The Company Hostage

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The company had a very old ASRS, Automated Storage and Retrieval System to store the majority of it’s finished product inventory.  We were in transition as the company had gone into receivership and was run by an investment corporation that was trying to keep overall costs as low as possible while they prayed and searched for a buyer.  The system was so old that in the era of CD drives it still used floppy disc to operate the system that was, to say the least, fragile.  It could freeze up due to trouble reading a dirty license plate or from a loud sneeze or other inexplicable reason and have to be rebooted.

The cost to upgrade was enough that our benevolent keepers felt hiding their heads in the sand and ignoring the problem would magically make it stop hurting the bottom line but it was every time the ASRS was down.  It interfered with production in that when you can’t put the product into storage you can’t keep packaging it and when you can’t retrieve product to ship you can’t invoice.  In addition, a lot of overtime was spent on having workers move and stack product anywhere they could in the facility so the packaging of the product could continue but that also led to inventory issues of lost and misplaced product which became a nightmare for our production scheduler. 

Our keepers also didn’t see how over time the leadership on-site had surrendered its authority and through attrition and neglect, there was only a handful of employees left who not only knew how to operate the ASRS but how to keep it going and no one in management noticed the pending issue or thought to make plans for rectifying the situation because they were too busy putting out fires or pointing fingers at one another. 

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Things had actually been moving along pretty well during the last few weeks with only a few minor hiccups of the ASRS and word the company may have found a new owner but on this particular warm sunny afternoon, a few employees were caught smoking a joint in the back of the shipping building.  Marijuana was not yet legal in any form in any state and in accordance with the company zero tolerance policy, they were terminated on the spot. The problem was of the five caught smoking, three were ASRS operators which was more than half the staff as well half the only people who could operate the system.  

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The “IT” really hit the fan, of course, during the graveyard shift after they had forced swing shift for four hours, allowable by contract no one else showed up to operate the ASRS.  Management hadn’t realized that there was no one else available that had been trained to operate the system.  They had screwed-up royally and were behind the eight ball.  No communication or verification nothing but an all night long battle of survival as pallets of product were stacked five high down corridors, hallways any open space was fair game as production had to pack out the product already produced within a specific time frame.  The company in a word had been taken, hostage.

The ASRS operators still available were refusing over time even the forced four hours and the union was standing up for them pointing out the safety issues of working all the extra hours and demanding the return of the fired workers while not allowing the training of any additional ASRS personnel keeping the company hostage.  After a few days of keeping on their game face, and saying everything was all right the company quietly began to negotiate an end to the hostage situation along with dealing with the backlog of the finished product all over the facility.  The deal eventually worked out after hours of negotiating brought back all the terminated employees, they all had to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation, were on a one-year probation for drug use, had to train additional employees and management as well as document procedures on the ASRS while the company promised and began the painful process of upgrading the system to twenty-first century technology.

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This is a lesson that was not cheap.  The overtime alone to count inventory and to get all the finished product into the ASRS system was ridiculous and it took weeks to get shipping and invoicing back to normal.  A binder was created with all the information needed so that even a caveman could operate the ASRS and the cost of the upgrade was hovering at $One Million.  This all could have been avoided and not an issue if upper management kept their eye on the big picture and allowed their supervisors and managers to do their job of training and documenting training but they had no experience in manufacturing and were lost in all the complexities of an aging system and ancient techniques while trying to meet the demands of today.

As I’ve said many times you reap what you sow.  You don’t have to be a boss hogs taskmaster but you must hold people accountable for their actions after a thorough explanation of the rules, expectations, and consequences.  You are in charge of your realm of the kingdom that makes up the company so RUN IT!  Be proactive, do a yearly hazard inspection, check emergency gear, create a safety committee, do your walk and be on the floor 80% of the time so you know what’s going on and what your workers are dealing with.  For more tips and ideas on leadership or if you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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The Hawaiian Shirt Rebellion

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Some times the best way to improve morale in a company is with a subversive action especially if it just ever so slightly breaks a rule and has been coordinated with the entire staff.

Our family owned company had recently been bought by a large corporation.  We were their new shining addition to the family and after a long grueling process of upgrading our systems and intercommunications, we learned the new rules of the road.  New training, new reports, new programs, new ways of doing things and new dress code.  Morale was very low and our new corporate masters were not seeing it at all and just kept pushing without stopping even for a second so we could catch our breath. 

The leaders of the resistance were all young professionals in their late 20’s to early ’30s. Even though we each worked in a different department, (engineering, maintenance, production, quality control, and facilities) we had become pretty tight over the years not only because we were close in age but our eclectic mix of personalities worked so well  and our positions naturally had us working together to resolve production issues.  We also went to ballgames after work together, Oakland A’s were only a few BART stations away and we shared drinks on Fridays to celebrate our victories and console our loses that week.  

Even though the statute of limitations has long expired I still will not reveal the other members of the resistance but admit that I was one of the members.  On one particular Friday, while drinking and complaining, it came up that July 1st was around the corner and the beginning of the new fiscal year.  What could we do to celebrate the occasion and help break up the funk at work and get morale back to where it needed to be.  There was a definite correlation between the number of drinks consumed and the innovation and creativity of ideas put forward by the group.  Silliness turned to anger and then anger back again to silliness.  The drinks and hours went by until we broke for the night and our weekend.

Monday morning seemingly came around too fast and at our morning break, we again went over our plan to make sure this is the statement we wanted to make.  The six of us talking just above whispers and constantly looking over our shoulders so no one else could hear us or most importantly know we were behind what was about to happen.  We thought a strategic strike against the new dress code would get a smile out of almost everyone.  Previously there was no dress code except the unwritten rule of, when we had visitors at the plant we had to wear slacks and a button shirt and now we had to dress that way every day.  They wouldn’t even listen to having a dress down Friday.  We swore our allegiance to each other after the break and each put their part of the plan into play.

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The fake memo was completed by one member and the copies made late at night by another and I came in extremely early to place memos directly on employees desk.  The company leadership such as the President, VP’s and Plant Manager were left off the distribution list.  The memo on the usual company letterhead was plain and simple.  A picture of a Hawaiian shirt and the following,  “To Celebrate the new fiscal year, Friday has been declared as Hawaiian shirt day!  Wear your best Hawaiian shirt and be ready to party.”

The rest of the week we monitored all gossip and conversations to make sure this was still a secret, really going to happen and be a pleasant surprise for all.  Friday came and we met in the employee lot, donning our Hawaiian shirts and to no surprise, all of us had brought a backup outfit just in case it really went south as we had no idea what kind of participation we would get from the rest of the staff.  People sounded excited about the idea but would it carry all week?  We huddled, put our hands in and shouted, “GO HAWAII”!  

The six of us walked in together to meet our destiny, but were stopped in our tracks by our dropped jaws and were totally blown away!  Not only did most of the staff arrive wearing Hawaiian shirts, but the rest had brought them and changed into them here.  Some really embraced the spirit of the day and were wearing leis or playing ukeleles and a few had plastic blow-up palm trees and one surfboard.  Then there was a sound coming from the lunchroom that we hadn’t heard in a while.  Laughter.  People were laughing, talking, smiling and enjoying themselves. WE did it! 

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Then the inquisition came. Our VP of Human Resources was a particularly special stick in the mud.  No sense of humor, no jokes, no laughs and extremely pompous.  If you had the misfortune of a meeting with him they always took twice as long as with anyone else since he constantly took phone calls during the meeting so you can add rude to the list as well.  Our VP of HR began his investigation into Hawaiigate and seek out the culprit or culprits responsible!  First, the usual suspects’ were interrogated and then other people were summoned to the office and asked, “Where did this memo come from?”  They all answered as we hoped, it was on my desk when I arrived.  Each member of the resistance was also called into his office, one at a time and asked if we knew or heard anything?  We all responded in kind, as shocked as he was that this could happen but had no clue as to who.

Mr. VP of HR eventually gave up his witch hunt and no one was ever punished for the crime but a flurry of new policies followed along with the consequences for future infractions of HR law. The President of the company actually loved the Hawaiian shirt idea so much,  every Friday was now dress-down day and the second Friday of each month was a different themed employee day. 

Sometimes the only way to shake a culture up is with a little internal rebellion.   

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Home Safety-Escape Artist

 

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Houdini was the master of escape as no straight jacket, cell, chain or padlock could keep him trapped for very long.  However, most of us haven’t mastered the skills of Houdini and look and listen as we are made aware before takeoff the location of emergency exits, just in case.  Experts will tell you that you should always have at least two ways out in the event of an evacuation and that includes leaving your home quickly in the event of an emergency like a fire. 

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I live in a one-story house so if I’m in the bedroom and have to evacuate the building I have at least four easy ways out of the house.  The front door, a sliding glass back door, garage door, and the bedroom window.  As soon as I am out of the house and headed to the predesignated meeting area, I’m dialing 911 to report the emergency.  The meeting area is critical so you know everyone got out of the house.  It is the same thing companies do when they have to evacuate and may refer to the meeting area as the assembly area.  Either way, you want to do a head count so when the firefighters arrive they know if it’s a search and rescue or just fight the fire.

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In a two-story house, escape is a little more challenging.  If you are in a bedroom upstairs to exit the house you would need to come down to the ground floor using a staircase.  Not all homes have a front and back staircase to give you more than one way out so what happens if the stairs or both are blocked by flames?  Then you need to go out of the bedroom window as fast as possible.  That’s why an escape ladder is critical.  They can range in price from $35 to $100 depending on materials and manufacturer ask your insurance agent or local fire department for recommendations. It’s like insurance, you lay the money out to buy it for that peace of mind and hope you never have to use it. 

Don’t wait until an emergency to see if everyone can use the ladder.  It is highly recommended that you practice together at least once a year so everyone who may have to use the escape ladder is familiar and capable with it.  In fact, keep everyone on their toes and have an unannounced drill.  Whoever makes it to the meeting area gets pizza.  Also don’t forget to include plans to get the very young, disabled, the elderly, and pets out as fast and safely as possible.  

The best way to avoid having to evacuate in the first place is to practice good fire prevention practices in and around the home and then you won’t have to do a Houdini and escape.  If you have questions about fire safety or other safety issues in the home or workplace check out our blog archives for more articles or feel free contact us, we’re here to help.

benfrankfailtoprepare

 

A Tale of Two Ships

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During a recent vacation, I was unexpectedly presented with a unique opportunity to observe first hand how a company benefits from a solid hiring/recruiting strategy that’s reinforced by a thorough training program and tied together with strong leadership.  I have not been paid to write this article for or to endorse Viking River Cruises.  This is the second river cruise my wife and I have taken with Viking and have enjoyed them immensely and wanted to give the fantastic crews of the Bragi and the Skadi a shout out!   You are all amazing!

The chance came up quickly but not unexpected as we were warned well before the trip that due to the lack of rain during the summer the river water levels in a few spots were low and may not allow for safe passage so there existed a possibility of exchanging ships.  Exchanging ships!?  Really?  Sure enough, halfway through we couldn’t continue but Viking had their plan in place and ready to go.  The day we left Budapest up the Danube on Ship A, Ship B was leaving Amsterdam and traveling Southeast.  The ships were exactly the same so at the designated point we packed and left Room 233 on Ship A, took a three an a half hour bus ride got on board Ship B to Room 233.  Meanwhile like an alternate universe, the folks on Ship B were doing the exact same thing.  It was seamless as we gained a new captain, new waiters, new bartenders, new housekeepers, and new crew with only one exception and the one constant in our experiment, we kept the same social director.  All said and done I spent one week with Ship A’s team and one week with Ship B’s team and two weeks with Joey.

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My first thought was this was going to be more difficult for the service crew on both ships to adjust and handle as they had already established relationships with the various passengers and cliques which had formed over the first 3 nights during a speed dating like process aboard ship, which is considered a sacred ritual on all cruise ships. It’s interesting to watch the groups slowly develop like cultures in a Petrie dish as the open auditions have now ended and the “who they want to spend the rest of the cruise hanging with” is decided and the crew now quickly re-learns all the new preferences and idiosyncrasies.  The selection of folks to choose from on this cruise was tantalizing as just about every state was represented including California, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Alaska, Virginia, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Tennessee, and Florida as well as a few Canadians and Australians tossed in for good measure. 

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Now, before we continue, let’s get this out of the way right now.  The rooms were not “identical” as we were lead to believe.  We noticed almost immediately one glaring difference between Ship A room #233 (on the right) and Ship B room #233 (on the left). The paintings were not the same!  So now we know the truth, the rooms are just very similar.

When you look at the overall operation of both ships, which was equal, you see the benefits of the recruiting and screening process of applicants, (finding the talent) and a great training program (sharpening skills) to ensure consistent uniform perfection in service, actually, it’s more what you don’t see as they all work seamlessly.  The level of thoughtfulness, professionalism, attention to detail and passenger safety provided by both ships crews was second to none as every wish one could have, was immediately handled with grace and flair, all accomplished by a diverse workforce of Hungarians, Slovakians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Filipinos, Serbs, Germans, Dutch, Italians, French all working together as one team. No issues of borders or politics, just one focus, one goal in mind, service extraordinaire. 

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As uniform, as the two ships were in performance, there were also lovely expressions of individuality by the staff in their flair and presentation. The way they greeted you, the way they poured, the way they took orders, the way they joked and the way they smiled and the longer you spend time with them they open up more as who they are.  However, there were some glaring differences in individual performances.  The breakfast omelet maker on one ship was the best of them all.  His technique was absolutely entertaining and fun to watch.  As he listened to your request he placed butter in the pan and as it melted he then placed the ingredients you ordered in as well.  He knew exactly when to flip and fold it which he did with one quick jerk of the pan and it came out perfect every time.  You can tell he really enjoyed what he was doing as he was always upbeat and had an infectious smile which was awesome to begin the day.  On the other ship, the breakfast omelet maker was nowhere near as good.  He always looked like he was having a bad day and unceremoniously tossed the ingredients into the pan, letting it get too hot and always over browning the bottom of the omelet and he had absolutely no zip in his flip.  The experience was such a put off I had cereal.

While in the lounge/bar area on one ship, we never had anyone in our group or overheard anyone complain about their drinks but on the other ship, we not only heard someone at the bar complain about how their old fashion tasted but later one in our group was having the same issue with their old fashion.  By all accounts, it seems someone was leaving out an ingredient.  I’m sure in both instances through the feedback received from guests, steps were taken in the manner of a refresher training for those individuals.  I did mention that the operation and service of both ships were equal but in my opinion, the food overall, especially the dinners were much better on one ship than the other.  It was more flavorful, seasoned well and better prepared.

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There was some outstanding service as well.  A server on one of the ships was very bright and caught on right away that I always had coffee after dinner, every night without skipping a beat.  As soon as the dessert orders began rolling out he was ready with coffee in hand and a smile on his face.  Then there is the “my phone” story that is a great tale of Going That Extra Mile.  I had left my phone on one of the tour buses.  In my defense, I was dazed and confused having just woken up after nodding out during the bus ride from a tour of the town.  When we arrived back at the ship I totally ditzed and forgot to check the seat pocket.  As soon as I stepped back on to the ship I realized I didn’t have it!  What must have looked like a crazy man on the lam I ran off the boat but the tour bus had just left.  I went to the concierge desk and Joey was there so I explained what had happened.  Joey told me he understood and would reach out to the bus company but the ship had to leave on schedule and couldn’t wait for the bus to return.  I told him I understood and thanked him on whatever they could do and went back to my room.  Having given up on ever seeing my phone again and enjoyed an extra drink to help ease the pain. After the evening presentation for the next day’s tours, we were walking from the bar area to the dining room when the concierge called to me.  As I turned around he stopped, smiled and handed me my phone.  I wanted to kiss the entire bus company and everybody on board.

But the glue that bound it all together, the training, screening, and service was Joey.  He was our social director who had established a rapport with everyone even before we boarded the ship as he introduced himself as we checked in.  He was the voice we would come to trust through his nightly presentations that were not to be missed as they were always delivered stand-up comedic style, upbeat and full of energy with a dry sense of humor.  After we had a cocktail or two he’d make his entrance into the lounge and quickly review and critique that days highlights followed by the weather report for tomorrow and then the introduction of the chef who’d give us the menu rundown followed up with Joey covering the next day’s cities and tours and other planned activities.  Joey became the voice of the ship, he was the voice of Viking as he was the one who had to deliver the bad news that we had to switch ships but did it so it sounded more positive than negative.  He was always around making sure everything went like clockwork.  He was there as the tour groups formed and boarded buses, boarded bicycles or walked to town.  He checked in and up on the guides, always interested in feedback.  In addition to our entertainment, he was just as responsible for the safety of all the guests on their land tours as the captain is aboard ship.  What I admired most was no matter how many fires he was putting out, finding passengers lost in the local town, listening to unhappy guests, answering questions about local stores, reuniting lost belongings including phones to guests you never saw it in his face, you never heard it in his voice, there was always a smile and he always had time to listen.  The last day aboard ship as we were waiting for our transportation, I got to watch Joey in action as he was in constant motion, saying goodbye to his leaving flock while simultaneously welcoming new busloads of guests to their journey.  Still full of positive energy.  

My high school football coach used to tell us to give 110 percent or you weren’t committed.  I used to think that was a ridiculous statement since you can’t really give more than 100% but if anyone could give 110% that would be Viking river cruises.  What I have learned from this experience is more a confirmation of what I have always believed that when talent gets the proper consistent training and nurturing leadership you can accomplish any goal. 

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A Complete Guide To Warehouse Safety-Volume 4 – Training

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After a good nights rest our three travelers were back on the Green Brick Road of Safety  and headed toward Emerald City in hopes that the Head Inspector will help each one with their safety related issues.  The road turned into a dense forrest that blocked most of the sunshine.  It was dark and eerie but the three felt pretty strong walking together.  Dorothy turned to Scarecrow and Tinman and said, this reminds me of a scene from the Wizard of Oz. “What!” both Scarecrow and Tinman rang out in chorus.  Dorothy looked at them puzzled, you never heard, oh never mind.  Lions, tigers and bears, oh my.  “Cute”, said Scarecrow and he thought and sang, “How about.  Falls, trips and amputations, oh my.”  They all chuckled.  Tinman joined in, ” Hazards, PPE and Housekeeping, oh my.”  They all laughed again.  They were bonding into a strong team, each with their own individual skill and working together as a team.  They continued, “Hazards, PPE and Housek….” their fun suddenly stopped when the road abruptly ended and a funiculaire stood before them as the only way to the top of the mountain to continue their journey.

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The three of them stood there, looking around trying to figure out their next move.  There was no one around they could ask, no signs, no schedules, nothing.  The cable car was in station with the doors  open, waiting to go.  Scarecrow turned and said, “Well, I guess it’s self service. Let’s check it out.”  They walked inside the car and looked at the controls.  “How hard can this be?”, Scarecrow asked as he surveyed the control panel.  Dorothy suggested he hit the flashing green button.  Tinman felt it was the right decision and Scarecrow concurred with both of them so he hit the button.  A whirling noise started from under the cable car, lights began to flash and Scarecrow turned to Dorothy and Tinman with a proud smirk on his face.

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Their victory was short lived as the next sound they heard was a loud roar.  HEEEEEY!  A large lion came running from the buildings towards our travelers, yelling, screaming with flailing arms and looking very menacing.  WHAAAAAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING?  ARRRR YOU CRAZY?  They backed away from the lion, they were pretty scared.  The lion ran right up to Dorothy and got in her face, WHO SAID YOU COULD TOUCH ANYTHING?  YOU DON’T KNO….(Dorothy was the first female mechanic at her plant and she has been through it all, the practical jokes, the nasty comments and put downs, the hand gestures, gyrating hips, bullying and the deafening silence but she never quit, she never let them see her cry,  always waiting until she got home for that luxury and over time it made her a much stronger person.  When the lion got into her face it all the past memories rushed once again through her mind and) SMACK!  She stopped the lion mid word, and yelled, back off mister!  If you have something to say to me, say it in a constructive manner and talk to me but don’t you EVER yell at me about my performance again!  The stunned lion began to cry.  

Now, Dorothy also began to cry and as Scarecrow and Tinman started to console Dorothy they both began to cry as well.  “It’s not your fault Dorothy, said Scarecrow while Tinman added, “Yes, he deserved that.”  The lion kept bawling away.  “I shouldn’t have yelled.  It’s , it’s the stress of this job, it’s killing me.  I’m the only one here who can operate the funiculaire and by time I get someone else trained, the Emerald city sends them somewhere else.  There are no training materials of any kind to help me train so 24/7 I’m the guy.”  Dorothy gave the Lion her tissue so he could wipe his eyes.  We didn’t know and only reacted to your shouting.  Scarecrow motioned Dorothy over to him and Tinman and they whispered amongst themselves.  After a short discussion Scarecrow turned to the Lion and said, “Why don’t you join us?  We’re headed to Emerald City to see the Head Inspector.  I’m going to get PPE, and Tinman going for housekeeping.  I bet he has loads of training material you can use, probably even color videos!  Lion loved the idea, they piled into the cable car and off they went to continue their journey.

(The originally title for volume 4 was – Emergency Ready but while reviewing and updating the order of things I’ve decided it should be – Training.  Training is critical to a successful safety program and key to emergency response and preparedness as well as successful sustainable organization due to increased employee retention.  Between classroom lectures and hands-on experience reinforced with tailgates/toolboxes make for a engaged educated safety conscience employee.)

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So here we are folks, more than half way along the Green Brick Road of Safety and the Emerald City is in sight.  It’s been an enlightening trip for me as well and I want to thank you all for the positive responses and fabulous comments on this series.  As I’m sure you remember, we began our journey with Hazard Analysis, to find potential hazards if any, so we can determine the appropriate PPE.  We also discovered the importance of Housekeeping in preventing accidents.  All three large critical segments of workplace safety.  So, after this, are there still more ways to protect your employees?   Yes there is and it is Training. 

Training is the most important part of safety.  Let me say it again, Training is the most important part of safety and works best when it’s delivered concisely, consistently, a little entertaining and with employee engagement and participation.  This goes for all types of training from new employee orientation to forklift certification to operation of machinery to safety meetings to emergency evacuation procedures.  Training is not a one time deal but should be a continuous process of learning, education, recertification, development and growth for building a well trained and confident team, able to react to any situation as one, in a moments notice.  The results of a training program speak for themselves with increased productivity, reduction in accidents and sick days as well as increasing employee retention which is critical to maintain a consistent operation especially in these days of the “skills gap”.  No different then Doctors and lawyers who have continuous education throughout their career as they learn of the latest techniques and tools available for diagnosis and cures.  If you treat training as a joke, that’s how it’ll be perceived and what you’ll get back in return so this is your opportunity to set the tone and demonstrate to your staff or company that you take it seriously. 

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After you assess what training your company offers you can begin to develop a training program to tailor your needs.  By putting a training program together now you’ll be ahead of the game if you find yourself with several new hires or seasonal temporary employees.  You know what daily tasks need to be accomplished by your team for success and you want to develop your training based on what the job entails.  Some companies already have written job descriptions handy that you can use as a template to help but I have found more often than not that many have very old out of date or incomplete job descriptions on file and you’ll probably find training material the same way.  That’s not bad, it gives you the opportunity to make it all yours. 

I would also gather company written standard operational procedures, policies and any other information that you think an employee needs to know for loading trucks or picking orders safely and efficiently.  If you work in a food processing plant or food distribution warehouse you should also include HACCP procedures.  Once you get all the information together and set up in your computer/laptop you’ll see how extremely easy it is to edit and update this information as things change.  Then a great habit to develop would be to review job descriptions, procedures and training at least once a year to keep your workers safe, practices current and regulatory obligations filled. 

Some companies are very good about giving you the talking points for the monthly safety meetings along with colorful handouts which is helpful but that may come across as just spoon-feeding safety to your employees!  Like a scene from Island of Dr. Moreau.  What is the law?  Do not put your hands into moving parts.  This would be great if you were training parrots to repeat back to you.  You want to discuss the topic with you staff.  Get their involvement by asking for feedback on what happens on the floor when they deal with a situation.  At one company during a discussion on Lock Out Tag Out I found out that the workers couldn’t LOTO one machine since the electrical box was so old (I think Edison made it himself) there was no way to put a lock on it.  The company told me it wasn’t in the budget to change it out at this time so to protect my staff and the company I made it procedure to call one of the staff electricians to remove the fuses so we could then lock the housing so no one could start the machine.  I was very surprised how soon that electrical panel replacement got moved up, approved and installed.  

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So when you get that company material don’t be afraid to make a few adjustments to encourage employee engagement.  Are there additional handouts you can use, videos, power-points or other media to aid your presentation in getting the point across.  When discussing PPE don’t forget to utilize staff in demonstrating how to properly wear and adjust, get a conversation going.  I know some companies want training rushed through and done quick but that only trivialize the whole process.  You want people to buy in to the program and if they don’t find the training interesting, they won’t listen.  When they’re part of the training, everyone listens and learns.   

If the need arises for training material to cover a new procedure or piece of equipment, you want to get it to the staff before you go live, well if you want success anyway.  We were transitioning to a new WMS.  We had one of their consultants on hand to help us with the process.  One of our jobs was to fill 2000 lb. bags with product and then produce a barcoded label that was scanned as it moved to a location in the warehouse.  There was no training material and workers on all shifts were making daily errors.  I asked the all mighty consultant when we could expect written instruction for the workers and stop the bleeding.  It’s coming.  It’s coming.  I couldn’t wait any longer, too many things were at stake, time wasted correcting inventory, loss of confidence in the staff, the stupidity of it all so I put together a two sheet instruction manual along with barcode placards and we brought the errors to ZERO.  I asked and watched my staff about the process and what would help them.  They got exactly that and the issue disappeared.

What ever the training you are going to give always prepare beforehand and get your materials printed, assembled and then rehearse your presentation.  Make sure you are prepared to discuss and know what you are talking about.  There is nothing worse than giving out bad information or being contradicted by an employee.  Depending on your geographical location it would be a big help if you have the training material translated into Spanish.  Some workers may understand english much easier than they can read it and this is information you want to make sure you get across.

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General Orientation – Usually given by HR to all new company employees but you can tailor a general orientation training for your department or section of the company  and highlight areas other employees may not have to observe like safety glasses, lunch breaks an sanitation.  After orientation buddy the new employee with a worker to be mentored and help get the lay of the land.

Forklift Certification – You can do it in-house or pay an trainer to come in and handle it.  Either way works but if you have your own trainer you can do the certification any time you need to and they know the facility better and can speak about the layout and hidden dangers.  Under no circumstances should you allow any worker to operate a forklift without obtaining proper training.

Seasonal/Temporary Employee – Using the same materials for regular new employees and  having materials ready will make their training a lot easier.  Even though they are temporary workers they are still human beings and should be treated with the same respect as everyone else.  Even if their first language isn’t english that doesn’t mean they are any less intelligent and you never know who’ll surprise you with a great idea to save time and money for the operation

Safety Training – Can be in the form of a monthly meeting which is most common.  Usually only one topic is covered like avoiding arc flash or LOTO.  When you give training and you are not sure about something, it is perfectly o.k. to tell an employee you don’t know the answer but that you’ll find out and then make sure you get back to them in a timely manner.  Drop the ball once and no one will come to you for anything ever again.

Tailgate/toolbox – meetings are an excellent way to communicate to your staff  as well as  build your own confidence when it comes to public speaking as these gatherings are more informal to a smaller group of people that are held weekly onsite and last no more then 15 minutes.  You can utilize these meetings to discuss a safety issue that just came up or demonstrate a new feature on a piece of equipment or teach a new technique, all to keep safety on their minds and them focused.    They are also suited for a busy work environment since you can break your staff up into smaller groups and keep everyone else working until it’s their turn.  

Huddles – Before the shift begins gather your troops and give a quick run down of the day, how we’re going to tackle it and any specific dangers to be aware of.  If it’s going to be very hot, remind employees to stay hydrated, if it’s raining, remind them about slick floors.  No more then 10 minutes to get everyone on board and going.

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WHAT SHOULD YOU TALK ABOUT?  The best topic are those most related to recent events in your facility that causes you to pull your hair out.  Was there a recent near miss reported in the warehouse or did you observe an employee lifting incorrectly.  Another topic could be to discuss an accident that occurred in a sister plant or in the local area and how can we avoid a similar one.  Keep a reminder list for yourself about seasonal topics you’d like to cover through out the year as well like staying hydrated on extremely hot days, emergency evacuation.  Need more inspiration, just google “Tailgate meeting topics”, you’ll wind up with many great suggestions or sign up to follow this blog.

HOW DO YOU GET EMPLOYEES TO LISTEN?  Well food always seems to be a way to attract people and offering donuts once in awhile is nice but the best way to get them to listen is to get employees involved by having them demonstrate and share their experience.  When I would cover LOTO, (Lock Out Tag Out) instead of me droning on about the associated hazards I would pick a piece of equipment, begin the tailgate there and have one of the top operators actually perform the lock out tag out on the unit.  The whole nine yards.   When they did an outstanding job and they always did, they were given a coupon for a free lunch at the local deli I had previously setup.  You also want to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable to learn and ask questions so they need to know up front there is no such thing as a stupid question about safety, EVER!

Don’t ever hesitate to run your operation the way you see fit but make sure to be up front with workers and explain the rules clearly including the consequences if the rules are not followed but make sure they’re reasonable, consistent and not unattainable. .Make sure to document all training (safety and equipment) by using a sign-in sheets and make sure all employees attending sign to acknowledge their attendance, attach copies of the training material used for that meeting and keep for your records. If you are delivering training and meetings on a consistent basis you will find that a well trained team does impact your bottom line for the better with a sustainable knowledgeable workforce.  

The Green Brick Road of Safety is not an imaginary magical place.  You don’t need to locate any secret hidden portals or drink any potions, it has always been there, before you all along.  It’s the road that leads to a safe and productive work place.  Become a safety advocate, it costs nothing to join.  Keep your fellow employees safe and always keep the dialogue on safety moving forward.  The life you save may be your own.  Be sure to stay tuned for our next leg on this journey and don’t miss an issue.  

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Companies Behaving Badly-Fear and Ignorance

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Welcome back and thank you for your time and consideration.  Hope your 4th of July was relaxing, entertaining and invigorating.  
The emotion of Fear and ignorance (a lack of knowledge) have been around since the dawning of humankind and when put together they are not a very good couple to have around.  Also for as long, people of great wealth and power have manipulated communities spreading lies to feed fear and scare people while simultaneously playing on their ignorance to generate hatred.  Motivating individuals to acts of violence against neighbors homes, businesses and up to killing if needed.  The only sole beneficiary, the man of power who started it.  When fire was first discovered I’m sure many were in fear of it.  It generated heat, it danced, it hurt like hell to touch but was unpredictability due to a lack of understanding.  The first person who learned to control fire no longer feared it as they knew how to use it safely and then could turn it into power as they used that fear of fire to their advantage spreading lies of its origin and why they could control it and by that alone is why they should be put in charge.  The match of fear and ignorance was a hit and the trend continued.  
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With all the problems these two have generated throughout our history of the world imagine the effect they have on workplace safety!  Companies and poor leaders keeping workers ignorant about their rights to a safe workplace. No training, no PPE, no safety meetings and if they question why they don’t have any of those items then Fear is used to intimidate them into silence and looking the other way or threatened with loss of their job so they become complicit, slowly eroding your morals or bullied into leaving the company for not going along with the program of tampered emergency shut-offs and no LOTO program so now the fear and ignorance boils over into hatred of  the company and what they did to me and winds up in a mass shooting at the plant while the bobbleheads stare into the camera and shake their heads in disbelief.  How could this happen?
The fear also includes that of OSHA.  At one company, as soon as I started I was barraged with safety issues by the employees.  “We have told the company about these issues for years and nothing gets done!”  I asked since the company has ignored them all this time why haven’t they called OSHA?  “Oh no man, we don’t want the plant closed down.  We’ll all be out of work.”  The fear of job losses, even though the plant wouldn’t have been closed but there should have been a lot of eyes going over every aspect of the plant.
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Before you begin a job, learn about it first.  What are the associated hazards, what kind of equipment is typically used, what kind of PPE and protection do I need and what kind of company am I working for?  It is always a good idea to get several points of view and not just from your boss or company but research on the web.  Read blogs like this and there are several out there, so look for your voice in a few of them.  Once you get a job, don’t stop learning.  New procedures, new techniques, new apps are coming every day and you can help your company as well as you yourself grow by reading and learning.  This is also a tool you can put into use of everyday life.  Don’t just take your neighbor’s advice, listen to it but see what other opinions are out there.  There is always a solution to problems when people discuss without fear or ignorance pushing them.  Don’t let fear and ignorance run or ruin your life.  Don’t let hatred win.  Stay informed. 
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Sometimes the company can actually be ignorant themselves of safety rules and regulations.  It happens but when the company is the General Services Department of the State of California, Feces, blood, syringes at California Capitol: Workers unprepared for clean up, OSHA says, ignorance is not the problem, incompetent leadership is.  I can’t believe the workers didn’t bring it up to management what they were found on the capitol grounds and how the hell can a state agency be that deaf, dumb and blind?  Why it’s poor leadership and I’m fairly certain they’ll keep making the same mistakes down the road, incompetence in the state is rarely punished but usually leads to a promotion or running for state office, so workers, here’s a case where you need to know what your rights are and speak up.  You do not have to operate under those conditions and CalOSHA agreed and fined a fellow agency for 9 violations.
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Nursing Education Consulting Inc.

Now I like gadgets just as much as the next guy/gal but I don’t think they should fully substitute the use of common sense or your brain.  8 Products to Help you Beat the Heat.  When you’re working in excessive heat it can be dangerous.  I know, I had crews unloading containers from overseas while the outside temperatures were 110 degrees and the temperature inside the container was at least 10 degrees higher.  We always set up the water cooler right next to the container being unloaded and fans blowing and frequent breaks.  Some guys would just push themselves to the limit and never say a word about feeling ill, cause that how guys are sometimes, it’s a form of ignorance.  So it is very important to know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Both if not treated properly and immediately can result in death.  Learn how to identify and how to treat.  This is the knowledge that can come in handy anywhere.
Then next time you may be the one to prevent this.  OSHA investigating after man dies picking tomatoes in Colquitt County.  A young man, only 24, beginning of his life and the heat killed him.  Know the facts about the dangers of high temperatures, how to mitigate it and what your company must supply to keep you safe and healthy.
Some may say that you shouldn’t fear to work alone and that may be true in some cases but when the company tells you to work alone in the plant on an off-shift, just say NO. Worker Found Dead In Stadium Cooler Was Minnesota Inventor.  You can never plan for an accident so why would you work alone.  If something was to fall on you or you became pinned or knocked unconscious, and no one was there to help or call for help, you’ll become the morning news when they find your body.  We always had a policy of two when work had to be done at night or weekends and others weren’t going to be around.  It just makes sense.
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When worlds collide.  Tesla, union, workers, and CalOSHA are all trying to work out or work on issues of safety.  Here is an example of fear and ignorance working together which is causing a little hatred right now.  Some disgruntled employee stole data out of their system, fingers are pointing and the truth will eventually come out as we listen to the three sides of each story.  Tesla workers say they pay the price for Elon Musk’s big promises and A former Tesla safety director claims he was fired after he raised concerns about unreported workplace injuries.  Check both articles out and curious what you think.  I don’t think he’s any more driven then Henry Ford, Thomas Edison or Howard Hughes were as I believe all geniuses are driven to the point of madness.  Whether they cross the line or not is up to them as well as what we get out of it. 
   
Well, that’s it for this month folks.  Be kind to each other and never, never keep quiet about safety for the life you save may be your own.  If you have questions about safety and regulation please don’t hesitate to ask.
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Immigrants in America

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To say immigration has been a hot topic button of late in the United States would be an understatement.  It’s an extremely complex issue involving legal immigration, illegal immigration, DACA, families, persecution, better way of life, lines, separations and walls.  Whether you approve or disapprove of how the current administration and legislators are handling this hot potato, when all is said and done, it is immigrants that have had a large impact on our businesses and nation. 

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It also seems during our history as a country we haven’t always been kind to newly arrived immigrants.  Just ask the Chinese, Italian and Irish immigrants who arrived. They threaten our jobs, they can’t speak english, they look funny, they breed like rabbits.  See, nothing new.  My grandparents came to this country in the early 1900’s to escape religious persecution.  People feared them due to hatred and ignorance spread by jealous and hateful people who got others to burn their businesses, their homes and in some cases beat them to death.  Even though my grandfather was a decorated calvary soldier for the Tzar he was still treated like crap.  After much discussion with the whole family they along with some, left for the U.S. while others decided to stay put.  My grandparents arrived here and found people who again hated them but for just being here and not speaking enough english.  They survived, had four sons, who all proudly served in the military during World War II.  My dad is the sailor on the left.

Diversity allows an exchange of ideas that are filtered through different points of view, different cultures, different educational backgrounds that can lead to a consensus and solutions like creating cures to disease, making a better process to produce steel and overall improve our way of life.  Immigrants have also had a positive influence helping this country become the power house and defender of the free world it had become which can earn you a fast track to citizenship especially if you possess a skill set we desperately need.  

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A case in point is Dr. Wernher Magnus Maximillian Freiherr von Braun who was such an immigrant.  Born and raised in the small town of Wirsitz, in the Posen Province, in what was then the German Empire (now Poland) he grew up to become the main driving force behind developing and oversaw the building of the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany.  At the time, 1944, it was Germany’s Weapon of Mass Destruction and were built using slave labor consisting of concentration camp prisoners and other enemies of the state.  It may have been intended just for military targets but was also used on civilian targets, mainly the city of London, full of defenseless women and children.  Wernher, also a Nazi party member did a fabulous job for his fuhrer by not only killing over 7,000 people with this weapon but generated fear and panic amongst the public to help get a victory for Germany.

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After VE and VJ days the United States was fast approaching the cold war and we still had only one way to deliver a nuclear warhead, dropping it from flying fortress bombers like the Enola Gay so ideas were desperately  needed to give us the edge.  Lo and behold along came Werner with his knowledge of rockets and with his posse of German rocket scientist.  So rather then prosecute them all for war crimes, they made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.  Work for us building rockets and we’ll spare you going to Nuremberg and trials for war crimes.  Wernher was allowed to work with our military while it wasn’t announced publicly for about 6 months over fears of back lash.  Soon after that he was transitioned to the director of NASA and began our space program in ernest while put on the fast track to citizenship.  

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The ultimate payoff came in the summer of 1969 just about a month before young people began gathering at Yasgur’s farm, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  Would we have made it without Wernher’s help?  Eventually but it would have been even a longer struggle and what if the Russians had gotten to him first? 

Before you judge and treat that person with the accent like an idiot or terrorist, or speak louder since your raised voice will help them understand english better, remember they are also human beings who are not better, not worse, just different and you don’t know what next innovation, invention or cure will come from their mind.