My Thursday thoughts for National Safety Month. It Really Burns My Butt when I read about a tragedy like this and decided to do something about it.
Any workplace tragedy is just heartbreaking for everyone involved, the company, fellow workers, friends and the family most of all. However when it occurs at a non-profit organization struggling to meet commitments to the community it can be a large financial loss they can’t afford. Not enough can be said about the critical role non-profit organizations play in this day and age. They can mean the difference between life and death for people whether the aid comes in the aftermath of a natural disaster, in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables or just helping the less fortunate get a hot meal and place to sleep. They operate like a real company usually having a director, board members, various levels of supervision, a mission statement but don’t make a profit and heavily rely on public monetary donations and the of thousands of hours of contributed labor by volunteers to keep them going. With the seasonality and turnover in volunteers sometimes it difficult to keep track of people and training.
When I read Goodwill fined more than $100K after worker’s gruesome death and how Abraham Nicholas Garza, 26, died on September 30, 2016 when his head was crushed during the operation of a trash compactor. A fellow worker witnessed the whole grisly scene play out. The Cal/OSHA investigation found several violations and issued fines totaling $106,675 which will unfortunately take a bite out of their budget. The most serious violation being willful-serious meaning the employer was aware of a hazardous condition and didn’t bother to take reasonable steps to address it. Per Cal/OSHA’s report, “None of the authorized employees including Garza were provided training in the safe operation of the compactors at the front and back loading dock areas”. Reminds me of the late 60’s when I worked in a supermarket and the only training was watching the other guy operate it, if he’d let you. How many of you remember business coming to a stand still because “the guy” was not there and no one else knew how too adjust and operate it?
The lack of training for volunteers is a serious issue and more widespread then you think. I had volunteered to working in the warehouse for a local food bank where I spent my time sorting out the contents of food donation barrels as well as packaging bags of fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution. I was looking forward to seeing what and how they did their training but the only training received my entire time there was watching a video explaining that canned goods and other non-perishable food items can be accepted up to a year after the printed expiration date. The info was good to know and then I waited with anticipation on the next video on safety, would it be one I’ve seen before or even used myself to show employees. Alas, there was no training on what to do in the event of a earthquake or other emergency. There was no training on where the evacuation assembly area was located. There were no evacuation route signs posted. The sign in sheet that was kept in the warehouse was the only official way they knew who was there and for how long each day. That was good but in the event of a fire or earthquake this information would NOT be accessible or available for the first responders. This warehouse was like all others with steel racking but the empty donation barrels were stacked in rows, 6 high along a wall in the warehouse. The wall of barrels was tagged with sporadic strips of packing tape across two or three barrels like this would hold it together in the event of an earthquake. These barrels would topple and come down hard injuring and trapping anyone nearby
Unfortunately that’s the situation of the non-profits today, with a lack of proper training and leadership with little to no real expertise and experience in the industry while having to wear several hats and simultaneously dealing with a vast number of volunteers. If you don’t have the experience it’s difficult to keep track of what training is needed and who’s received it and must be done to protect everyone in the facility since even in a non-profit warehouse, dedicated to helping others, needs to remember that they will at one time or another will be ground zero and the emergency. We all know all to well that it’s very easy to sit back and criticize an operation for it’s faults so that’s why in the spirit of National Safety Month, I am offering my services and experience in workplace safety free of charge to any non-profit within a 25 mile radius of my home, Vallejo, California. Together we will identify hazards and you’ll learn how to make a plan to mitigate them so all volunteers can work in your facility and not worry about their safety.
Safety is not fun or glamorous but it does impact lives. Be a safety mentor.