As it is workplace safety is not the most glamorous topic around the world and when it comes to personal safety in general it’s not something most people talk about at all unless a major incident has been recently covered on television or the internet. It doesn’t help when safety managers and other professionals are perceived and portrayed as scolding mothers reminding the kids to wear their mittens or put away their toys. The reality is it’s not easy walking that fine line between what the regulators proclaim, what the company wants, what the employees comply with and what YOU know is right.
What the recent defiant acts of the people, opening a salon by the owner while quarantine ‘stay at home’ orders were in effect or protests by other members of the pubic serve as a perfect example as to why workplace safety is so difficult to prevent 100% of accidents. When you are dealing with people, as we are witnessing when it comes to the health and safety of others let alone their own health and wellbeing, they’re going to do what they want to do even if what they believe to be their right is wrong and dangerous.
So your company spends all the money in the world on high-quality training manuals full of detailed glossy colorful 8 x 10 photos, along with the best quality professionally produced videos possible and enlist the most elegant and entertaining silver voiced of all motivational speakers and after all that plus the additional training reminders, slogans, contest, drills, toolbox meetings, tailgate meetings, monthly meetings and huddles if that worker has it in their head they can still beat the machine and grab that jammed package out of the way without doing a proper Lock Out Tag Out, they’re going to do it, consequences be damned, not when a challenge is right there in my face.
Unfortunately the consequences of this employees actions are a reality no one wants. The employee wound up with a serious injury (total of 15 stitches on two fingers), the company issued a written reprimand along with a 5-day suspension without pay so the employee could contemplate the error of their ways and then upon their return must suffer further indignity by going throught the company safety orientation and safety training on his machine again before being allowed back to work. Do you now have.a loyal happy employee? Was a suspension necessary? I didn’t think so, I thought the injury and safety refresher was enough. Why did he do it and will he be careful and use better judgement next time? Only the shadow knows. We’ll come back to this later on.
When the people openly protested the stay at home quarantine and gathered close in proximity while not wearing masks or other protections they did so because they believed their freedom to do what they wanted was being taken away. Their freedom to expose themselves and innocent people to the virus. Isn’t it funny how people pick and choose which freedoms they want but damn everyone else. What if a manager or supervisor believed repairs on a piece of equipment needed for production was taking too long and he wanted to sped it up and decided to unlock the LOTO in place at the power source and get things going while a worker was still finishing up on it. Is he wrong? He did justify his actions by stating his concerns that his bonus may be reduced for not meeting production goals or as we used to call it making quota? Because of that, he would not be able to feed or properly care for his family and so he cut safety corners even though someones life could have been at stake.
Let’s take it further. A manager is tired of the production line stopping and starting due to a safety mechanism. The device is doing the job it was intended for and that is stopping the high-speed production line so employees don’t get injured or worse, caught in the conveyor and killed. However, this manager is concerned about losing his job due to problems beyond and within his control at the plant. So to get ahead on production he disables the electronic eye from stopping the machine and keeps the line going, that is until an employee got a sleeve caught and was pulled in to the machine and now ironically the line is down and production halted until OSHA can finish their investigation. As he told the grieving widow, “Yes he’s gone but we met quota and hey, you’ll meet someone else, no big deal.”
In actuality these two stories are OSHA violations and would be willful violations at that but hopefully it bothered you that people were purposely put in danger. It is against the law to tamper with safety devices and yet like everything else in life there are those who will obey the law and do proper LOTO and then there are those who only care about themselves and their own greed and that’s why more than ever we need to watch each others back. Now back to our machine operator with the stitches. Did the company really do justice in that situation? Did they look at all the facts including his previous record in which he was given increased responsibilities over the 5 years he worked there and improved his skills and abilities without an accident until now? No, they did not, only pointed out he had an attendance problem over a year ago as they didn’t care it was due to issues he had with childcare. So what motivated him to do what he did? Could being pushed to make quota be a partial cause for his accident? Was it to close to break or end of shift and his blood sugar was off? Was it boredom or just a case of poor judgment? The truth is he was was going to hit a new personal high on the number of cases packed on his machine during a shift. He was very proud of himself in how well he had the machine tuned and got lost in all the excitement and really wanted to hit that number. The good news is he will set a new record on that machine and he won’t lose any body parts to achieve it.