legal, regulatory, and policy issues with industry experts and the impacts to everyday safety and environmental professionals. EHS on Tap topics run the gamut of contemporary issues facing EHS managers and professionals today.

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