This blog is dedicated to the front line employees out there who work hard every day and follow the rules to make their bosses look good and sustain their company’s success.
If someone in management tells you to do something that is unsafe, you should and can legally refuse to do it. No supervisor, manager, boss or company owner can force you do something unsafe. I know, sometimes management can be its own worst enemy. I had a Boss, who right after a company safety meeting ordered an employee to elevate another employee with his forklift to the top rack while they stood on a wood pallet to retrieve something the Boss needed because he didn’t want to wait to get the cage and do it properly. (Actually for the record, this was a continual problem that they could never find the cage, as important a piece of safety equipment it was, since they never kept track of its location. Lesson to be learned here, keep track of the cage and other safety equipment.) The employee did the right thing and politely refused then reminded the Boss it was a safety infraction and didn’t want the Boss to get in trouble. It was a great line! After the smoke cleared from Boss’ ears he realized he was wrong and backed off.
Never let anyone bully you into unsafe work practices either with words and terms like: – You’re not a team player. – Another term for this is would be Co-defendant. – It’ll take longer if I get the right equipment = life time of disability. – Tom’s crew doesn’t have to do it that way = Your welcome for me saving your life. Remember that sticks, stones and heavy machinery break bones but words will never harm you.
What is the condition of the equipment you operate on a daily basis. Are all the safety guards and covers in place? Are all the safety switches, emergency overrides and shutoffs properly functioning? Do you see exposed and frayed wires or puddles of fluid? Does your company use a checklist so you can see if there were equipment issues on the previous shift? Before you operate any piece of equipment you should do an inspection whether you have a checklist or not to make sure you can work safely and efficiently. When you do find and need to report a safety issue immediately lock out and tag out the equipment so no one else can inadvertently use it and report it to your supervisor. If you do LOTO a piece of machinery due to safety issues don’t go for any lines from management that it’s fine to drive or use this time as long as you go slow. Don’t use it! I’d put money on the fact that if you did continue to operate as instructed and you got injured the company would throw you under the bus in a nano second. Think about it, If they are that unscrupulous to let you work under those dangerous conditions why do you think they would go to bat for you if you got hurt?
Don’t believe me? A female employee at one company was operating a high speed conveyor belt that had no emergency shut off available in her area and the drive chain was exposed because the maintenance crew that did repairs that night left the job of putting the guard back on to the next shift. It was a chilly morning and she had on a co-workers wind breaker that was a large on her but it kept her warm while she worked. Unfortunately the sleeve from her windbreaker got caught in the exposed chains and pulled her into the conveyor severely injuring her arm to the point that she is permanently disabled. It was only her screams for help heard by the palletizing operator, who stopped the conveyor. Her supervisor and the maintenance department had no repercussions from this incident but she was reprimanded for wearing the loose fitting windbreaker.
No matter what signs, posters or catchy slogans your company devises to increase safety awareness, YOU are the person who has control over your safety in the workplace. Always ask for the proper PPE to perform a job, always check your equipment before use and become an advocate to ensure everyone goes home as they arrived to work….in one piece! Your efforts can help form safety committees, discuss the issues, and develop safe SOPs. Safety should be never having to say you’re sorry.