I love taking walks around my community. The flora is green and full of beautiful blooms making the air sweet with fragrances while watching the wild turkeys strutting with and showing off their new family members, deers feeding on vegetation, and hummingbirds buzzing feeder to feeder interchanging with the occasional smiling face of a neighbor. But I am still amazed when in this day and age I see employees committing some of the most moronic moves.
I wonder, did they not receive any safety training? Did their boss tell them to ignore their training and just do it quickly? Did the employee decide to take the shortcut on his own to get done quickly since they think their bosses don’t care? Is it their ego, nothing will happen to me, it hasn’t yet? Is it a combination of all these things? Why would you expose yourself to danger with the possibility of a lifetime of surgeries and rehabilitation, or worse, forever dead from inadvertent suicide just to save a few minutes? Is this fair to the driver coming down the hill who suddenly finds this living traffic cone in his way? By the way, people naturally come fast down this way with a blind turn at the top.
I’m not going to tell you how to work, like everything else in life it comes down to what you’re willing to risk but do you honestly think for one minute that if IT happened, and you were injured, the company wouldn’t throw you under the bus for violating company safety rules? Dead is forever, why would you want to spend any more time dead?
Managing a multigenerational staff is really not a new experience, as my staff in the mail services department at a large California public university in the 1980s was comprised of the greatest generation, baby boomers, and generation Xers. Our mail services were as large an operation as the main post office in any small city receiving and processing on a daily basis, tons of letters, invoices, correspondence, flyers, magazines, journals, books, newspapers, and packages of all shapes and sizes and then delivering it all Monday thru Friday to Deans, Professors, Assistant Professors, lecturers, coaches, administrators their departments and support staffs, the university support staff, and the dorms. Because it was a large public university that had a history of freedom of speech we had training on how to spot mail bombs and glad to say that in four years, we actually received and found only one. As a leader, you hope to hire and coach people to help improve themselves and also the team’s overall productivity but sometimes they also bring challenges to you that wind up making you a better person.
It is very challenging and at times rewarding when you deal with employee issues that cross those generational lines and wind up being placed unknowingly at the crux of cultural change in society involving issues of sexual equality in the workplace. Most of the full-time employees were male with the exception of three female employees, two of which were clerical. There were also several part-time student employees earning extra cash to survive or a condition of their scholarship. We had drivers covering five routes who delivered and picked up mail to departments on and off-campus locations twice a day. We had sorters who sorted out the incoming mail going to departments and we had people who processed all the outgoing mail that had to be weighed and metered. It was a fabulous operation.
Being a male-dominated workplace it was decorated in wall calendars and posters that featured female models in various states of undress with no anatomy totally exposed but had blouse buttons open to their navel and the material was still stretched to its limits along with daisy dooks, bikinis, or lingerie which helped accent the tools, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, beer, alcohol, cars, motorcycles, and other various manly man toys featured.
When I think of how things were then and how they are now, it’s like night and day. One of our part-time student employees was a bright young woman working her way to a degree in psychology and women’s studies who came into my office one morning to speak to me about the posters and calendars around the facility and that she found them offensive and degrading to women. This was the last thing I expected to hear with my coffee that morning and I have to admit I enjoyed them as much as the guys but the more I listened to her and the passion in her voice I understood her point. At the time it was not considered politically incorrect, heck, they were still smoking indoors! I asked her if I moderated would she be comfortable discussing the subject with the rest of the staff and she agreed.
Of course, she got a lot of push back from her male co-workers who immediately brought up the issue of their rights and freedoms. I understood how they were feeling as well, change is never an easy thing to swallow and after all, sorting mail was tedious and boring for a man and apparently only could be tolerated with the occasional glimpse of flesh. She was good, after all their moaning she asked if it was okay if she could have a few male posters put up to make it fairer. Of course the guys, well most of the guys, didn’t like the idea of half-dressed gorgeous looking men hanging around. They said they would find it offensive which made me chuckle. Soon our part-time worker found an unexpected ally as our greatest generation female clerk was emboldened by her, found her own voice, and told the group she was insulted by the posters and always had been. It suddenly got very quiet so I told everyone to think about it for the next couple of days and we’d touch base again.
When we met again a few days later we were able to reach a general consensus and it was agreed that the offensive posters in the general work area would immediately come down and could be replaced with more appropriate school sports team posters, movies, artwork, and potted plants. The items in the men’s locker room had until the end of the year to disappear. So glad this was behind us and we could settle back into our normal routines and we were happily moving mail when I suddenly had a new challenge!
Our greatest generation female clerk flew into my office extremely agitated. She has never had trouble expressing herself verbally before, always speaking calmly and calculated but right now she desperately tried to find the appropriate words to describe the horror she had just witnessed! I had never seen her this flustered, as all I was able to decipher was I needed to take care of it, she was sickened by it, she was going home and I needed to speak to Rebecca. With that, she was gone!
I sat in the newly appreciated quiet, puzzled, not even able to imagine what set Marge off. I was afraid to get up to find out but didn’t have to as a quiet soft voice asked if she could speak with me. It was my part-time student Rebecca! She wanted to know if Marge had said anything? I told her no, she was too upset to say anything. What do you know? Rebecca’s face was red, she looked worried and she also began to try to find the words. Look, you’re a pretty open-minded boss so I’ll just say it like it is. When I menstruate I don’t use tampons or any of that stuff, I use a sponge and I was washing it out in the sink when Marge came out of a stall and saw me. She went ballistic, began screaming at me, and wouldn’t even let me explain!! I took it all in, stared at the ceiling for a few minutes in uncomfortable silence, and then looked at Rebecca. Do you think Marge may have been offended by what she saw? Um, yeah, I guess. Think about it, you see a sink full of blood! She didn’t understand what was happening and you should have known that. What do you suggest I do? First, you should apologize to Marge on Monday in private, and then after explaining it to her and she is still uncomfortable tell her you’ll lock the restroom door for privacy. I think I’ll buy her a houseplant to go with the apology. Excellent, idea, Rebecca.
It all worked out. Rebecca and Marge grew to tolerate each other as we got back to our regular routines all working together, moving mail, training new student part-time workers in our more respectful environment. People with different opinions and different levels of comfort, given the right tools, encouragement, and listening to each other can deal with workplace issues without the need of management making it worse by shoving change down their throat. By the time the University H.R. department began to address harassment-free workplaces, we were miles ahead of the game.
Not since the ‘Great Depression’ of 1929 when 15 million people lost their jobs have we seen this many people leave their jobs during the ‘Great Resignation’ of 2021. An estimated 35-40 million quit last year and that could mean some of you may be looking into alternative career paths. As you look around and do your research for your new career I would like to suggest a more rewarding type of employment in the field of manufacturing. It’s not your daddy’s manufacturing plant anymore. With the integration of technology and electronics, it is a more interesting and challenging job and manufacturing covers everything from food products to Teslas and needs people in accounting, customer service, quality control, sales, marketing, programming, mechanics, engineers, and purchasing finished and raw materials who all, like a team, support the manufacturing process. However, before you begin, remember as with any industry there are good companies and there are bad companies so if you decide on a career in manufacturing let me share some warning signs to watch for with you so you can be aware and avoid these mistakes.
SCENARIO 1 – When you’ve applied for a salaried position as supervisor or manager and they constantly ask if you don’t mind working overtime. In fact, during the hiring process, each of the five different interviewers you faced made a point to mention you’ll be working lots and lots of overtime but never specifically said how many extra hours they consider lots and lots or unreasonable. Remember this is a salaried position, there is no overtime pay or mention of additional compensation, except for the promise, we will take care of you.
When you hear this: they are telling you that they are totally disorganized as a company and have no clue what direction they’re moving towards as they’re just happy to maintain the status quo as production is riddled with mechanical breakdowns, maintenance issues, damaged and poor quality products, a high rate of sick calls, poor training, and not fulfilling orders, none of which they mention during the interview. These companies are usually managed by an investment banker group that has placed people in management who have no idea about how or what the manufacturing process at this plant entails or the finished product. They just know how to count beans.
Because of this lack of understanding, routine maintenance goes undone, (they believe it’s cheaper just to wait until it breaks down) repair part inventory is kept to the bare minimum (they believe there is no point to tying cash up in parts that just sit on a shelf when you can get most within 24 hours) and often not on hand creating downtime for all. This could be an interesting place to work but be aware, it will be very challenging and frustrating as the rules of the road will change almost daily making meeting goals difficult. However, if you’re a masochist like me this is the perfect job for you and can lead to a long career especially if you’re adept at brown-nosing higher-ups and just saying YES unless another investment company comes along and buys the place, then you could be starting all over again but then being bought by a company already in the industry would make this a dream job. Go with caution.
SCENARIO 2 -When you’ve applied for a position in management (manager/department head/plant) and after you have completed the hiring process, passed your background check, physical, and sealed the deal, on your first day they tell you…
Company A– that the person who is currently the supervisor has been with the company for five-plus years, had also applied for the job and thought they would naturally get the position. Since they didn’t get the job, as part of a deal worked out they will be leaving the company within three months or sooner hopefully if be finds another job. I was told that if I wanted I could terminate him now. We’ll support you whatever you decide.
Company B– that the person who is currently the supervisor has been with the company for a very long time and they told me he didn’t get the job because he wasn’t very good as a supervisor and not the person that could help take the business to the next level. It was a family-owned business and the owner didn’t like him but the office employees did because he always stopped to do favors and then never completed his responsibilities creating mayhem in the warehouse. I was told you can terminate him right now if you wish. We’ll support you whatever you decide.
Company C– that there was no current manager in place as the last two were hired and quit within the last three months and a senior clerk who has been with the company for a very long time is in control barely keeping the department functional. Inventory is way off, critical documentation is far behind and all employees have fallen into bad habits without any leadership. I was told you can terminate anyone you deem needs it, we’ll support you whatever you decide.
All three scenarios above actually happened and all three were family-owned and operated companies and for whatever reason, all three hired from the outside to fill their open management positions. That told me these companies were not willing, capable, or wanted to take the time to put a system in place to develop talent from within the company. When you hear them tell you during the interview the reason they went outside as, we’re looking for fresh blood, that’ll confirm it. At all three companies, we instituted training programs to ensure our continued growth and consistent quality of the product. At two of those companies, I partnered with the H.R. person to get a program in place. We had more quality meetings with staff, increased training, and listened to employee feedback. Soon, employee retention increased, sick calls dropped and productivity hit new highs. Working for a Family-owned company can be good, bad, or both. Good in that they actually know your name and contributions but they can be a curse as well if a family member takes the hate toward you because they don’t agree with your new policies and practices even though they’re very much needed to get the company to the ‘next level’. At a large corporation, you’re known by your employee number like an SKU for any part but you usually have more resources available to you and can make more money.
A – After a nice chat I let him stay at first but it turned out he didn’t want to contribute in any way and hindered the changes we were making so finally had to say goodbye. Lesson learned – You don’t always have to try to be a nice guy, cut ties right away especially if you’ve been given the opportunity to make major changes within the facility.
B – My first thought, was why did they let him stay this long? But again I was intrigued and found a company with very few procedures and poor record-keeping of production and regulatory requirements. I kept him on staff. Went through his and everyone else’s company files to look at what level of training they had and spoke with heads of other departments before demoting him of his supervisor title but he became my specialist and was able to track his time and chargeback his services to other departments and he enjoyed his new job while I promoted one of the receiving clerks to supervisor based on his previous experience and the fact he impressed me with his observations of what needed to be done.
C – I must admit that hearing that two people quit so soon was terrifying and interesting. Again I went through files, training records and spoke to others but before I did that, I had a meeting with all at the beginning of the day and gave each employee a copy of the rules of the road including but not limited to how to call in sick, not to touch a forklift until training, how long and when breaks and lunchtimes were and the consequences for their actions. After explaining each line I had them sign and acknowledge they had received this training. I only wound up terminating two employees plus one voluntary quit in the first two weeks, otherwise, everyone else remained and we became a very productive team.
Good luck in your job search and I hope you find a job you really enjoy, it won’t feel like work. If you need more information please feel free to read one or all of the many articles available here.
I came into this world on a clear beautiful sunny Bronx day during the waning gibbous phase of the moon the same year as the American actor, screenwriter, producer, and playwright, Chazz Palminteri however for the record I am 5 months younger than he is. As we all know thanks to his movie and play, he grew up in the Belmont section of the Bronx, (Little Italy) while I was raised in the Concourse section of the Bronx, (Yankee Stadium). I could see the stadium from our bedroom window and hear the crowd roar after a hit or great play on the field. Night games the stadium shined in blinding brilliance like a magical castle but I’m getting too far ahead. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Phillip Mendelowitz. The firstborn of the fourth son (A US Postal worker of immigrant parents) and a Hell’s Kitchen raised (with four brothers) stay-at-home mom. I guess I’ve always been a survivor.
By the time I was 6 years old I had already contracted Poliovirus at 2, survived and received one of the first shots of the vaccine, had my tonsils removed at the age of 5, hit by a car, also at 5, and then cracked my skull open, falling off a chair and hitting the corner of the wall just before I turned 6. All part of the learning and hardening process growing up in the Bronx and you thought the Spartans were cruel to their children. Luckily my doctor’s office was downstairs in the building lobby and he saw me often and through all of my medical emergencies for many years to come.
Even though dad served in the Navy during WWII it was my mom who took the reins and taught me self-defense and techniques of survival she learned growing up in one of the toughest sections in New York City during the depression. She was a short Rubenesque woman with great strength, determination, and endurance and was horrified when I overheard her girlfriend’s stories when they visited from the old neighborhood that she apparently developed a hollow leg when she was younger. Under her tutelage, I learned how to weaponize just about any common everyday item from house keys to jump ropes to fountain pens. We lived on the 5th floor of a 5 story walk-up in a one-bedroom one-bathroom apartment. Mom and Dad slept on the fold-out couch in the living room and my brother and I slept in the bedroom until Friday, which began dad’s days off and the sleeping arrangements reversed.
I believe my dad loved my mom very much but for as long as I can remember, over 40 years, he worked the graveyard shift. At first, he did it for the shift differential which was much needed to begin a family but after that, I think he just enjoyed it. The weekend sleeping arrangements worked because the only television, a black and white set, was in the living room so Saturday mornings began with The Modern Farmer. Yes, the USDA produced a program about farming. This young city boy loved watching it learning about the latest in pest control, crop rotation, and more. When a television station signed on in the early morning, it was loaded with a lot of Public Service shows and then ended after midnight with the Star-Spangled Banner. After Modern Farmer, my brother and I would scramble and get our breakfast together as now the wait was over and we could enjoy Farmer Brown, Mighty Mouse, and Heckle and Jekyll cartoons with a bowl or two of cereal until mom and dad emerged. Dad was paid every other Friday so the closer it got to that day meal options would become limited and maybe just a slice of toasted white bread and butter for breakfast and a slice of bread with mayo for lunch. I still remember those Friday mornings, long before we began attending school, mom would have us sit in a circle on the living-room floor and play, clap hands until daddy comes home, to take our minds off our grumbling stomachs, and then he did with his pay and breakfast.
As I had mentioned earlier before we lived in the Concourse section of the Bronx and it was nothing like living on the Grand Concourse itself. It was a large grand boulevard stretching for over 5 miles separating the east from the west and ran through the Bedford Park section, the Concourse, Highbridge, Fordham, Mott Haven, Norwood to the Tremont section. All lined with beautiful grandiose style buildings from art deco to art moderne with ornate designs, and colorful awnings, immaculate lobbies with elevators and doormen who opened doors and took in deliveries for the doctors, lawyers, dentists, bankers, and other professionals who lived there. Anchoring the Grand Concourse and 161st street uphill from Yankee Stadium was the Grand Concourse Plaza hotel. It was famous for being the place where Yankee players would come for treatment after a grueling night game. The famous Bronx courthouse is also there and was a backdrop for quite a while when watching a Yankee game on T.V.
Our building even though it was down the hill from the Grand Concourse, not as expensive, not as pretty still had all kinds of interesting residents. There was the cliche crabby old widow who hated the sounds of kids at play or anyone enjoying themselves. There were several incidents where our noise level from playing in the courtyard would trigger a water bath she’d toss out the window. As Yin and Yang would have it, across from our apartment on the fifth floor was another widow who had a dog and loved children and I spent much time there playing with her Weiner dog. She also introduced me to my first Christmas tree and the wonderful smell that filled her apartment. But at the end of the 5th floor over by the staircase was the “crazy lady apartment”. Something had happened there some time ago and we heard stories of bizarre behavior and were instructed several times that at no time ever were we to go near that apartment. It was never allowed on our trick or treat route, it was never allowed for selling raffle tickets, no contact of any kind was ever allowed at all.
My neighborhood was mainly a mix of Jewish and Italian families but most importantly, they were 99.9% Yankee fans. Both groups were very family-oriented which led to the formation of the Mother’s news network who monitored the routes to and from school as well as the neighborhood in general. If I dawdled too long on the way home from school I would get a gentle reminder from one of the members of the Mother’s network to move it along and get home. If I or friends I was with did something wrong on another block by the time I got home my mom was waiting for me and my side of the story. Mom also did all the disciplining as judge, jury, and executioner. On an occasional day, dad was enlisted who always excused his role by explaining he had to live with her and had to carry out the deed.
It was a different and innocent time. Most of us went to the same elementary school and we could walk home together every day for lunch, a hot bowl of Campbell’s vegetable soup, and a wonderbread sandwich of either peanut butter and jelly or bologna and lettuce and we were ready for the afternoon class. After a tough game of stickball, we’d swap our dirty juvenile jokes and discuss theories we had about how and where babies came from. My porn consisted of a movie ad carefully cut out of the Daily News movie section for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The ad was Elizabeth Taylor standing in a full slip. She was beautiful and I carefully kept it hidden in my underwear dresser drawer. I still have fond memories of hanging out on the tar roof where we watched the fourth of July fireworks launched from the barge on the East River, watched Sputnik fly over and waited for the world to end, listen to the crowd at Yankee Stadium and in the summer we’d roll out a towel and it became our beach.
I was a very active child with an extremely active imagination and curiosity which resulted in a continuing challenge for my parents. By today’s standards I probably would have been diagnosed with ADHD or some sort of hyperactivity but can you blame a child for being strange when his mother shops for him in the Husky section of the Department store? In first grade, the teacher took the pencil out of my left hand and placed it in my right and she would slap my left hand with a ruler. I told my mom and one day she was waiting for me after class. “Wait here, I going to speak to your teacher.” From what I could hear outside the classroom my Mom went all Hell’s kitchen on her and the teacher never touched me again, gave me evil looks but no more ruler to the hand.
Later on, my natural curiosity would bring me to conduct my first original experiment that would come to a crashing end in Mrs. Gantz’s second-grade class. My hypothesis was that with the proper care one could hatch a store-bought egg. So one late night I snuck an egg out of the fridge and nestled it deep in my shirt’s drawer and covered it to keep it warm overnight. That morning an ill-fated decision was made in haste and out of fear and may have been due to the lack of Frosted flakes cereal in the house and mom subbing cream of wheat, which she made with extra uneatable lumps. With low blood sugar, I panicked and was afraid she’d find the egg in my dresser so I made the decision to take it to school with me. I took my handkerchief, (clean one every day) wrapped the egg in it, and put it in my pants pocket. The day was going smooth, all most to smooth. Lunchtime was approaching and I thought I had this so much so I forgot about the egg when I began to sneeze, (In those days a gentleman sneezed into his handkerchief) and yanked the hanky out of my pocket so the egg went flying and hit Katherine O’Mally who sat in front of me right smack in the back of her head, shattered, and ran down the back of her neck. She screamed. You’d thought she had been shot. The class thought she was shot. Mrs. Gantz, a seasoned veteran teacher who didn’t even bat an eyelash with all the commotion, looked me straight in the eyes and with a stern face asked, was that your lunch? Did you think it was a hardboiled egg? I stood frozen, staring right back into her eyes, formulating an answer while Katherine was loudly crying from the back corner where the sink was as several of her friends were helping wash the egg off. Yes. Yes, Mrs. Gantz, I took the wrong egg.
By the third grade, I had really come into my own as my reputation as a class clown had grown tremendously. My poor younger brother had to deal with my legacy, but I had other pokers in the fire then and was very excited to learn the new kid in my class had also just moved into my building.. A new friend to hang out with, and play stickball and skully, but there was one slight problem. He had just arrived with his parents from Italy and he spoke as much English as I did Italian but somehow we managed to hit it off. He taught me about soccer and I taught him about baseball. He also introduced me to some exotic food dishes that consisted of animal parts I was not at all familiar with. When the science fair rolled around he made a small gum vending machine. You put a coin in and you got a piece of gum. Ms. Mahoney loved it as did the rest of the class and wanted him to do it again. So she asked the class if anyone spoke Italian? Me, no knowledge of Italian except the word capisce and one curse word immediately raised my hand. She was shocked and said, I didn’t know you spoke Italian. I walked up to the front of the classroom, smiled at him, and pointed to the money in his hand and then to the coin slot on the machine. He immediately understood, nodded, and did it again.
Many years ago I was the distribution manager for a company that delivered healthcare Durable Medical Equipment and related services to clients at home who were ill, recently released from the hospital, or needed oxygen refills. It was an extremely interesting job complete with many blindside hits and dropped balls thanks to poor information from the hospitals exasperated by our customer services’ inability to clearly interpret their cryptic requests so some days were crazier than others as we spent the day catching up.
That’s why no two days were alike, except for the regularly scheduled oxygen refills. This made it difficult to project the workload as the morning could be extremely quiet and then all it took to get slammed were several hospitals within our service area of San Francisco to Redwood City releasing multiple patients simultaneously. We were also in the middle of the AIDS epidemic and I spent many hours training our drivers on blood-borne pathogens to help quell their fears. However, we did have a few quit due to the misinformation and alternate facts of the time.
On those especially hectic days, I would help out by selecting a few calls that I could handle on my way home. It would get me out of the office for a little while and allow me to experience some of what my drivers were having. On this particular day, one of the deliveries was a walker for an elderly patient in an assisted living facility. Easy Peasy or so I thought. With paperwork and walker in hand, I checked in at the facility front desk then took the elevator to the eighth floor, and found the client’s apartment where I was greeted by his wife. As I entered the apartment I could see an elderly man reclined with his head resting on the sofa cushion wrapped in a blanket sound asleep. She wanted me to leave the walker but I explained that I needed to make sure it was properly adjusted to his height so he could properly use it. She nodded in agreement, turned, and in a sweet loving low voice she called, harold. No response as Harold remained asleep but she would not be deterred as she suddenly went full volume and yelled HAROLD! Harold shot straight up into a sitting position, opened his eyes, smiled, and in his loudest voice, asked, TEA? His wife immediately responded, NO TEA! Puzzled at first by the answer and looking disappointed, Harold thought and then asked MOVIE? She again responded, NO MOVIE! He finally noticed me and asked her what was going on, at least that’s what I’m guessing since I didn’t speak their native language.
While she explained to Harold what I needed him to do, I assembled the walker. It seemed he was still really upset about no tea as he kept muttering but his wife made it all good with a, TEA LATER! I had the walker ready and in place and began to help him get up so he could stand to make sure it was a comfortable height for him to use. As he stood, the blanket that was still wrapped around him fell away revealing that Harold was naked from the waist down. Life is a collection of memories and over time some fade-out and some never ever go away. The moment may seem surreal but is still recorded in the brain for constant playback whenever, where ever. Now let’s see that again, Phil but in slow motion. This is my reward, for trying to help and do the right thing? Ahh but this was not over yet.
I had to make a small adjustment to the legs and tried to accomplish this without getting too close to or having to make direct eye contact with Harold’s manhood. Just as I finished and turned to ask Harold how the walker felt, he answered with a torrent of urine. I froze, I didn’t know what to do as the floodwater cascaded but back away, however, his dear loving wife was prepared and with the speed and agility of a ninja, in one fluid motion grabbed a jar off the coffee table and had it in place before a drop could hit the floor.
As soon as Harold finished demonstrating gravity I quickly asked if they were happy with the walker. She smiled, Harold smiled, I smiled, the blanket never got picked up. She politely asked if I wanted to stay for tea. I politely declined and lied that I had more deliveries to make and left. I laughed at myself all the way from the elevator until I got home knowing full well that I may be Harold one day and test the verve of a young delivery person.
You can have all the Federal and State safety regulations you want in place, spend thousands of dollars on training, safety meetings, conducting drills, holding demonstrations, certifications with more training along with spelling out all the consequences for violations but if you allow complacency to creep into your daily facility, warehouse or manufacturing practices and don’t hold people accountable you will wind up costing yourself all that and valuable production time, medical expenses, increased workers compensation rates, and possibly steep fines.
When workers become complacent on the job they begin to cut corners with unsafe practices and start the assume game. I assume that the power to the 5 lb Hesser is turned off and no one would turn it on while I’m up to my elbows in the inner workings. I assume that there is no live ammo in the handgun I handed the actor. I assume that someone else turned in the unsafe maintenance issues, breaks don’t work, on the forklift. Unfortunately, when things are going smooth, at least on the surface they appear to be going smooth, and the boss couldn’t care less what’s not being done safety-wise on the shop floor no one else in management wants to be the bad guy and say something so the assumes accumulate and complacency slowly grows and morphs until.
That fateful day. A day that will change your life and the lives of many others because even though you meant to say something, you didn’t, you put it off and now an employee is severely injured or worse, dead. You feel guilty but that is going to be nothing compared to the scrutiny you are about to go through. The hours of depositions by lawyers, the thorough examination and questioning of your maintenance logs, training records, and safety meeting minutes. The amount of finger-pointing will be extensive as everyone tries to throw everyone but themselves under the bus.
On top of all of this, during the accident investigation as you search for answers, you need to fight off and avoid the ‘knee-jerk’ reaction. The public outcry and the union’s concerns will be exaggerated by the media and put pressure on the city, state, and Government to make new rules and new laws to protect our workers from such a horrible accident and from ever happening again BUT first, please ask yourself, WHY didn’t the current rules work?
Because you will find that the new rules, regulations, and laws will be just as susceptible to complacency as what was in place if you allow it but there is a cure for complacency. It’s called engaging, inspirational leadership. Now we can avoid you making an Ass of U and Me
Did anyone ever bother to tell you that the funny-looking plastic tank mounted on the wall in your facility is not an emergency supply of water but your Emergency Eye Wash station! That’s why I continue to do this series to help you become more knowledgeable and successful at your job because information your boss should have passed on to you never got there and maybe because no one told them.
Any location in your facility that you store and/or work with chemicals you must have an eyewash station. So in any backroom or basement storage area, warehouse, manufacturer, shipping dock, laboratory, or fast food kitchen where you handle chemicals, cleaning solvents or bleach to clean, store, mix or ship, there is the chance of a spill and a chance of getting it in your eye. You only have seconds to flush it out before serious damage can occur to the eye. That’s why you have an eyewash station set up within ten seconds (55 feet)in an unobstructed path from where you are working with those items so you can begin to flush the irritant out and this takes at least 15 minutes of continuous water to flush your eye out correctly. Even if the pain stops before then keep applying water to your eye and have another employee alert management of the situation immediately.
But no one told you this and that thing on the wall, in the dark corner covered in dust and oily smudges with an old soda can sitting on it looks like it hasn’t been touched in months? Maybe Years? Are that algae growing in there? Now someone is in desperate need to use it as the burning sensation grows but the water is rancid or worse, it’s empty! Now as the person in charge you’ll have an employee going to the E.R. OSHA forms to fill out and a possible fine to the company. Do you think the company really won’t throw YOU under the bus?
You can prevent this scenario from occurring by adding to the checklist you’ve developed for yourself, the eye wash station. Begin and continue checking on a weekly basis that it activates as it’s suppose too and you can do it on your rounds. Monday, Wednesday it’s up to you. What ever works. Then add on your list to inspect the unit itself annually for any issues than can cause it from functioning correctly and document it. Also make sure it’s in a well-lit area along with a highly visible sign, “Eye wash station”. There are several types available but they all must wash both eyes simultaneously no more than 8″ above the spray heads, which themselves should be protected from any airborne contaminants. If it’s a wall mount or other without plumbing, you need to treat the water and change it on a routine basis to ensure everyones safety. See the manufacturers guidelines on what they recommend.
I would be amiss if I didn’t mention you can prevent the need to use an eye wash station by wearing the proper PPE when working with any type of chemicals such as a face shield, goggles and rubber gloves. Yes, even if cleaning. Stay safe, be patient, be mindful and listen. You’ll be a success.
As the government continues to trample on the civil rights of people by insisting we wear masks or other PPE and to get vaccinated so we don’t inadvertently kill ourselves or others by accident, the push back by some in our society on wearing masks has been mind boggling but nothing new or surprising. We have a history of fighting compliance and all you have to do is look back to 1966, a time when life was filled with surfing, psychedelics and muscle cars. Driving our cars along the highway or main drag, untethered to the seat with the top down, commuting with nature, the wind in your hair with the music cranked up was a birthright or so we thought. This freedom was about to be dealt a major set back when congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Act.
This new act was a response to the horrible year of 1960 when 93,803 deaths from unintentional injuries were recorded, 41% (38,459 human lives) were associated with motor vehicle crashes just like the one that took James Dean in 1955. Other high profile accidents continued to add fuel to the fire such as Comedian and TV personality Ernie Kovac in 1962 who plowed his station wagon into a power pole and without restraints wound up being thrown half way through the passenger side. In 1963 Country music singer Jack Anglin died in a car crash on the way to Patsy Cline’s funeral. 1964 race car driver Glenn Dunaway died when he crashed into a train at a rail crossing. Then in 1966 we saw the trio of celebrity car deaths beginning in April with musician Richard Farina killed in a motorcycle accident and then in August, both playboy model Tonya Crews died in a car crash as well as JFK assassination witness Lee Bowers when his car veered of the road. Then came 1967 when we lost Jayne Mansfield when her car hit the back of a big rig and Rockin’ Robin Roberts left us in a head on collision and he wasn’t even driving. So as you can see, death by car doesn’t discriminate, but it makes great headlines.
The new act created what is now the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) which put forth the first seat belt law. May I introduce federal law Title 49 of the United States Code, Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, which took effect in 1968. The federal law put the burden on car manufacturers by telling them to include seat belts into all new vehicles. Ah, but would they get used?
The use of seat belts didn’t actually become mandatory until each state in the U.S. which took their time to establish their own seat belt laws, with New York leading the way as the first state to mandate that drivers use a seat belt in 1984. It only took 18 years between when the law took effect and the first seatbelt law. Over the next eleven years 48 other states would institute seat belt use laws and along with hours of Public Service Announcements, courtesy notices and massive crackdowns by law enforcement with high penalties, people accepted wearing seatbelts as gospel. Even today, if you don’t click it you may be pulled over in a crackdown. However, in New Hampshire, where they “live free or die” and they do, as they remain the only U.S. state without a seat belt use law for drivers.
To make matters worse in the area of personal freedoms the first universal motorcycle helmet law was enacted in 1966 as well. In their ever so subtle way of coercion the federal government offered incentives to states to increase helmet use by enacting state helmet use laws, in the form of payments to certain federal safety programs and highway construction funds in their state. Universal helmet laws were in effect a lot sooner than seatbelt laws in 47 States and the District of Columbia by 1975. However, after Federal penalties were eliminated for States failing to have a universal law, about half the States repealed their laws. Several States have enacted or repealed helmet laws since then.
A similar history for workplace safety as congress established OSHA under the Occupational Safety and Health Act signed into law on December 29, 1970. Fifty years later companies still try to cut corners on safety putting human lives at risk just to save a few dollars they can put in their pocket. And here we are, today, still arguing over compliance and our personal freedoms. Compliance is such a funny concept and mishandled in this beautiful country of ours. When a law is made to protect people and it’s not working, instead of looking as to why, we make more laws with stiffer penalties and the fact is if we had enforced the current laws on the books as we should have in the first place, the problem would be gone but yet, full compliance is not achieved, so new tougher stronger laws are needed, not.
So here at his work place, Zeke is an outstanding employee. He’s never missed a day of work and he operates his large complicated machine like no one else. In fact, no one else has ever produced as many widgets on a shift as Zeke. Zeke is a mean widget making machinist. However Zeke has decided that he finds wearing hearing protection unnatural and violates his right to not wear it and go deaf but he wasn’t worried about going deaf as he’s sure he’s immune to deafness and refused to wear the mandatory ear protection. 80% of the manufacturing companies out there would have disciplined and/or terminated Zeke for non compliance. Rightfully so. Sad that, 20% would look the other way for such an outstanding performer. Zeke was terminated and of course sued saying that his termination was not for noncompliance but for being a practicing Druid.
What’s the big deal, Zeke was only hurting himself, no one else and he did such a great job! When Zeke can no longer hear the sound of a human voice, the sound of a spring day, the sound of his grandkids will he blame his beliefs or his employer? We often think about how something affects us today, we don’t often look 20 or 30 years down the road. You don’t know how over time your body responds and changes to stress, repetition of movement, exercise or lack there of and medications. The goal as I’ve been told by my Grandfathers and Grandmothers and Parents is to live as long as possible. So if the word compliance is something you can’t live with, let’s call it love. You want to love and be loved and wearing a mask demonstrates your love for life. Please be kind and mindful of others and stay safe.
We’ve all heard the expression, cleanliness is next to godliness and in any plant or warehouse, that wants to be taken seriously, cleanliness is next to safety. That’s why I started and continue this series, to help you become a better leader because no one may have bothered to point out that good housekeeping and sanitation practices will not only improve safety by preventing accidents but can also help give equipment less time in maintenance and a longer lifespan.
“Cleanliness is the Hallmark of perfect standards and the best quality inspector is the conscience” J. R. D. Tata
No body really seems to enjoy cleaning up but housekeeping has it’s place and by showing employees how to properly breakdown and stack cardboard, to place used shrink wrap, strapping and other trash in containers, and how to keep their work areas clean, the benefit is a reduction of trips and falls which are a top accident occurring in the workplace. By sweeping, mopping and washing your area, immediately cleaning up or containment of a liquid spill that can cause slips and falls. By keeping the work area floor free of clutter, obstructions and other debris will reduce the cause of trips and falls and when keeping it organized helps find tools and parts quicker. You have now created a productive and safe work environment which also leads to less sick time off by employees and increased retention.
Another reason to keep plastic wrap and other debris off the floor is to give forklifts a longer life span. If a forklift or other type of industrial powered equipment drives over it, it can be quickly sucked up into their inner workings and over time as the plastic heats up can literally gum up the works. You do not need the added expense of a down forklift and maintenance service call. Make sure there are enough trash receptacles throughout the facility but located where they’ll get most used.
In a warehouse where perishable goods and other food products are stored, good housekeeping is even more critical and usually referred to as sanitation. This involves more deep cleaning on a regular schedule as well as procedures and programs to control and prevent the entry of pest. A good sanitation program is laid out in a master sanitation schedule which ensures all critical areas are consistently cleaned to prevent any contamination of raw goods and finished food product so the customer receives the finest quality available.
When you keep your part of the universe, what ever it is, a department, a dollar store, a warehouse, a factory, clean and organized bosses and visitors usually don’t feel compelled to look further into what’s going on as it looks as it is, under control and that gives credibility to your abilities. Remember, you’re in charge, be in charge.
As many of you know, what’s great about volunteering is it’s not only the act of kindness donating your time to help benefit others in your community but it gives you an incredible rush of feel good! I find the hardest aspect of volunteering for most is what to volunteer for and how to get started and totally understand that so I say the best thing to do is Google it, find something you do the best and then just do it! While you’re looking through that list may I bring something to your attention that you may never have considered? Become a CERT – Community Emergency Response Team
As the name reflects, in the event of a natural disaster such as a flood, wildfire, earthquake, tornado or manmade catastrophe like a natural gas explosion, thanks to the training you’ll receive, you will be able to assist your neighbors with first aid, guidance, communication and reassurance during those initial minutes after which is critical until emergency responders are able to get to your neck of the woods.
Why is this important? As we have seen of late you can not count on your local, city or state officials to be prepared let alone able to respond. Large cities like NYC have fabulous central command centers staffed with well-trained leaders directing other well trained, dedicated professionals, ready and able to respond to any emergency scenario. Smaller cities do not have that luxury thanks to budget cuts, covid and other circumstances on any given shift there are only so many firefighters on duty. They must safely handle house fires, other structure fires, vehicle crashes, grass fires and other emergencies, and even with the heroic efforts of first responders throw in a good sized earthquake and they can be quickly overwhelmed.
Once that happens 911 will be forced to begin triage of all the emergency calls responding to the most serious while minor injuries and emergencies are put on hold. If the roads and bridges are not usable after the quake they won’t even be able to count on backup from the other shifts as many first responders live out of town. Mutual aid will not arrive as they’ll be too busy with their own town’s emergencies.
However, if you have done your homework correctly as a CERT you have previously instructed your neighbors on being prepared for such a day by having them assemble and store emergency kits with batteries, portable charger, water, blankets and food in each home. A CERT can also dole out minor first aid to those in need and aid, comfort and prepare others in more serious condition for transport when the calvary arrives. Working together you can ensure you and your neighbors will have a better chance of surviving a catastrophe and there is no rule that there can be only one CERT per neighborhood, the more the better. I became a CERT in 2016 and have enjoyed every aspect of the experience immensely. Even if this is not your cup of tea, at least make sure you and your family assemble an emergency kit/to go bag.