When you’re the new supervisor/manager on the job, there are many things running through your mind. Whether you’re previously experienced new to the company, promoted from within the ranks or brand spanking/wet behind the ears new, you’re excited and nervous. Did I get that name right, where do they keep the coffee filters, will they like me? You’ll also have many distractions as well while everyone vies for your attention. Now that you’re first day is finished and you’re done being paraded around the office like a new species at the Zoological society you are ready to start and hit that warehouse floor running!
You are going to be innovative and think outside the box and want to employ theories you’ve learned and make your mark on the world! HOLD ON THERE ONE MINUTE! Take a deep breath my friend. Have you learned the lay of the land and pecking order? What’s the ebb and flow in the warehouse? Have you even brought in donuts yet? This is your best time to listen and learn about the warehouse. Listen to their safety concerns.
You really still want to make your mark? Start by looking at the safety aspects of the warehouse. Are there any glaring safety hazards that need immediate attention and what is the warehouse’s accident record? Make your mark by enforcing safety standards to protect your staff, the company and their families. Don’t try to be Mr. Nice guy and turn a blind eye to safety. You will only be rewarded with depositions, court proceedings, lawyers and lots of regret and guilt. You don’t have to be the Hammer of Thor either, but when they tell you, but we’ve always done it that way, make it known in your corrective criticism that safety is seriously taken by you and this is how it’s going to be done because it’s the safe way.
Another way to make your mark, continue or start having safety meetings on a regular basis and make them interesting. It doesn’t have to be you standing in front of a group talking all the time. If you cover LOTO (lock out tag out), why not have one of the operators do a live demonstration for the group. Actually show where on that piece of equipment you should do the LOTO, how to properly use the lock and write on the tag. Reward the employee doing the demo with a breakfast or lunch. It’ll really get safety off to a good start.
Some places I’ve found the employees think the company doesn’t really care about safety and lose their trust. You can also see it in their apathy towards the safety meetings. When I hear that I always ask the group for specifics and then individuals, since some people are more comfortable speaking one on one rather than in front of others. One of the issues I found was repairs were not being made within a timely manner when reported. Some safety related issues went un-fixed for months. I learned how to enter work orders into the system for the repairs and I started turning them out and made sure they were worded, SAFETY ISSUE. Then I developed a spread sheet with the repair issue reported, the work order number, and expected completion date and posted it so employees could see I was serious. The Maintenance department hated me and I was actual told by one supervisor to lay off the work orders. I pushed back and covered the work orders every daily production meeting and documented everything. I was persistent, and finally broke through the wall and other people began to see the light and it snow balled from there, and we changed the culture.
Forklifts are the number one hazard in your warehouse. Is everyone driving a forklift certified to be on one? Work with Human Resources and see how current there training is, since it should be done every 2 – 3 years. Maybe a refresher course is in order to remind staff checklists need to be done at the beginning of each shift. How do you want them to alert you there is a maintenance issue and don’t cut corners. If the forklift is unsafe to use take the key out and LOTO the forklift. It is NOT acceptable to use while you wait for the tech.
Another area you can make your mark is fueling of the forklifts. If they are battery powered do they know how to safely change out the battery or recharge the battery. Unless you have the maintenance free batteries, do they know that water goes in after the charge, not before? If they are propane do they know to wear goggles and gloves when changing or refueling the tanks? Again, when you do training here, have an employee actually do the change out in front of his peers.
Now that you have safety under control you’ve just sent a very powerful message to everyone. That you are in charge and safety of your staff is priority number 1. I’m not going to kid you, in this current environment companies are doing what they can to survive. The challenge is going to be when you’re asked to put your ethics on hold and look the other way so an order can be completed and delivered on time. It’s your call. Just remember you’re going to have to look at yourself in the mirror. Now that you’re established you can begin looking into implementing some of those other ideas.