Companies Behaving Badly-Surprise!


Welcome back and thank you for stopping by.  When the long standing family owned and operated company I was working for was bought by a large corporation, needless to say there were many different employee responses to the sale.  Reactions ran from pure panic to the philosophical, it’ll be what it’ll be while as some just up and quit rather then face an unknown future.  In the blink of an eye we also became top heavy as we went from the two brothers who lead the company for decades to a leadership posse that consisted of a President and 5 VP’s.  Naturally they brought in more of their people since our people were apparently not ready to operate the place even though we had operated the place long before their arrival.  We had to demonstrate we were fit in body and mind to do so.  They brought and introduced us to their culture, their customs, their policies, their procedures during hours of indoctrination in classroom settings and at the end we got new, thick, really cool looking employee manuals.  Then they observed us and soon passed judgement on us as on a dark rainy Friday, the cleansing began, early, quick and after lots of tears and goodbyes, folks were escorted off and then that following Monday,  we all began our new  journey.

One of the things they brought over from their culture that I really liked besides the twenty new choices of tea and latte machine was their surprise inspection team.  They had a corporate team who’s job was to travel and inspect all the plants across the country. What made it so unique at the time was they weren’t the usual, hey we’ll be there this Monday at 10 so you have a day or two to spruce up and get ready.  This team was HEY, good morning, we’re here!  Like a relative showing up at your door first thing in the morning, unannounced, they saw your plant as it really was and plant and department managers were graded on the results and it went on your permanent record.  Those scores were important since one of their policies had plant managers rotate plants every two years and your high scores could get you that juicy assignment to a state of the art plant to operate.


I always thought it ridiculous to be told that we’re being inspected next week or having high ranking corporate visitors so get your departments clean and ready and usually what followed was nothing more then a dog and pony show with no one actually looking at the plant.  That’s why I came to enjoy the concept of surprise inspections, you had to do the job the right way, every day.  Surprise inspections are a great way to not only keep people on their toes but to ensure that the corporate policies, practices and procedures, as well as all the hours of training are being followed.  As you will see in the stories below this is especially critical when it comes to safety and operation of a clean and healthy facility.  

You can always conduct your own surprise inspections no matter your situation.  As a warehouse manager I only touched base with the night picking supervisor when I arrived at 6 a.m.  However, at least once a month I would show up at 3:45 a.m. or 2 a.m. just to see how the operation was going and ensure all safety procedures were being used.  It was also a great opportunity to bring snacks and coffee and spend some time listening to the staff.  It’s easy to get into a set routine and each day is like every other day but that’s when complacency can rear it’s ugly head.  Make life and your job interesting, don’t be predictable and bring a little surprise to your life.

Michigan plans surprise inspections of demolition sites – Now granted, this surprise inspection program was not proactive but spurred by a Detroit Free Press newspaper investigation that pretty much exposed Michigan’s workplace safety agency as a joke and not protecting workers from exposure to hazards like asbestos.  This article actually woke up the agency and they vowed to do surprise unannounced inspections at demolition sites for the next month and assigned 6 inspectors to the program.  Whether this is just another dog and pony show, time will tell but this would be a fantastic tool to use at all construction sites to make sure fall protection gear is being used.  With falls still the number 1 killer it’s time we become proactive instead of reactive.


Another reason surprise inspections are good is to make sure all your plants are handling safety the proper way.  In this case, one company  Cedarburg company cited by OSHA in March death of lathe operator thought it was a great idea to increase productivity by programming the computer to bypass the safety interlocks that prevent workers from coming into contact with moving parts.  As a result of this brilliance a worker was pulled into the operating spindle and died two day later from his injuries.  I’m sure they were shut down during the investigation and were handed a proposed fine of $125,000 so what ever they saved is gone.  Hopefully Carlson Tool and Manufacturing Corporation will properly reward the genius that came up with this idea with a termination from employment.  However I still contend, that anyone who bypasses safety protocol on a machine that results in an employee death should be put on trial for manslaughter and sit in a jail cell to contemplate that profit is not more important than human life.

Then there are corporations that not only don’t believe in surprise inspections but don’t believe in communicating or training their store managers on workplace safety and expose their employees and customers to unnecessary hazards.  Southeast MO Dollar General facing nearly $98,000 fine by OSHA   Dollar General stores all over the country have been inspected and fined for their totally lack of concern for safety as some have been reported to OSHA by employees.  From blocked emergency exits to poorly labeled and stored chemicals this company must have OSHA listed as a vendor as they pay out just about monthly as another store is fined day after day.  If the company really cared about the safety of their employees the corporation not only would have strongly communicated this to it’s stores but would have put together a surprise inspection team to hit each store and then educate the managers and workers on what needs to be changed.  I’m available Dollar Stores, just call me for pricing.


One last time why surprise inspections are beneficial.  When you walk around and observe a plant in action you can tell what kind of training, if any, workers have had.  Everyone knows how dangerous a busy loading dock can be with forklifts, trucks and people in constant action.  It’s not a place to lose your concentration and you need to be aware of your surroundings as in  OSHA investigating worker’s death at Omaha meatpacking plant .  A worker was pinned between two trailers and died because a simple procedure wasn’t followed.  The accident is currently under OSHA investigation and I will report their findings as soon as they’re available.

Whether you’re a worker, supervisor, manager or chairperson of the board, OSHA would like your input on OSHA Wants Input on Shipyard Fall Protection Rules.  Please don’t think your opinion doesn’t matter because it does!  Especially you people who work in the shipyards day in and day out.  You see it all and know more than any of your bosses, so this is your chance to speak up.

This Labor Day – Make Safety a Priority in Your Workplace – Good article and great thought but I say, Make Safety a priority EVERYDAY, not just labor day and the life you save may be your own.

Safety is not complicated but it does have many parts to it.  Training is critical to ensure people know what to do and how to handle emergency situations.  Surprise drills and inspections are a tool to see how effective your training is and the quality of your hiring practices.  Life doesn’t have to be boring and mundane, make it interesting and keep people focused and on their toes.  Until next month, stay safe.


Coming soon – another recipe for disaster.










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